Yooka-Laylee is here, and well, the reception has been mixed, to say the least. Still, we here at CGMagazine loved it, and we think a lot of that love stems from the fact that a lot of us grew up playing those old Rareware cartridges, exploring these massive (for their time) worlds, collecting everything we could. In many ways, Yooka-Laylee is a love letter to those kinds of titles, and we think to truly appreciate a game that is inspired by such dated concepts, there are some games you need to play. So plug in your console to your tube TV, blow in the cartridge, and get ready, because these are the top games you need to play before you start Yooka-Laylee.

Rayman 2: The Great Escape

Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: 1999
Initial Platforms: Dreamcast, Gameboy Colour, PC, Nintendo 64, PlayStation

In many ways, Rayman 2 was forgotten, buried beneath the piles and piles of similar games. But Rayman 2 is a special title, and is even considered to be a game that raised the standard for the genre.  Players take control of the limbless hero as he traverses the Glade of Dreams, trying to take out an army of Robo-Pirates.

From an artistic standpoint, Rayman 2: The Great Escape is entirely unique for a game of that era, taking nods from Tim Burton, and maybe even inspiring titles like Psychonauts. From a control standpoint, Rayman 2 really takes advantage of shadows to help players line up platforms properly. The goal, like every 3D Platformer, is to collect, and here players collect Lums, which are little fairy looking things. They reveal the backstory of the world, making the actual gameplay blend with the story, something that was really forward-thinking for the time.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Rare (North America, and Australia) THQ (Europe)
Release: 2001
Initial Platform: Nintendo 64

OK, so if this list was just about the best 3D platformers of all time, there’s no doubt that Conker’s Bad Fur Day would hover around the top spot. But for the purposes of this list, it has to be much further down. That’s because unlike the other games we’re counting down, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is much more adult.  You see, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, Rare couldn’t be touched. Every game they made was legendary in its own right, but they were designed for a younger crowd. That’s what makes Conker’s Bad Fur Day such a weird title from Rare. Players take control of Conker, a once adorable mascot found in a few Game Boy Advance titles and even Diddy Kong Racing, now turned sad blackout alcoholic as he tries to find his way back home after a drunken bender. Though, things aren’t so easy for everyone’s favorite squirrel, as the king of the land needs a new table leg, and Conker is just the right size. This leads him on a profanity-laced adventure filled with a wide cast of characters including, but not limited to, a sexually frustrated bumble bee with an interest in a voluptuous sunflower, a giant poo, Nazi teddy bears, a hung-over Scarecrow.

While the writing is top notch, Conker’s Bad Fur Day wouldn’t be a legendary title without its fantastic controls and great level design. With a wide range of environments, including eventually going to outer space, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a great introduction to the 3D platformer for someone who prefers a game aimed at a more mature audience.

Spyro the Dragon

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer
Release: 1998
Initial Platform: PlayStation

In 1998, not every kid was fortunate enough to own a PlayStation and a Nintendo 64. That meant that each company had to throw out all the stops for each 3D platformer they launched.  At the time, Sony needed something to fire back with when 3D platformers became all the rage. That’s where Spyro the Dragon came in. Developed by Insomniac Games, Spyro the Dragon was the best kind of 3D platformer in that it let players actually take control of a freaking dragon and fly through a fully 3D world armed with fire breath and the horns on his head. Using those powers, the titular hero must traverse the Dragon Kingdom to save his friends.

It’s a fun and unique title that inspired an entire generation of games on the PlayStation.

Super Mario 64

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: 1996
Initial Platform: Nintendo 64

In many ways, one could argue that we wouldn’t have Yooka-Laylee if it wasn’t for Super Mario 64. This is the game that popularized the genre! Imagine being a child in 1996, only experiencing Mario on a 2D plane, until finally popping in that N64 cartridge. Everything was polygonal, and Mario straight up punched Goombas in their faces! How cool is that?  It was unlike anything we had ever experienced.  By today’s standards, it can be pretty hard to play if you’re not used to that early 3D style gameplay, and it’s by far one of Mario’s weakest outings, but for its time, it was truly special.

Donkey Kong 64

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: 1999
Initial Platform: Nintendo 64

Oh, Donkey Kong 64, kids these days just won’t understand you. But, to really wrap your head around Yooka-Laylee, Donky Kong 64 is one of the most important titles to play (hence its placement on the list). The entire game is built around the premise of collecting stuff to open stuff to get to places to collect more stuff. There’s a plethora of characters to choose from, and it comes complete with a neato rap that was pretty much completely rehashed in Playtonic’s latest title.

Banjo Kazooie/ Tooie

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: 1998/2000
Initial Platform: Nintendo 64

I will not. I refuse to pick one. You can’t make me, and I won’t. These games are Rare at their best, and in reality, Yooka-Laylee is the successor to this franchise. These are the games that really inspired Yooka-Laylee and the gameplay is actually pretty identical. There’s Banjo who works as the main playable character (like Yooka), and Kazooie who sits on Banjo’s back and provides some nifty upgrades (like Laylee). While the core concept of the game is similar to Donkey Kong 64, Banjo Kazooie and Tooie feel so different to their counterparts that they stand alone as some of the best that era of gaming has to offer. And since Yooka-Laylee borrows so much from those games, one has to play them for historical purposes and totally not because they’re really, fun.