Crash, Spyro, Sly… PlayStation has been home to some incredible 3D platformers over the years. With the iconic Bandicoot riding high in the charts, the recent launch of nostalgic run ‘n’ jumper Yooka Laylee, and the return of Jak & Daxter this week via the HD PS4 version of The Precursor Legacy, the mascot adventure genre is experiencing a real renaissance.
So what better time to look back and take stock? We’ve been rummaging around PlayStation Store, refreshing our memories on some classics of yesteryear, and fighting over which one deserves the all-time PS platforming crown. Check out the list below and let us know which one is your favourite.
1. Crash Bandicoot (PS4, PS Vita, PS3)
Nathan Drake may think he’s just a thieving fox in jeans, but there’s no denying that this chart-topping marsupial is one of the all-time greats. All three Crash games – Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped – recently spun back into the spotlight via the hugely successful N.Sane Trilogy, not only looking far better than how you remember them, but playing just as well, too.
2. Jak and Daxter (PS4, PS Vita, PS3)
If you asked Nathan Drake about his uncles, it’s highly unlikely he’d describe them as a curious blonde-haired adventurer and an orange-furred otter/weasel hybrid. But back in 2001, Jak and Daxter were romping across the PlayStation landscape long before Drake was a twinkle in Naughty Dog’s collective eyes. If you missed out, Jak and Dater: The Precursor Legacy is about to show you its glory in a PS4 remaster.
3. Ratchet & Clank (PS4, PS Vita, PS3)
It’s rare for 3D platformers to be space bound, but the sci-fi quirkiness of Ratchet & Clank has not only been a hit time and time again – it also gave birth to two bona fide PlayStation icons.
The Lombax mechanic and his pint-sized robotic pal have gone on to feature in sequels and spin-offs, guest in the beat ’em up PlayStation All Stars Battle Royal and even walked the red carpet as animated movie stars. And while some platforming mascots’ celebrity has waned over the years, Ratchet and Clank’s recent PS4 outing was arguably their finest adventure yet.
4. Ape Escape (PS4, PS3)
A PlayStation series that helped show off the potential of the first Dualshock controller (known then as ‘Dual Analog’), this madcap franchise tasks you to chase and capture a variety of escaped slapstick simians.
But it’s not just about netting hyper intelligent, pants-wearing monkeys, you also have to traverse a variety of environments, tinker with a range of gadgets and enjoy a surprising batch of in-depth mini-games. Weird? Yes. Wonderful? Definitely.
5. Spyro the Dragon (PS Vita, PS3)
Charm always plays a big part in the platform genre, and the loveable fire-breathing lizard has that by the crateful. Along with Crash, Jak and Ratchet, Spyro is another platform game series touched by veteran Game Designer Mark Cerny, bringing slick, family friendly action across the Dragon Lands. Give Gnasty Gnorc and Ripto a piece of your mind (by which we really mean “burn them up real good with Spyro’s flame breath”).
6. Sonic Adventure (PS3)
The blue-blur is kicking up a storm right now with Sonic Mania, but his first (and second) outing in 3D are still ones to remember. The mighty hedgehog doesn’t just spin and dash through expansive levels, but climbs, flies and even ride mechanical vehicles in order to stop the dastardly Dr. Eggman and snatch up the Chaos Emeralds.
7. Sly Cooper (PS Vita, PS3)
When a master thief has gamers demanding he enters their house, you know you’re onto a winner. Sly Cooper’s series has only gone on from strength to strength, with four games tucked away across three PlayStation consoles.
With a surprisingly dark backstory and lore, mixing well with the noir-dipped animated visuals, there’s a style to Sly’s games that still remains distinctive to this day.
8. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PS Vita, PS3)
Not quite 3D but sneaking in on its 2.5D virtues, when Klonoa arrived on PS one it charmed players with its colourful visuals, rich environments and the ability to throw enemies into the background (which also acted as a way to gain collect out of reach items).
To this day, no one knows what type of animal Klonoa actually is (Cat? Dog? Cat-bird-dog predecessor to Trico?) but its cheerful, cutesy fun remains one of the genres’ most accessible entries.
9. Jumping Flash (PS Vita, PS3)
It’s testament to Jumping Flash’s courageous uniqueness that few 3D platformers have attempted to follow its trailblazing path. Presenting its gameplay from a first-person perspective, the robotic rabbit called Robbit launched himself into the record books by being the first platform video game in true 3D.
Not only that, but it managed to be a slick, well-crafted bit of fun, with a funky soundtrack to match.
10. Psychonauts (PS4)
Staggeringly, it’s been over 12 years since Double Fine’s psychic odyssey hit PlayStation 2, but its cult classic status hasn’t diminished over time. Bringing a lot of action adventure elements to the 3D platform genre, Tim Schafer’s psychedelic journey through the minds of a variety of misfits gave the developer licence to explore everything from battlefields and party zones to a twisted, paranoid suburbia and a neon drenched city. Psychonauts’ mind bending creativity still surprises today.
11. Tomba! (PS Vita, PS3)
Another 2.5D platformer that flirted with the third dimension, both Tomba! and its sequel let you throw a silent, pink haired jungle boy around vivid environments, rescuing villagers, eating food and splash diving on enemies. Oh, and… erm… dealing sweet, punishing justice to thieving bi-pedal magical pigs (they deserve it.)
12. Pandemonium! (PS Vita, PS3)
Carnival jesters are usually on the receiving end of rough treatment in video games, but Fargus, the croaky voiced joker of this PS one game is spared the typical humiliation of being a nameless punch bag. In fact, he and his partner protagonist Nikki go to work on everything from pig-nosed goons to ratbats in this 2.5 platformer from the PS one era.
Sure, it’s a tricky game, but Pandemonium! still carries a bit of magic in it that makes it easy to see why it was so popular back in 1996.
13. Yooka-Laylee (PS4)
No 3D platformer discussion is complete without mentioning the Kickstarter phenomenon from the Playtonic team. An ode to the Banjo-Kazooie era, Yooka-Laylee blends beautiful open worlds, quirky characters and an onslaught of collectibles to perfectly capture the spirit of late ’90s gaming.
Frolicking around colourful environments, bashing enemies on the skull and enjoying an abundance of imaginative scenarios – the chameleon and bat duo are right in the mix.
14. Snake Pass (PS4)
Like Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass displays its old school roots loud and proud. But rather than going down the action-based route, the focus here is more on physics-based puzzle platforming.
The result is a more leisurely and cerebral game that captures the best brain-teasing aspects of classic 3D platformers. Not to mention an ambient yet jaunty David Wise soundtrack, which is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
15. Knack (PS4)
A PS4 launch title that garnered a big following, Knack is the perfect family-friendly action adventure. Sure, there’s plenty of rock ’em sock ’em combat to get stuck into, but the titular character’s size-changing ability plays into plenty of puzzles and platforming, too.
With its sequel waiting in the wings for a September 2017 launch, now’s a great time to get up to speed with the goblin-smashing star.
16. Tearaway (PS4, PS Vita)
Media Molecule’s step away from LittleBigPlanet shows just how creative the Guildford-based developer can be. Tearaway and Tearaway Unfolded is a treasure box of delights and surprises, making each part of atoi’s imaginative journey an absolute joy.
What other game has you using the Dualshock 4 wireless controller’s touch pad to send items ‘into’ the TV, or guiding your character through dark places using the light bar’s glow? Or even scratch mixing its soundtrack in real time?