PS Plus’ Weirdest Game Is the PS3’s Stray

The long-anticipated release of the “cat-simulator” stray has exceeded the hype, shattering records for publisher Annapurna on PC and making a PlayStation Plus Extra subscription more appealing. stray has won over critics and fans despite its short run-time. It’s even become a favorite among the mod community, with creative players replacing its protagonist with classic video game heroes like Spyro the Dragon.

From the moment it debuted at a PS5 reveal event, stray has stood out because of its feline protagonist, attracting the cat-obsessed internet’s attention. However, what makes playing stray exceptional even once the novelty wears off is its setting. stray‘s post-humanity world gives the game a sense of mystery and melancholy. While it makes for a distinctive experience, stray isn’t unique in gaming history. A PlayStation 3 exclusive called Tokyo Jungle features a similar, if not much stranger, take on playing as an animal in a post-apocalyptic world.

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10 years ago stray hit two generations of PlayStation consoles, Tokyo Jungle was released for the PlayStation 3. The game takes place in a desolate Tokyo a decade after humanity’s mysterious disappearance. Replacing the bustling activity of a thriving human metropolis, this version of Tokyo is populated by a wide variety of animals. This urban animal kingdom runs the gamut from escaped zoo animals like lions to feral house pets like one of the game’s starter characters, a Pomeranian.

Tokyo Jungle‘s gameplay differs depending on whether players play as a carnivore or a herbivore. Carnivores, including the Pomeranian, need to hunt for food and engage in mortal combat with other animals to claim territory. They can use stealth, thanks to the gaming staple tall grass, to sneak past enemies or get the drop on them before attacking. However, they’re not as dependent on the grass as herbivores, who can’t engage in combat and instead have to use the grass to sneak past and evade predators.

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No matter what animal players choose, the goal is the same: stay alive long enough to mark their territory and attract a mate. This is easier said than done. Time passes quickly in Tokyo Jungle, with years passing in a matter of minutes. As players attempt to secure their territory and deal with predators, they must keep an eye on a constantly depleting hunger gauge, which spells death if it reaches zero.

Finding a mate means players can pass on their skills to a new generation. Their heir will also run with a pack, which is Tokyo Jungle‘s version of extra lives. Unlocking breeding nests allows players to save — but in a move that shows how little the game cared about modern gaming conventions, nests are the only places that players can save the game, and they can only be used once. Once the player’s animal and its siblings die, it’s game over. There are no continues, so determined players have to start over from the beginning.

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Tokyo Jungle is a hard game to categorize. It resembles an unsentimental nature documentary in many ways, with its unflinching portrayal of the kill-or-be-killed reality of life in the food chain. However, it’s not without a sense of whimsy. There are multiple characters that players can unlock through gameplay and DLC, including dinosaurs, robot dogs and even a Japanese salaryman. The animals can also wear clothing like tracksuits to improve their stats. For a game focused on hunting, its fast-paced gameplay is unlike the more deliberate hunting modes in games like Horizon Zero Dawn.

Tokyo Jungle was made in association with the legendary Japan Studio, which had a hand in everything from Bloodborne to the Team Ico games. Despite being a PlayStation exclusive published by Son, its indie roots shine through, as it was developed by Crispy’s!, a small independent studio. It isn’t the most polished game, but it’s hard to hold occasionally uneven execution against a game that commits so fully to such an audacious premise.

RELATED: Stray Players Report Their Cats Love the Game Too

However, Tokyo Jungle wasn’t the runaway hit that stray would go on to be. It received solid reviews and was part of a physical compilation of PlayStation Network games, Best of PlayStation Network Volume 1, which is nearly as expensive as a current-gen game on the secondary market. A portable, grid-based version titled Tokyo Jungle Mobile was released on mobile phones and the oft-overlooked PlayStation Vita. The PlayStation 3 version was also added to PlayStation Plus in 2017.

After skipping a PlayStation generation, Tokyo Jungle is newly accessible on modern hardware, with a catch. It’s part of the newly introduced PlayStation Plus Premium tier. Unfortunately for players with a spotty internet connection, it’s only available as part of the PS3’s streaming library. Anyone who can partake in game streaming reliably would do well to give Tokyo Jungle a try if stray has put them in the mood for unique games focused on animals.

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