I’m not going to tell porkies; Super Mario Odyssey is fantastic. In fact, it’s so good and I’ve invested so much time into it that I’ve not been able to talk about any of my progress in case of potential spoiling it for others. Super Mario Odyssey may be a marvel in platforming games due to its ambitious game design and level structure, but it’s not the only platformer out there that’s worthy of some praise. Last year, we began seeing a resurgence in the genre with Ratchet & Clank being released for PS4, and this has been followed by a number of others – for now though, we’ll start with our furry Lombax friend and his robotic companion.
Ratchet & Clank – PS4
Originally being advertised as “the game, that’s based on the film which is based on the game,” Ratchet & Clank is a retelling of its first entry from its PS2 days which ties into its mediocre film adaptation. The game itself tries to tie in familiar themes like Ratchet’s search to find his own race known as the Lombaxes, while staying true to first game’s story by discovering how Captain Qwark ended up in jail after Ratchet saved the galaxy from Chairman Drek.
The slightly shorter remake of Ratchet & Clank amounts to about 8 hours of explosive gameplay, which is fine considering how incredibly beautiful the game’s Disney-Pixar quality animation is. The attention to detail in particle effects and draw distance are stunning and is still a game that offers enough of its own originality to be genuinely fun. Whether it’s collecting gadgets, completing puzzles or discovering all the hidden gold bolts and R.Y.N.O parts, you’ll be in for a hell of a ride.
Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy – PS4
Crash Bandicoot is a slightly different 3D platformer to Mario, as it takes elements such as hitting boxes, finding secrets and bonuses and incorporates these objectives into more structured levels. The only issue I have with Crash is that it’s not a true 3D platformer with explorable areas but rather has linear levels, and as such it isn’t nearly as immersive as some of the others on this list, but it certainly is fun. It’ll provide hours of frustrating tightly-knitted platforming sequences that have had many screaming at their TVs for hours – I’m looking at you High Road – but despite the game’s unforgiving nature it will keep you hooked. The obvious bonus with this recommendation would be that you’re getting three iterations of 90’s platforming at a steal of a price, and it also looks great in both 1080p and 4K due to the game’s revamped art style.
Skylar & Plux – PS4, Xbox One and PC
A surprising 3D platforming gem you can play is Skylar & Plux. I actually got to review this game back in May and I beat it in one sitting if you’re looking for a shorter platforming fix between the larger games being released this year. Clocking my first initial playthrough at around three and a half hours, the game offers four beautiful explorable areas, with one of those being the central hub world. The game involves saving Clover Island from the clutches of the villainous CRT. Skylar & Plux’s design follows the 3D platforming formula and pays homage to Jak & Daxter, but there is a hint of Banjo Kazooie in the mix too. This one may not stand the test of time, but it does offer a fun and enjoyable initial playthrough.
A Hat in Time – PS4, Xbox One and PC
This a game inspired by 90’s platforming and takes the essence of games like Mario 64 and reshapes its format mechanics into a familiar but modern gameplay experience. A Hat in Time is a slightly shorter game, but it’s a good example of platforming done correctly.
In a Hat in Time, you play as Hat Kid who must gather all the Time Pieces, among other collectibles, scattered across Hat Kid’s world to stop the evil Mustache Girl from taking control of the world. The time pieces must be gathered to return the world to normal. The game offers learnable skills and abilities that Hat Kid can master. There are also timed events and beautifully varied locations. The game offers enough of a new platforming experience to keep new players invested. This game’s only available on PC at present but will be coming to consoles in the winter.
Yooka-Laylee – PS4, Xbox One, PC and soon Switch
If you’d asked me at launch whether I’d be recommending this game, I’d be saying no. Designed as a Banjo Kazooie spiritual successor, it received criticisms for sticking rigidly to outdated 90’s mechanics and thought it would get by on its nostalgia factor. For a start you’d be surprised by just how horrendous the camera was when doing large platforming sequences. However, Yooka-Laylee’s Spit-N-Polish patch fixes every one of the issues and refines the game into a much more fun and less confusing game to play. The added signs to the hub world allow players to discover more areas and the UI has been tweaked to have actual image tutorials much like Mario.
Yooka-Laylee is probably the closest things to a Nintendo platforming experience that you’ll get on other systems as it closely follows the Japanese giant’s platforming format from the 90s. The game itself features various gorgeous environments with beautifully composed tracks from Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, who also did the music for Banjo Kazooie, Diddy Kong Racing and more recently for things like Snake Pass and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. You’ll be humming these tracks forever, probably. The game is a collectathon, so if you’ve played Banjo Kazooie, you know the drill.