Back in the day (a phrase I probably shouldn’t be using, as I was born in 1992), the biggest names in the video game industry were almost all platformers. Games like Super Mario Bros, Pitfall, and Prince of Persia sold millions of copies and ruled our consoles. Even though platformers are still considerably popular in the video game community, the big money is now being made with futuristic first-person shooters.
Walking into the local Best Buy, Gamestop, or Vintage Stock¹, one can immediately see how drastically the gaming landscape has changed. Since Halo: Combat Evolved‘s inception in 2001, the FPS has surged in impressive fashion to become the dominant form of joystick entertainment. Games like Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty are selling tens of millions of copies, while hauling in hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Even though some platforming franchises continue to haul in the big bucks, the sub-genre simply isn’t what it was in the 80’s and 90’s, and probably will never return to such dominance.
That said, platformers still have a special place in most gamer’s hearts, and mine is no exception. Ever since getting a Playstation with copies of Spyro the Dragon and Ape Escape, I’ve always been fond of characters jumping on platforms, collecting items and torching/spinning/ jumping on baddies along the way. In celebration to the games that sparked my interest in gaming, here are my (emphasis on the my) top 10 platformer franchises.
Read the list after the jump!
10. Ape Escape
The first video game that I ever beat, Ape Escape brought some interesting and original gameplay mechanics into the world of platforming. Despite some outstandingly horrid acting (especially in the sequels) and silly presentation, Ape Escape still had great levels, interesting tools and gadgets, and a simple objective (catch monkeys and beat bosses) that hasn’t changed one bit, yet still remains fun to play with every sequel released. It even has some genuinely difficult moments… or maybe I just really suck.
“Your hair can now act…. as a helicopter.”
– Ly the Fairy, Rayman
Armed (Not really, ba-dum-ching) with one of the more ridiculous character in gaming, Rayman gave countless players both childhood acid trips and some serious bouts of frustration. The original side-scroller’s sequel, Rayman 2, is considered one of the better 3-D platformers in the world of games, and nothing gets me excited like a limbless thing throwing his fists at things. Except slutty Latino women.
8. Crash Bandicoot
Yet another childhood classic, Crash Bandicoot not only gave us some minimalistic yet fun gameplay for the Playstation, but also taught the world about Australian wildlife and the benefits of practicing Voodoo. While it may not be the most innovate series, Crash Bandicoot still gave us some fun moments and even funner attacks.
7. Prince of Persia
Of all the game series that improved when transitioning from 2-D to 3-D, Prince of Persia may have been one of the best to do so. Sands of Time and the games that followed it have some of the most engaging gameplay mechanics of any 3-D platformer. Despite the fact that the breaks from acrobatic platforming to fight seemingly endless waves of enemies are tedious and sometimes downright annoying, each puzzle and obstacle is both challenging and thrilling. And it’s new promoter is Jakey Jake. Now that’s sexy.
6. Ratchet and Clank
[No, this isn’t a technical goof, I just really love Jakey Jake.]
After making some noise in the gaming industry with Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter (hint hint), Naughty Dog released yet another awesome platforming series with Ratchet and Clank. Armed with as many fart jokes and punny titles as the game’s actual armory, Ratchet and Clank is unapologetically loud, obnoxious, and immature. In short, it’s one of my favorite platformers of all time. The weapons are fabulous, the humor is dumb, but not to the point where I have to mute the game, like with Ape Escape or Daxter from Jak and Daxter.
5. Spyro the Dragon
There are only three purple things that I love: Kansas State, Grimace, and Spyro the Dragon. And if you’re wondering, cough syrup is more of a “need” than a “want” nowadays. Spyro the Dragon was the first video game I ever had all to myself, and it holds a special place in my heart. The first three games of the series are textbook platforming gold, and even though all of the games past the original trilogy are mediocre at best, Spyro remains one of my favorite all time gaming franchises.
FUN FACTS: In the original 3 games, Spyro was voiced by Tom Kenny, the future voice of Spongbob Squarepants, and in some of the later games, Spyro was voiced by famous hobbit, Elijah Wood.
4. Jak and Daxter
Yet another childhood classic (God damn, my childhood must have been lonely. Psst, it was), the Jak and Daxter series first started as a gorgeous PS2 platformer, and then taught us a little business lesson with its sequel. Not only did the guys at Naughty Dog change the title to Jak, omitting the ridiculously annoying sidekick from the title, but they also transitioned from pretty platformer to grungy platformer with elements borrowed from Grand Theft Auto. Well played Naughty Dog, well played.
3. Donkey Kong
If the original Donkey Kong counts towards the big monkey as much as it counts towards the spicy meatball plumber, then that plus all the other Donkey Kong games combined make it well deserving of the number 3 spot. Although not all completely connected, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Country, and Donkey Kong 64 are all fabulous platformers, no matter how frustrating they all can be at times.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
I don’t care how badly the transition from side-scrolling to 3-D went. I don’t care that Tails is a foxy bitch. Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the greatest games of all time, and the freak of nature that is Sonic is certainly one of the most recognizable characters in gaming. Even though the last 30 or so games have been sadder than sad, gamers still continue to relive the glory days, when Sonic was the bees knees for gamers.
1. The Mario Games
Sheesh, where do I begin? A franchise that’s surged for almost 30 years, some of the best selling games of all time, countless spin-offs and adaptations. It even had a movie with John Leguizamo as Luigi, and it was terribly awesome. Things like Leguizamo aside, the Mario series has managed to remain as strong as it is thanks to both replicating its effective side-scrolling formula and also creating original and fun 3-D platformers. No questions asked, Mario is the best platforming franchise around, and its one of the best in all of gaming. That’s not something you can say about bald space marines, at least for the time being.
Notable Omissions to make room for Ape Escape:
Pitfall, Mega Man, Tomb Raider, the Team Ico games, Metroid, Kirby
¹ For those of you wondering what Vintage Stock is, it’s essentially a movie/game/music/nerdy stuff store where you can buy, sell, trade, and drool on nerdy stuff. Expect to here a lot more about it in the future.