Written by: Frank Cirinna
Think back. Back to a time when 3D gaming was defined by Donkey Kong Country, and when any game which didn’t have a jump button was confusing for some. Remember those days? I do, because back then, my favourite genre was king. Platformers.
From Mario to Sonic to Crash Bandicoot to Donkey Kong to Metroid (to a certain extent), platforming elements in gaming defined the entire gaming world for a while. And by a while I mean almost 3 generations of consoles going back as far as 1985 up until 2001.
While there were TONS of other popular games, many of which were more popular than platformers, platformers were THE game genre that anyone could pick up and play, and what most non-gamers associated gaming with. Even when gaming began to truly evolve into the “third dimension” platformers were king. Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Klonoa, Banjo-Kazooie, Conkers Bad Fur Day, the list goes on and on.
But what happened to platformers? Where did they go. Well just like we are seeing now with RPG’s, platformers are becoming outdated and being integrated into all other genres.
Personally, I would say that the most intense and indepth platformer of all time might be Assassin’s Creed, but it’s not classified as a platformer. Same could also be said about a lot of series. So what about pure platformers? Are there any left in this modern world of games?
Well… Yes… And no… If you are looking for true Triple A titles that are pure platformers, other than Mirrors Edge, none come to mind. But once we hit the indie scene, things begin to open up. Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Fez, Braid, and a TON of other both unheard of and super popular indie games are platformers at heart. But why are companies not developing high end platformer titles if the indie versions sell so well.
Well I think the answer is simple. Platforming is a genre best left retro. Designed for the 8-bit world and perfected in the 3D age, platforming had nowhere to go but flatline since it had already reached its full potential as a standalone genre.
We are seeing the same issue with first person shooters now with CoD lining up tons of new features, zombies, and other incentives for consumers to buy the new games because really, the genre in its plain form as a FPS has stagnated, there’s nothing new to add. graphically, platforming never really needed and upgrade, and as graphics became more and more important, platforming became less and less interesting. Platforming was too slow for how fast we were moving as gamers.
I think gaming is something that truly becomes better as lines between genres begin to become indistinguishable. Developers take the best from each genre, and mash it together to create amazing games like Grand Theft Auto, inFamous, Battlefront, and more. Even some games that look like pure shooters, can have most of its fun and important gameplay features stem from other genres.
Honestly though, we have so many platformers, which as I said, were really perfect even in 2D form, from all the years past, that even if platforming as a genre ceased to exist, we would never run out of amazing quality games to play.
As platforming as a pure genre is breathing its last breath, let us remember that platforming defined gaming, and continues to do so. Such a basic and simple concept goes such a long way. And gaming done right is just that. A simple basic concept, executed in a way to make you have fun. I mean if we can have fun playing Minecraft, ANYTHING can be fun. But that’s another rant for another day.