The Cortex Vortex's first appearance was in Crash Bandicoot. It was designed to make any creature obey Cortex completely and when combined with the Evolvo-Ray, would make an army of mindless mutant soldiers to conquer the world. However, it was still at the prototype stage, and instead of enslaving the mutants, it gave them distinct personalities (Ripper Roo became a giggling maniac, Koala Kong a flexing narcissist, and Pinstripe Potoroo a trigger-happy paranoid), though they remained somewhat loyal to Cortex until later games. Despite this, Cortex insisted on using it on his newest mutant, Crash Bandicoot who was to lead his "Cortex Commandos" into world domination. However, the machine rejected Crash, who escaped the castle. Cortex was about to subject Tawna Bandicoot to the machine, however Crash arrived in time, burned down the Cortex Vortex along with the rest of Cortex's castle, and saved Tawna.
Immediately after the events of the first game, Cortex discovered a new power source: Crystals. After spending a year building a new Cortex Vortex (which would be big enough to enslave the planet), his new sidekick, Dr. N. Gin informs him that he has only found the "Master Crystal". 25 more "Slave Crystals" are needed to power the machine. Fearing his life and realizing that Crash has defeated all of his willing participants, Cortex tricks Crash into gathering the crystals for him, stating that it will help the world. When Crash delivers the crystals, Coco reveals Cortex's true intentions. Cortex tries to escape with the crystals to the Cortex Vortex, but Crash defeats him and leaves him stranded in deep space. Dr. Nitrus Brio then tells Crash that if he gathers Gems, he can blow up the Cortex Vortex, situated in space. Crash does so and Brio destroys the Cortex Vortex.
The Cortex Vortex had a very minor, but important role in Crash Bandicoot: Warped. The Vortex, plummeting down to Earth, explodes and frees the evil Uka Uka out of an ancient temple.
In addition to a level in the last warp room being named Cortex Vortex, the spaceship in which Cortex's meeting is held in at the beginning of the game is likely to be a newly-built Cortex Vortex. Upon creating, and then "powering", his super weapon (which later is revealed to be Crunch Bandicoot), it is likely that Dr. Neo Cortex used this newly-built Cortex Vortex to brainwash his super weapon into a slave. In which he had brainwashed previous animals as well.
Though it didn't appear, more on its construction was revealed. It was revealed by one of the Ratnicians that after Cortex met Uka Uka, he gave Cortex some of his mojo to aid in his plans for world conquest. Later on Cortex and N. Brio built the Cortex Vortex and eventually used it on Crash, Ripper Roo, Pinstripe and Koala Kong.
The Cortex Vortex is seen in the remastered intro of Crash 1, where once again after Crash is evolved, Nitrus Brio insisted to Cortex that the Vortex was not ready. Neo demanded him to quickly put Crash into the machine, to which Brio complied. However as predicted the Vortex went awry with Crash actually destroying it because of his good nature.
The Cortex Vortex appears in Dansu! De Jump! Na Daibouken known as the Base Station. It's designed to look like the Cortex Vortex Space Station from Crash Bandicoot 2, but it's much smaller. It has the Vortex Dome on a flat surface with a ray gun that looks like the Evolvo Ray. N. Gin controls the ship while Cortex is out helping Crash get the Power Stones to power the laser cannon.
- The Cortex Vortex can be seen in a portrait in the level War of the Whirls in Crash of the Titans.
- A level in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is also called Cortex Vortex.
- After defeating Cortex in Crash Bandicoot 2, the Naughty Dog logo can be seen on one of its wings.
- The device has a very poor success rate as nearly all of it's subjects have abandoned Cortex's plans or even outright betrayed him at some point.
- In a prototype of the first game, the Main Menu shows Tawna being sent to the Cortex Vortex.
- Curiously, Tiny Tiger, despite supposedly working for N. Brio at the time, has a personalised boss lair inside the Cortex Vortex Space Station in the second game. In a twist of irony, Tiny would later prove more loyal to Cortex than any actual subject of the Vortex itself.