Mark Cerny is one of the most respected members of the gaming industry. This 49-year old game designer, producer and programmer first got his start at Atari in the 1980s, and has since become a prominent force in the PlayStation regime. After contributing to a number of efforts on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, he moved to the forefront as the PlayStation 4’s chief architect. In addition, Cerny is also responsible for one of the system's primary launch titles – the shape-shifting platforming adventure, Knack.
That said, here are Cerny’s finest games. Whether lending a hand to the design side, or handling the programming, you're bound to agree these games are classics in one form or another.
10. Spyro the Dragon (Executive Producer, Designer)
In 1998, Cerny worked alongside a new studio called Insomniac Games on a fresh new 3D adventure for the original PlayStation, featuring a fire-breathing dragon with a whole lot of attitude. The game became an instant success, leading to a number of sequels – and the growth of Insomniac into a household name. You'll see just how much with the release of Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus, which arrives for PlayStation 3 tomorrow.
9. Disruptor (Executive Producer, Designer)
Back when first-person shooters were getting big on consoles – this was back during the Goldeneye era – Cerny lent his touch to Insomniac Games' Disruptor. An exciting first-person shooter that takes place in the far reaches of space, Disruptor featured plenty of shoot-em-up action, but also involved "Psionics" that the player could use in battle, generating shields, healing and power draining from enemies using telekinesis abilities. As a result, the game stood out – and also made a name for Insomniac in the process. In fact, Cerny would collaborate with them several more times, including a pair of games listed below.
8. Total Eclipse (Programmer, Designer)
In a time when StarFox was the only 3D space shooter in town, Cerny teamed up with a young company called Crystal Dynamics to produce a next-gen (at the time) 3D adventure called Total Eclipse. Featuring an original storyline dealing with an aggressive alien race known as the Drak-Sai, the game delivered on its promise of intense 3D space shooting action, featuring some cool gameplay innovations – gotta love that barrel roll – and a gun you could upgrade several times for better effect. You need that power, too, because some of the bosses – like a living volcano – would stop at nothing to end your run. Even though the 3DO is toast now, Eclipse went a long way to pushing it into gaming territory for its launch.
Oh, and Crystal Dynamics? It worked on Square Enix's Tomb Raider franchise for a number of games, including this year's reboot.
7. Crash Bandicoot (Executive Producer)
While people went “ooh” and “ah” over Nintendo's Super Mario 64, Cerny had a few tricks up his sleeve, teaming up with a young studio named Naughty Dog to produce Crash Bandicoot. This 3D platformer had its own share of magic, between fun gameplay mechanics – the spin attack never gets old – hidden bonus rounds and colorful visuals. Its boss battles were a lot of fun as well, requiring you to memorize an old-school pattern in order to beat them. The game would be a success and lead to various sequels and spin-offs, which Cerny would work on all the way through the party-oriented Crash Bash in 2000, in which he served as producer and designer.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Producer)
Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic, wasn't the only mastermind behind this hit sequel for the Sega Genesis. In 1992, Sonic Team called upon Cerny to lend his expertise to the long-awaited sequel – a collaboration that paid off. Featuring enjoyable side-scrolling platforming action, improved graphics, music and a two-player co-op option, it easily surpassed the original. It was Cerny's coupe de gras for the Genesis, following up on such games as Dick Tracy and Kid Chameleon.
5. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (Programmer)
Following their success with the Crash Bandicoot games, Cerny once again teamed up with Naughty Dog on a much more evolved platformer for the PlayStation 2, one packed with even more depth, excitement and personality. In Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, players guide their young heroic lad – and his wise-cracking muskrat ally – through a magical world, battling enemies with spin kicks and other special attacks powered by mysterious orbs. For good measure, the game also featured expansion galore with new areas. Like Crash, Jak and Daxter ended up being a success, leading to various sequels. Cerny worked with Naughty Dog again on Jak II in 2003, before departing for other projects.
4. God of War 3 (Design Consultant)
C'mon, it's God of War 3. If any game set the epic standard for the series, it was this one. Between its monumental boss fights – Poseidon's alone is enough to make your jaw drop – and an epic conclusion that pits Kratos against the all-powerful Zeus – the game managed to blend astounding visuals with the same kick-ass gameplay that we've come to expect from Kratos over the years. Part of that credit belongs to Cerny, who lent his design expertise to the game to make this God of War even more epic than the ones that came before. Plus, let's be honest, how often do you get to smack around a guy a thousand times your size? Yep, hardly ever.
3. Killzone 3 (Design Consultant)
Killzone did a suitable job of giving the PlayStation 2 a viable first-person shooter, but it's when the series shifted to PlayStation 3 that things really kicked up a notch. After the release of Killzone 2, Guerrilla Games turned to Cerny to get his input on what to do for the third chapter in the series. The results were simply astounding. Killzone 3 features bigger levels than the previous two games – combined – along with stunning new gameplay features, including the ability to fly around in a gunner suit and shred enemies in an offroad vehicle, complete with razor-studded tires. Oh, and the first-person shooting action bumped up a notch as well, with more visceral melee kills, a new batch of weapons and the biggest multiplayer offering in the series to date, with up to 16 players. Obviously, the series will see a fresh new beginning this week with the forthcoming Shadow Fall on PlayStation 4, but that doesn't take away from Killzone 3's epic scope.
2. Ratchet and Clank (Designer)
Following the magic they produced together with the Spyro the Dragon games on the original PlayStation, Cerny and Insomniac Games returned with an all-new franchise for the PlayStation 2 – Ratchet and Clank. Getting its start back in 2002 – yep, it's over a decade old – this high-octane game produced plenty of sci-fi thrills, between its fast-paced third-person shooting action, innovative array of weapons – that OmniWrench sure comes in handy for loosening bolts and melee attacks – and its memorable characters. Yes, even the "full of himself" Captain Qwark stood out in its own right. Many sequels followed, including this week's PlayStation 3 release of Into the Nexus. Still, we shouldn't forget the original that started it all. You can see Cerny's influence throughout.
1. Marble Madness (Programmer/Designer)
It's funny how a 1980's classic managed to top all these epic game experiences – but Cerny had to start somewhere. He got his humble beginning back with Atari before he even turned 20, starting with the 1983 arcade release Major Havoc. However, it's with Marble Madness that he eventually found his place in the gaming world. Utilizing twin trackball controllers and a simple yet fun mechanic of rolling a marble from point A to point B while avoiding obstacles, Marble Madness would become an arcade hit for years to come – and lead Cerny to his eventual place in the game industry. Who knew that a game of marbles would lead to the birth of the PlayStation 4?
The PlayStation 4, along with Cerny's latest game, Knack, arrives in stores on November 15th.