The 2D platformer, one of gaming’s stalwart franchises in the late 80s and early 90s, has made a comeback in recent years thanks to efforts of small independent developers as well as mega-corporations like Nintendo and SEGA putting their best feet forward as they scroll from left to right. For this week’s Top 10, we decided to highlight the best of the genre that many of us cut our gaming teeth on. A couple of ground rules though: we’re only allowing one entry per franchise, and these have to be strictly platformers – action/platformers like Mega Man and Castlevania are out (until we do another Top 10, I suppose).
10 – Little Big Planet
We kick off this list with the little sack that could. Little Big Planet was an instant hit for Sony and the PlayStation 3 when it released back in 2008 (has it already been that long?). Since then, Sack Boy and his unique brand of “DIY” gaming have not only been found on the handheld front with the PlayStation Vita version, but also branched out into other genres such as kart racing.
9 – DuckTales
Back in the late 80s, being a licensed game didn’t mean that you also had to be a bad game, and no company ran its licensed properties better than Capcom. The house of Mega Man showed that even games based on Saturday Morning Cartoons could be surefire hits, and DuckTales was the cream of the crop. Featuring tight gameplay and a soundtrack that still stands as one of the best, it’s easy to see why DuckTales is on this list.
8 – BIT.TRIP: Runner
A personal favorite of mine, BIT.TRIP: Runner is for me, the moment when the BIT.TRIP franchise went from being a cute distraction to one of the industry’s best indie franchises. The tight but unforgiving gameplay gave the game both a sense of fairness and cruelty that other 2D platformers often fail to manage. Add to that the kickass 8-bit soundtrack and Atari-esq visuals, and you have a game that demands the attention of all platformer fans.
7 – Kirby: Canvas Curse
One of the least remembered Kirby games, Canvas Curse is one of the Nintendo DS’ early standout titles. Featuring unique gameplay where you are tasked with drawing Kirby’s path through the level, Canvas Curse literally played like nothing before it. What really makes the game special is that even though the concept was brand new on young hardware, Nintendo still managed to craft a game that played like they had done this a thousand times before.
6 – Super Meat Boy
Fast paced, cruel, and very strange… a perfect recipe for an amazing indie 2D platformer. Super Meat Boy tasked players with navigating hazardous mazes with precise reflexes, insane speed, and a whole lot of luck. The game has since reached legendary status in indie circles and is considered one of the finest platformers to release in the past decade.
5 – Rayman Legends
Sometimes going back to your roots is the best thing to do; in 2011, Ubisoft and Rayman did just that. Rayman Origins was an absolutely gorgeous game that showed that with a dash of creativity, mascot-based 2D platformers could still do amazing things. A few years later, we were treated to Rayman Legends (check out our review here), which took everything its prequel did and made it a million times better. And hey, any game that includes Black Betty is fine by me.
4 – Limbo
Are you afraid of the dark? No? How about giant spiders? …hey, where did you go? Limbo from Playdead took the world by storm in the summer of 2010 thanks to its arresting visuals, dark premise, and challenging gameplay. The story had our young, nameless hero traversing all manner of traps and deadly pitfalls to try to save his missing sister. It’s a game that needs to be experienced to be understood, and one that “grown up” fans of platformers must try.
3 – Sonic The Hedgehog 3
Hey, remember when Sonic games were good? Yeah, 1994 seem like a long time ago, but there was a time when the Blue Blur’s name was synonymous with great games. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was really the pinnacle of this era, featuring unique twists on the already classic Sonic formula as well as the introduction of a fan favorite – Knuckles. Sonic 3 was literally a game that had it all.
2 – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Sometime it’s clear that a game is a labor of love; Donkey Kong Country 2 is one such game. The game pushed the Super Nintendo to its absolute limits and was jam packed with Easter eggs, secret levels, and a whole manner of things to keep players searching for years to come. So why does Diddy’s Kong Quest land so highly on our list? Maybe this review will make things clear.
1 – Super Mario World
I bet you’re not surprised to see Mario’s name at the top of this list – let’s face it, that honor was never really in doubt. We debated for hours whether to include Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or even Yoshi’s Island in this spot, but at the end of the day the SNES launch title won out thanks to its perfection of the classic Mario formula and the fact that even after 23 years it still feels modern and fresh.
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