Ratchet & Clank is one of my favorite game series of all-time, and easily the most consistently top-notch quality platformer series after Mario. Every game has been exceptional, except for the last two games, which have merely been decent, and the PSP games, which were just mediocre. With the upcoming “Into the Nexus”, it seems that the series will finally return to it’s pre-All 4 One level of quality. With a movie slated for 2015, I feel it’s less of an honor, and more of a privilege, to share my choices for the best games in my favorite platformer series of all-time.
Ratchet Deadlocked (Gladiator)
The lesser focus on platforming, more focus on gunplay/giant arenas, and a much less zany (still a bit, however), and darker atmosphere, made Deadlocked (known as Gladiator in EU, as they can’t get away with bondage-related innuendo quite as easily there) stick out like a sore thumb, amongst the more “child-friendly” installments before. This dynamic change to the classic, timeless Ratchet gameplay may have gave off a different aroma than what we’re used to, it was still just as tasty of a meal as before.
Ratchet is forced to participate in a gladiator-esque TV show, unwillingly pushing his luck rather hard while Clank (and Big Al) remain at the hub area as mission control. Gleeman Vox is the proprietor of the Vox Network, and the big bad of this adventure, and while he’s good, he’s definitely not as memorable or well-written as the past antagonists (especially the previous game’s).
The more gun-oriented, large-scale war, Clank-less gameplay, while different from the past games, is still very quality, and majorly fun. The game sports perhaps one of the greatest co-op modes ever; you can opt to play with a buddy through the campaign, blasting foes, with strategic essence, locked together by tether, and both annihilated if one player moves too far away, though this isn’t a problem, since sticking together would have been the best option, anyway. Player 2 has the option of dressing up as an exclusive skin, which is, and I kid you not: Jak.
Solid, action-packed addition to the series, and an absolutely excellent co-op game. If you and a buddy want a good time, the HD version is now available on PSN for, say, $10.
Ratchet & Clank
The start of the epic saga, Ratchet & Clank is sometimes considered an even bigger black sheep than Deadlocked, due to the lack of many of the series staples, which weren’t introduced until the following year; making it hard for some to play through it, but not for me.
The lack of a strafe feature, much less bolt acquirement (bolts are the series’ trademark currency), making every weapon a steep investment (to this day, I have not been able to buy the RYNO); no way to level up weapons AT ALL (until your second playthrough, where you can purchase gold version of owned weapons, though you most likely would have spent all of your money, restocking on ammo, while fighting the final boss), and somewhat out-of-character characters, after playing the later games (Ratchet being voiced by Mike Kelley, rather than James Arnold Taylor contributes to it), make O.G. R&C stick out amongst the later titles.
Even if O.G. R&C lacked all of these “fancy-pants” features, it was still a blast to play, even after playing every one after. It was truly amazing what Insomniac managed to do: make a pretty commendable, ambitious 3D platformer, that somehow managed not to hit the polygon ceiling and die, which is what most were doing during those years. It also deserves a spot on the list, simply because it opened the flood gates to the remaining games on this list.
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Wonderfully polished, and has the distinction of having the most emotional narrative of the series; A Crack in Time may fail to impress as much as the last full installment of the series, but it brings a ton of innovative ambition, and heart to (by the time this game was released) a dying genre.
You get the same, good ol’ Ratchet gameplay, with a few tweaks to make the game faster-paced, and better controlling. When not kacking enemies with the hardest-hitting of your arsenal, you will get to screw about the Great Clock as Clank, accomplishing cerebral time puzzles, and taking in the scenery.
(Excuse me for not speaking much about the story, because if I did so, it would spoil Tools of Destruction. Just take my word that it is the best narrative of the series, bar-none)
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Widely considered one of the greatest games on the PS2 (Game Informer gave it a 10), Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is the point where the series was perfected, though a bit was sacrificed to get there.
The maps were flatter, to accommodate for the more direct focus on gunplay, though the platforming was still there; and some of the more intricate side-missions and minigames from past games didn’t return in any form (more on that later), though an interesting new one would have to be Hacker, a fun little blaster, collector minigame to get through doors. and the Qwark vid-comics, great side-scrolling levels, that elaborate on the lesser-said backstory between Dr. Nefarious and Qwark, and the former’s motives.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Nefarious is one of the greatest villains in all of video gaming, with his extremely over-the-top hamminess, and ego-maniacal personality, for which his right-hand man, the snide Lawrence, is a great foil to.
The game introduces full first-person view (if you want to play it that way), as well as lock-strafe mode, which I could sum up as “first-person in third-person”. It works great for this game, and unlike first-person, returns in future games, but is not recommended, as it butchers the presentation of the PS3 games.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
This game was as close to Pixar-quality as you could get in 2007, and still to this day not many have surpassed it in terms of visual quality, and gameplay variety. It was a Godsend to the flopping PS3, and easily one of the greatest games available on that platform.
Some twerp named Percival Tachyon, with an entire army at his feet, has plans to take over the Polaris Galaxy. Atop his walking throne, Ratchet & Clank challenge this plan of his, and go on the most undoubtedly epic adventure of their careers. They meet many people along the way, and explore over 20 distinct, gorgeous locales, home to some of the most diverse gameplay styles of the series, and the greatest set-pieces of the series.
Seemingly wide-open game spaces are there for you to trek about and explore, collecting gold bolts and skill points. You can also visit the arena, which, sadly, is kinda disappointing compared the Up Your Arsenal’s, but fear not! This game keeps it’s focus on platforming with gunplay, instead vice versa, making it one of the more balanced installments of the series. If you have not played an R&C game before, I recommend you start with this one, and definitely play it before A Crack in Time.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando
Easily the most phenomenal of the series, Going Commando will stand the test of time as being one of the most inspired and amazing platformers of all-time. It took the modest Ratchet & Clank, and seized it’s potential to the most of it’s power, and is a textbook example of a sequel that improved upon it’s predecessor in every conceivable way. It’s damn-near flawless.
About a year after the original, Ratchet & Clank are sitting bored at home, when they are called upon by a man named Fizzwidget, who owns a company known as Megacorp, the Bogon Galaxy equivalent of their galaxy’s Gadgetron. Ratchet is tasked with rescuing a top-secret experiment, a Protopet, from a space lab, and keeping it out of an unknown thief’s hands. The thief makes away with it, and hires a team of mercenaries known as Thugs-4-Less, to kill Ratchet. Many interesting developments occur from here, resulting in the series’ most non-linear narrative.
This game added much to the first game’s fun gameplay, including bigger and badder weapons, more intricate and addicting means of hacking, and a strafe feature, which automatically makes it better than the first. The levels are far more expansive, and detailed than the first, with this game housing the very best level-design of the entire series; one of the main reasons why it’s so good.
The bosses are all unique and challenging (and I do mean challenging); the whole game in general is much more difficult and challenging than the previous game, and any installment after, making for a very satisfying experience.
Throw in some awesome mini-games like the hover-bike races (so much time lost to that), and there ya have it: the best of the R&C series, a true pinnacle of 3D platforming, and a masterpiece.
All of the games on this list are now available on PS3 (Deadlocked is only available via PSN), so there’s no reason to miss out on this awesome series. Just stick to these (And Quest For Booty, which didn’t make the cut of this list), and stay clear of the duds; All 4 One (good for co-op, but not much else), Size Matters (meh), and Secret Agent Clank and Full Frontal Assault (not good for anything); all of which were not made by the main R&C Insomniac team, and, as a result, were of lower quality. Since the “good” Insomniac team is stepping up to bat with Into the Nexus, I’m expecting them to knock it out of the park, once more, and deliver us another quality platformer, which the PS3 is unfortunately lacking in.
Tell us below what you’re favorite R&C games are.