Banjo-Kazooie turned 25 recently, and many inside the industry (and out) have been reflecting on what ranks as one of the finest 3D platformers of the 1990s.
Released to critical and commercial acclaim on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, the game sold over three million copies, spawning a sequel on the same console in 2000, which also sold three million units.
Following Rare's sale to Microsoft, the series shifted focus to the Game Boy Advance with Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo-Pilot, both of which were published by THQ and failed to reach the same level of acclaim as their predecessors.
It wouldn't be until 2008 that fans got something approaching a proper sequel, and even then, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was a very different beast from the N64 games. The focus was on building vehicles to complete in challenges (something you could argue Nintendo has done with Tears of the Kingdom) rather than 3D platforming, and it remains divisive with fans. Nuts & Bolts had only sold 140,000 copies in North America by 2008, and is seen by many fans as the reason for Rare's shift away from 3D platformers.
Despite the return of Banjo and Kazooie to Nintendo platforms last year, the people behind this classic series remain sceptical that there's much of a market for the two characters in 2023. Speaking to VGC for the 25th anniversary of the franchise, Chris Sutherland (lead programmer), Steve Mayles (character designer), and Grant Kirkhope (composer) expressed the feeling that, while the series is still beloved, there's no audience for a third mainline outing. Sutherland and Mayles are now working at Yooka-Laylee studio Playtonic, while Kirkhope is a successful freelance composer who, most recently, contributed music to the Mario + Rabbids series.
"I can’t really speak for Gregg [Mayles, Rare's creative director and Steve Mayles' brother], but he’s really the custodian of the franchise," said Mayles. "He doesn’t really like to look back and tread over old ground, so I don’t think he’s ever been bothered about doing anything else with the franchise. He’d rather move on to new experiences – as far as he’s concerned, he’s been there, done that."
"I think Rare would be open to somebody if they found the right team, but I don’t feel like that team exists," added Kirkhope. "Also, I’m not convinced the audience is there either."
Not all of the former Rare crew were quite so pessimistic. "I would hope that somebody is going to bring out something… some kind of sequel or ‘next in line’ game," said Sutherland. "At least before a point where I can still remember that the first one existed! But hopefully sooner."