Every Spyro Game, Ranked

Highlights

  • Spyro has had a mixed history, with some games straying from the established formula with disappointing results.
  • The Legend of Spyro trilogy had a strong story and voice cast, but the gameplay fell flat with monotonous button-mashing and difficulty issues.
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a standout release, combining all three original games with modern enhancements for the ultimate Spyro experience.

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Spyro the Dragon quickly became one of PlayStation’s most recognisable characters upon his first game’s launch back in 1998. The original trilogy was produced by Insomniac Games, known for developing other PlayStation darlings like Ratchet and Clank, and, more recently, the Spiderman series. Since then, the IP has changed hands numerous times, and each iteration of the series has put a slightly different spin on the established formula.

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Many of the purple fella’s games have elements in common, such as the reappearance of numerous allies and enemies, and a focus on collecting an assortment of McGuffins to advance. They also tend toward the platforming genre; but as we’ll see, some entries have diverged from these Spyro staples with… mixed results. Keep reading to find out where each fire-breathing escapade ranks in the lineup.

Updated on January 9, 2024 by Bobby Mills: Spyro, as well as PlayStation bedfellow Crash Bandicoot, has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years. With a sumptuous remaster of his first three adventures, a slew of new merchandise, and even rumblings of a (proper) fourth mainline entry, fans of the diminutive dragon are right to be excited. To honour this platforming great, we thought the time was right to make our list a definitive ranking of his many, many outings.

14 Spyro Orange/Crash Purple

Not Every Crossover Works Out

Spyro Orange Crash Purple boxart

On paper, a crossover between Spyro and Crash sounds like a sure thing. These two fundamentally different, but undeniably great, series ought to combine into something stellar — or so you’d think. Instead, what could have been a platforming tour de force was twisted into some strange attempt to ape the Pokemon games (as a minigame collection)!

Orange and Purple launched simultaneously, but whichever one you opted for, you were in for a mess. Ne’er-do-wells Cortex and Ripto have joined forces, so naturally, Crash and Spyro must also unite to put a stop to them. Only brief glimmers of what makes these IPs so beloved are allowed to shine through, as your roughly four-hour experience is spent in such excruciating scenarios as piloting a jeep as Spyro or playing Wheel of Fortune as Crash. It’s miserable.

13 Spyro: Enter The Dragonfly

Fourth Time Ain’t The Charm

Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly title screen

Enter the Dragonfly is, quite simply, the nadir of the Spyro series. A product of botched behind-the-scenes negotiations, a rushed development cycle, and limited resources, it wears its broken, battered heart on its sleeve from the moment the 10fps opening cinematic creaks to life. This fourquel is a hollow, shallow attempt at continuing where the OG trilogy left off, with precisely none of the magic.

Bugs, slowdown, and various other maladies will get in your way at every possible turn. Quests will fail to trigger, NPCs will blip in and out of existence as they please, and vital collectibles like to spawn just out of reachable zones. The runtime, too, is laughable, clocking in at around three hours. Perhaps that’s a small mercy.

12 Spyro: Shadow Legacy

RPG: Real Painful Game

Spyro Shadow Legacy gameplay

Shadow Legacy manages to notch a single point above Enter the Dragonfly for being the more technically competent package — but make no mistake. This thing is a stinker. Obscurer than obscure, this (rightly) forgotten DS entry attempts to lend a bit of RPG flair to the usual platforming antics, and flops on its snout.

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A bizarre 2D/3D artstyle is utilised, making it impossible to know which bits of the pre-rendered static backgrounds are tangible. The music will often fail to load, meaning the only audial stimulus remaining is the sound of Spyro thwacking damage-sponge enemies that just. Won’t. Die. Top that off with a broken EXP system (you can hit max level before you leave the second area if you know what you’re doing) and a shambolic control scheme, and there’s naught to recommend.

11 Spyro: Attack Of The Rhynocs

A Middling Handheld Quest

Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs cover art

Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs, inexplicably titled Spyro Adventure in the UK, was the third instalment of the series on GameBoy Advance. Its predecessors Season of Ice and Season of Flame carved out a nice little niche for themselves on the handheld, converting Spyro’s collectathon gameplay into an isometric viewpoint that accounted for the GBA’s wee processor. Attack of the Rhynocs, however, tossed out that firm foundation to try something different.

Though the basic visual setup and control system remains unaltered, what we now have is a game centered entirely around fetch quests. It’s about as fun as it sounds. The Professor might want an item you can’t access until a later level, which itself can’t be unlocked without helping Bianca find her equipment – and so it goes, on and on. The Flame and Ice engine just wasn’t built for this, and it shows its cracks with alarming speed.

10 The Legend Of Spyro: The Eternal Night

More Like The Eternal Suffering

Spyro in The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night

The Legend of Spyro trilogy is a fascinating case study. When Universal inherited the Spyro IP, they decided the best use of their shiny new toy would be to retool it into a grimdark epic spanning three chapters. There were even designs on a film adaptation! They broke the bank for the writers and voice cast, roping in such names as Elijah Wood, Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill and Christina Ricci — and to their credit, the story and characterisation are often cited as a major highlight.

Alas, these are video games at the end of the day — and the one piece they forgot to ensure was correct is the gameplay. All three Legend games are monotonous button-masher brawlers, and Eternal Night easily ranks as the worst. The hardcore difficulty is ludicrous for what’s ostensibly a children’s game, and the central time-slowing mechanic is nothing we haven’t seen before. This is all to say nothing of the drab, washed-out artstyle.

9 The Legend Of Spyro: A New Beginning

The Beginning Of The End

The Legend of Spyro A New Beginning cover art

A New Beginning kicks off the Legend series with panache, its canon-rebooting intentions made explicitly clear in its very subtitle. For the first couple of hours, it’s genuinely engrossing. We see Spyro’s ancestral dragon home ransacked, and our hero’s egg wash up in a village of fireflies, where he grows up as one of them. One day, the inevitable familial revelations occur, and he and adoptive brother Sparx are off to discover more about his heritage.

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Sadly, once the prologue is through, things devolve into the usual tedious business. Enemy appear, you smack enemy, enemy die. Me like smack enemy. There’s an occasional cinematic flight segment, and the overall whimsical tone keeps you plodding on; not to mention Cynder, the one addition to the cast who stuck around beyond the Legend label.

8 Spyro: A Hero’s Tail

Irreverently Misspelled Titles Are Fun!

Spyro A Hero's Tail title screen

A Hero’s Tail was the first game in the series to be developed for all three major consoles of the time — Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2. It sees Spyro and a handful of returning allies (Sgt. Byrd, Hunter, and Sparx, all playable) facing off against a new antagonist named Red, a corrupt dragon elder who was banished some years before.

A Hero’s Tail is the very definition of ‘acceptable.’ Spyro’s rocking a new voice actor, with Jess Harnell taking over the mantle from Tom Kenny, but this usually-talented star sadly bungles it. He gives Spyro an irritating nasally drawl, which, coupled with his frequent mugs at the camera, makes for a less-than-likable incarnation of our lead. The controls, while workable, aren’t precise enough for the pixel-perfect platforming and acrobatics later levels demand of you; and the ingame gem currency is broken beyond belief. Have fun grinding thousands for a single-use key.

7 The Legend Of Spyro: Dawn Of The Dragon

A Roaring Finale

Spyro Dawn of the Dragon gameplay

For the third and final entry in the Legend series, Universal decided to hand the reins over to a new developer — the France-based Étranges Libellules — as opposed to the team who’d done the first two. It was for the best: this is, by far, the finest of the three games, and brings the saga to a close in fittingly dramatic form.

For the first time, Spyro and Cynder (it’s a co-op game now; if you can’t find a friend to pressgang, Cynder is tethered to you via wonky AI) can take flight freely, making for more open and exploratory gameplay. Some of these environments are positively gorgeous, and the gamer chills hit as you soar over verdant fields and the crescendoes of thundering waterfalls.

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Late-game stages are hyper-intense, including one where you beat back Malefor’s army from the gates of Dragon City, and a standout boss fight battled within the innards of a colossal lava titan. Dawn of the Dragon ain’t perfect, but it elevates the Legend series to a worthwhile endeavour.

6 Spyro: Season Of Ice

The Ice Age Didn’t Kill The Dragons

Spyro: Season of Ice promo art

Season of Ice is a fun little handheld adventure that doesn’t necessarily set the world on, ahem, fire (that’s the sequel’s job) but achieves what it sets out to do. Wisely realising that the GBA would not be able to handle rendering the luscious 3D worlds of its home console counterparts, the action shifts to a top-down isometric view.

Other than the camera angle, the core gameplay is unchanged. You’ll still be wandering a variety of maps, hoovering up gems, and keys to unlock chests for, er, more gems. There’s a loose story hanging it all together, concerning fairies being frozen in glaciers, and the odd into-the-screen shooting gallery segment to shake up the action. For a budget project, Season of Ice is plenty cool.

5 Spyro: Season Of Flame

The Sequel Fires Things Up

Spyro Season Of Flame gameplay

Hot on the heels of Season of Ice, strong sales propelled this sequel to store shelves in no time flat. It’s not advised to play them back-to-back; if you’ve played Ice, you’ve essentially played Flame. Very, very little has been altered, and it’s more of the same to a T. You’ll burn yourself out (pun intended).

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Regardless, ‘the same’ is still pretty enjoyable. It isn’t fair to suggest that absolutely no improvements have been made. There’s now a minimap to ease exploration of these flat environments, something that the awkward navigation of Season of Ice sorely lacked. Flame also does away with the mind-numbing shooting galleries, and has a tighter pace overall. If you’re only going to play one of the two, pick this ‘un.

4 Spyro The Dragon

The Original, But Not The Best

Spyro the Dragon opening cinematic

When the original Spyro the Dragon hit the scene, it changed the platforming world overnight. Here was a refined, trendier version of the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, with a protagonist hovering somewhere between the attitude of Sonic and the earnestness of Mario. Exciting, engaging and accessible (Insomniac reported elderly players writing in to express their love of the game), it was an instant classic.

By the standards of Spyro 2 and 3, though, Spyro 1 appears positively primitive. There are only a handful of stages per world, and only one truly-hidden collectible in each map (a chest). None of the unique missions that would characterise the sequels feature here — and otherwise-fun 100 percent runs are sadly dragged down by the hair-pullingly frustrating flight stages.

3 Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage

Spyro Hits The Big Time

Spyro 2 Ripto's Rage cover art

Ripto’s Rage transposes the action to the realm of Avalar, and in doing so introduces most of the series’ long-running secondary cast. Hunter the cheetah, Elora the fawn, greedy capitalist Moneybags, and the walking Napoleon complex of a villain, Ripto, round out the roster and make Spyro’s world feel alive.

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It isn’t just the story that’s been given a glowup, though. Ripto’s Rage bests Spyro 1 on any score you’d care to name: the stages, more intricate and streamlined. The music, infectiously catchy. The difficulty curve and pacing, pitch-perfect. The mission variety… erm, existent. No longer will McGuffins (orbs this time) simply be handed out to you; you’ll need to engage in everything from ice curling to trolley riding to nab them. Man, that trolley, though…

2 Spyro: Year Of The Dragon

Gaming’s Greatest Coincidence

Spyro Year of the Dragon cover art

It’s a tough call between Spyro 2 and 3. In many ways, 2 is the better overall package than 3; it has less frustrating segments, and a clearer, more concise vision of what it wants to be. But 3 is just so off-the-wall in its ‘kitchen sink’ approach, and such a creative freewheel, that we can’t not acknowledge that.

Named for the Chinese Year of the Dragon, which by sheer luck happened to coincide with the year of the game’s release (bet Sony’s marketing team praised some deity or other for that opportunity), this is a confident, if shaky, threequel. Spyro’s gameplay is more of the same: jump, glide, round up progression-gating dragon eggs. The game is set apart, however, by frequent areas spent in control of such wacky secondary faces as Sheila the kangaroo, and Agent 9, a monkey armed with a blaster. It’s all manic, but it’s a hoot.

1 Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Making The Best Even Better

Spyro Reignited Trilogy Screenshot Of Spyro Jumping

This list’s top place was a simple equation. If Spyro 1, 2, and 3 occupied second, third, and fourth place, then what should come first? Easy: the game that shoves them all together in one generous package, adds a metric tonne of modern bells and whistles, and a graphical enhancement the likes of which the series has never seen.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is something special. The original trilogy is recreated from the ground up in painstaking detail — every NPC, every line of dialogue, every blade of grass is precisely where it was in the ’90s, albeit in a hundred times the resolution. Small tweaks are made to the difficulty, particularly concerning the often-cheap enemy placement, and some of the more arcane puzzle solutions are made clearer.

It isn’t a full 10/10. Spyro 2 and 3 received a bit less TLC than the first game, so they run into a few more glitches and visual hiccups than fans would have wanted. Likewise, opportunities to rectify frustrating design choices from the originals — like that damn alchemist escort mission — are entirely overlooked. But for your buck, you won’t find a better, more quintessentially Spyro experience anywhere.

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