Ratchet & Clank v Jak & Daxter v Sly Cooper: Which Is the Best Series?

Time to answer that long-debated question.

ratchet clank jak daxter sly

Coolest Characters

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Ratchet and Clank boasts a fairly rotating cast of characters that they slot out every couple of games. Aside from the titular hero and their buddy cop dynamic, only Captain Qwark has appeared in every other game thus far. The PS2 era games had a series of side characters from earlier entries in the series–Big Al, Skidd McMarxx, Helga–that haven’t been seen since the end of Up Your Arsenal in 2004. With the Future series on PS3, players were introduced to Talwyn Apogee and her robot bodyguards Cronk and Zephyr.

Sly Cooper’s anthropomorphic cast is made up primarily of the Cooper Gang, originally starting with Sly and his two friends Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo for the first two games. With Sly 3, the gang expanded to include new characters (the Guru, a koala with mystic powers and mechanical genius mouse Penelope) and villains from previous games, such as lizard artist, Dimitri, and explosive expert, The Panda King. And of course, there’s Carmelita Fox, Sly’s love interest who also happens to be a cop. Make no mistake, though: Sly is still the face of the game, a face with a smooth as butter voice.

Jak and Daxter’s elf-filled world puts players in the boots of the long-haired Jak and his yappy friend Daxter, who got morphed into an ottsel (mix between weasel and otter). In the first game, Jak was mute, but the sequels gave him a voice after his body was experimented on with Eco. He talks like how an angsty teenager would, and he’s also got a dumb goatee to go along with it. Also along for the ride is Samos, Jak’s adoptive father of sorts, and Kiera, his sort of girlfriend? That part isn’t entirely clear. The sequels later add in freedom fighters, Torn and Ashelin, plus the monkey-bird, Pecker.

Winner: Sly Cooper

The Cooper cast have a fun dynamic together that makes it great for them to bounce off of, like watching Leverage or any of the Mission Impossible movies. Depending on your outlook, Daxter or Captain Qwark’s shtick can run their course pretty quick. But with Sly’s effortless cool demeanor, Bentley’s adorkable brains, and Murray giving himself a superhero personality called The Murray, it’s fun to just hear these guys talk and work together to pull off heists.

Most Villainous Villain

Ratchet and Clank’s villains have been sort of scattered across the board. While the first three games boasted pretty good ones in the form of Chairman Drek, Captain Qwark, and the amazing Dr. Nefarious, they’re been less successful going forward. Deadlocked’s Gleeman Vox didn’t really have a presence– if anything, he got undermined by his henchman, Ace Hardlight. Tools of Destruction’s Tachyon was theoretically cool, given his connection to Ratchet’s origin, but again got overshadowed by secondary villain Captain Slag. Perhaps the best villain as far as the PS3 games are concerned would be Into the Nexus’ Prog twins Neftin and Vendra Prog, who both had actual complete arcs.

Sly Cooper’s first two games are centered on two different gangs. The Fiendish Five, responsible for orphaning Sly as a child under the rule of Clockwork, a robotic owl that’s spent centuries killing off members of the Cooper bloodline, were the basis for the first game. Sly 2’s Klaww Gang stole Clockwerk’s parts and put them to different uses before being rebuilt and used by a Klaww Gang mole named Neyla. After her defeat in the second game, the third game focused on reclaiming the Cooper family’s vault from twisted scientist, Dr. M, and 2013’s Thieves in Time had the French villain Le Paradox traveling through time to erase the Cooper line’s thieving history as payback for his own family’s bad string of luck as thieves.

Jak and Daxter’s debut game had two villains in the form of Gol and Maia, who just wanted to fill the world with Dark Eco to reshape it to their own vision. Jak II’s Baron Praxis kidnapped Jak and experimented on him for two years with Dark Eco, ruling Haven City as a tyrant. But it turns out that the real villain of the game is the nice old man, Kor, who is in actuality the leader of the Metal Heads, a race of monsters set on killing Jak and the Precursors. Jak 3’s villain is just Praxis’ henchman, Errol, from the previous game made into a cyborg. Combat Racing and Lost Frontier’s villains were lame, so no more needs to be said about them.

Winner: Ratchet & Clank

It can’t be said enough just how great Dr. Nefarious is. He’s competent in his goals but his ranting seals the deal, especially when he gets angry enough to freeze up and start picking up soap opera signals. It’s easy to see why he’s the recurring villain they keep bringing back, and Armin Shimmerman nails it as the evil scientist.

Best First Game

All three games started out as platformers, so there’s no real reason to go into them any further. Perhaps the only real difference is that Sly’s debut game had hub worlds and portals that led to the levels where your goal was to get the key at the end and repeat. Jak had you collect power cells to use machinery and access new levels.

Winner: Ratchet & Clank

Jak and Sly’s first outings can get repetitive from time to time, and even though Ratchet and Clank had its issues, like a jacked up difficulty halfway through, it’s still plenty of fun. Plus, while Jak lets you spin kick to your heart’s content and Sly has a rhythm-based boss fight, Insomniac gives you a gun that turns enemies into chickens. So who’s the real winner here?

Best Sequel

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Between the four games in the Sly Cooper series, a lot of folks regard its best entry as the first sequel, Band of Thieves. It may be too easy and doesn’t have much replay value outside of collecting clue bottles, but there’s no better feeling than pulling off a heist with the Cooper Gang. Unlike the first one, it runs at just the right length, and it isn’t overcrowded with mini-games.

Ratchet’s best sequel (and best game in the series, period) will always be Up Your Arsenal. There’s a ton to do in the game, from the main story to the battlefield missions and Captain Qwark levels. It’s got the best arsenal the series has seen, with the campaign boosted by its best villain. Its multiplayer? Fun, but probably would’ve worked better for the here and now instead of 2004. If Insomniac ever decided to bring Up Your Arsenal to the PS4, or something of its caliber, it wouldn’t go unappreciated.

Jak’s shift from childish platformer to edgy early 2000’s action game may have rubbed some fans the wrong way, but there’s no denying how fun Jak 2 is. The open world setting of Haven City works, and it actually isn’t too bad of a GTA clone. It’s fun using Dark Jak powers and being plain old Jak with a foursome of gods doesn’t make you any weaker. And any game that has Clancy Brown as the villain is an automatic win.

Winner: 3-Way Tie

The PS2 had a fantastic lineup of games, and these three absolutely deserve to be among the jewels in the crown. If your parents weren’t too keen on getting you GTA or God of War, or if you wanted just some fun games, you couldn’t go wrong with the Golden Sequel Trinity of Insomniac, Naughty Dog, and Sucker Punch. 

Greatest Evolution

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Jak and Daxter has changed genre hands frequently. While the original game was a classic platformer, its sequel was a straight up GTA clone, complete with vehicle jacking and a wanted level. The third game stayed the course on the action front, but also took time to add in some car combat that felt right in line with Mad Max. Combat Racing was pretty much what its name suggested, and the Lost Frontier was… a thing that existed.

Ratchet’s shift from platformer to action-shooter feels more natural, since the weapons were already a part of the combat. Since Going Commando, the upgrade and leveling system have been a staple of the series. Even though it’s dabbled with Full Frontal Assault’s tower defense, Deadlocked’s squad shooter, and (sort of) a dungeon crawler with All 4 One, it’s still kept in line with its roots.

While those two have either largely stayed the course or completely changed hands, Sly’s been sort of in the middle. It’s still got the hub worlds for each episode, but it’s open world lite, albeit with guards who all want to kill you. In keeping with the thief motif, you can pickpocket any guard you see, and there’s priceless items you can take back to the safehouse for some loot.

Winner: Jak & Daxter

Sure, it’s a GTA clone, but it’s a damn fun one at that. It takes itself too seriously at times, but Daxter and other characters are thankfully around to make things more lighthearted without being too annoying. There’s still platforming in spots, but the focus here is on action, and that is pretty fun. Especially in Jak 3, when each gun has two extra variants and you’ve got Light powers to go along with your Dark abilities. If you weren’t a fan of it before, give it another try and see how you feel now.

Best Disaster Avoidance

Jak and company have had some pretty rough times. While the first three games are some of the best the PlayStation 2 has to offer, and Combat Racing is a fun distraction, it ended on a sour note with Lost Frontier. That, however, was out of Naughty Dog’s hands, as they were already at work on the Uncharted series and The Last of Us. They tried, at one point, to reboot Jak and Daxter, but they later scrapped it because what they had didn’t feel in line with what the series.

Sly’s most recent release was Thieves in Time back in 2013. Sanzaru took the reigns from Sucker Punch while they were working on the Infamous franchise, and the new blood did pretty well. The game itself ended on a cliffhanger, with Sly stuck in ancient Egypt, but no indication has really been made on if the series is continuing. Sony also announced a movie, but they’ve been quiet on that for some time now. Maybe we’ll hear something at E3 on that front?

Ratchet’s been doing pretty well for himself. He has a game that comes out every couple of years, and while not all of them have been groundbreaking, they’re fun and entertaining. He’s made his long-awaited debut to the PS4 finally, and it’s a blast to play. With a movie due out in a few weeks, everything’s coming up Milhouse for our Lombax-Robot duo.

Winner: Ratchet & Clank

This one doesn’t need much explanation, as Ratchet’s the only one of the three that still manages to come out on a timely basis. You could understandably think that Jak and Sly have just become relics of the past, even though both still have requests for a sequel from fans and have had references about them in their developers’ current games. 

Overall Winner: Ratchet & Clank

ratchet and clank ps4 2016

Shouldn’t come as a surprise. While all three franchises are great, Ratchet leads the charge with the series’ consistent quality and charm. Even if you’ve dropped off the franchise after certain points, it can’t be denied that Insomniac knows how to make some fun, beautiful looking action games. With the reboot giving the series a new lease on life, the duo will still be traveling the galaxy in search of adventure. 

What was your favorite PS2 franchise growing up? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to read our review of the new Ratchet and Clank!

About the author

Justin Carter

Justin was a former Staff Writer for Twinfinite between 2014 and 2017 who specialized in writing lists and covering news across the entire video games industry. Sometimes a writer, always a dork. When he isn't staring in front of a screen for hours, he's probably reading comics or eating Hot Pockets. So many of them.