Throughout the years, the Prince of Persia games have really come a long way. First conceived as a one-man project put together by Jordan Mechner in 1989, the series has since gone in new directions, thanks to a little help from Ubisoft. We saw the main hero of the story go from just a lowly boy fighting to save his beloved to a full-blown athletic warrior trying to save the world from evil forces. And though the story is a little outlandish at times, the general feeling of adventure has never faded.
We've decided to look back at some of the better Prince of Persia games that have released over the years. Of course, we included the original that inspired the franchise, as well as some newer entries that, while not entirely well received, still deserve the nod for being innovative in some way.
And thankfully, this list doesn't include any mention of Jake Gyllenhaal. You can thank us later.
Prince of Persia (Broderbund, PC, 1989)
Back in the late 80's, the PC game market wasn't quite as hectic as it is now, but a number of classics still emerged. Among them was Prince of Persia, a game that introduced a fun little sense of adventure through side-scrolling action stages, puzzle solving, and a bit of swordplay.
In the game, you play a man who has taken a liking to a lovely princess, who's free to do as she pleases since the king is away. However, the vizier, Jafar, doesn't really like her relations with this boy, and locks him away in the dungeons. To make matters worse, Jafar gives the princess an ultimatum -- marry him in 60 minutes (so he gains access to the throne), or she'll perish.
That gives this would-be prince a short amount of time to dart through the castle, solve the deadly traps that could easily spell his doom, and fight his way to the finish with the vicious sorcerer. All in a day's work, right? The game is still a classic to this day, and Ubisoft even felt fit to revisit it with the Prince of Persia Classic game, now available on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and in the App Store.
Prince of Persia (Konami, SNES, 1992)
Out of all the console versions that pay the best tribute to the original Prince of Persia, we have to pick the SNES version. Produced with loving care by Konami, this version of the game has it all -- outstanding music (well put together with the SNES sound chip), great graphics, and gameplay that feels right at home on the SNES controller. For good measure, Konami also added seven additional stages that weren't in the original game, and while that upped the challenge level a little bit, players were thrilled that they had new areas to explore, puzzles to solve and potions to drink (or avoid -- some of them are flat-out poison).
While the Genesis and Sega CD versions (handled by Tengen) weren't half bad, there's just something about the way the SNES version was put together that makes it irresistible. It's available on the Wii Shop Channel now for 800 Microsoft points, in case you feel like making a return trip to Persia without needing to drag your SNES console out of the closet.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Ubisoft, multiple platforms, 2003)
In 2003, Ubisoft brought the Prince of Persia franchise to new heights with the bold The Sands of Time, a great action/adventure game featuring a thrilling multi-directional combat system, plenty of awesome athletic feats (like wall-running and jumping across columns) and a decent story to boot. The story tells of the Prince's efforts to stop the evil vizier Jafar from using the Sands of Time, a force that can rewind time, to his benefit. Unfortunately, in the process, the Prince accidentally releases the Sands, forcing him to scramble as he attempts to make things right.
Spanning across multiple wonderfully designed levels with puzzles to solve and plenty of combat situations to get through, The Sands of Time showed Ubisoft's dedication to adventure at its peak. Working closely with Mechner (the creator of the franchise), they really did a number on this one, and nearly ten years later, it's a classic that deserves revisiting.
The series continued for the next few years with the release of the much darker Warrior Within and the concluding chapter The Two Thrones. While both were very good, they couldn't match the efforts that went into Sands. Not by a mile.
(On a side note, in 2010, Walt Disney Pictures did release a move based on the film, though it didn't fare as well as the studio might have hoped. Needless to say, you won't be seeing a sequel.)
Prince of Persia (2008)
In 2008, Ubisoft rebooted its Prince of Persia franchise yet again, this time without Mechner's help. But that didn't stop them from telling an interesting story revolving around the Prince (this time voiced by Nolan North, Uncharted's Nathan Drake), as he works with a magical beauty named Elika to stop an evil force from overtaking the land. The game actually requires you to have the two characters work together when it comes to getting around, while occasionally facing off against powerful enemies through ingenious combat situations.
The game looks and sounds terrific, and contains most of the gameplay elements that made Sands of Time click so well. However, there was one gripe some players just weren't able to look past -- you couldn't die. If you somehow fell to your death or ran low on energy during a battle, Elika would either save you or heal you enough to keep going. While this makes the game less frustrating, it also makes it way too easy to complete.
Regardless, the reboot -- and its concluding DLC chapter Epilogue -- did justice enough to the Prince brand, but it won't be the last we see of it, as Ubisoft is rumored to be working on yet another reboot of the series, this one featuring a much grittier Prince. We'll see how it fares.