From breakout star to mascot to second-tier franchise and hiatus, Crash Bandicoot has had an interesting 20 years.
The original Crash Bandicoot came out for the Sony PlayStation on September 9, 1996. That’s 20 years ago. Crash became one Sony’s first major franchises, and it established developer Naughty Dog as a premier studio that would later developer major hits for Sony like the Uncharted series and The Last of Us. Crash has been quiet for some time, but this platformer hero looks to be making a comeback.
Why Crash mattered
The first Crash Bandicoot came out exactly one year after the PlayStation launched in North America. At the time, 3D platformers were still a new thing. Super Mario 64, the game many consider the father of the genre, debuted in Japan along with the Nintendo 64 on June 23 1996, but the U.S. release wasn’t until September 29.
This made Crash Bandicoot’s launch timely for Sony. Nintendo could have stolen Sony’s entire spotlight with its new console and premier game, but Crash gave Sony a counter. Sure, get the Nintendo 64 and you can play 3D Mario, but you can only get the new Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation.
The first Crash Bandicoot sold over 6.8 million copies worldwide. Sony quickly latched onto Crash as its mascot. It became PlayStation’s Mario. A sequel, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, released the following year.
However, Crash’s time at the top wouldn’t last. Universal Vivendi, which owned the Crash character, reached the end of their licensing deal with Sony by 2001. Naughty Dog’s development deal with the franchise was also over. Future Crash Bandicoot games, which were now releasing on a new wave of consoles (PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox), were multiplatform and developed by new teams.
The post-Naughty Dog games never saw the same critical and fan love that the originals had. The last console game in the series, Crash: Mind Over Mutant, released back in 2008.
But Crash could be making a comeback. The long hiatus has put those mediocre entires out of gamers’ minds, who now nostalgically think of the original PlayStation titles when they hear the name Crash Bandicoot. Sony announced remastered versions of the first three Crash Bandicoot games, the same ones that Naughty Dog made, for the PlayStation 4 at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Activision announced at the same show that Crash would be a playable character in Skylanders: Imagination, the next entry in the toys-to-life franchise.
Activision actually released a video today of Crash in action in Skylanders, and it looks a lot like a classic Crash Bandicoot adventure.
Gamers are hungry for Crash to return, and companies are taking notice. Now, we just need to see if he’ll get a new starring role again.