Will There Ever Be A New Rayman Game?

Rayman game
Rayman game

While there’s a wide variety of genres and experience within the world of gaming these days, it’s hard to argue that the formative years of the hobby was built on the backs of gaming’s platforming mascots: your Sonics and your Marios and your Gex the Geckos. Okay, one of those mascots might not be as culturally relevant as the others (looking at you, Sonic), but the point is that platforming mascots were a huge boon for the industry in the early days.

One such mascot that fans instantly fell in love with was Ubisoft’s Rayman, who boasted his own unique design unlike anything else players had seen before. Despite essentially being a floating torso with disconnected hands and feets, Rayman’s facial expressions and demeanor injected so much personality into the character that made him a mainstay heading into the new millennium.

These days though, Rayman isn’t doing so great, as the iconic character hasn’t been the lead of his own game in a decade. Fans have been clamouring for the guy from the Glade Of Dreams with the great hair to make a proper comeback, and with Ubisoft’s reputation at the moment being a shell of its former self, it feels like now is the perfect time for Rayman to return. With that in mind, let’s talk about what happened to Rayman, and whether there’s a future for the floating fists fellow.


The Early Days Of Rayman


Despite the fact that the first game in the Rayman series launched in 1995, the roots of the character can be traced back all the way to 1992, when creator Michel Ancel started sketching some doodles of the character: “It was something I did when I was around 20. It was the character I wanted to make. He’s a very simple and direct character. He’s not talking, it’s really about action. All the animation and design is done so you understand the character just by looking at it. It’s not about storytelling; it’s about a direct connection between you and the character.”

In Rayman’s original form though, the quiffed one actually did have some pesky knees and elbows connecting his disembodied torso to his hands and feet. There doesn’t seem to be any official artwork of what that original design looked like, but you can have this cursed version of Rayman Legends-era Rayman with limbs instead. When it came time to actually develop the first Rayman game, the developers reportedly had trouble actually rendering the character’s limbs while he was in movement. Instead of trying to find a way to make the original design work, the developers found that removing the limbs and leaving the floating hands and feets actually allowed for more interesting gameplay opportunities. Providence comes from the strangest of places.

The first Rayman game would eventually launch for the PS1 and Atari Jaguar (yes, really) in September of 1995, with the limbless lionheart going on to become the best selling PS1 game in the UK. Say what you want about Britain, but we love us some Rayman, even if he evidently does not like our mental health. Between the original release and Rayman Advance, a near identical port of the original game for the GBA, the first Rayman game has sold close to 2 million copies, which might not sound like a lot in this day and age, but in the mid-90s to early 2000s, gaming wasn’t the mainstream activity that people consider it to be now.

With breakout success confirmed and a new mascot on Ubisoft’s hands, work began on a sequel in 1996. Like the previous game, Rayman 2 was originally scheduled to be a 2D platformer, with certain members of the press even playtesting that version of the game. The release of this version of Rayman 2 was slated for November of 1996, but at some point during the game’s development, the scope of the project had increased massively, and Rayman 2: The Great Escape only saw the light of day in October 1999.

The reason why Rayman 2 went down the 3D route hasn’t been confirmed by anyone from what we can gather, but going off contextual clues and trends at the time, the reasoning seems pretty obvious. Ubisoft were set to launch a 2D version of Rayman 2 in November 1996, a year that would have already seen the launch of Crash Bandicoot on the PS1 and Super Mario 64 on the N64. Both games grabbed platforming’s hand and bravely jumped into the world of 3D, and have become two of the most popular platformers of all time.

Again, it could be for other reasons, but it’s likely that Ubisoft got cold feet about releasing a banner platformer IP in 2D when the competition was pushing the boundaries of what gaming was capable of. It’s a mindset that’s still prevalent to this day, because as much as people like to say that platforming games such as Sonic were much better back during the days of 2D, people seem to place an inherent value in a game being 3D. Like, only having two dimensions means that the developer must have been lazy. If that’s the mindset people have in 2024, where some players bemoaned Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown for being a 2D game, it must have been worse in 1996, though at least Twitter or Reddit didn’t exist in those days.

After spending an additional 3 years in development to accommodate the much larger scope of the project, Rayman 2: The Great Escape launched on the N64 towards the end of 1999, with releases on PC, Dreamcast and the PS1 spread throughout the year 2000. Critics were thoroughly enamored with Rayman 2, considering it to be one of the best platformers ever made, and Ubisoft even released an updated version with better graphics and slightly remixed levels called Rayman Revolution, which wound up being a launch title for the PS2.

Ubisoft clearly knew they had a bankable mascot on their hands, as while they were developing Rayman 2, and even after its release, Ubisoft launched a suite of separate Rayman related educational games for PC, along with Rayman M (also known as Rayman Arena). There was even a short-lived, largely forgotten animated series that was supposed to air 26 episodes of 13 minutes long, but the show only managed to get four episodes out the door before it was abruptly canceled due to a lack of funds. Guess not everything can be a hit.

Following the success of the first two games though, Ubisoft greenlit a third game in the series, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, which adopted a more sarcastic and humorous tone than the previous entries. While the other titles were built around permanent upgrades, Rayman 3 focused more on temporary power-ups instead, which may have contributed to the game not being quite the critical darling that the rest of the series was. Still, fans should have appreciated Rayman 3 while they had it, considering it was the last traditional Rayman game for a good while.


Rabid For Rabbids


Despite the franchise starting out as Rayman, the lad with the levitating hands ended up taking a bit of a backseat for a while after Hoodlum Havoc. The next game in the series was Rayman Raving Rabbids, a spin-off which introduced/unleashed/inflicted upon us the scourge that is Rabbids. You know, those really annoying white rabbit things that have somehow become a massive franchise in their own right? Quite frankly, we’re not too sure how that happened either.

Originally, Rayman Raving Rabbids was going to follow with the same 3D platforming gameplay that fans had come to expect from the Rayman series. However, when the game finally launched in November 2006, Rayman Raving Rabbids was essentially little more than a collection of minigames starring those little Rabbid rascals, and even though Rayman Raving Rabbids reviewed well enough (at least on the Nintendo Wii), it was seen as a bit of a step down on the original trilogy.

Regardless, Ubisoft immediately got to work on a sequel, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, which continued the minigame focused gameplay and launched a year after the first game in November 2007. A year later, they’d be back again with Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party, which would be the last game to feature Rayman at all. After 2009, the two would go their separate ways, and the Rabbids have arguably been better off for it. As a whole, the series achieved 14 million units sold worldwide by April 2014, which obviously doesn’t include Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and Sparks of Hope on the Nintendo Switch. There’s even a film in the works, which cements the Rabbids’ place as the Minions of gaming.

For better or worse.

But why did the Rayman series pivot into this veritable horde of Poochies? Originally, the Rabbids were supposed to be the main enemy for a canceled version of Rayman 4 which was announced during E3 in 2006. Basically, Rayman would explore a world that looked very brown and gray in a way that was the style of the time, and beat up hordes of Rabbids like he was in a Dynasty Warriors game. He could even tame and ride animals for some pseudo-vehicular sections. This version of the game even leaked online back in 2022, with players and modders able to get their hands on the source code for the whole project, confirmed features such as rideable animals.

How this version of Rayman 4 became the minigame collection that Raving Rabbids was is all down to the Wii development kits. In an interview with Game Developer (then known as Gamasutra), Michel Ancel spoke about how the final version of Rayman Raving Rabbids first came about: “I just participated in the genesis of the Rabbids, working from a canceled 3D Rayman 4 project. Tell me about luck! I started with Rayman, and it finished with these stupid Rabbids! Actually, it all went this way because of the coming of the Wii. I realized it would be useless to make the adventure game I would have made on PlayStation 2, so we’ve moved on with a more appropriate party game, which fitted best to the console.”

Most interestingly though, Ancel’s original vision of Rayman 4 wasn’t the only game in development, as Ubisoft has also given the reins to Rayman to a studio known as Phoenix Interactive/Studio. If you don’t know who they are, their most famous work was Winnie the Pooh’s Rumbly Tumbly Adventure, so it’s probably not too much of a surprise that the game was canceled. Apparently, the project only made it four months into development, though since Phoenix Studio closed its doors in 2009, a large amount of concept art has been leaked or published online throughout the years. The art all points to a project that would have remade the original game in 3D, which wouldn’t be a terrible idea to revisit in 2024.


From Origins To Legends And Now

Rayman Origins
Rayman Origins

Despite the Raving Rabbids franchise divorcing itself from the legacy of Rayman in 2009, Ubisoft still had a plan to continue the franchise heading into the 2010s, and it’s here where many platforming fans feel like Rayman hit its golden age as a series. A reinvention of the whole Rayman series was sorely needed, and Ubisoft delivered in a huge way. It’s just a shame this period of time didn’t last all that long, but perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves there.

Announced in 2010, Rayman returned with Rayman Origins, a new game in the series boasting a brand new art style, compliments of the UbiArt Framework. UbiArt was an in-house graphical engine that was designed to allow artists to focus on creating the visual style they wanted to make, without worrying about how that would work in a video game. Creators would merely have to pose the model and edit the silhouette, as the engine could take care of the rest. This allowed the Ubisoft team working on Rayman Origins to give the game a hand-drawn style, setting it apart from all other platformers on the market.

In theory, the UbiArt Framework could have been a real boon for more creative looking games, but the reality is that UbiArt only ended up being used on a handful of smaller games, such as Rayman Origins and Legends, Valiant Hearts: The Great War and Child Of Light, before mainly being used in various ports and versions of Just Dance over the years. In an interview with IGN, Ubisoft’s head honcho Yves Guillemot said that the reason UbiArt wasn’t used was because “the tools were difficult to use.” Originally, the plan was “at one point, we wanted to give [the UbiArt tools] to everybody [in Ubisoft]”, but those plans were shelved as developers would have to “spend a lot of time with a lot of people to actually help people to use it.”

Rayman Origins would launch in November of 2011 across PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, with launches on more platforms heading into 2012, and while the critical success of Rayman Origins was immediately apparent, it was quite the slow burner when it came to commercial success and sales.

Reportedly, Origins only sold 50,000 copies in the US during its first month, which isn’t great when relaunching a widely recognised IP, but it’s worth noting that during Q4 2011, Rayman was also jostling for position with plenty of future all-time greats like Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Around the same time, Sonic Generations also launched, so even the platforming genre on its own was crowded. Eventually, word of mouth began to spread and Rayman Origins eventually turned a profit, with Ubisoft noting that it “has the capacity to become a long-term seller for the company.”

Ubisoft commissioned a sequel pretty quickly, with Rayman Legends originally scheduled to be available exclusively for the Wii U. The main improvement for this version of the game would be the use of the Wii U’s touchscreen tablet to interact with different parts of the level, but when ZombiU crashed and burned on Nintendo’s oft-maligned platform, Ubisoft made the decision to the delay the game for six months in order to make the game multi-platform. PS4 and Vita owners could use their respective touchpads, much like the Wii U, while everyone else controlled those moments through regular button presses.

Critical response to Rayman Legends was just as glowing as the first game when it launched in August/September of 2013, and the sales even exceeded the previous game, as Legends outsold Origins in its week one sales by around 20%. Despite that, Ubisoft declared in October 2013 that Legends failed to meet sales expectations, with Ubisoft noting in a call to investors that the gaming public might have been a bit gun shy about purchasing a current-gen title when the PS4 and Xbox One were right around the corner. Naturally, Legends was also ported to those platforms too, along with the Nintendo Switch a few years later, with Legends ultimately selling 4.48 million units as of February 2nd, 2019.

With two back to back future platforming classics under their belts, and sales that were pretty decent, you’d think that Ubisoft would have leapt at the chance to create a new mainline Rayman game, but they’ve been content to let the guy who lost his limbs (there’s only so many ways you can write this joke) act like a mascot instead of a main character. He’s appeared in Mario & Rabbids: Spark of Hope as part of one of the DLC campaigns, and Rayman even appears in the Netflix series Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix, which chucks everything vaguely Ubisoft related into one ridiculous animated show. But will we ever see Rayman take the lead in his own game again?


Will There Be Another Rayman Game?

Rayman GBC
Rayman GBC

Personally, it’d be a crying shame if we never saw another Rayman game, though actually getting a new one off the ground these days could be a huge undertaking. The series’ original creator, Michel Ancel, left Ubisoft in 2020 to found a wildlife sanctuary, though it was revealed around a week after he left the games industry behind that Ancel was being investigated for creating a toxic workplace during the creation of Beyond Good & Evil 2. Ancel rebuffed the claims from the French paper Libération, calling it “fake news”, which is always a good sign, but the Ancel reports came fresh off the heels of Ubisoft’s huge sexual misconduct allegations in 2020, so the news about Ancel felt more like another piece of the puzzle falling into place.

Even if we haven’t seen neither hide nor hair of Michel Ancel since 2020, he’s not necessary to the creation of a new Rayman game, but whether Ubisoft would go for a basic platforming game these days is unlikely. It feels like the French company only wants to make games that can last for years on end via live services, so games need to be constantly updated with new content, characters, battle passes and more in order for Ubisoft’s shareholders to get a return on their investment.

Look at titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Division 2 or Far Cry 6, all games that have been given a massive tailend life cycle designed to hook players in for a long time. If players can’t be locked in for months or years after a game launches, Ubisoft don’t want anything to do with it. It’s the only logical reason why they’ve been intent on releasing Skull & Bones, despite the numerous delays, expensive development and tepid at best reception from the playerbase.

You might be thinking already that the above sentiment doesn’t hold water, considering just a month before this article was originally written, Ubisoft released Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown, a new entry in another franchise that’s been desperately crying out for a do-over. TLC was even developed by the former Rayman team, which arguably raised this new entry’s stock even further for some people. Much like Rayman Origins and Legends, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has been wowing critics, but with an estimated 300,000 total sales by the end of January, it’s hard to imagine some Ubisoft bigwig won’t be calling it a sales failure in the immediate future.

Still, with Ubisoft seeming keen on getting Rayman’s face out there in other media and video game appearances, it’s possible that they’re on the campaign trail, gearing up for another release. Quite what that unconfirmed and totally speculative release would look like is anyone’s guess, though with Ubisoft already committing themselves to a remake of the original Splinter Cell, perhaps Ubi can pick up where Phoenix Studio left off, creating a remake of the original game.

In truth, Ubisoft probably doesn’t even need to go that far to please Rayman fans at this point. If they announced a third game in the style of Origins/Legends, most fans would be pleased. Again, they’re seen as the high watermark for this legendary series, and if players got to experience more incredible levels and mechanics in that UbiArt visual style, Ubisoft would likely have a winner on their hands.

Just don’t put any of those battle passes in there.

READ NEXT: When the Sun Cheated a Mario 64 Speedrun (and Why It Will Never Happen Again)

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site.