The game is a Platformer, and the player must control Crash Bandicoot, and navigate their way through the many levels. There are sidescrolling bonus levels where the player can earn bonuses. The player does not have a life counter, but gets protection from Aku-Aku, a floating voodoo mask. Collecting one from a crate gives the player protection from one attack, two makes Aku Aku glow (Gives no more protection), and three gives temporary invincibility. Being attacked without Aku-Aku causes the player to die.
Doctor Neo Cortex, and Doctor Nitrus Brio invent the Evolvo Ray, to mutate animals into powerful servants in order to create an army. They attempt to mutate a bandicoot named Crash, so he can become the military leader. They use the untested Cortex Vortex to mutate him, but Crash is rejected by the Machine, and the experiment fails. Cortex chases Crash, but Crash escapes out of the window, and lands on N.Sanity Island. Crash's love interest, Tawna Bandicoot, is stuck in Cortex's Castle. After traveling through N.Sanity Island, Wumpa Island and Cortex's Power Plant, he arrives at Cortex's Castle. Crash fights Nitrus Brio, and defeats him even though Brio mutates himself into a monster. As Brio accidently sets the Castle on fire, Crash travels to Cortex's Airship, in order to fight Cortex. After fighting Cortex, who attacks him with Plasma Weapons, he defeats him and escapes the Airship with Tawna.