Platformer Games

Platformer games are one of the most beloved types of action games. Platform video games, also known as platformers jump 'n' run, are one of the most popular kinds of action games. Players have to use their dexterity to help the protagonist beat levels. Platformers also feature obstacles, enemies, and secrets to discover.

  • Genre:Platformer
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History of the genre

  • Dawn of platformers. The earliest examples of platform games were released in the 80s. Space Panic, released in 1980, required players to climb ladders that connect platforms. Donkey Kong, the game in which Mario debuted, came out in 1981, adding the jumping mechanic. It was followed by the iconic Super Mario Bros. in 1985. Another groundbreaking platform game was Montezuma's Revenge (1984), which pioneered the Metroidvania sub-genre, constituted by two hits released in 1986: Metroid and Castlevania.
  • The new level. The next level in the development of the genre was broadening running and jumping with elements of exploration and more complex movie-like stories. Prince of Persia (1989) is an early example of the cinematic take on a platform game. Games such as Another World and Flashback (1992) took this idea to a new level, offering a captivating plot. The premiere of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 was another vital moment for the genre. Sega's hit combined fast running with collecting rings and fighting bosses, setting a standard for other platformers to follow. The same year gave us Super Mario World, an expansive platformer packed with secrets. 
  • 3D era. Switching from 2D graphics to a 3D environment was another revolutionary step in the history of platformers. In 1996, Nintendo showed Super Mario 64, its first 3D platformer. This game was an instant hit encouraging other developers to work with 3D technology. Platformers from that time have similar elements: expansive levels, boss fights, and collectibles. Furthermore, the introduction of a 3D camera allowed them to create more dynamic levels. 
  • Platformers in the 21st century. Since then, developers have continued to use better technology and creative ideas to craft high-quality platformers. Moreover, the blossom of indie video games has helped platformer games reach new heights owing to such outstanding games as Cuphead, Limbo, Gris, Fez,or Unravel.

Key features of the genre

All platformer games share some distinctive features.

  • Levels. Almost every platformer consists of a series of levels, often with different themes. Furthermore, some levels require specific abilities like double jumping or wall climbing to progress. After completing a stage, games usually allow players to continue a story or replay the level to get a better score and find secrets they missed on the first try.
  • Enemies. Platformer developers often add enemies to increase the difficulty and make levels more interesting. There are a variety of enemy types, from flying bees to ghosts and robots. Some even require players to defeat multiple waves of enemies before moving forward.
  • Puzzles. Some games don't require fighting any enemies but feature logic puzzles instead. There are also releases that combine both enemies and riddles.
  • Collectibles and secrets. Collecting items is often an integral part of platformer games. These can be coins, stars, or any other objects that are unique for each game. As a result, players can hunt for collectibles to get a higher score or unlock new abilities, characters, and bonus levels.
  • Power-ups. Different power-ups can help players achieve level objectives faster or give them extra abilities. Some of the most common power-ups are health points, invincibility, speed boosts, and weapons.
  • Boss battles. Bosses usually appear at the end of each level or region. They can be either villains or giant enemies that require multiple hits to take down. In some games, defeating a boss comes with a valuable reward, such as an item or a power-up.

Platformer types

There are some popular sub-genres of platform video games.

  • 2D. Games that are created with two-dimensional graphics are typically referred to as 2D platformers. Their levels often feature multiple paths and require precise timing and movement in order to reach the end.
    • Notable examples: Shovel Knight, Another World.
  • 3D. Three-dimensional platformers are more complex than their two-dimensional counterparts, as they often involve navigating a three-dimensional space and avoiding obstacles along the way. The camera is usually set behind the protagonist's back.
  • Metroidvania. This type of game combines elements from platformers and action RPGs. It usually requires players to explore an open-ended world, unlocking new abilities and finding secret items in order to progress.
    • Notable examples: Hollow Knight, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Endless runner. These are platformers where the character runs infinitely. Players have to jump at precise times and perform other actions to avoid obstacles and reach the best score. 
    • Notable examples: Super Mario Run, Fotonica.
  • Run-and-gun.  As the name suggests, these games require players to move forward while shooting and avoiding enemies. The action is usually fast-paced and requires quick reflexes in order to succeed.
    • Notable examples: Contra, Jazz Jackrabbit.
  • Puzzle platformers. These games involve solving puzzles as a way of progressing through the level. Platforming elements are also present, adding an extra layer of challenge.
    • Notable examples: Fez, Unravel.

The best platformer games

If you're looking for an outstanding platformer experience, here are some releases that undoubtedly will meet your expectations.

  • Hollow Knight. A Metroidvania-style adventure game set in a dark and beautiful world. Hollow Knight is one of the most beloved platformers ever released, thanks to its hand-drawn visuals, challenging puzzles, and haunting soundtrack. 
  • Cuphead. This unique run-and-gun game challenges players to defeat a variety of zany bosses while avoiding obstacles. Its charming cartoonish visuals and old-timey soundtrack make it an unforgettable experience.
  • Ori and the Will of Wisps. This sequel to the beloved original is an emotional and visually stunning exploration of a magical forest. With its captivating soundtrack, thought-provoking puzzles, and immersive platforming gameplay, this game will stay with you long after your last playthrough.
  • Gris. This artful platformer follows its titular character as she attempts to restore color to a world of black and white. With its gorgeous backgrounds and beautiful soundtrack, Gris is sure to leave a lasting impression on players. 
  • Unravel Two. This vibrant and whimsical game follows two cute little yarn creatures as they traverse the world together. With its enchanting music, beautiful visuals, and co-op gameplay, Unravel Two is a wonderful adventure that's sure to delight gamers of all ages. 
  • Sonic Frontiers. The 2022 installment of the iconic franchise is the first one to feature an open world. The game offers exciting 3D platform levels and a variety of beloved characters, including Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles.