It was 1996 and though we loved the guy, everyone was burnt out on Mario. Yes, he was super. Yes, pretty much any platform (puzzle or faux RPG) he was in was gold up to that point, but the world of gaming just needed a new mascot. A new game. A new character to infiltrate our hearts and minds and distract us from that which weighed on us most heavy in our daily lives.
We had no intention of abandoning Mario, but we just wanted to stray for a little bit and see if the grass was greener. That is when one developer (who was unknown at the time but are the biggest and best now) stepped up and introduced to us a character every gamer would grow to love:
Whereas before Crash, when we had platforms games, we ran left to right as it was just a given trope of platforming at the time. But developer Naughty Dog (Yes, THAT Naughty Dog) went with something very different and unique at the time (and still to this day). In the (initial) Crash Bandicoot games, you ran either towards the screen or away from it. Every now and then they would throw a side scrolling bonus stage at us, but for the most part, it was a breath of fresh air, something new and unique.
And that is just from the basic design point. You add that to the fact that the graphics were unheard of at the time and the entrancing tropical vibe of the game (Tiki masks and shit!) was also brand new to many of us and ended up being a very alluring aesthetic that would keep us coming back for more and more Crash games. So now with the HD reboot of the original trilogy coming out, what better time to make a list of the best Crash games than now?!
The best Crash Bandicoot Games
(This list is presented from best to worst)
Where else do you start than with the game that started it all off for everyone? I, like most gamers at the time, was just excited about a new mascot series and if it could live up to Mario (let’s be honest here, that is the tentpole by which we judge all platformers, and justifiably so). When I first started playing Crash I was taken aback. I was not comfortable right away with the idea of running AT the camera and kind of not knowing what was coming my way. Little did I realize THAT would become the very thing that kept me glued to this series for so many games.
Also have to mention, all those “run straight at the screen while being chased” scenes you get now in most games owe a great deal of thanks to Naughty Dog for making that a “thing.” Nothing makes a chase scarier than when you can’t see what’s coming next, real talk.
This game was groundbreaking.
Crash Team Racing
I am about to say something that is going to make people so mad I may be torn asunder by geeks at some point in the near future, but I still stand behind it. Crash Team Racing was a Mario Kart clone that somehow managed to produce tighter gameplay and better courses than the game it drew inspiration from. Yup, said it. No diss to Mario Kart (amazing franchise) but there is a reason gamers have been foaming at the mouth for a proper sequel to this game for years. Crash Team Racing might even be the best Crash game, but that is IMHO only, so don’t kill me please?
From the N-sanity (see what I did there) of the track design to the way each cart handled differently and how each person had a specific power up to aid them, Crash Team Racing was a game I could lose hours and hours in without being aware. Kart racing at its most fine-tuned, honestly.
And yes, this game does need a REAL sequel for the g-damn modern consoles!
Crash Bandicoot: Twinsanity
I will be the first to admit, Crash hit a point where the games lost their charm. It was no one’s fault, but it just kind of happened over time. Some blamed the leap in console power as the problem, while others just figured the series lost steam like most do. Then Twinsanity happened and we had a new Crash Game that was familiar in some ways, but brand new in others, and it truly felt like the first time a more recent Crash Bandicoot game was, at its heart, just that, a Crash Bandicoot game.
It was also kind of fun to have to team up with your nemesis, Neo Cortex. That added a whole new element to the gameplay that really worked wonders and made up for some genuinely funny banter and scenarios.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Many true fans of Crash games call this the penultimate Crash game. Many consider part 3 to be where they truly hit their stride, the graphics looked better, gameplay was slightly tweaked but not enough to throw off any fans, and there were some new characters thrown into the mix.
While those very things could have been the game’s downfall, they all gelled together and created a damn near perfect Crash game, with a good mix between platforming, chase scenes, and a visually sharper look. Also, have to say, Warped had some of the best boss battles in the whole series.
And falling JUST behind 3…..
Crash 2: Cortex Strikes Back
The thing about this Crash game is that this is when part 2 almost felt like a part 1.5. Everything still worked well (and I understand the whole ” if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” thing), but the problem was, for many, it was really just a small upgrade from 2. The graphics were a bit sharper and some of the levels were lengthy, but it wasn’t quite the upgrade fans had hoped for (we got that with Warped, part 3, mentioned one spot before this).
But this was more of the Crash Bandicoot we loved, so we had no complaints. Some new boss fights, some (always) cool levels design, and unconventional level layouts were just some of the things that kept us playing part 2 right up until the end.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
Something very unique happened with this PS2 sequel. The normally challenging but beatable Crash games spiked in challenge big time here and the end result was a great looking, highly polished Crash game that still, to this day, many Crashheads have not yet beaten.
While some would argue some of the difficulty spikes in this chapter were brutal and should keep it off the list, my thinking is the opposite. This is the moment Naughty Dog figured out that many of the people who had been playing the Crash games have been playing them as kids since part 1, which meant they were grown ups now. Naughty Dog addressed this in a very cool way by giving us a Crash Bandicoot game that beat our ass, yet had all the elements we love so finely tuned, so we still kept coming back for more, no matter how abusive the relationship got.
This game was their way of saying “Our games just aren’t for kids”, and they have stood behind that now in every game since (Last of Us, anyone?)
Crash Nitro Kart
To anyone who wants to call this CTR2, no. Just no. Crash Nitro Kart is its own thing, or it would be called Crash Team Racing 2. And while Nitro Kart boasts some great track design and cool character selection, it is fun, but does not quite live up to the god-like heights created by Crash Team Racing.
Now if this game had come BEFORE Crash Team Racing, it would’ve made way more sense, but it somehow came after and just wasn’t as tight. Still fun as hell, but just wasn’t quite the game CTR fans had longed for. I know this because I am speaking of myself right now. This was the beginning of the end of Crash (at the time, at least).
A Small Examination of When Crash Derailed
Above are a bevy of great Crash games, all still as fun to play today as they were when they first came out. But just like most franchises, Crash Bandicoot hit rock bottom and hit it pretty hard. Once the newer consoles had come out (7th gen +), the dev teams no longer knew what to do with Crash. They assumed people didn’t want a shinier, new version of the original (which they were wrong about), so they ditched the very formula that makes the games work, which was a huge mistake. The chase vibe and the running towards front or back of screen. That was all but gone, replaced by cheesy gimmicks they put in place to desperately try to move these units.
A couple ugly examples are:
Crash of the Titans
While the idea of being able to essentially GTA on the backs of bad guys and then use them as massive beasts to fuck shit up SOUNDS FUN ON PAPER, the game itself ended up being an exercise in tedium. What made the Crash games so fun and charming were the colorful characters and fun world. Fast paced and goofy. Suddenly, Crash is playing in dingy dungeons and broken down labs while riding on the backs of slow moving, lumbering beasts you then use to fight other beasts. Sounds like nine games in one, and that was their problem at the time.
Instead of being who they were and embracing that, they were trying to reinvent the Crash wheel and were destroying the series and character in the process. Also, the sense of speed and pacing is one of the things that made Crash games so awesome, and when you are riding a slow moving beast, that very sensation is gone.
“Hey, you know how we ripped off Mario Kart with Crash Team Racing and it went over REALLY WELL? What do you think will happen if we do that with Mario Party instead?”
Someone seemed to have thought this was a good idea and put Crash into a multiplayer party game chock full of wickedly average and contrived mini-games where you would button smash simply for bragging rights over a friend. I would love to tell you which mini-games stood out, but I can’t remember a single one so that shows the impact Crash Bash had on gaming:
But There’s Still Hope:
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
Well, it is about f*cking time, you guys. The closest we came to playing Crash on current consoles so far was that tiny bit of playtime in Uncharted 4, and we loved it. Little did we know that more of a teaser than an actual easter egg. Now we have the Crash reboot (first three games, new graphics, old school joy) and it is like all will be well in the universe again. They finally figured out you don’t need to force Crash into a party game. You don’t have to make weird “gimmick” games that poorly emulate GTA. You don’t need to put a character we love into weird scenarios that don’t work.
Just give us what we want and we will buy it. It is that simple. And if this HD remaster sells enough, here’s hoping we get a brand new Crash game in the future that looks new but still plays like the classic it is. No gimmicks needed.
Crash is badass enough.
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