Spoiler: it’s not what you think.
Remember Diddy Kong Racing? The Rare developed mascot based kart racer, which starred characters from the Donkey Kong series, as well as original Rare characters, was a sensation back on the Nintendo 64, and it has often been called the greatest kart racer of all time. Rare was working on a sequel for the Gamecube, called Donkey Kong Racing. That part is common knowledge. What is not as well known is what happened to the game. Most people just assumed it went into the ether after Rare got bought out by Microsoft. That, as it turns out, was not it.
Speaking to Nintendo Life about the game for their ‘Month of Kong,’ “The idea behind the game — which was Tim Stamper’s — was that the player wouldn’t be constricted to just a single animal when racing,” explained former Rare staffer and lead designer on Donkey Kong Racing, Lee Musgrave. “You would move between different-sized animals; bigger animals could smash through obstacles, while smaller ones were much more maneuverable.” So it sounded like a more dynamic version of Mario Kart: Double Dash, from that.
So what happened to the game?
“It was a sweet spot of Microsoft having this new black box, a huge controller, lots of shooter games and more money than everyone else,” Musgrave said. As a result of the sale, Donkey Kong Racing could not exist as Donkey Kong Racing.
“We tried to figure out what to do with it,” said Musgrave, “We made a prototype version for Xbox, but because nothing else had been made up until this point, we essentially built it from scratch. For example, if you got knocked off your animal, you had to do a Track and Field-esque button-bashing activity to get back on it.
“We decided to try and make it a bit more like Diddy Kong Racing in terms of it being an adventure game,” Musgrave revealed, “Over the course of the next 18 months or so, it went from being a track-based animal racer to a more open-world game withTamagotchi-style features, in which nurturing your animal became a key mechanic.” Ultimately, the game grew and grew until it basically became a mascot starring ‘cute version of Grand Theft Auto.
In a sense, it’s sad we never got to see this game. Rare was at the peak of their talent at that time- it would have been amazing to see them try something of this caliber.
For the complete story, be sure to check out Nintendo Life.