The Spyro series is one of the original Playstation’s greatest series, and is held with high regard by many 90’s gamers. Recently, developer Toys for Bob released the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. This three-in-one compilation takes all three original Spyro games and delivers them with brand new graphics, an overhauled menu, and some modern fixes. Disregarding the pretty graphics and nostalgia, the Spyro series is flawed but ultimately timeless. It’s simplistic in some ways, and excessive in others. As a whole, the original Spyro trilogy is packed with interesting ideas and memorable locations. However, it’s also littered with some missteps and dated gameplay. A list of Spyro ranked worst to best is totally subjective, but I’ve decided to weigh in with my verdict. After playing through all three games to 100% completion in the recent Spyro Reignited Trilogy, I think I’m ready to decide what the best Spyro game is once and for all. With that said, let’s see what hits the top on this list of Spyro ranked from worst to best.
3. Spyro III: Year of the Dragon
Don’t get me wrong, Year of the Dragon is a totally competent and enjoyable game. I had a good time grabbing all the gems, unlocking various characters, participating in Sparx levels, and much more. However, this abundance of variety is arguably the game’s biggest weak point. Instead of spending time as Spyro, charging and flaming through enemies, a good chunk of the game is spent playing as other characters. While they are personable and fun, these extra characters are fundamentally different in gameplay. When playing as Sheila the Kangaroo, you’ll hop to ridiculous heights and take on platforming stages. As Bentley the Yeti, you’ll smash through environments and even box other yetis. These styles of gameplay are somewhat entertaining, but when I come to a Spyro game, I want to play as Spyro.
The game doesn’t stop with introducing new characters, but blends new gameplay into other areas as well. Your trusty dragonfly companion Sparx now has his own levels, which play like top-down bullet hell shooters. There are a range of mini-games and challenges, like the nostalgia-inducing skateboard arenas or a game of hockey. The main objectives (collecting dragon baby eggs) are all tied into small challenges, which pull focus away from the core experience of Spyro. In many ways, Year of the Dragon feels unfocused and lacking discipline. It’s a grab-bag assortment of fun distractions, but it lacks the solid Spyro gameplay that earned the series its fame. As a positive, some of the best and most memorable locations in the entire franchise are in Spyro III. The weak portions of gameplay and constant distractions don’t weaken the overall experience, but the balance between new and old is severely unbalanced.
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2. Spyro the Dragon
The first game in the series, Spyro the Dragon, is the most simplistic and easy-to-learn of the three games. In the modern age, every game is jam-packed with features, systems, and mechanics. Spyro the Dragon feels dated in that regard, but in a good way. Instead of bombarding you with challenges, mini-games, and altering gameplay, Spyro the Dragon presents a handful of challenging platforming levels. You’ll charge through enemies, spit fire at bosses, and glide from platform to platform. All the while, you’ll collect thousands of gems and free dragons from their rocky statue prisons.
New levels present interesting variations on the obstacles at hand, but you’ll approach them all in the same way. Whether you’re speeding down a ramp, fighting a handful of enemies, or trying to catch a thief, the focus is always on speed and platforming. It’s easy to sit back, relax, and idly charge through levels. In comparison to the two sequels, Spyro the Dragon leaves a bit to be desired in environmental creativity. The locations are bright and colorful, but lack personality in some cases. That said, the level design is often deceptively well done, with various paths that you’ll only discover after careful exploration. Spyro the Dragon really only gets frustrating when you’re going for 100% completion. Often, you’ll be missing a gem or two, spending precious time scouting over a level multiple times. Your missing gems will usually be tucked away in a hard-to-reach location, providing an extra step of exploration. This is both hit and miss, but only an issue if you feel the urge to complete the game in full.
Despite its occasional weak level design and frustrating gem placement, Spyro the Dragon is an exceptionally fun collect-a-thon. It’s light, enjoyable, and relaxing to play. Sure, there’s a few tough jumps and annoying enemies, but for the most part, Spyro the Dragon is cathartic.
1. Spyro II: Ripto’s Rage
Spyro II: Ripto’s Rage takes everything that worked about the first game and turns it up a notch. If Spyro the Dragon represents the most basic of Spyro themes, and Year of the Dragon is the most excessive, Ripto’s Rage is the perfect balance between the two. Instead of finding dragon statues in each level, Spyro must collect orbs. These are obtained through a variety of ways, including both familiar gameplay and new content. You’ll still spend a lot of your time collecting gems, navigating platforming challenges, and finding hidden areas. However, Ripto’s Rage mixes things up with some fun variations on the familiar gameplay.
In each level, you’ll have to help the inhabitants with a problem. Whether ridding their world of enemies, solving puzzles, or making some sweet jumps, Ripto’s Rage makes each level feel unique. Some characters will present you with mini-games or side challenges to complete, each one rewarding you with an orb. These orb challenges keep gameplay refreshing, so you’re not constantly doing the same thing in every level. Because of this, level design seems more varied, and the inclusion of swimming and hovering opens up possibilities.
At its worst, Ripto’s Rage leans too heavily on its underwater sections, and can occasionally be frustrating and obtuse. Much like Spyro the Dragon, some collectibles are hard to discover, and you’ll be left scratching your head. However, these blunders are easier to forgive, thanks to the handful of fun new ideas introduced. The game’s saving grace, the hover, also appears for the first time in the franchise. This small addition allows Spyro to extend his jumps a bit, adding a bit of extra wiggle room on tough jumps. Spyro also gets some other new moves, including a head bash. These extra abilities open up gameplay in exciting ways, and they all feel true to the Spyro formula. When the new gameplay pops up, it never overstays its welcome. Ripto’s Rage feels the most refined and focused out of the three games, and due to that, ends up being the most entertaining to play.