It’s been 10 years since the last Sly Cooper game and that’s a crime

One of the most unique franchises in Sony’s classic line is Sly Cooper. A platformer from the team at Sucker Punch Productions, this game also incorporated stealth elements for a very fresh twist on a tried-and-true genre. While Sly Cooper has always been more niche than other PlayStation games, it did well enough to spawn a four-game series.

However, the thieving raccoon and his friends have been in stealth mode for quite some time. The last entry in the franchise, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, which means we haven’t received a new title in a decade. The series has a passionate following (this author included), and many are still clamoring for a return to the world of Sly Cooper. Let’s take a look at what has happened to Sly and his friends since then.

Sucker Punch moved on

Key Art of the Spirit of Tsushima
Image source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Even before the release of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Sucker Punch Productions had long since walked away from the franchise. The company’s last entry was 2005’s Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, and by the time the fourth game was complete, Sucker Punch was knee-deep in the development of the inFAMOUS franchise. The first two titles had already been released and inFAMOUS Second Son was a little over a year away from release.

Sucker Punch has given its approval to Thieves of Time, but that was about the best it did with Sly Cooper at the time. Even when inFAMOUS saw his demise, Sucker Punch was right into his next IP, Ghost of Tsushima. Considering the massive success of this game, the developer will most likely stick with turning it into a franchise rather than going back to the well at all things Sly Cooper. So Sony needs to find a new team to bring back Sly and his friends.

A polarizing “final” adventure

Sly Cooper 4 smart gameplay
Image source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

The last time that happened, things didn’t go too badly. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has been maintained by Sanzaru Games, who previously did a satisfactory job with the remaster compilation The Sly Collection. As for the franchise, Sanzaru did well enough with Thieves in Time; The gameplay was pretty strong and the writing stayed true to the original titles. Unfortunately, like many games in the franchise, it was undermarketed and didn’t sell very well, apparently prompting Sony to walk away from the series.

It didn’t help that Thieves in Time, while a good game in its own right, polarized a sizable chunk of the fan base. A major plot twist resulted in an unfortunate change of a popular character from a previous entry, which in itself was enough for some fans to exclude him from the series canon. Also, Thieves in Time ends on a controversial cliffhanger that DLC was supposed to solve, but that never happened. While Sanzaru Games wrote the story for it, their acquisition by Oculus Studios suggests we won’t be hearing from them again when it comes to the Sly Cooper series.

Even multimedia attempts failed

Sly Cooper movie trailer
Image Credit: Blockade Entertainment

Perhaps even sadder, it all fell apart at a time when Sly Cooper could have had a major franchise expansion. Not long after the release of Thieves in Time, a Sly Cooper film was announced to be helmed by Rainmaker Entertainment, the production company behind the then-upcoming film adaptation of fellow Sony Platformer mascot Ratchet & Clank. Sucker Punch was said to have been involved, and the film even progressed far enough to get a proper trailer.

Unfortunately, Ratchet & Clank was a commercial failure at the box office, prompting Rainmaker to pull out of the Sly Cooper film. Shortly thereafter, an animated TV series was given the green light to be overseen by Sonic Boom producers Technicolor Animation Productions. Unfortunately, given that its premiere was slated for 2019 and we haven’t heard from it since it was first announced, it’s fair to think that that too has been scrapped. As a result, Sly doesn’t even seem to be able to take a break when trying to leave the video game realm.

The 20th anniversary comes and goes

Sly Cooper 20th Anniversary Art
Image source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

2022 was the 20th anniversary of the Sly Cooper series and some are hoping for new content to be added soon. After all, rumors of a fifth game were starting to peak in 2021, and what better time to release a new Sly Cooper project than during its 20th anniversary? Also, the entire series was only released on PlayStation Plus Premium in August, so it was definitely the right time to announce a new title! Ahh… it’s nice to dream.

While we landed some cool merch that included a poster, a t-shirt, and a plushie, we also got something much bigger; Sucker Punch’s announcement that there were no plans to revisit Sly Cooper. Some of the rumors mentioned above about a Sly revival were that Sucker Punch would be the ones handling it, so this announcement quickly dashed those expectations. Also, Sucker Punch clarified that no other studios were working on Sly Cooper games, continuing the never-ending pain of being a Sly Cooper fan.

Would another entry make sense?

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Key Art
Image source: Sony Interactive Entertainment

In many ways, another Sly Cooper game makes perfect sense. Aside from the obvious “last game ended on a cliffhanger” point, Sly Cooper as a franchise offers something we haven’t seen in many recent games. The mix of 3D platforming and stealth was clever and novel for its time, and still remains an area that other titles within the genre haven’t pursued as much. Given that Sony has worked extensively with stealth elements in their recent AAA offerings, they could undoubtedly apply a lot of that knowledge to a new Sly Cooper game.

In addition, Sly Cooper ensures a franchise that can expand beyond the hypothetical Sly 5. For example, Sly’s father, Conner Cooper, is integral to the plot and arguably kickstarts the series, but we never really get to see him. We only learn about some of his adventures in bags during the games. If Sony were to continue the Sly Cooper series – and should it succeed – it would be pretty awesome to see a prequel themed around Sly’s father. Since we only get breadcrumb information about him throughout the series, it would be interesting to see how some of his own adventures played out.

All of that depends on whether Sony actually wants to follow it up, and at this point it feels like that’s out of the question. Sly Cooper is a niche series that doesn’t bring in a lot of money, and Sony has focused more on big-budget AAA-style games that they know will sell to a wide variety of gamers. As a result, fans seem to be left in the dark unless Sony is willing to give the IP to someone else. If the publisher ever wanted to cut their budgets and settle on something on an AA scale, maybe they should start by getting the Cooper Gang back into action. It’s been 10 years since the last Sly Cooper game and that’s a crime

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