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Rare Ltd.
Founded 1985
Headquarters Twycross, Leicestershire, UK
Website www.rare.co.uk
Other Names
  • Ultimate Play the Game
  • Ashby Computers & Graphics
  • Rareware

Rare Ltd. is a British game developer founded by brothers Tim "D.J." and Chris "T.J." Stamper.

They started the company with the name "Ultimate Play the Game", then "Ashby Computers & Graphics", and then "Rare." The company was made famous due to their Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, and Perfect Dark series, as well as GoldenEye 007 (N64). The company started off programming games for home computers, mainly the ZX Spectrum. When Rare saw that the Nintendo Entertainment System was becoming the hottest game console of its time, they acquired an NES and quickly learned how to develop for it. When they sent examples of their works to Nintendo, they were so impressed that they gave Rare a virtually unlimited budget to develop games, making Rare one of Nintendo's closest third-party developers outside of Japan. Rare was also the first company outside of Japan to develop an NES game, Slalom (NES). Rare would subsequently be contracted by video game publishing companies such as LJN and Milton Bradley to produce NES games. However, many of these publishing companies rushed the developers to program the games as quickly as possible, usually resulting in an unpolished, poorly designed game. Some of the company's prominent NES staff included Chris and Tim Stamper (programming/production), Mark Betteridge (programming/sound), Kev Bayliss (graphics), and David Wise (music).

They also developed a few titles for the Sega Genesis, as well as X The Ball and the Battletoads arcade game. During the fierce competition between Nintendo and Sega, Rare outsourced some of their games to Japanese companies to keep a strong friendship with Nintendo.

Rare also acquired Zippo Games, who developed a few games for Rare, such as Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II, Solar Jetman, and Cabal.

During their NES, Game Boy and SNES development, they rarely put staff credits in their games. This was a common measure taken back in the early days of game development to prevent employees being offered jobs by competing companies. However, Rare would occasionally put their game developers' initials in the scoreboards of their NES games. Later, they would put credits in their games, but listing their developers' first initials with their last name. During their NES development, only 6 of Rare's 40+ games had credits; Cobra Triangle, Double Dare, Pinbot, Solar Jetman, IronSword: Wizards & Warriors II and WWF Wrestlemania. Rare developed more NES games than any other third party developer outside of Japan.

Later, the company changed its name to Rareware.

On September 24, 2002, Rare was acquired by Microsoft and their new focus has been making games exclusively for Microsoft platforms.


Music Development


According to the credits of Battletaods, the game's sound driver was programmed by Mark Betteridge. Wise said he wrote the music on a Roland MT-32 and may have sourced instruments from the Roland D-110. Music was written in assembly macros. The assembly in question was a Z80, and the sound chip used in the cabinet was Brian Schmidt's BSMT2000 which allowed for the use of instrument samples, similar to the SNES. Because the sound chip only allows for instrument samples, it is not possible to log it in the VGM format. Wise most likely used this same method for X The Ball.

Marshall Parker used identical-sounding instruments in his SNES works. Parker also used Roland devices and sampled instruments from them.


The sound driver was written by Chris Stamper, and David Wise had to write the music in Z80 assembly macros.


Wise used a Yamaha DX21 to compose his music and wrote the music in assembly (either 68000 or Z80) using Sega's SMPS sound driver. However, the driver was modified, likely by Stamper and/or Betteridge.


Rare's sound driver was first programmed by founder Chris Stamper, and later around 1987, was upgraded by Mark Betteridge, who was also listed for sound design in the handful of Rare's NES games with credits. It appears Mark either created the instruments or allowed the user to create custom instruments, rather than adhere to the built-in instruments of the 2A03. According to David Wise, music was entered in the traditional way by inputting hexadecimal numbers as notation, and could also be used for various effects. Wise would continue using this method for the Game Boy and SNES.

Wise stated the company did not use the PCM capabilities of the 2A03 because the company did not have the cartridge space. However, some games such as Pin-Bot do indeed use it, but that game credits someone other than Wise for the sound effects (Paul Proctor and Paul Byford), so he probably wasn't aware of it. Also, Wise only contributed music; sound effects were handled by other Rare staff, usually Mark Betteridge and Stephen Patrick.


The earlier versions of the company's SNES sound driver were written by Chris Stamper, where music was still entered in assembly macros. Wise stated that he used the text editor Brief to write his music. The driver was later updated some time around 1995 by Philip Wattis.

Audio Personnel

Picture Gallery