Conker’s Bad Fur Day: from family friendly to drunk and disorderly

Conker's Bad Fur Day

By Adam Rolf

Nazi teddy bears, a mountainous monster of kerneled shit, and plenty of references to drugs and alcohol, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was enough to give even today’s social activists violent aneurysms of rage. 

Not exactly what mom and dad were expecting from a furry, little Nintendo friend, is it? At least, that’s not what my parents had in mind when they bought Conker’s Bad Fur Day as my Christmas gift in 2001 when I was 11.

The game had been out since March and caught quite the controversy. Nintendo Power magazine did not acknowledge the game when it released because it was the exact opposite of the family friendly image Nintendo portrayed. So Conker ads ran in Playboy and Maxim instead. 

Lucky for me, that controversy slipped right over my parent’s head. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was one of my favorite games growing up and by far, one of Nintendo’s most raunchiest, mature games ever released.

Imagine if Conker’s Bad Fur Day hit Nintendo today. In fact, there was so much controversy revolving around the game that many believed it was a defining moment for Nintendo’s rating standards.

The game was developed by Rare, a Nintendo-exclusive company at the time. Released at the end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle, it would be the console’s last M-rated title. It would also be the last M-rated game a Nintendo-exclusive company would develop for a while until N-Space’s Geist released in 2005 for the GameCube.

Since then, no other mature games developed by in-house exclusive studios have ever been released on Nintendo. 

Oddly enough, Conker was originally a cutesy family friendly character who debuted as a chipper side character in Diddy Kong Racing in 1997. Later he starred in his own game, Conker’s Pocket Tales, in 1999 on the GameBoy Color.

The E-rated game received middling reviews at the time, but established our furry hero as a family friendly character. And that’s why mothers everywhere threw a shit fit once they realized they’d been duped into giving their kids a game revolving around a sleazy drinking squirrel in a world of immoral, zany characters. 

Bad Fur Day actually started as another typical Rare platformer. But at the time, they were developing the game, they were also developing Banjo Kazooie (1998) and they decided it was too similar and would compete with Banjo. 

Chris Seaver, the game’s director, decided to switch gears and drew inspiration from South Park and parodied movies like Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix and A Clockwork Orange, according to a 2019 interview with IGN. So the cute little squirrel became the hungover, grizzled smart ass who by today’s standards would likely be met with boycotting revolt.

I mean was the game really that bad for kids? The story entails a poor furry fella who just wanted to get home to his girlfriend after a heavy night of drinking with the boys. It’s not like he asked for the tyrannical King Panther and his maniacal weazel scientist, Professor Von Kriplespac, to ruin his life in a land of dung-flinging and binge-drinking.

*Remembers the saving Private Ryan D-Day parody level* Okay maybe Conker’s Bad Fur Day should have emphasized the M-rating a wee bit more – then again, why ruin the surprise?

The game itself is relatively simple yet highly entertaining. It received raving reviews and in terms of N64’s graphical potential, the best game to ever hit the N64. Yet despite receiving a metascore of 92, Conker’s Bad Fur Day had relatively low sales, mainly due to limited advertising and late platform entry, which is why this iconic classic slipped under the radar of so many gamers. 

After release, Rare began working on a sequel, Conker’s Other Bad Fur Day. However, in 2002 Rare was purchased by Microsoft and was never given the greenlight for a sequel. Rare cancelled the project, but from what we know, it sounded like it would have been epic.

Nonetheless, the people wanted more Conker and Rare answered. The game, like all great classics, was remastered for Xbox in 2005 as Conker: Live and Reloaded. Unfortunately, Microsoft censored most of swearing, replacing them with bleeps.

But the new multiplayer in Conker: Live and Reloaded was awesome. As a player you were divided into two teams – Squirrel High Command or Tediz. From there players got to choose their soldier’s specialty class. The classes followed a rock paper scissors theme – being amazing against some classes, situationally good against one class, and terrible against others. 

Multiplayer offered a myriad of modes to keep you coming back with the two most popular being Capture the flag and Standard DeathMatch. Unfortunately, Xbox Live no longer supports multiplayer mode (RIP).

Up until this point, Rare was known for light-hearted games like Banjo, Donkey Kong Country 64 and Diddy Kong Racing. But they certainly showed us they can get down and dirty with one game that’s too clever, too lewd, too disgusting, and yet too damn funny to ever be forgotten – Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

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