Remember Crash, Spyro, and Ratchet & Clank? They are just a few of the anthropomorphic icons that helped a generation of players fall in love with video games. They were the stars of old-school cartoon platformers, devilishly tricky obstacle courses that quickly became a mainstay of many childhoods, my own included.
These platformers had such a meteoric impact in the earliest years of the 3D-era that many of the studios responsible are considered titans today. Heavyweights that we've come to know and love, including Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, and Insomniac Games – responsible for the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, and Spyro the Dragon. While each of these franchises would prove to be critically and financially successful for a spell, each saw its stature diminish eventually in the '00s. Fast forward 20 years, and it would appear that we are now on the verge of a retro revival.
A blast from the past
A revival like the one we are seeing emerge now had been in doubt. That's partly because, in recent years, many of the original studios have deviated from their platforming roots. They have since moved on to create a lot more intricate and ambitious projects in terms of scope, scale, story, design, and gameplay – including The Last of Us 2 (opens in new tab), Ghost of Tsushima (opens in new tab), and Marvel’s Spider-Man (opens in new tab). It was difficult to imagine the likes of Naughty Dog or Sucker Punch returning to Crash or Sly Cooper when they were exploring nuanced storytelling techniques or expansive open-worlds.
Cartoon platformers were pushed aside and dwindled in popularity, consequently going through a dry spell. In fact, during the 2000s and 2010s, they were to be few and far between. Until, this generation that is. In 2016, it was announced that the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy would be remastered for the current generation, with enhanced visuals and improved framerate, while maintaining a lot of the core gameplay mechanics and level design of the original. We welcomed the slice of nostalgia and it was later ported to multiple platforms. Shortly after, there was another announcement that Spyro the Dragon would be getting the same remaster treatment. It was recently announced that a brand-new Crash Bandicoot game, the rather aptly titled Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, is on its way.
It seems that nostalgia is a huge selling point, meaning for developers and publishers, there is a burning desire for bringing these older properties to a whole new generation of gamers and establishing a whole new fanbase. It seems that a lot of the original fans have established a deep sense of nostalgia for games such as Crash, Spyro, and Sly Cooper and an appreciation for the era they were born into. They have proven to be incredibly popular, opens the possibility to continue these franchises and they have created a renewed interest in these types of games.
Back with a bang
Ratchet and Clank also made a big comeback in 2016 on PS4 in order to coincide with the animated movie of the same name, and it became a favourite amongst many players. It was a current generation favourite of mine, it restored my faith in these types of games. During the livestream of the PS5 (opens in new tab) Reveal Event, it was announced that there would be a follow-up to the 2016 reboot, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, which is set to arrive in the launch window for the PS5. Its announcement trailer also revealed an intriguing, brand new character in the form of a female-Lombax, who was later confirmed to be a playable character. The expansion of the already colourful universe already had my anticipation levels through the roof and thought maybe there's a place for these types of games in the current market.
These games are resonating with many players today for several reasons, so much so that we are now in a time where an announcement of a brand-new, long-awaited sequel of the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy and a new next-gen Ratchet and Clank game are on their way. Which, the more you think about it is hilarious, as, at the beginning of the current generation, the PS4 exclusive Knack was looked down upon by many people in the industry. It just goes to show how far we have come and the fact that these types of games are currently going through a resurgence.
They say that nostalgia sells and the fact that these games are very distinct in terms of artistic style, meaning that their sheer creativity is something to be praised. They stand out visually against a lot of modern games on the market thus the market for them is beginning to grow again. It seems there is a renewed demand for games with sheer simplicity in terms of narrative and games that are not emotionally or mentally demanding – just good, old-fashioned, light-hearted fun – and a very idiosyncratic artistic style.
Looking to the future
With the sun setting on the current console generation, it is intriguing and exciting to consider how the new features and capabilities of next-gen systems will be made use of and how visually appealing they will be on next-gen consoles. It is interesting and exciting to see how developers blend the classic formula of fun platforming and eclectic combat mechanics whilst utilising the next console’s capabilities and new features. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has more atmospheric feel due to the PS5's ray-tracing capabilities, not to mention the outstanding visuals and the fact you’re able to load up expansive worlds in a mere second due to lack of loading screens and allows for seamless dimension-hopping.
There is also a barrage of classics that ended up getting buried and forgotten, including the likes of Gex and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. Whether these titles will receive their own comeback anytime soon on future generations of consoles is yet to be seen, but it is something that would definitely be welcomed in the next console generation.
Looking for something to play now. We run down the best games of 2020 (opens in new tab) released so far, updated every month.