The 90’s gave us some of the best games of our lifetimes, as the industry rapidly transformed to adopt 3D polygonal graphics. This was only a small glimpse into what the future of video games is now – beautiful concoctions of story, art and gameplay, making characters from our childhood dreams vividly possible.
Consoles like the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation pushed new limits of what video game consoles could bring to the household and both Sony and Nintendo brought out amazing titles which will never be forgotten. Among these titles are a selection of platformers which are still some of my favourite games of all time.
Platformers are a rarity nowadays and with the industry making mature audiences a priority, these ‘kid’ games often get dusted under the mat. This may not be so severe on Nintendo platforms, as the audience for the platform skews to a younger generation and the company leans on tried and tested characters, but for consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, platformers are very small in numbers on both machines.
With PlayStation’s own platforming legacy in mind, here are just a small selection from my years of gaming, both old and new, in a genre that deserves a lot of appreciation. Let us know in the comments what your favourite platformers are.
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
We’ll start by taking a moment to remember the Croc franchise. This was intended to be a Yoshi World game for the Nintendo 64, but was rejected by Nintendo and re-skinned for PC and PlayStation as a result.
With the somewhat Nintendo-esque visuals, the game showed potential and even had a relatively well received sequel. The worlds in both games were bright, vivid and the character designs were pretty good considering they actually reskinned Yoshi. The game felt original enough to stay with me forever, but it wasn’t the only one of its kind.
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro the Dragon is another franchise that I will always treasure, just because each level felt huge and the story was enough to draw me in and make finding the collectibles worth the effort across the various worlds. Being able to glide from one side of the level to another, breathe fire, and interact with friends and enemies who all had extensive dialogue and story was exactly the type of narrative style that Insomniac Games would later build upon in Ratchet & Clank’s dialogue sequences.
After a handful of sequels by other developers, as Spyro spread his wings on platforms other than the PlayStation, his modern role has seen him sidelined in favour of a vast array of new platforming heroes, as just one character in the huge Skylanders series at Activision.
Jak & Daxter
Crash Bandicoot, while being an all-time classic, is actually being side-lined here in favour of Jak & Daxter. Our favourite marsupial is receiving a worthy remaster at the hands of Activision in the near future, but Naughty Dog’s next series has largely been left behind. Jak & Daxter carries on from where their platforming level design had reached in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, but had more freedom to do so, due to developing the game for the PlayStation 2.
Jak & Daxter took an open world perspective, an art style not too far removed from The Legend of Zelda franchise and combined it with familiar platforming gameplay that we’ve grown to love from Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario and Spyro the Dragon. With minimal load times and an excellent balance of story and action, this franchise never failed to be a fun experience. The series actually still warrants a sequel, but this may just be one franchise where we have to cross our fingers and hope.
Sly Cooper is another game which was lucky enough to get a reboot and a sequel at the hands of Sanzaru games, though there’s no signs that this was successful enough to see it continued. The game itself offers beautiful cel-shaded environments and characters and simple stealth mechanics that make looting enemies and navigating areas much easier.
You can tell that the original developer, Sucker Punch learned a lot from this when they transitioned towards the development of the inFamous series, and while fighting on ground level is nice, having the option to navigate the rooftops of an area makes things a little less linear.
Tearaway is actually what I would call a rare gem. It was released at a time where few platformers had been coming out and was originally released for the PlayStation Vita. It got the remaster treatment on the PlayStation 4 last year, which still looks outstanding. However, with the use of the Vita’s camera and sensors, the game genuinely felt like you were one of the biggest character in the game, and to some extent you are.
The customisation in the game is extremely easy and fun to do, which is obviously something Media Molecule learnt from developing Little Big Planet. In my playthroughs of this game, I have Iota, the protagonist sporting a Tri-force headband – Blasphemy, right?!
Before Tearaway, MediaMolecule made a name for themselves with LittleBigPlanet, released at a time where Ratchet & Clank and itself were the only platformers on the PlayStation 3. The games are quite fun and floaty platformers, with a fair amount of trial and error to its side scrolling platforming. The levels have a nice obstacle course feel to them for the most part and the hardest element is trying to complete every level unscathed. The element of play, share and create was also a big new idea for the industry.
The only real problem with these games is that each of them is essentially the same, and it’s difficult to see where the series can go from here, after adding another handful of gadgets and even extra characters in LittleBigPlanet 3.
The final series I’d like to talk about is Trine, which I started playing just a few weeks ago with the third game in the series. The first two games were cooperative, side-scrolling puzzle platformers, but I thought the 3D platforming of the third game would be more appealing to a player like me.
It carries on with the interesting puzzling mechanics which are present throughout the franchise, and a combination of simple puzzling and the ability to switch between characters makes this a game that you won’t be bored with so easily. Graphically, I’d say it’s one of the better looking platformers I’ve played in a long time and it’s a real shame there aren’t more games like it.
These are just a handful of games, chosen from a far reaching genre. Let us know what some of your favourite platformers have been in the comments below.