Rayman 1 and Rayman Origins were among the best of Rayman's history. The 2D games are my favorite when it comes to Rayman for sure. I agree, Rayman is as much of a must as Crash Bandicoot. Both are huge PS Icons, one more forgotten than the last. Personally, I like Rayman more than Spyro, the spyro games made me dizzy and sick. I liked them... but they weren't my favorite.
Also, Rayman is a fantastic game and it's a shame if you hate the character but have not played the games. Rayman was such a cool game, it was like the Mario for the playstation! It was the original LittleBigPlanet game in some respects. Crash Bandicoot was my favorite of course, but Rayman was a close second for his unique look, his amazing powerups, and the beautiful scenery and atmosphere the game had to offer. That game is a classic and you had a pretty crap childhood if you never got to experience it.