Skylanders is an ever changing universe and with each new game comes a ton of new fans. I get asked questions all of the time from parents and new players who want to understand how the game works. So I decided it was about time that I created a Skylanders FAQ about the Skylanders series to help new fans understand the games and how they interact with each other. (Last updated April 2016.)
Skylanders is the first franchise in the Toys To Life genre. The main Skylander games are typically Action/Adventure games where you play through one level of a story at a time. Gameplay is a mix between platforming and action/adventure with some RPG elements too. Characters will collect money and experience from defeating enemies and can find treasure hidden on each level. Gaining experience will help the characters level up which will then give them increased stats and make them stronger. Each Skylander has a different set of attacks and by using the money collected during gameplay, they can purchase upgrades or even new attacks. All of the money, levels and upgrades are saved into the Skylander’s toy figure so that the toy can be taken to a friend’s game even if they are on another gaming platform. Each game has typically had a different gimmick that slightly alters the gameplay in some way.
Toys To Life is a genre where you can take physical toys and put them onto a portal to transport the characters into the game. The player then plays the game using the transported character and accumulates experience, levels, money and other stats which is then all saved back into the physical toy. Players can switch toys at any time by taking them off the portal and placing a new toy on the portal. If the character in the game should “need a rest” then a new toys is required to be put on the portal to continue. This means that the more toys you have, the easier of a time you’ll have getting through the levels. The toys can be taken to a friends house and used in their version of the game and will retain all of the stats and experience that have been saved to the toy.
Yes! The toys (for the most part) are not platform specific. This means you can use the same toy on the Xbox version, the PlayStation version and even the Nintendo version of the game. There are two exceptions to this rule. With Skylanders SuperChargers
, the fifth game in the series, the Nintendo specific characters of Turbo Charge Donkey Kong
and Hammer Slam Bowser
will ONLY work in Nintendo versions of the game (Wii U, Wii and 3DS versions). These Nintendo characters are also Amiibos which is a Nintendo Toys To Life
concept for Nintendo games.
At this point there are five main Skylander games that have been released on the major consoles. (Mobile games NOT included). The handheld versions of the games (for the Nintendo 3DS) have different stories and gameplay than their console versions though they use the same concept and name of the main game. So that makes it ten different games if you count the handheld versions.
Here are the games and the order they came out. Order is important when considering toy compatibility.
Skylanders Spyros Adventure – Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure was released by Activision on October 16, 2011 for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and 3DS. The 3DS version features a different story with different gameplay than it’s console counter part. This is the first game in the series and features 32 characters. There are also alternate variants of characters to collect, including “Legendary”, “Dark”, and “Minis”. The total of all of the characters and special variants totals 41 characters. There are also some extremely rare chase variants which would randomly show up in a few stores that sold Skylanders. You can learn more about the rare and unnamed variants here. We have decided not to collect those characters because they can go for up to $300 each.
Skylanders Giants – Skylanders Giants was released by Activision on October 21, 2012 (in the US) for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and 3DS. A Wii U version was released a month later, and once again the 3DS version contains a unique story with different gameplay. Giants is the second game in the series and features 40 different characters. Of these 40 characters only 16 are brand new and 8 of those are the “Giant” type character. The other 8 new characters are the smaller characters called “Core” characters. The remaining 24 characters are returning characters from Spyro’s Adventure. These characters are referred to as “Series 2” characters since they have the same attacks as they did in Spyro’s Adventure but they now have new poses for their toy figures. The “Giants” are the focus of the game and are two to three times larger than their core friends. They also have abilities in game that the core characters do not have. They can pick up boulders, perform feats of strength, and drop through weak floors on some levels. Since the “Giant” characters are bigger, those toys cost slightly more than the “core” characters. Giants also introduced “Lightcore” characters for the first time. These special characters have parts that will light up when put on the portal. There are 8 “Lightcore” characters in Giants and each also had a normal “non-lightcore” version. Some characters have alternate named variants that will show up in the game as their named variant. An example would be Molten Hot Dog which was an alternate named variant of Hot Dog. “Legendary” and “Mini” figures returned in Giants, but “Dark” alternate versions did not. In total, there are 66 characters to collect.
Skylanders Swap Force – Skylanders Swap Force was released by Activision in the US on October 13th, 2013 (in the U.S.) for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. A month later it would also come to the brand new Xbox One and PS4 systems. The 3DS version once again is a unique version with different gameplay and story than the console version. Swap Force is the third game in the series and features 48 new characters between the “Swap Force” (16), new “Core” (16), and returning “Core”(16). The “Swap Force” Skylanders are the main focus of the game. They are larger than the “core” characters but slightly smaller than the “Giants”. Their unique ability is that you can split them apart and then mix and match their top and bottom halves. This means that there are 256 unique combinations of “Swap Force” characters. Each “Swap Force” character has attacks associated with the top and bottom halves. They also have a specific movement ability like climbing or spinning. Players can swap the Skylander’s halves to create a perfect combination of attacks and movement that they want to play with. “Legendary” and “Lightcore” characters are back, as are the special named variant characters. The “Nitro” special variant debuted in Swap Force and the “Dark” alternate versions returned when a “Dark Collectors Edition” of the game was announced shortly before release. This version of the game comes with “Dark” versions of all of the Skylanders that came with the normal edition of the game. Add up all of the new characters and variants, and you have the largest single game collection yet at 75 characters!
Skylanders Trap Team – Skylanders Trap Team was released October 5th 2014 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Wii U, Wii and 3DS with the 3DS version having a different story and gameplay than the console version. There are 57 base characters introduced with Trap Team which brakes down to the new “Trap Master” characters (18), new “Core” characters (18), “Minis” (16), and returning “Core”(5). The “Trap Masters” are the new focus with larger figures that are about the same size as the “Swap Force” characters. These characters wield large Traptanium weapons which allow them to trap villains into Traptanium traps. So in addition to collecting characters, there are also over 50 different traps to collect. Unlike the characters though, you only need one trap per element to be able to capture and play with any villain. Each element type though has six different toy variants of the trap. The variant (shape) of the trap doesn’t matter for the gameplay. Caught villains can be loaded into a trap before playing a level. During gameplay, players can hit a button that will switch the current Skylander for the villain that was loaded into a trap. Villains only have a couple attacks/abilities but there are 51 villains that can be caught and played with including Kaos. Minis were re-introduced in Trap Team, and this time they are actually playable with the same attacks as their larger counterparts. Until this game, Mini’s were just support characters that would follow you around for a short time and help you like a magical item. Another “Dark Collectors Edition” of the game was released with alternate “Dark” variants of the starter pack characters. Trap Team also introduced two new elements into the game with the Light and Dark Elements. Don’t confuse the “Dark” alternate (Paint) variant of a Skylander with a Dark element Skylander. “Dark” (Paint) variants retain the element they normally have (ie Fire, Water, Earth, etc…). Legendary and Nitro alternate versions returned, but the Lightcore characters did not. Between all of the new characters, minis, and alternate versions, there are 71 characters to collect.
Skylanders SuperChargers – Skylanders SuperChargers is the fifth game in the series and was released September 20th 2015 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and Wii U. There was an alternate game called Skylanders SuperChargers Racing released on the Wii and 3DS. This game had a different story line and only featured racing with no adventure mode. The Wii could not handle the increased graphics of the other console versions and therefore got the 3DS version of the game instead. SuperChargers introduced only 20 new Skylanders and 20 Vehicles. Twelve of the Skylanders are brand new, but eight are returning characters. Two of the Twelve new Skylanders are exclusive to the Nintendo versions of the game and are well known Nintendo characters. Hammer Slam Bowser, and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong are a special Skyladnder/Amiibo figures that will only work on the Wii U, Wii and 3DS versions of the game. The returning Skylanders in SuperCharagers behave differently than in years past. These are “SuperCharger” versions of the characters which contain a brand new set of attacks. Because of this, these returning characters are NOT able to be used in older games. The draw of Skylanders SuperChargers are the new vehicles. These vehicle toys are either of the Land, Sea or Sky variety. Most of the toys have moving parts and can be played with outside of the Skylanders game. When combined in the game with the correct Skylander, the pair is considered to be “SuperCharged” and will have increased power and stats. Once again there are no new “Lightcore” characters in SuperChargers, but we did see the introduction of a new special painted variant. The “Power Blue” variants debuted to bring awareness to Autism. These characters are special Blue and White versions of existing “SuperChargers” and appear in the game as their named “Power Blue” variant. When you add these to the “Dark” alternate variants, special named variants, “Legendary” and “Nitro” variants there are a total of 65 characters and vehicles to collect.
Well, no. you can’t just buy a character and expect him to work in any game. To know which characters work with what games, you first need to know which game the character you are buying belongs to. That’s labeled pretty well on the character packaging. Obviously if you are buying a Trap Team
character then it will work in the Trap Team
game. However, beyond that, it can seem rather confusing. First you need to know the order the games were released. So far the order has been this:
- Spyro’s Adventure
- Swap Force
- Trap Team
Any character bought for a game, will always work in any future game. So a Giants character will work just fine in Swap Force, Trap Team and SuperChargers. However, a Giants character will NOT always work in Spyro’s Adventure. That is the best and easiest rule to remember. If the character is from an older game, it will work in the current game and newer but don’t expect the current character to work in an older game. Characters will also work across platforms. This means that you can take a figure that you use on your Xbox game and put him on a portal for a Sony or Nintendo game. There is now one exception to this cross platform compatibility for the figures. SuperChargers introduced Hammer Slam Bowser, and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong. Those two Skylanders and their signature vehicles (the Clown Cruiser and the Barrel Blaster) only work on Nintendo platforms.
There are some characters that will work in older games. For example, if the current character in question had a version in a previous game, then that character will work in any older game until you get to the game where that character debuted. If the character in questions is a special variant of the character (by special color, name, or lightcore ability), then the special look, name and ability of the character will NOT be in the older game. The character will just look and act as they did in the older game. This means that a “Lightcore” character will NOT be “Lightcore” in the older game (though he can still light up on the portal). Did that make sense? Probably not. Here is an example. Love Potion Pop Fizz is a special Valentine’s Day variant of Pop Fizz for Skylanders Trap Team which is the 4th game. The first time there was a Pop Fizz was in Skylanders Giants, the 2nd game. This means that Love Potion Pop Fizz can work in the older Giants and Swap Force games but will not be called “Love Potion Pop Fizz” and will not be pink. Instead he will just be a “special” Pop Fizz and will look like Pop Fizz did in the older games. Also, he will NOT work in Spyro’s Adventure since that game is older than the game in which Pop Fizz debuted (Giants). Love Potion Pop Fizz WILL work in SuperChargers and WILL appear as “Love Potion Pop Fizz”. Unfortunately, he will NOT be able gain the “SuperCharged” bonus even if you pair him up with Pop Fizz’s signature vehicle the Soda Skimmer since he is not the “SuperCharger” version – Big Bubble Pop Fizz. Only Big Bubble Pop Fizz will get the “SuperCharged” bonus. Love Potion Pop Fizz should also work in any future Skylanders game…at least until there is another “exception”.
You might wonder, why does this work for some characters and not others? It comes down to what the makers of the game know at the time they are making a game. At the time they made Giants, they already knew about all of the characters they had created in Spyro’s Adventure, so they included the code for all of those characters into the new Giants game. However, when they made Spyro’s Adventure, they did not know yet that they were making a Giants game and what the new Skylanders were going to be for Giants. A new Skylander like Pop Fizz (in Giants) had no version in Spyro’s Adventure and therefore did not have the code in the game to make him work. Ultimately this means he can only work in Giants and newer games. To put it more simply, the code for HOW the characters work (like their attacks) are stored in the game, while the stats of the character (upgrades and levels) are stored in the character. Even if the character knows their stats, they won’t know HOW to work unless the code is included in the game.
Ok, now you are probably feeling pretty good about when you can take a current Skylander into an older game. You grab your Double Dare Trigger Happy from SuperChargers, since you know he was one of the original characters in Spyro’s Adventure. You fire up your Swap Force game and put Double Dare Trigger Happy on the portal, hoping to get him some extra experience…but he doesn’t work? Now you think I’m a liar. Well, that’s because there is one more exception to the rule that allows you to take some characters into older games. That exception is SuperChargers. These characters, even if they had debuted before will NOT work in ANY of the older games. This is because they all got a completely new set of attacks in SuperChargers. They are actually new characters called “SuperChargers”, they are NOT a “Series 2”, “Series 3”, etc. core characters. Since they are technically a new character (ie they have new attacks), they won’t work in older games. Think of all of the “SuperCharger” Skylanders like “Giants”, or “Trap Masters”, or “Swap Force”. It just so happens that this time some of the older characters are also considered to be “SuperChargers”. This should not prevent SuperChargers characters from working in future games, but if there is another “Core” version of Trigger Happy in the next game, I would expect him to go back to the normal attacks of Trigger Happy and NOT have the “SuperCharger” attacks.
Ok to summarize:
- All Skylanders work in the game they came out for and all future games.
- All Skylanders can be used on any system between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft (except Bowser and Donkey Kong which are specific to Nintendo).
- If any Skylander in a game has an older version of that character in an older game, the current edition will also work in all of the older games until the debut game of that character.
- Any new color, name or ability (ie lightcore) of a current character will NOT be maintained in an older game. The character will revert back to the normal color and abilities of that character in the older game.
- Because SuperCharger characters have a new set of attacks, they are technically “new” characters and will not work in older games even if an older version of that character exists in the older game. They may look like their “core” counterparts, but they are really special “SuperCharger” characters.
Portals are not completely compatible across the major console makers. Any Sony portal will work on any Nintendo console and any Nintendo portal will work on any Sony console. Xbox 360 portals must be used only on the Xbox 360, and Xbox One portals will only work on the Xbox One.
You don’t always need to buy a new portal, but sometimes you will. I know not everyone likes having all the extra portals around and it can get expensive to buy a portal each time with the game. If you are buying a game used, this can be a huge issue, you will need to be careful that you get the correct functionality that you want. If you are buying a new game and already have an older Skylanders game, you may ask about a Portal Owners Pack
. The Portal Owners Pack
excludes the portal and means that any portal that came out prior to that game should work with Portal Owners Pack
. Both Skylanders Giants
and Skylanders SuperChargers
games had a Portal Owner’s Pack
so portals previous to those games should work with those games.
Let’s see if I can break this down in order. The first two games Spyro’s Adventure and Giants both use the same portal, so those portals work with either game. Then came Swap Force which required a new portal for the swapable figures. Each figure had two separate chips in them, one in the top half and one in the bottom half. A new portal was required to read these new figures. So the Spyro’s Adventure and Giants portals do not work in Swap Force. The Swap Force portal though did work with the older Giants and Spyro’s Adventure games. Then with Trap Team, a special portal was needed for the traps and a speaker so the villains could talk from the trap. This means that Spyro’s Adventure, Giants and Swap Force portals won’t work with Trap Team. However, the Trap Team portal will work with the first three games. With SuperChargers, they went back to the basics, and any of the old portals will work with SuperChargers. Also, the SuperChargers portal will work with any of the older games….except Trap Team, because the SuperChargers portal does not have a speaker. It does have a place for traps though which allow you to use traps in SuperChargers, but that isn’t enough to allow the portal to work in Trap Team. Also note that since you can use any older portal for SuperChargers if you use one from before Trap Team, you will not get the functionality of the traps which is small in SuperChargers but it does exist.
If that was too confusing, maybe this table will make more sense?
|Used in game...
|Portal from game...||Spyro's Adventure||Giants||Swap Force||Trap Team||SuperChargers
As you can see by the table above, the best portal to have is the Trap Team portal. If you have that portal then it should work for any of the other games.
There are several different types of alternate paint jobs for Skylanders. “Legendary” Skylanders are a special slightly stronger version of an existing Skylander. They are always colored dark blue and gold and are sold exclusively by Toys R Us. Each game has had a few “Legendary” Skylanders in them.
The “Nitro” Skylanders are a special painted version of an existing Skylander and are usually slightly stronger. The “Nitro” characters have gold and white checkered paint and are sold exclusively by Target. These started with Swap Force
, and a couple have come out in each game since.
The “Power Blue” Skylanders are a special Blue and White painted variants of Skylanders. Sales of these Skylanders go to help raise awareness for Autism. This special paint variant started in SuperChargers
and is not exclusive to any one retailer.
Minis first appeared in a Frito-Lay mail-in promotion for Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure
. They were miniature versions of current Skylanders and were originally called “Sidekicks”. They were called “Sidekicks” because you couldn’t really play as the miniature Skylander. They had to be placed on the portal WITH another regular Skylander. Then they would appear in the game and help by attacking your enemies with you for a short period of time before they would disappear. In this way they worked a lot like a magic item. After the Frito-Lay promotion was over, they showed up exclusively at GameStop and were used in GameStop promotions. The same promotion was repeated again with the Giants
game. They disappeared for the Swap Force
game, but then came back with Trap Team
as official “Minis”. They became “Minis” because they were playable for the first time having the same set of attacks as their larger counterpart. With the SuperChargers
game, they once again did not have any representation, but the older characters will work in the game.
Skylanders do not belong to any one game. They are a special series of enhanced original Skylanders that are up to three times more powerful than the original Skylander. They look very similar to the original version but have shiny metallic paint, and sit on a gold base. Their weapons are also slightly different and they come in a display case. They will work in any game, but they only get their “Elite” extra power in Trap Team
and later games. In games that are before Trap Team
, they act like their original version. The first wave of Eon’s Elite came out at the end of Trap Team
, while the second set was released soon after the release of SuperChargers
. Regardless of when they came out, they will all be “Elite” in the Trap Team
game and later.
A “Dark” Skylander does NOT mean the Skylander belongs to the Dark
Element. “Dark” Skylanders are a special black and silver painted variant of a current Skylander. They may be painted different, but they always retain the original element of the character (ie Fire
…). These Skylanders come packaged with the special collectors “Dark Edition” of the game. The “Dark Edition” first appeared with Swap Force
and was a GameStop exclusive. Both Trap Team
also had “Dark Editions” but these were NOT retail exclusives. Dark
Element Skylanders are different. They were introduced late into the Trap Team
game, and do not typically have as many representatives as the other elements do. The Dark
Element Skylanders are not painted black and silver, but instead are black with a green pearlescent tint. They are also not re-paints of existing characters but are brand new characters.
“Lightcore” Skylanders are special versions of existing Skylanders that have parts on their character that light up when placed on the portal. They also have different poses than the normal version. Besides lighting up, when you put a “Lightcore” character on the portal for the first time in a level, they will create a powerful shockwave that will wipe out anyone on the screen. It’s quite powerful, but only works one time per level per “Lightcore” character. “Lightcore” Skylanders will work in a game prior to the game they were “Lightcore”, IF the normal character existed in a previous game. However, they will not have their special “Lightcore” shockwave attack and they won’t say “Lightcore” in the game. They will however, still light up on the portal. “Lightcore” Skylanders only appeared in Giants
, and Swap Force
but will work in Trap Team
with their shockwave initial attack.
“Core” Skylanders refer to any of the smaller or normal sized Skylanders. These are NOT the specialized Skylanders for a game like the “Giants”, “Swap Force” or “Trap Masters”. They are also not the “Minis”, “Sidekicks”, “Lightcore”, or “SuperCharger” Skylanders. “Core” characters DO include the alternate painted variants, and the “Series 2”, “Series 3”, etc… versions of the regular sized Skylanders.
Each Skylander that appears in a game for the very first time is considered a “Series 1” character. Then if it appears in a second game in a new pose, it is considered a “Series 2” character. If it appears in a third game then it’s a “Series 3” and so on. These do not have to be consecutive games either. A given Skylander might skip a game or two before appearing again in a later game. So the number does NOT relate to a specific game. It’s just a counter for the number of different main versions of that character that have appeared in different games. “Series X” characters also have a bonus ability that you can purchase called a Wow Pow. These are very strong abilities that enhance an existing attack. Each new “Series X” character will get a new and different Wow Pow ability. So a “Series 2” Wow Pow will be different than the “Series 3”. Also, if you find that you are unhappy with one of the upgrade path’s you’ve chosen for a “Series X” Skylander, you can choose the other upgrade path without having to reset the entire character. Besides the Wow Pow, the “Series X” Skylander will have the exact same attacks and upgrades as the original “Series 1” Skylander.
Each Skylander has an element type, and that element never changes through various alternate variants or new “Series X” versions of that Skylander. At least they haven’t yet. The element type has been used in different ways through all of the games. In early games the element type might matter against certain enemies. For example a Fire
Skylander would be the only Skylander that could damage a Rotting Robbie in Spyro’s Adventure
. Other Skylanders would just temporarily knock down the Rotting Robbie. The elements also give the Skylanders an attack boost when they are fighting in a zone matching their element. Throughout each level of every game, there is always one element that gets this bonus. There can be several of these zones in each level. In order to maximize your attack and gain maximum experience, you would want to switch to a Skylander of the matching element type to receive this bonus. Most games have special secret areas that you can only enter if you have the right Skylander of a certain element type. In the later games, these gates may also include other abilities of the “special” Skylanders. For example Swap Force
had special challenge areas based on the “Swap Force” Skylander’s movement ability. Swap Force
also had chests that could only be opened by “Giants” and element gates that required two elements from either one swapped “Swap Force” character or two other characters playing in co-op. In SuperChargers
, there are specific vehicle challenge gates based on element of the vehicle. So in each game, elements play a role in either unlocking bonus areas or challenges as well as giving Skylanders an attack bonus. If you pay attention to the elements, you’ll get the most out of your Skylanders.
With each Skylanders game, there are usually a set of additional levels that can be purchased and activated by special “toys” that are put on the portal. These have several different names. With Spyro’s Adventure
there were four “Adventure Packs” released. These contained one new level, one Skylander, and two magic items. The magic items can do anything from make you invincible for a short time, or give you bonus attack power for a short time. Purchasing these packs were the only way to get these Skylanders. These four additional levels would also work in Giants, but for games after Giants
they work as magical items. For Giants
, they released two “Battle Packs”. These packs contained two Skylanders and a magic item which also unlocked a new battle arena where you could fight your friends in arena battles. With Swap Force
we saw the addition of two new “Battle Packs” and two new “Adventure Packs”. Like before the “Adventure Packs” came with one new Skylander, a new level, and two magic items, while the “Battle Packs” contained two new Skylanders and one magic item that unlocked a new arena. The new levels from the “Adventure Packs” would only unlock levels in Swap Force
, and act as magical items in future games. Trap Team
also had two “Adventure Packs” each of which unlock one new level and come with one Skylander and two magical items. These levels also only work in Trap Team
. Trap Team
also had two “Expansion Packs.” These “Expansion Packs” came with one “Trap Master” Skylander, one trap and one new level. They also unlocked much of the game which had previously just been marked with “?’s”. These mystery areas were hiding then new Dark
elements which the “Expansion Packs” unlocked. Even some of the villains became trappable because now the element’s trap were released. If felt like the game had been rushed and part of the game wasn’t complete when it came time to ship. Either way, the Light
Elements were pretty cool additions to the game. Skylanders SuperChargers
didn’t have “Adventure Packs” but instead had three different “Racing Packs.” Each “Racing Pack” is for a different vehicle type (Land
). and contain one new “SuperCharger” Skylander, that SuperCharger’s Signature Vehicle, and a trophy which unlocks a new set of races. You can even beat and capture villains and then race with the villains. It’s hard to say if future games will have “Battle Packs” or “Adventure Packs” but it’s pretty safe to say that they will have some kind of “Add-On” pack that will come with a new Skylander and some kind of expanded game functionality.
Yes, this is true. The first two games Spyro’s Adventure
, and Giants
, did not have the ability for your Skylanders to jump. The gameplay was less platforming and more puzzle based. It was actually pretty cool. I think you had to be more clever in those games, and plot your path through the level in a smarter manner. That said, everyone wanted jumping and even though it was absent for only two games, it felt like a lifetime of waiting before it appeared in Swap Force
. It’s OK, you can play a couple games without jumping. They are still both fun games!
Share this article!