• Rayman's return in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope DLC 3 reduces him to a cameo in his own franchise.
  • Rayman's original games are difficult to access and lack definitive, remastered ports on modern systems.

There's something oddly depressing about the recent trailer for Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope DLC 3, where Rayman's return to gaming was finally shown off. Not only is it does it annoy me that the character is finally coming back in a game not at all related to his home genre (platforming), but it's just sad given the context. The poor guy's been reduced to a cameo in his own franchise—with the rabbids originally being characters in a Rayman spin-off. Despite the limbless hero being a platforming star since his 1995 debut, he hasn't had a game (not counting a couple middling mobile titles) since the excellent Rayman Legends—which was ten years ago.

I'm pretty partial to Rayman, and considering that Rayman Legends has been ported to just about everything with a screen, I wouldn't say I'm alone in that. He's had some real iconic games in his time even if he's never quite reached the peaks of Mario or Sonic. However, the guy's being left behind fast. Rayman Legends might be somewhat of a staple for a non-Nintendo 2D platformer, but the original trilogy of Rayman games hasn't seen the same level of preservation as the older titles of his fellow mascots. No remasters, no collections, and no re-releases outside those aforementioned ports of Legends have come up for the franchise in recent years. Whether it be a new game or a rendition of an old one, he really needs something at least.

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Now, you might be thinking, what's so good about this Rayman guy anyway? Well for starters, both the original 1995 Rayman and the 3D platformer Rayman 2: The Great Escape from 1999 are cult classics. The former has some incredible pixel art that more than stands the test of time, with great music and some famously punishing difficulty. The latter was a huge hit in its day, with some great atmosphere, a freshly dark tone, and platforming gameplay that set itself apart from its contemporaries. More personal to me is the 2011 revival in Rayman Origins and its 2013 sequel in Rayman Legends, which brought the series back to a 2D formula. This resurrection has seen more than modest success, re-cementing the series as a staple of family games.

Rayman 2 Opening Cutscene

Origins and Legends are some of the best 2D platformers out there, and I could take up this whole article gushing about them. The formula behind their levels is akin to your average Mario game, in which mechanics are set up and fleshed out throughout a stage, but those elements are brought back in other levels both in and outside the world in which they're first found, mixing and matching the challenges you face. This allows for the famous musical stages, where you run away from a wall of flame through a level with obstacles set to the beat of a tune—some of which are actually renditions of well-known songs, like Black Betty blurted out in comical gibberish or a mariachi cover of Eye of the Tiger. I wish more games had levels like these, and there are many songs that I wish had Rayman levels to match; few things are as satisfying in a game as having your inputs be timed perfectly with the music. The expansion of a couple mechanics over an entire world of levels is what makes this possible—ensuring that players have the knowledge needed to pull off quick maneuvers across a variety of challenges.

So, with a handful of games that really push the envelope, each with a unique identity, there's a lot of potential for new entries or a re-issue of the old—and boy does Rayman need it, given that the series' older titles are pretty cumbersome to access. Not only are they all quarantined to older consoles, but games like The Great Escape were made in the era when console ports differed wildly from each other, with N64, PS1, PS2, Dreamcast, and Game Boy versions that are all noticeably different from each other. Some versions are missing entire bosses, collectibles, and cutscenes. These games could really do with definitive, remastered ports on modern systems in the vein of the Reignited or N-Sane trilogies.

Rayman and friends hitting monsters. The monsters they're approaching scream in fear

That's without considering the idea of a new game, which would also make sense. Not only is there evidently demand for more Rayman (with the newer games continuing to sell and older games being preserved by fans), but those newer games were made with the UbiArt engine—a tool designed to make games using 2D vector graphics without extensive coding. It's strange that it hasn't been used for more games considering how well it's worked out so far.

The only reason I can think of for not giving us a new game would be keeping Rayman Legends as the definitive Rayman experience, with ongoing daily/weekly events and a deluge of content. But if you ask me, it would make perfect sense (especially after ten bloody years) to release a new Rayman game or a remaster of old ones to keep that sales momentum going.

Platformers are getting to be pretty scarce among gaming's big players. Mario and Sonic are going strong and Crash has kept up even after the N-Sane trilogy, but otherwise, the scene's been taken over by indies. That's fine by me given the quality of those games, but it would be great to see a figure like Rayman—whose games have always stood apart from his contemporaries with swathes of original ideas—throw his hat back in the ring and shake things up again.

NEXT: The Best 2D Platformers