As we continue our celebration of classic platformers, our next five picks include games that either helped to define the genre itself or established franchises still going strong today…
Jet Set Willy
Released in 1984, this sequel to Manic Miner is regarded as a massive development in the platform genre. Starring Willy, the miner from the original game, Jet Set Willy looks incredibly basic today, and may be unplayable for gamers who have grown up with more advanced consoles.
Still, even with its stark looks, Jet Set Willy is a definite classic. As an early version of a free-roam platformer, it allows players to explore the setting however they like, with more than 60 screens and plenty of collectibles offering hours of fun.
As with Jet Set Willy, Chuckie Egg’s old-school graphics probably look alien to gamers spoiled by high-definition visuals. However, the gameplay is as engaging as ever, casting players as Hen-House Harry as he attempts to collect every egg in a level before time runs out.
Hens are also a constant threat – if the timer doesn’t get you, they will.
This helped to popularise the platformer on home consoles, with the addictive objective-based gameplay and clever design making it a hit. Two versions of this were released, with physics being the key difference between them: those of one were more realistic than the other, as unlikely as that might seem given the mind-boggling mechanics in today’s games.
Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia has remained a successful franchise across the past 20 years, with two video-game reboots updating the series as technology evolves and a successful movie spinning the character off into another medium. Still, the game that started it all impresses even today, despite its age and technical limitations.
To start with, the game’s rotoscoped graphics give it the same distinctive, lush aesthetic as Another World and Flashback, helping it to stand out amongst most other platform games of the time.
Another innovative feature is the tight time-limit: players have only 60 minutes in which to finish the game, though the bigger SNES port doubles this. Considering the game’s high difficulty, this challenge is no easy feat, and the swordfighting was a bold move for a time when so many games focused on gunplay.
Castlevania is up there with Metroid as one of the great names in platforming: since the original game was released in 1986 for the NES, dozens of others have followed across multiple consoles.
Based around the vampire-hunting Belmont family’s quest to destroy Dracula, Castlevania also included other famous characters from classic monster movies. The Mummy, Frankenstein’s creature, Igor, and other figures all appeared as bosses, steeping the game in a strong Gothic setting that has helped to give the series a unique flavour in a crowded genre.
Castlevania’s platforming action offers plenty of challenge even after so many years, and still stands up today.
Bionic Commando gives players a distinctive variation on the platformer’s established format: the hero has no standard ability to jump.
Sounds weird, right? Well, thankfully, Ladd can still get from one platform to another with the help of his handy bionic arm. This allows him to grapple to far ledges and swing across the screen, and inspired countless other developers to add grappling hooks to their games (just look at how integral this mechanic is to the Arkham series for an idea of its importance).
The NES release is still a delight to look at, with bright visuals and a cool sprite to take charge of, and that extending arm never gets old.
Well, that’s fifteen down – just five to go!
What are your favourite platform games? Let us know!