ScreenCritics takes a look back at the Crash Bandicoot series, ranking the entries we’ve experienced and choosing which are the best and worst.
Crash Bandicoot is one of the 1990’s more iconic video game characters. His rise on the original PlayStation introduced many gamers to platforming in its greatest form; and remains memorable to this day. Yet as the years passed, the franchise took some awkward turns and lost its way. With the remake of the original three games due this year; we figured we’d look back across the franchise’s main outings – and try to understand where it all went wrong (and went right).
11. Crash Nitro Kart (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, 2004) – The wheels come off Crash’s Kart offshoot in this horrifyingly lackluster sequel to the popular PlayStation One title. The game feels more like a glorified port than a truly unique outing; with a horribly mangled multiplayer component that suffocates all hope of an enjoyable race between friends. The game has its moments (The extended character roster and slightly better graphics) but in all honesty, Universal shouldn’t have bothered when it was so obvious they were just cashing in on the popularity of its predecessor.
10. Crash: Mind Over Mutant (PS2, Xbox 360, Wii) – By this point it had become painfully apparent that developers didn’t have a clue what to do with the franchise, as Sierra and Vivendi games struggled to form a coherent experience with Mind Over Mutant. Hampered by a dodgy camera and poorly realize mechanics; the game felt more like a spin-off than a main series entry. Focusing more on an open-world experience, the game was clearly tailored for a younger audience; attempting to play up the series more zanier combat features. Even then, it takes around four hours to wrap up the main campaign – laughable when compared to older games. While the game looks great; it’s nowhere near well-formed enough to warrant full price or really worth hunting down.
9. Crash Tag Team Racing (PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, 2005) – Bizarrely appearing almost a year after the previous Kart game, Tag Team Racing feels more like a sequel to the original than that title. The improved graphics and addition of “clashing” added a new element of tactics to proceedings. Yet despite this, the game really doesn’t feel all that different to what came before; hampered by awkward controls and some really weird balancing issues. The only reason this game is higher than its predecessor is that its multiplayer was actually worth a look.
8. Crash Bash (PS1, 2000) – This Crash Bandicoot party game was Universal’s first foray into the series and it wasn’t that bad. While it ejected almost all of the traditional Crash game play, its focus on tight multiplayer fun meant that gamers who could find friends were treated to a charming if slightly limited outing for the series. Certainly not a horrible title.
7. Crash of the Titans (PS2, Xbox 360, Wii) – Moving further from the core Crash game play style, Crash of the Titans saw you riding various monsters and making use of their abilities. It wasn’t really what fans wanted – nor was it the success that Universal or Activision were hoping for; the game receiving very mixed reviews upon its arrival. Perhaps its the awkward way most of the monsters seem to be so similar or maybe its the way the series was obviously losing touch with what made it so good in the first place. Not a great one for Crash.
6. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (PS2, Xbox, GC, 2001) – There’s nothing inherently wrong with Wrath of the Cortex – it just feels very “safe”. After Naughty Dog left the franchise, it was the first of the main series of games to be delivered to gamers and for the most part – it played like a glorified expansion to the hugely popular Warped. The levels don’t break the mold while the few additions to gameplay feel limited in scope. Fans were ready for something new by the time this game hit shelves and its clear that Universal were trying to appeal to fans rather than revolutionise.
5. Crash Bandicoot (PS1, 1996) – Arriving in 1996 – Crash was every bit the iconic platformer that Mario was on the Nintendo 64. Sadly while that games core mechanics still hold up, Crash Bandicoot suffers from graying areas. Most notably the controls, which make some segments of the game inexcusably hard. Come to think of it, Crash Bandicoot 1 suffers across the board from some bizarre difficulty spikes, with some levels proving to be almost torturous in nature. But it’s here that the series began and its clear to see the unique charm of the game. From its boss battles through to the way it makes clever use of 2D and 3D platforming segments – Crash Bandicoot is still a good laugh to go back and experience. It was just easily eclipsed by what followed.
4. Crash Bandicoot: Twinsanity (PS2, Xbox, 2004) – Arguably the best of the “new” Crash Bandicoot games, Twinsanity felt like a tour-de-force of all things Crash Bandicoot. Seeing Crash and Neo Cortex unite and work together, the focus on co-op game play lent the series a fresh lease of life. It also helped that the game had a healthy dose of the series humor and charm throughout – something later games would sadly forget. Twinsanity wasn’t anywhere near the peak of the series, but for an attempt to shake things up; the series never really achieved better than this.
3. Crash Team Racing (PS1, 1999) – Probably the only Crash Racing game worth experiencing. At a time when the PlayStation lacked genuinely quality karting multiplayer games – Crash Team Racing was very much a welcome addition. The focus on open world exploration mimicked the best parts of Diddy Kong Racing while the actual racing mechanics were strong. Controls were right while the races themselves descend very quickly into anarchy. If there are flaws in the game, it’s mostly from the limitations of the ageing PS1 hardware. Outside of this though, Crash Team Racing was the perfect racing accompaniment for the series and still a firm favorite when looking back at Sony’s PlayStation 1.
2. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PS1, 1997) – Naughty Dog had some work on their hands to follow-up the original Crash Bandicoot, yet it’s arguably in their sequel that the series really found its footing. The mechanics feel more fluid, the levels more forgiving while the progression of difficulty is more balanced. The game has a clearer sense of focus with the introduction of multiple targets throughout level – the decision to extend the Crystals and gems across all levels made the game feel more interesting. Add in multiple gameplay additions like polar bear riding, jet packs and a huge roster of secrets to uncover – and it was clear that Naughty Dog had found their footing with the series.
1. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (PS1, 1998) – Proving the franchise deserved its place in the AAA-platforming space, Crash Bandicoot 3 is a tour-de-force of everything that makes Crash work as a franchise. From the slight tweaks to game play to the brilliant soundtrack, everything here blends together to create a carnival of fun. From the Arabic levels through to the futuristic vistas – it was the variety that made Warped feel so exciting. Add in the addition of special moves which gave variety to Crash’s arsenal of moves and you’ve got the most complete Crash package ever. Not only this, it’s one of the most iconic videogames ever; and a high point the series was never truly able to match afterwards.