This week we're focusing our community question on one of the oldest genres in gaming - platformers. Over the years, thousands of them have been released, but out of all of them, which one stands tall as your personal favorite?
The USgamer team has certainly picked an interesting selection to get you started:
There's so much choice here, it's melting my brain. The first thing that springs to mind is Super Metroid, but I've talked about that numerous times, so I won't go there again. Then, of course, there's the wonderful Super Mario World, which is my favorite of all the Mario games (at least it is today). But again, it's been written about and discussed so much, there's very little I could add to what's already been said.
So instead, let's talk arcade platformers. In this case, something that was released on PS4 just today by Hamster Corporation under the Arcade Archives moniker - and that's Taito's brilliant Bubble Bobble. I remember first seeing the original coin-op back in 1986 and falling absolutely head over heels in love with it. From its infectiously catchy earworm soundtrack to its super-cute stars, Bub and Bob the brontosauruses (or is that brontosauri?), the game is just incredibly cheerful and fun, and never fails to bring a grin to my weathered chops.
I just love its bubble-blowing gameplay in which you have to destroy every enemy on the screen by trapping them in a bubble and popping them. It's incredibly simple in concept, but highly addictive as you work your way through the game's 100 levels. Like most arcade games, it's pretty challenging, but is actually slightly easier if two players tackle it simultaneously - plus I think multiplayer makes the game even more fun.
Now I've got that soundtrack stuck in my head. I think I'll break out my PS2 tonight and fire up Taito Legends, which features a perfect port of Bubble Bobble, and its sequel, Rainbow Islands, which I also absolutely adore. Oh, and it's got New Zealand Story on it too. I'm in for a great night of classic platforming!
I was going to go with Super Mario Galaxy, which is one of my favorite Mario titles, but instead I'll do something a little bit different. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is probably one of the best puzzle platformers ever created. It's a game that has no right being any good, but it comes across as amazing.
Part of what makes Prince of Persia work so well is the presentation of each puzzle. The puzzles are all distinct rooms that the Prince must traverse by jumping, wall-running, and sliding his way past traps. (Who builds a castle where people live like this?) Every room, you get a slow pan of the entire room, showing you the basic layout of traps and your final destination.
The controls are precise, but the best part is the Sand of Time mechanic is completely built into the general platforming. If you whiff a jump, you can rewind right then and there. Most games would have you die and then you get pushed back to a checkpoint, but Prince of Persia gives you full control. Hell, sometimes, I'd rewind in the middle of jump because I knew it wasn't going to land. No muss, no fuss.
Prince of Persia doesn't overstay its welcome. The puzzles are great, the platforming is spot-on, and the combat is decent enough. Ubisoft was never able to quite recapture the magic of this first game; Warrior Within focused on combat, The Two Thrones' dual character mechanic threw off the pacing, and Prince of Persia 2008 is very pretty, but it missing that magical something found in the Sands of Time.
Definitely Bionic Commando. I mean, I probably love Super Metroid more, but I don't think of that so much as a platformer as an exploratory adventure, whereas Bionic Commando is all about platforming. Alas, I've written so much about this over the years that I'm afraid to say more for fear of being called out in the comments (again) for rehashing old ground.
I'll let my live stream from last year do the talking for me, I think:
The first thing that I popped into my head was "Shovel Knight," so I'm going to roll with that. I mean, Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Bros. 3, and the rest all hold special places in my heart, but I haven't had as much fun with a platformer in a very long time.
I've written at various points about how much I love Shovel Knight; but to sum up my feelings, I love its modern sensibilities, its terrific soundtrack, its fabulous sense of personality, and its surprisingly affecting storytelling. The worst thing I can about it is that the jumping can be a little awkward at times.
What really cinched it for me, though, was Plague of Shadows - the free DLC that shifts the focus to Plague Knight. I didn't think I would enjoy playing through Shovel Knight again, but Plague of Shadows' wonderful sense of humor and totally fresh outlook won me over once again. What a wonderful game.
So there you have it: Shovel Knight by a mile. I never thought a platformer would come along and replace the old 8-bit classics in my heart, but it turns out I was wrong.
Maybe there isn’t such a thing as platforming perfection, but I’ll be darned if Mega Man X doesn’t come somewhere close to it.
I was 13 or 14 when I first played through the Blue Bomber’s 16-bit debut, so of course I was too cool for Mega Man anymore. I don’t even know why I bothered to rent Mega Man X, but nevertheless, I did. Probably while rolling my eyes and going all, “tsk, fine” to no-one in particular.
I played it, and as it turns out, nobody’s “too cool” for that stomach-dropping bit in the opening highway stage with the Bee Blader and the cracked girder.
Mega Man X is sleek. It’s cool. It’s radical. But it’s also far more than a string of ‘90s buzzwords. It improves on the NES formula, which was well-trodden by the time X came out. Dashing, wild mine-cart rides, and the ability to switch weapons on the fly adds so much speed to the game, and makes it a pleasure to play over and over even all these years later.
In fact, I’m willing to argue to the death that Mega Man X is better than Mega Man 2. I’ll do it. I am fully prepared to face God and walk backwards into Hell.