Banjo-Kazooie is one of the most influential games ever made.
While Super Mario 64 blazed the trail for bringing platformers to the 3D space, Banjo-Kazooie refined that formula. It’s a masterclass in intuitive game design, and its influence can still be seen in newer games like Super Mario Odyssey. The 1998 game’s been loved for decades since its initial release, and the series’ iconic duo even earned themselves spots on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s roster.
If you want to know what all of the fuss is about, this classic title is surprisingly accessible. A remastered version of Banjo-Kazooie is available on Xbox Game Pass. Any fan of video games owes it to themselves to check out this enduring gem.
Banjo-Kazooie was first released on Nintendo 64 back in 1998. It cemented itself as an all-time classic back then and got two sequels, though the series has been dormant for years. Developer Rare is currently more focused on making games like Sea of Thieves and Everwild for Xbox rather than revisiting Banjo-Kazooie. Still, there’s never a bad time to go back and experience the classics!
Banjo-Kazooie is a 3D platformer with a simple, fairytale-like story. An evil witch named Gruntilda kidnaps a young brown bear named Tooty to steal her beauty. To save his sister, anthropomorphic bear Banjo and his bird friend Kazooie team up to go on a quest to save Tooty.
Along the way, they meet an eclectic cast of characters and collect Jinjos, Jiggies, and musical notes scattered across expansive 3D levels. Banjo-Kazooie features excellent controls and gives the players a wide variety of unique abilities to pull off and string together.
The level design compliments these controls while each stage incorporates some new idea to shake the experience up. This is the baseline standard for any 3D platformer, so it might not be super impressive to modern gamers. That said, you have to understand that Banjo-Kazooie is the game that established that standard.
And it still plays pretty damn well.
Banjo-Kazooie cleverly allows players to tackle to freely explore and obtain collectibles within levels in a non-linear way without ever being kicked out of the level. This gives the players immense freedom to explore the game at their own pace, genuinely making the adventure feel like your own.
Nintendo platformers didn’t fully embrace this concept until Super Mario Odyssey, but Banjo-Kazooie did it in 1998. Even outside of 3D platformers, open-world games and other non-linear titles have something to owe to Rare’s masterpiece.
We haven’t even mentioned the outstanding soundtrack by Grant Kirkhope. Many classic tracks like Spiral Mountain and Freezeezy Peak will be stuck in your head months after playing. It’s truly one of the all-time great soundtracks for an all-time great game.
The version of Banjo-Kazooie available on Xbox Game Pass is the remaster released in 2008 on Xbox 360. There are a few minor visual tweaks and additions, but rest assured, it’s still the fantastic 3D platformers that you remember or have heard others rave about.
You can also try the faithful sequel Banjo-Tooie, the divisive Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts, or the Rare Replay collection if you want more.
While platformers aren’t usually the first thing you think of when you think Microsoft, Xbox Game Pass is one of few legitimate ways to play one of the best games of all time. And because Microsoft owns the rights to this game, you don’t have to worry about it leaving Game Pass anytime soon.