The original Spyro the Dragon released in 1998 and set the stage for a whole series starring the iconic purple dragon. The two following games in the trilogy, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage and Spyro: Year of the Dragon improved on the first game's formula in a number of ways. This first trilogy, published by Insomniac, has been imitated by other companies under the Spyro name, but haven't quite captured what makes them enchanting.
People hotly debate which game of the trilogy is the best; usually dividing into camps around the two sequels. Spyro the Dragon has its defenders, but the later games introduced many new features and refinements on the gameplay that they're generally acknowledged as better. But which is the best? We'll cover a few reasons that might push each game over the top.
10 RR: Making New Friends
Ripto's Rage opens with Spyro and Sparx deciding to take a vacation to Dragon Shores after their hard work defeating Gnasty Gnorc. Not everything goes as planned, however, as they tumble out a portal face to face with a group of new characters. Here we meet some series staples for the first time: Hunter the Cheetah, Elora the Faun, and the Professor. They quickly became treasured additions to the series, and watching our lovable protagonist interact with them for the first time is a delight. Fans have even speculated there might be a romantic attraction between Elora and Spyro.
9 YotD: Minigames
Nowadays, saying that a video game has a lot of minigames would probably be a criticizing; it would be labeled filler content that takes away from the meat of the game. But when Year of the Dragon came out, the addition of new content was something to be celebrated and it added variety to the compelling but fairly simple Spyro gameplay.
Plus, the minigames were actually fun. Was there anyone who played this game and didn't sink a ridiculous amount of time into the skateboarding courses? Like, of course we want to make Spyro do a flip.
8 RR: Cohesive World Design
If you ask Spyro fans what their favorite level or hub world is across the original trilogy, there are likely going to be a large amount of people citing Autumn Plains from Ripto's Rage. But even beyond that, the hub worlds seem to reasonably inhabit different parts of a cohesive world, and they often branch out into worlds that share a theme. Places like the Skelos Badlands, Scorch, Fracture Hills, and Magma Cone—all levels off of Autumn Plains—feel really unified and help maintain the immersion of playing the game. Inasmuch as you can be fully immersed playing a little purple dragon.
7 YotD: More Levels
Then again, Year of the Dragon trades in the cohesive world design for more levels with even greater variety. There are 37 worlds to scour for dragon eggs in the third installment, compared to 25 in Ripto's Rage.
And with this greater amount of space to fill, the team was able to introduce Spyro to a myriad of interesting locations inspired by Ancient Rome, Nordic valkyries, and a pirate's cove of shipwrecks. It really depends on what you prefer out of games. Greater variety, or tighter visual storytelling—there's no wrong answer.
6 RR: Characterization
In Spyro the Dragon, we're introduced to our little mascot and he comes across as something of a lovable little punk, but doesn't have a lot of depth. And admittedly, we never really dig deep into what makes Spyro tick (not when there's gems to collect!) but that isn't why people play Spyro games. However, it was nice in Ripto's Rage to see Spyro interact with people who aren't just older dragons monologuing at you. Introducing more characters gives the player a chance to see Spyro talk and make connections with these new friends, and this game does it better than its counterparts.
5 YotD: Baby Dragons
Year of the Dragon is all about these little suckers. Instead of collecting adult dragons, like the first game sees you doing, you're instead trying to find all the dragon eggs the Sorceress has kidnapped. As a little reward for collecting each one, the baby dragons hatch, complete with their own name and a cute little animation. It's a lot more gratifying to see these babies you've freed than collecting a handful of talismans and power orbs, like Spyro does in Ripto's Rage.
4 RR: Better Story
This kind of goes hand in hand with the better characterization and wider world the sequel gives you to explore, but Ripto's Rage allows Spyro and his companions a bit of pathos in the face of the evil they're trying to eradicate. In Ripto's Rage, you see the world of Avalar slowly become corrupted by Ripto's influence. He's a conquering warlord and has turned the native against each other in order to remain secure in his castle. You see a castle sprout his banners when you enter each new homeworld. Spyro and his friends have to gather enough power over the course of the game to lay siege to his fortress and take back Avalar for the peaceful inhabitants.
3 YotD: Get Back At Moneybags
Oh, Moneybags. What can we say about Moneybags? This greedy bear first meets Spyro in the realm of Glimmer in Ripto's Rage and continued to steadily exhort him for cash over the course of the last two games of the trilogy. Whether it's an ability you need, a path that's blocked, or an ally that's caged, Moneybags is always looking for a way to make a quick buck.
And, being a hero, you pay him because you've got a world to save. But at the end of Year of the Dragon Moneybags makes a crucial mistake. He tries to sell you a dragon egg. And so Spyro gets the excuse he needs to chase that fat bear all over the map, taking back all his money, and boy is it ever satisfying.
2 RR: The Villains
Some might claim Gnasty Gnorc is the face of Spyro villains everywhere, but if you ask fans who their favorite evil-doer is, they'll probably say Ripto. The guy is just so easy to hate. A horrid little monster with a Napoleon complex and a penchant for sowing chaos, he just stands out among the lineup. That's not even mentioning his minions Crush and Gulp which, while certainly not the brains of the operation, are plenty memorable themselves. Bianca had an interesting arc in Year of the Dragon, but the big bad Sorceress doesn't really hold a candle to Ripto.
1 YotD: More Playable Characters
Year of the Dragon sees Spyro gather several close allies in his efforts to take down the Sorceress. They're all enemies of her regime and ready to bring the fight to her...as long as Spyro posts their bail. Once freed, you're able to take control of them in specialized levels and each new friend has their own unique moveset. With three games of Spyro's formula being almost totally unchanged, the inclusion of this gameplay variety was much needed and very well received.