Platform games have come a long way from their humble beginnings
In the 80s video games were exclusively played on giant machines. It was a necessity just to run them but thanks to technological advancements that’s no longer the case and we can play pretty much anywhere and at any time. Even with what’s considered as the first platform game, Space Panic, you can see clear inspiration for a much more recognisable game in Donkey Kong. Arguably Jumpman (later Mario) was the original platforming gangsta because, as his original name subtly suggested, he jumped.
I have so much love for the genre and all its titles, in general. I am however sick of Super Mario World appearing on every single list so wanted to really take the time in considering each of my choices. Trust me, they all deserve to be up there and there is no way I can rank them in any real order so here you go – My top 10 side-scrolling platformers of all time… until I change my mind next week…
Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land was my first love. This one is mostly about nostalgia and envy although I don’t think I could have enjoyed it any more than I did. I have played this gem since on the 3DS and still loved it, maybe not as much as when I had the rare opportunity to play it on my brother’s Game Boy although this time I did manage to beat it without needing to buy a fresh set of AA batteries. This is the first platform game that I played and I have been hooked ever since.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is a delight. Cards on the table, I haven’t played the sequel yet but I will, the reason I will is twofold. Ori is absolutely stunning visually and the gameplay is everything I want from a modern platformer. Go and play this if you haven’t already. The hype is justified.
Horace is funny. He is a robot tasked with cleaning his owners’ mansion. He has more personality than most video game characters and the level of detail and humour make this one of the best platformers I have had the good fortune to stumble across.
Shovel Knight and all of the excellent spin-offs are a near-perfect example of how retro pixelated games are absolutely still as fun to play now as they were in the late 80s/early 90s.
Spelunky 2 is a game I have played more than any other. I completed the original Final Fantasy 7 as a kid and the thing came on multiple discs. Sure now you can get it on your phone nowadays but my point is it was a very long game. Spelunky runs can last anywhere between 30 secs and 40 mins in my playthroughs to put things into context. This game makes you realise that however many you play, platformers can still be insanely unpredictable and difficult. Spelunky 2 is definitely a contender for my favourite game of all time.
Super Meat Boy
I would go as far as to say that Super Meat Boy is, at the very least, on par with a lot of what side-scrolling Mario has to offer. The controls are precise, the deaths are comical and the game expects excellence at all times. Demanding but genuinely so much fun. I recommend a tag team of two or three friends in the room to share the burden of this one in the later levels.
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country was so ahead of its time in terms of graphics, suddenly backgrounds (at the time) looked almost photo-realistic. It is probably an indication that we are living in the Matrix or that the developers of the game are mad scientists akin to the Doc himself. That might be a stretch but the series of DKC games still hold up to this day.
Kaze and the Wild Masks
This game is pure homage to the aforementioned barrel loving ape himself. Kaze and the Wild Masks takes what the early side-scrolling Kong games did and builds on top of that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel/handy bouncy tyre. The Masks help keep gameplay fresh but the majority of your time will be spent fighting vegetables the good old fashioned way, with spinning floaty ears and dash and stomp abilities. Come at me, sweetcorn!
Super Mario Maker 2
If you are looking for endless quality content then look no further. Usually endless just means bigger than the norm but as long as the online community keep churning out levels then SMM2 truly is endless. One of these days I will get round to finishing my own level but for now, I am just endlessly enjoying the endlessness.
This great title can be played on a phone, no need for those giant machines see!. I will beat that end BOSS BATTLE eventually and I have all the optional stars which are creatively placed in each small but perfectly formed level. The radish children interactions with Dadish are highly amusing and surprisingly dark…
The following games didn’t quite make this list but are still some of my all-time favourites – N++, Limbo, Hollow Knight, Rayman Legends, Thomas was Alone, Castlevania, Metroid, Sonic and Yoshi’s Island.
Having said all of that, this is obviously just my opinion. I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments section as there will be obvious choices I have missed and will probably want to play immediately.