Game Retrospective: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Warren Leigh
4 min readApr 8, 2020

On the 5th of March 2001, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was first released for the Nintendo 64 in the US. The game would be released across Europe just over a month later.

Developed by Rare, Conker’s Bad Fur Day would by the studio’s last title developed for the Nintendo 64 platform; their final release in a run of highly-regarded titles for the console, that included Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 007. The game was directed by Rare designer, Chris Seavor, who also voiced the main character, Conker. Composer Robin Beanland, previously responsible for the music in such games as Killer Instinct and Jet Force Gemini, handled the game’s score (in addition to co-writing its screenplay)

The game casts the player as Conker the Squirrel, a cute but greedy, foul-mouthed red squirrel, who sets off back home after a night of heavy drinking. Veering slightly off course, Conker gradually finds himself caught up in a series of ridiculous, and often dangerous, situations that include taking part in a bloody conflict between two warring factions, storming a bank in the style of ‘The Matrix’, and battling a rocket-launcher equipped robotic hay bale. On his journey, Conker also does his best to evade the minions of the Panther King; an omnipotent ruler of the land who believes Conker would be an ideal replacement for the missing leg of his throne-room side table. The game is notable for its numerous pop-culture references, featuring nods to movies such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’.

An early screenshot of cancelled Twelve Tales: Conker's Quest

Conker’s Bad Fur Day actually began its life as a cutesy platformer that was initially announced by Rare at E3 1997 as ‘Conker’s Quest’, later renamed ‘Twelve Tales: Conker 64’ a year later. This early version of the game, as evidenced in several initial screenshots, adopted a colourful, child-friendly style. Early reports suggested that the game was to include a co-op mode with additional players able to control Conker’s partner, Berri.

Early development proved tricky for the team. In an interview featured in the 2015 Rare Replay compilation, Rare software engineer (and voice of ‘The Great Mighty Poo’) Chris Marlow, stated: “There was an awful lot of content and there were lots of fun ideas, but it just wasn’t really gelling as a finished game.” The release of Rare’s 1998 Nintendo 64 platformer, Banjo Kazooie, would reportedly prompt the Conker development team to completely re-evaluate their project. Discussing the game’s early development IGN wrote in January 2000: “[Conker’s Bad Fur Day] fell under criticism for being too cute and too much like the bear/bird duo to really stand out.”

Fan-favourite boss, The Great Mighty Poo, was voiced by Rare software engineer, Chris Marlow

Influenced by this initial response, director Chris Seavor decided to take the game in a different direction, one that was edgier, with a greater focus upon humor. After much remodelling, the game was officially unveiled as Conker’s Bad Fur Day in 2000. A far cry from its previous incarnation, Conker’s Bad Fur Day would feature cartoon violence, adult humour, characters that drank heavily or smoked, countless movies parodies and several fourth-wall-breaking moments.

According to Marlow, Nintendo were pretty lenient when it came to the inclusion of adult content. In a 2012 interview with the gaming blog site Gamika, Chris Seavor explained that approximately 99.9% of the game remained intact but stated “that there was a joke at the expense of the KKK, which had to come out”. He also mentioned that a joke about Pokémon also had to be removed, going on to say, “I was annoyed about that one because it was quite a funny cut scene. Gone forever now.”

Due to the game’s vast amount of content, it would go on to be one of only three Nintendo 64 games released on a high-capacity 64mb cartridge (the other two being Resident Evil 2 and Pokémon Stadium 2).

Upon release, Conker’s Bad Fur Day received countless positive review scores, with critics commending the game’s striking visuals, impressive array of technical effects, humour and audio. It would go on to receive numerous awards including a BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Award for sound in 2001.

The game features references to countless films including The Clockwork Orange and The Matrix

Despite the game’s critical success, the game would go on to sell only 55,000 copies in its first month, and would ultimately prove to be a commercial failure. An IGN article, from April 2001, titled “Conker a Certifiable Flop” suggested that the game was simply released at the wrong time, even saying “Perhaps it would have been better for [Nintendo] GameCube.”

Although a direct sequel, titled “Conker’s Other Bad Day”, was in development at Rare shortly after the original game’s release, it was cancelled following the studio’s acquisition by Microsoft. Microsoft would, however, commission a full remake of the original game for the Xbox in 2005, called Conker: Live and Reloaded.

🕹Are you a fan of Conker’s Bad Fur Day? What’s your favourite quote from the game? Did you enjoy the Xbox remake? Who is your favourite character? Would you welcome a return to this series?🕹