Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Favourite platform game
Readers name the best platform games ever made, both 2D and 3D, and including classics such as Astro Bot and Super Mario Odyssey.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Bernardo and asked whether you enjoy the platform genre in general, and if you’re happy with how it’s evolved over the years.
There may have been an attempt to avoid the answer of a Mario game but in the end the responses were surprisingly unanimous, with Rayman Legends coming away as the clear favourite.
To the point
I am probably repeating myself but my favourite game that is a platformer is Psychonauts (still only halfway through the sequel). However, this has little to do with the actual platforming, which is spry, competent and functional at best, and mostly to do with the other qualities: imagination, design, characters, and more.
After a bit of thought, my answer is Rayman Legends. It plays like a dream: smooth, challenging, and fair. It looks and sounds gorgeous, the height of 2D graphics at speed, and there is a lot of variety in level design.
This could be said of the best Mario games, but what makes it better for me is the death and restart system. No lives, no throwing you back to the start of a level, no drawn-out death animations or reloads. Just short, sweet and to the point. Sums up the game perfectly actually.
As a Nintendo zealot and a huge Mario fan for the last 30+ years… it pains me to say that the finest ever 2D platformer is Rayman Legends! It oozes charm and imagination, has utterly perfect handling, and the musical levels are amongst the most funsome thing ever conjured up in any video game ever. Ever.
Super Mario 64 is still the king of 3D platformers for my money though. Absolutely genre defining.
Sticking to the subject of Mario: is Chris Pratt going to put on an Italian accent for the new Super Mario movie? If Mario isn’t going to say ‘It’s a me, Mario!’ then I don’t think I can watch it.
Bottom of the barrel
40 Winks on the PS1 and Blinx on Xbox top my list for games that deserve to be on the bottom of my list. Medievil just about survives due to me avoiding the god awful remake.
Joking aside, I’m saying Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. It’s the only game I’ve played that can get close to one of Mario’s 3D outings. Yes, it pays close homage to Nintendo but that’s not a problem when you remember the quality they produce. Of course, it’s beneficial that it’s in VR but the game is designed around VR rather than it being an extra and boy does it succeed.
The first world is good but the second is a revelation. The Beachside Boogie descent into the ocean literally dropped my jaw, not least when the little guy splats onto the visor and waves. The whale level had me fooled into holding my breath every time a wave hit me (looking at a rubber ringed Astro swimming up above me never failed to delight). The ghost level was a Luigi’s Mansion VR dream and the shark boss is arguably the most spectacular bombardment on the senses I’ve experienced in years.
By the time the credits arrived I was laughing, gasping, waving, cheering and generally behaving like I used to when playing Super Mario Bros. 3 or Sonic. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give it. Team Asobi created a game that feels like it was made with the same amount of love that Nintendo give to that little Italian guy. In an ideal world we’d have a VR Mario that would elevate the genre but until then Astro is the closest I’ve experienced to ‘next level’ in a platformer.
PS: Favourite 2D platformer of recent years is the fabulous Celeste.
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Exceptions to the rule
As a rule I don’t like platformers too much. However, the two that spring to mind which I actually enjoyed were Child Of Light and Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood. Child Of Light in particular is excellent, the soundtrack beautiful as well as the water-coloured artwork.
To a lesser extent Rayman Legends was enjoyable for a time but to complete all the levels was a slog and I eventually got bored, I will add the special musical level at the end of act 1 (Black Betty) was incredible.
The platformer genre is, without doubt, one of my favorite genres of them all. It is also one of the most timeless, with the best examples sometimes dating back to the origins of home and portable consoles.
As someone who has never owned a Nintendo system, I am probably not the best person to ask on the best platformer. However, I think this is more a debate on my personal favorite. That is Jak And Daxter on PlayStation 2, which, despite the multitude of critically acclaimed titles that followed, is still the Naughty Dog game that I go back to the most.
As is always the case, nostalgia plays it part, as it was the time of my life where gaming dominated everything else, not just the actual playing side but also immersing myself in the culture via myriad media avenues. That is why I remember the build up to its physical release just as much as that amazing Christmas where I devoured the whole experience almost whole.
I was just transfixed by every beautiful screenshot, every snippet of information, and of course, as was expected at the time, a glorious demo. I know it was hardly breaking new ground (apart from the day/night cycle and the seamless fully loaded and integrated world). It just felt so good to play and was refreshingly free of unnecessary mature themes or convoluted systems.
I certainly never liked the grimdark approach to the sequel and the ridiculous difficulty spikes, both sequels lacked the purity of the original. In fact, Jak And Daxter was possibly the last time I felt that a Naughty Dog game was actually fun to play, as ever since they relied on mocap I always felt their games felt stodgy and over animated.
As for platformers in general there is something compulsive and compelling about the hoovering up of collectables whether they are rings, coins or orbs. They also hark back to more innocent times where detachable limbs and realistic blood splatters weren’t possible and, to be honest, totally unnecessary.
I still think there is a place for quality platformers and looking at recent titles like A Hat In Time and Astro Bot I believe they still have so much to give.
baby machine-5 (PSN ID)
Swear by it
Being an ancient gamer the game that always comes to mind when I think about platformers is Technician Ted. I think I played it on an Amstrad CPC464.
The frustration in trying to complete it was such that it made me punch a hole in my bedroom wall and then hurriedly cover it up before my parents came home.
Little did we know back then that the limited technology that created those flip screen games would come back to haunt us 30 odd years later in titles such as Celeste and Super Meat Boy, etc. I’ve tried a few of these technical platformers but could never overcome the frustration of dying all of the time to enjoy them.
However, last year I got Horace in a sale on the Switch and played it to completion. What a game! The story has so much heart and soul that it kept me going even through the hardest sections.
It didn’t top me swearing my head off on virtually every screen and you can forget me going back in to collect the 1 million pieces of junk though, that’s a step too far!
For more sedate, but at times equally stressful, platformers though Super Mario World and Super Metroid blew me away on the SNES, in the same way as Metroid Dread is at the moment.
You can’t beat a well-made platformer and to me they are the quintessential genre of video games.
Hat’s off to it
I’d say in recent memory my favourite platformer would be A Hat In Time. It was so fun and quirky, had great level designs, such as the train heist level or the genuinely creepy spooky house level.
I also liked how the levels were split into separate missions, it broke the game up into nice little segments when time isn’t always in abundance for you.
My favourite platform game of the last few years has to be Rayman Legends. Great gameplay and graphics. Some of the music levels were amazing. Would love to see another one but I guess that’s not gonna happen.
I think the platformer has sort of branched into a couple of sub-genres, with one sticking to the objective of getting from A to B with skill and precision, sometimes within a small area like in Super Meat Boy and Celeste, and another involving more of an element of exploration and discovery like in Super Mario World.
Earlier games obviously had secrets and encouraged exploration but there came a point where some leaned much further into that aspect. Games like Super Mario 64 really emphasised it, and rightly so, as you can imagine how rubbish the leap to 3D gaming might have been if it was purely about linear skill-based levels and nothing to do with open and explorable environments.
This set the tone for 3D platformers in general for decades to come and, despite a weird backlash from some, I still maintain Super Mario Odyssey is the best one. Having replayed the first Mario Galaxy on 3D All-Stars, there are a few too many issues that affected my enjoyment, such as a much more limited move set, terrible swimming mechanics and the requirement to regularly go over old ground because collecting stars keeps sending you back to the hub area.
I’d love to revisit Super Mario Galaxy 2 but the level linearity, reduced freedom of movement and smaller environments still mean it’s a bit less appealing to me than Odyssey. The latter is more playground than obstacle course and provides all the tools and invention to make the most of that.
My favourite modern 2D platformer, and one that caters to my obstacle course whims, is probably Rayman Legends. The fast pace and fluidity – particularly in the chase-type levels – puts it at the sort of level I think a modern 2D Sonic game should be aiming for. Although I’d happily play a version that just had a ton of levels based on well-known music rather than just the handful in that game.
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The small print
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