After a successful sequel, the series came to an abrupt end following the release of the controversial third entry, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, in 2008. This third game bizarrely scrapped the series' famous platforming antics in favor of a vehicle construction concept, whereby the duo has to collect and build parts for a wide variety of vehicles before piloting their creations across several worlds. While it was an unusual concept, it was widely panned by fans hoping for a proper third platforming adventure, and those same fans are still waiting for this today. Banjo Kazooie's recent re-release for Nintendo Switch Online has gotten fans dreaming of the pair's return once again.
Banjo-Kazooie was released in 1998 for the N64. Coming less than two years after Super Mario 64, a game widely credited for almost single-handedly changing the video game industry, developer Rare knew it would need to be something special in order to carve out its own identity and not just be seen as a Super Mario clone. Fortunately, the game succeeded in getting out from under Super Mario 64's shadow and surpassed all expectations, becoming one of the best platforming games of all time. While Mario is still seen as the more important of the two, given its impact on the wider industry, Banjo- Kazooie is arguably the superior platformer, with tighter controls, more innovative level design, and sharper visuals.
The sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released two years later, and Rare attempted to double down on most of the first game's key attributes. New moves were added to Banjo's arsenal, and individual levels became much bigger in scope, with an emphasis on interconnectivity. These changes were ambitious, and the level design in particular pushed the N64 to its technical limits. Despite some players feeling the levels were almost too big, requiring a lot of backtracking, the game still fared very well with critics and proved that the first game was no fluke. Two years later, Microsoft's acquisition of Rare ensured Banjo-Kazooie became Xbox's property, and the future for the dynamic duo looked bright.
This makes it even more confusing that the third installment took a wildly different direction. Nuts & Bolts was a unique concept, but it wasn't one that fans were particularly wanting. Frustratingly for fans, a true Banjo-Threeie may never see the light of day, and this feels like a missed opportunity. In 2017, development team Playtonic Games, made up of some of Rare's old key personnel, released Yooka-Laylee, deemed as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. All the core mechanics were in place, with two humorous protagonists, a varied move set and huge worlds to explore, but without the two main stars, the game struggled to find an audience.
More recently, there were rumors of a Banjo-Kazooie revival announcement being made at the Xbox and Bethesda showcase earlier this year, but sadly this never materialized. The likes of Jak & Daxter, as well as Ratchet & Clank, owe much of their popularity to Banjo-Kazooie's success. The original game's re-emergence as part of the Switch's online membership, and the pair's recent appearance as a guest playable character in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, has indicated that the IP's popularity is still intact. All that remains now is for a new entry to finally be announced.
Banjo-Kazooie is available now for Nintendo Switch Online - Expansion Pack owners.