All three main games (the first was for the PlayStation, the other two for the PlayStation 2) are about a superintelligent Evil Albino monkey named Specter who suddenly gains super-intelligence through a hapless professor's intelligence-increasing helmet, who proceeds to put said helmets on every other monkey in a monkey enclosure and teleport them all over the place. Your character's task is to... well, catch them all. In a possibly inadvertent Shout-Out, the second game's characters are all voiced by voice actors from Pokémon... in the USA version, anyway.
Notable also in that the PAL versions of each game have a unique dub, with the Professor affecting a German accent and everyone else speaking in London children's show accents. Specter also sounds noticeably older than his American counterpart.
Your characters change from game to game, starting with a guy named Spike/Kakeru, then going to a kid named Jimmy/Hikaru, then your choice of two characters Kei and Yumi in Ape Escape 3, and recently a nameless Heroic Mime in the Playstation Move game. Also, starting from Ape Escape 2, the game's Quirky Miniboss Squad, the Freaky Monkey Five, shows up, monkeys that have been fed the power-boosting Vita-Z Banana and making them go completely insane.
The series has had numerous PS2 and PSP spinoffs and is notable for its control scheme, where the PlayStation's symbol buttons change your myriad gadgets and the right analog stick uses them. The first game in the series, in fact, was the first PlayStation game to explicitly require the use of an analog controller (also, R1 and R2 are used to jump).
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Both the first and the third games have one of these. They both appear late in their respective games and are very difficult.
- All Love Is Unrequited: In Ape Escape 3, Monkey Blue has a crush on Monkey Pink, who is attracted to Specter, who just doesn't care about her.
- Second Love: In SaruSaru Big Mission, Blue is madly in love with Aki.
- All Up to You: Most of the games.
- Amusement Park of Doom: Penultimate level of the first game.
- Anime of the Game: Saru Get You -On Air-, which ran for a little bit over a full year with two seasons and a total of 77 episodes.
- Art Shift:
- In Ape Escape 3, a few cutscenes will temporarily switch to 2D animation for reaction shots.
- The anime is mainly animated in 3D but occasionally switches to 2D for emphasis or reaction shots.
- The cutscenes in the Playstation Move game. The protagonists look much older then the ones from the previous games. The overall style is less cutesy as well (except for all the monkeys, Specter himself is much cuter looking).
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever:
- After making a Villain Exit Stage Left, Yellow Monkey returns to fight Jimmy at the end of Code C.H.I.M.P. Only this time, he's huge and on a rampage thanks to an overdose of Vita-Z Bananas.
- In the anime, Pink grows bigger when she gets angry because Casi wins in Episode 33.
- Bait and Switch Boss: At the end of Code C.H.I.M.P., Specter reveals his latest creation to stop you: the Mk. II Battlecruiser! As you soil yourself at the thought of fighting a flying battleship with a net and a stun club, Specter gloats... until a glowing banana peel falls on his head. He looks up to see Giant Yellow Monkey, huge and on a rampage due to an overdose of Vita-Z Bananas, who promptly smashes the Battlecruiser to bits because Specter denied him yet more bananas.
- Big Bad: Specter, 75% of the time.
- Blessed with Suck: In Ape Escape 3, after the 6th boss battle, it is revealed that Dr. Tomoki was a human test subject for the Pipo helmet, when a freak accident caused it to fuse to his head, resulting in his intelligence being multiplied approximately tenfold (if his claim of an I.Q. of 1300 is to be believed), but also leaving him with a ridiculous-looking light forever attached to his cranium.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Dr. Tomoki.
- Bottomless Pits: Everywhere, to the point of frustration. The Nintendo Hard sequence in the last level of the first game stands out as a particularly painful example.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Jake in Ape Escape 1 and Ape Escape: Pumped & Primed. He gets better, thanks to Spike.
- Brown Note: The Specter TV broadcasts in the third game hypnotized everyone who watches it, including, conveniently, the protagonists from the past two games.
- Cameo: In Ape Escape 3, a few underwater enemies come straight out of the Japan-only Sony game Space Fishermen. It's even lampshaded in the description for one of the enemies, wondering if it's in the wrong game.
- Camp Gay: Yellow Monkey. So much that he "flirts" with Kei, the male protagonist of Ape Escape 3. Also, Dr. Tomoki, to a lesser extent.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience:
- In the first game, where monkeys with white pants were exceptionally alert, and thus pretty much impossible to sneak up on.
- The monkeys all wear different colored pants, which hints at their nature when you encounter them in a level; yellow = basic grunts, light blue = cowards, navy = insanely-fast speedsters, red = aggressive fighters (and they gain the ability to block your attacks in Ape Escape 2), green = nimble monkeys who carry backpacks that fire homing missiles, black = machine-gun toting monkeys with A-Team Firing skills, white = oddball with weird quirks and poor eyesight due to their Nerd Glasses.
- Continuity Reboot: The Playstation Move Ape Escape has a completely new story. The main character is a teenager Heroic Mime and his two sisters capturing monkeys from space, while looking for their grandmother too. The overall style underwent an Art Shift (although the monkeys themselves remain the same). The only returning character is Specter, and his backstory has been completely changed from a circus monkey corrupted by a intelligence boosting helmet to an already intelligent Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds after being forcibly launched up into space. While not horrible, most fans are hoping it doesn't stick.
- Cool Shades: Black-pantsed monkeys wear sweet shades and carry submachine guns. Yeah, mankind is screwed.
- Crossover: Appears as a Mini Game in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The third Ape Escape game also has a mini game called Mesal Gear Solid, which is basically Metal Gear Solid except shorter and more kid-friendly.
- Darker and Edgier:
- Million Monkeys.
- And to a lesser extent, the Playstation Move game too, in terms of art style for the most part.
- Die, Chair, Die!: A lot of destructible objects appear in the first game. Most drop the triangular currency of the game, or health cookies. Most apparent when you're piloting the tank and almost everything in sight can be destroyed.
- Disc One Final Dungeon: Pulled twice in the first game. The first time is Crumbling Castle (see "Wham! Episode" below). When you return to the present, you then have to deal with TV Tower, which is merely a front for Specter Land. In Ape Escape 2, you make it to Code C.H.I.M.P after defeating Red Monkey, only for Giant Yellow Monkey to crash the party, forcing Specter to retreat. You do get to confront Specter one level later on the Moon Base though. There's also the end of Specter Land: Monkey Madness. After this, you have to go back and capture all the remaining monkeys before the true final boss.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Every single game uses this trope.
- Evil Albino: Specter. Subverted in the Playstation Move game. See The Woobie in the YMMV section.
- Expy: The characters of the Playstation Move games seem to be this to the ones of the original series:
- The Heroic Mime protagonist looks like an older version of Spike or Jake.
- Tohko and Tsukushi are expies of Natalie, Tohko in terms of personality, and Tsukushi is terms of appearance.
- Grandma (Haru) seems to be a expy of Aki, and a Distaff Counterpart to the Professor.
- And Specter is very much like Specter.
- The Faceless: You never see a full front shot of the protagonist's head in any of the cutscenes in the Playstation Move game. You see his mouth for one scene but that's it.
- Fartillery: Monkey Red. He can even fly with it.
- Five-Man Band: The Freaky Monkey Five, in addition to being the Quirky Miniboss Squad. They fit this more than the Five-Bad Band, for some reason.
- G-Rated Drug: Vita-Z bananas, which apparently act like steroids with the side effect of total, complete insanity.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- In one of the early levels in the first game (Dark Ruins), four of the monkeys are named after the kids from South Park. One of them is named "Cratman". Why they misspelled his name and not the others, nobody really knows...
- The monkey fables in the second game. Good God. One of them manages to use the word "Damn".
- The UK version of the game uses the word "Damn" quite frequently, especially Specter, who says it every single time he gets hit during his boss battle. The Professor also says that the monkeys are "raising hell" at one point.
- Monkey Yellow.
- Ape Escape 3 features a level that takes place in a hot spring. Depending on if the player picked Kei or Yumi, they can only enter the male or female section of the hot spring. In the male section, there is a monkey that is attempting to climb up a wall, likely wanting to sneak a peek at the girl monkeys.
- Gonk: Monkey Yellow.
- Gotta Catch Them All: You only need to catch a certain number of monkeys in each level to advance, but to unlock the final boss fight, you need to capture every single monkey in the game.
- The Hat Makes the Man: The Hat Makes The Ape? All the apes (with the exception of Pipotchi in the second game) have their personalities altered by the Peak Point helmets.
- Heel Face Turn: At the end of the Playstation Move game, upon being re-united with his owner Haru, Specter is more then happy to be with her and her grandchildren, and they take him home to give him a bath.
- Heroic Mime:
- To a degree, Spike when you unlock him upon catching all the monkeys with Jimmy. He has lines, but no interactions with any of the characters.
- The main character of the Playstation Move game is this, to the point where his dialogue in the cutscenes is text only.
- Heroic Willpower: How Spike wards off Specter's psychic probing in the penultimate battle against him from the first game. Why he's unable to do the same in the third game is unknown.
- Hot Aunt: Aki from Ape Escape 3.
- Idiot Hero: Jimmy has shades of it. Most notably, he's the one who accidentally sends a shipment of pipo helmets to the zoo, setting off the plot of Ape Escape 2.
- Idol Singer: Monkey Pink, and Yumi from the third game. It's a Running Gag that the heroes keep screwing up Pink's concerts.
- Improbable Weapon User: Some of the main tools in your arsenal are a butterfly net, a hula hoop, an RC car, a slingshot and a boxing glove attached to a spring.
- Infinity+1 Sword: The Magic Punch from the first two games and the Monkey Suit from the third game. Stop laughing.
- Inherently Funny Words: You know, saying "monkey" that much was already making everyone giggle. But when "monkey pants" were a prominent part of the second game...
- Innocent Innuendo: At the end of the second game before the hunt for hidden monkeys starts, Jimmy cries out "I'm gonna spank you, monkey!" while capturing Specter.
- It's All About Me: Dr. Tomoki, much to Specter's dismay.
- Large Ham: Specter is this in the UK dub.
- Lighter and Softer: The aforementioned anime.
- The Man Behind the Man: The ending of the Playstation Move game implies that the monkeys (who were descended from monkeys launched into space and eventually evolved AND devolved into their current state) were behind the invasion of Earth on their own free will, not Specter's. They decide life is boring without him and invade Earth again and kidnap him.
- Marathon Level: The final few levels of all three games are significantly larger than those that came before them. This actually corresponds with an increase in difficulty, as larger areas=more hiding places for monkeys.
- Mecha-Mooks: The third game consists entirely of Mecha-Mooks. With large glowing wind-up dials on their backs.
- The Mole: The Pipotrons, apart from Helga's suspicions, no one knew their true intentions.
- Nintendo Hard: Several instances throughout the series, but the last level of the first game is particularly Egregious.
- No OSHA Compliance: There's usually a factory level in most games.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: Jimmy of all people delivers one to Specter below finally snagging him with the Gotcha Net.
Specter: "Come on now, surely you can't refuse the chance to be ruled by superior beings?!"
Jimmy: "You got us wrong. You don't know anything about us..."
Jimmy: "Humans never stop trying! That's what gives us a future! We'll never give into the likes of you!"
Specter: "Give up - you don't stand a chance."
(dramatic staredown as Specter prepares to activate the Lethargy Laser)
Jimmy: "Yaaaah!! Specteerrrr!!! Gotchaaa!!" (catches Specter)
Specter: "Gyaaahh!! Nooo!! I was so close...!!"
- Peek-a-Bangs: Specter (again).
- Pointless Band-Aid: Jimmy, the protagonist of Ape Escape 2, wears one on his nose. Slightly justified, considering he could get injured trying to catch the monkeys.
- Psychic Powers: Monkey Pink, when angered, turns into the monkey answer to Carrie.
- Psycho Serum: Vita-Z Bananas.
- Put on a Bus/What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Roughly half of the main cast from the first game (Spike/Kakeru, Jake/Hiroki and Casi/Charu) are missing from the events of Ape Escape 2. While it can be surmised that Spike and Jake had better things to do or were away at the time (Spike reappears during the true ending to greet Natalie, the Professor, Pipotchi and Jimmy, but oddly knows of Specter's wrongdoings throughout the game), Casi was a PC program in the form of a human girl who worked at the lab. There's even a photo of Natalie and Cassie posing together. Unlockable sketches and concept art suggest that all of these characters were going to be included in the second game at some point, perhaps with some role in the story. Ape Escape: Pumped & Primed introduces us to Helga/Haruka, heroine and Implied Love Interest of Spike. She too goes missing after the game. In Ape Escape 3, Spike, Jimmy and the Professor are Brainwashed by Specter, rendering them inactive during the story. Luckily, all of the above characters (with the sad exception of Jimmy and Pipotchi) make a grand reappearance either in the anime or in Million Monkeys.
- ALL of the characters (except Specter) might be gone now, as the Playstation Move game has a completely different storyline with new characters. We'll have to wait and see if they decide to continue this new story or not.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Freaky Monkey Five.
- Redemption Equals Death: Dr. Tomoki, except not really.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Specter. Also, Jake when under the influence of Specter.
- Redheaded Hero: Spike (although he does have yellow streaks), Jimmy, and Yumi.
- Repeat Cut: When you finally catch Specter in the first game, it's shown from three different angles.
- Rewarding Vandalism: All sorts of things spew coins and energy (and monkeys, on the rare occasion) when you smash them to bits with your club.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Pipotchi. Specter, when he's not under the influence of the Peak Point Helmet, is also quite adorable and huggable. He also looks like this in the Playstation Move title, due to the Art Shift and being The Woobie.
- Rival Turned Evil: Jake (named Buzz in PAL territories, probably to better fit "Spike") from the first game and Ape Escape: Pumped & Primed.
- Sequel Hook: At the end of the Playstation Move game, the Space!Monkeys return to Earth and kidnap Specter. Tsukushi and Tohko inform tell their brother to go and rescue him.
- Ship Tease:
- Between Spike/Kakeru and Helga/Haruka. Both the anime and Ape Escape: Pumped & Primed make this very clear.
- The anime also provides us with Jake/Hiroki and Natalie/Natsumi.
- The first game has four monkeys named Stan, Kyle, Cratman and Kenny. They are all in the same level.
- The third game has quite a few, being based on movies and whatnot. Not to mention Mesal Gear Solid. Metal Gear Solid 3 returned the favor.
- The previous games stuff them in the monkey and enemy descriptions as well.
- Stealth Based Game:
- Sort of. You have to crawl around to catch monkeys unawares; otherwise, they'll run away and/or fire their weapons at you. But even then, it's entirely possible to catch most monkeys just by running around enough, especially if you abuse the hell out of the Super Hoop.
- In Ape Escape 3, you can buy a minigame named Mesal Gear Solid where you play as a monkey-fied Snake trying to save an abducted Snake.
- Steve Blum: As Monkey Yellow. It's not entirely surprising, given that a character voiced by him is currently the Main Pic for Camp Gay...
- Tank Goodness: You get to control at least one in all three games.
- Tomorrowland: Dr. Tomoki's Tomoki City level in Ape Escape 3.
- I have seen the future, and it is BLUE ON BLUE.
- Monkey Pink takes this to ridiculous levels, going so far as to change her fighting style depending on what mood she's in.
- Tsukushi and Tohko, the protagonist's sisters from the Playstation Move title are this to some extent too.
- The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The final level of each game is extremely long and considerably harder than anything encountered before then.
- Wham! Episode:
- Crumbling Castle. Though it seems like the last level, no sooner do you reach Specter and Jake before they ditch you, leaving you to fight an armored warrior. Then you get transported back to the present day where the monkeys are already in charge of the city and The Professor and Natalie have been kidnapped.
- When Natsumi and the Professor are kidnapped atop TV Tower.
- White-Haired Pretty Boy: Specter. The other monkey with white fur is decrepit and ugly, oddly enough.
- Womb Level: Dexter's Island. Argh.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Jake, Kei and the PlayStation Move protagonist are standouts here. Casi has green hair instead.