The ’90s gave us a ton of platforming mascots — Sonic, Gex, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Aero the Acro-Bat, James Pond, and the list goes on. Plenty of fun, cute animals who can do all sorts of fun things like run fast, glide around, spin rapidly, and trap enemies in bubbles. And then there’s Rayman.
So what is Rayman? He’s definitely not an animal, and he’s certainly not adorable — instead, he’s a human/aubergine (or eggplant) with no arms, legs, or neck. He’s a little bit weird. But his games have struck a chord over the years with many.
Created by Michel Ancel, this limbless legend made his debut on the Atari Jaguar, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn in 1995. Rayman’s first adventure — which was originally intended to release on the Super Nintendo — gained notoriety back in the day for its difficulty, especially if you wanted to 100% it. The 2D platformer is available on a good number of Nintendo handhelds such as Game Boy Colour, GBA, and DS, and with that difficult first entry, Rayman made his mark.
The thing is, Rayman has always felt like a bit of an underdog, and even Ubisoft at times has struggled with what to do with its ‘mascot’. The 1999 N64 sequel, The Great Escape, received critical acclaim, and the well-reviewed Hoodlum Havoc followed it up just three years later, but Rayman soon fell victim to the Rabbids and a cycle of party games. The helicopter-haired hero wouldn’t jump back into platforming until 2009’s Origins (which debuted the UbiArt Framework), where both it and the sequel — Legends — were lauded on release.
So, despite numerous critically successful games, Rayman never set the world on fire. It took until Legends for a game in the series to surpass the original Rayman in sales, and even then, that’s considering Legends is available on almost every single modern-day games console. But the little purple wonder still has a cult following. Though, just how much of that is down to Rayman, the character?
Sure, his lack of limbs lets him wind up and throw his fist for a very long-distance punch, and his hair can turn into a propeller that helps him glide, but Rayman sticks out more for his weirdness more than anything else. Rayman Raving Rabbids may have tried to convince us that the purple-bellied creature had legs by putting him in disco pants, but we weren’t having any of that! And don’t get us started on that April Fool’s joke!
Rayman has always been a bit more lowkey than his ’90s cousins, though. Often sleeping, and almost always pulling faces at bosses, there’s a lot of childlike innocence about Rayman — except for some questionable moments in Origins with Betilla. Essentially, he’s carefree and doesn’t take himself too seriously. And — no matter how odd Rayman’s design might be — his look has remained pretty much the same ever since his debut in 1995. His red scarf has changed to resemble a hood from Hoodlum Havoc onwards, and his sneakers have had a couple of adjustments, but Rayman is Rayman. And we have to applaud that.
Given that Rayman will be returning in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope in the game’s planned DLC, and that the rather brilliant Legends made the jump to Switch five years ago today, we want to know what you think of Rayman! Is he actually cool now? Should he have been a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Do you want a brand new Origins and Legends-style game? Vote in our polls below and let us know what your picks and thoughts are in the comments! But don’t lose your hair over your decisions.