The world of gaming is a vast and diverse one, filled with countless genres and sub-genres, each with their own unique gameplay mechanics and styles. One such genre that has captured the hearts of gamers for decades is the platformer. But what exactly defines a platformer game? What sets it apart from other genres and what elements are essential to its identity? In this article, we’ll explore the key characteristics that make a game a true platformer, from its core gameplay mechanics to its iconic design elements. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or a newcomer to the world of platformers, this article will give you a deeper understanding of what makes this genre so beloved by gamers everywhere. So, let’s dive in and discover what makes a game a true platformer!
A true platformer is a type of video game that features a character that can jump, run, and climb over obstacles, enemies, and hazards in a 2D environment. The player must navigate the character through levels, using their skills to overcome challenges and reach the end of the level. The key features of a platformer include precise controls, challenging obstacles, and a variety of enemies and power-ups. The goal of the game is often to rescue a princess or collect a certain number of items, but the specific objectives can vary widely. A true platformer is a classic genre that has been popular for decades and continues to evolve with new games and innovations.
Understanding Platformer Games
The Basics of Platformer Games
- Definition of platformer games
A platformer game is a type of video game in which the player controls a character that runs, jumps, and interacts with the environment to overcome obstacles and enemies. The term “platformer” refers to the game’s structure, where the player must navigate the character across platforms to progress through the game.
- Brief history of platformer games
Platformer games have been around since the early days of video games, with the first platformer game being created in 1980. Since then, the genre has evolved and expanded to include various sub-genres, such as side-scrolling, top-down, and 3D platformers.
- Key elements of platformer games
The key elements of platformer games include:
- Jumping and platforming mechanics: The ability to jump and move the character across platforms is the core mechanic of platformer games.
- Enemies and obstacles: Platformer games often feature enemies and obstacles that the player must avoid or defeat to progress through the game.
- Collectibles: Many platformer games feature collectibles, such as coins or power-ups, that the player can collect to enhance their character’s abilities or progress through the game.
- Level design: The layout and design of the levels in platformer games can vary widely, but they often feature complex, interconnected environments that require careful navigation and timing to overcome obstacles and enemies.
Characteristics of Platformer Games
Platforming mechanics refer to the specific gameplay mechanics that enable a player to move their character through a level or environment. These mechanics include jumping, running, climbing, and gliding, among others. In a true platformer game, these mechanics are central to the gameplay experience and require precise timing and control from the player.
Level design is another critical characteristic of platformer games. Platformer levels are typically designed to be non-linear, with multiple paths and secret areas that the player can explore. The levels are also designed to be challenging, with obstacles, enemies, and traps that the player must navigate around or overcome. In a true platformer game, the level design is carefully crafted to provide a sense of progression and accomplishment as the player moves through the game.
While platformer games are not typically known for their narrative depth, some platformer games do incorporate storytelling elements into their gameplay. This can include cutscenes, dialogue, and character development, among other things. In a true platformer game, the storytelling elements are used to enhance the gameplay experience rather than detract from it.
Finally, replayability is an important characteristic of platformer games. Many platformer games are designed to be replayed multiple times, with different levels, challenges, and secrets to discover on each playthrough. This can include different paths to take, hidden collectibles to find, and alternate endings to unlock. In a true platformer game, the replayability factor is high, as players are incentivized to continue playing the game even after they have completed it.
Platformer Games vs Other Genres
Differences between Platformer Games and Other Genres
While platformer games share similarities with other genres, there are key differences that set them apart.
Action-adventure games typically involve exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving elements. In contrast, platformer games focus primarily on precise jumping and running mechanics, often in a two-dimensional environment. The main objective of a platformer game is to navigate the character through obstacles and hazards, whereas in action-adventure games, the focus is on a more open world with a variety of activities.
Role-playing games (RPGs) usually involve a strong narrative, character development, and turn-based or real-time combat. Platformer games, on the other hand, are generally focused on the mechanics of jumping, running, and platforming. While some platformer games may have a storyline, it is often secondary to the gameplay mechanics.
First-person shooters (FPS) place the player in a first-person perspective, allowing them to shoot enemies and navigate a three-dimensional environment. Platformer games, in contrast, are typically played in a fixed, two-dimensional plane, with the emphasis on precise movement and timing. FPS games may feature some platforming elements, but they are not the primary focus of the game.
Puzzle games challenge the player to solve logical problems or manipulating game elements to achieve a goal. While some platformer games may include puzzle elements, such as level design or power-ups, the primary focus is on the character’s movement and navigation. Puzzle games may have a variety of gameplay mechanics, but the focus is on problem-solving rather than precise movement.
In summary, while platformer games share similarities with other genres, they are distinct in their focus on precise movement and platforming mechanics, as opposed to exploration, combat, narrative, or puzzle-solving.
Similarities between Platformer Games and Other Genres
- Common gameplay elements: Platformer games share several gameplay elements with other genres, such as the use of buttons to control the character’s movements, jumping, and the need to solve puzzles or overcome obstacles.
- Overlapping themes: Many platformer games explore similar themes as other genres, such as adventure, exploration, and combat. Additionally, both platformer games and other genres often include collectibles, power-ups, and hidden areas.
- Evolution of game design: Platformer games have influenced and been influenced by other genres, leading to a constant evolution of game design. For example, platformer games have borrowed mechanics from the Metroidvania subgenre, such as non-linear level design and backtracking, while also influencing the development of the action-adventure genre.
It is important to note that these similarities do not make platformer games identical to other genres, but rather highlight the connections and shared roots between them.
Defining Characteristics of Platformer Games
- Player movement
- Smooth and responsive controls that allow for precise movements in all directions
- Buttons or keys assigned to specific actions, such as jumping or attacking
- Jumping and climbing
- The ability to jump high and far, with the option to jump on top of enemies or obstacles
- Wall-jumping, double-jumping, and other advanced jumping techniques that add complexity and challenge to the gameplay
- Special abilities
- Characters with unique abilities, such as the ability to shoot projectiles, freeze enemies, or turn invisible
- Power-ups or upgrades that enhance the player’s abilities, such as increased speed or stronger attacks
Overall, the control scheme of a platformer game should be intuitive and easy to learn, while also providing enough complexity and depth to keep the player engaged and challenged.
Platformer games are defined by their level design, which is a critical component in creating an engaging and challenging experience for players. The level design of a platformer game encompasses various elements, including platform placement, obstacles and hazards, and enemies and bosses.
The placement of platforms is a crucial aspect of level design in platformer games. Platforms should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of progression and challenge for the player. This means that platforms should be positioned at different heights, distances, and angles to force the player to use different skills and techniques to navigate the level. Additionally, platforms should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of risk and reward, with some platforms offering access to valuable power-ups or secret areas but also increasing the risk of falling or encountering obstacles.
Obstacles and Hazards
Obstacles and hazards are another important element of level design in platformer games. These elements are designed to challenge the player and make the game more difficult. Obstacles and hazards can take many forms, such as pits, spikes, fire, water, and more. They should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of challenge and force the player to use different skills and techniques to overcome them. Additionally, obstacles and hazards should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of risk and reward, with some areas offering access to valuable power-ups or secret areas but also increasing the risk of falling or encountering enemies.
Enemies and Bosses
Enemies and bosses are another critical element of level design in platformer games. Enemies should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of challenge and force the player to use different skills and techniques to overcome them. Additionally, enemies should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of risk and reward, with some areas offering access to valuable power-ups or secret areas but also increasing the risk of falling or encountering obstacles. Bosses, on the other hand, are typically more challenging enemies that require the player to use specific skills and techniques to defeat them. Bosses should be placed in such a way that they create a sense of progression and challenge for the player, with each boss representing a new challenge to overcome.
Overall, the level design of a platformer game is a critical component in creating an engaging and challenging experience for players. By carefully placing platforms, obstacles, hazards, enemies, and bosses, game designers can create a level that is both challenging and rewarding for players to navigate.
Storytelling is a crucial aspect of platformer games, as it provides players with a reason to explore the game world and interact with its characters. While some platformer games may rely heavily on storytelling, others may focus more on gameplay mechanics. However, effective storytelling can greatly enhance the overall experience of a platformer game.
Character development is a key element of storytelling in platformer games. Players typically control a main character or avatar, and they will often encounter a variety of supporting characters throughout the game. Effective character development involves creating believable and relatable characters with distinct personalities, motivations, and backstories.
For example, in the classic platformer game “Super Mario Bros,” players control the titular character, Mario, as he navigates a series of challenging levels to save Princess Peach from the clutches of the evil Bowser. Mario’s character development involves gradually acquiring new abilities and tools that allow him to overcome increasingly difficult obstacles.
Platformer games often incorporate plot twists that keep players engaged and interested in the story. These plot twists can take many forms, such as unexpected character betrayals, surprising revelations about the game world, or even alternate dimensions or timelines.
For instance, in the game “Portal,” players control a test subject who must navigate a series of tests using a portal gun. The game’s story unfolds through a series of recorded messages from an AI companion, which gradually reveal a plot involving the testing facility’s sinister intentions and the true nature of the player character’s identity.
World-building is another important aspect of storytelling in platformer games. The game world should be richly detailed and immersive, with a sense of history, culture, and geography. Effective world-building can help players become invested in the game’s story and feel a sense of connection to the characters and environments.
For example, in the game “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” players explore a vast open-world filled with ancient ruins, forests, mountains, and other landscapes. The game’s story involves a heroic quest to defeat a powerful villain and save the kingdom of Hyrule. The game world is richly detailed, with a variety of cultures, creatures, and landmarks that help bring the story to life.
- The concept of replayability is central to the platformer genre, as it allows players to continue playing the game multiple times and attempting to beat their previous high scores or complete hidden challenges.
- This encourages players to re-engage with the game’s mechanics, levels, and challenges, which can be difficult but rewarding to overcome.
- The concept of replayability in platformers is driven by several factors, including difficulty levels, collectibles and secrets, and speedrunning.
- Difficulty levels: Platformer games often include multiple difficulty levels, which allows players to tailor the gameplay experience to their skill level. This means that even after completing the game, players can return to challenge themselves on a higher difficulty setting, or they can replay the game on an easier setting to explore the game world or focus on collecting hidden items.
- Collectibles and secrets: Many platformer games include collectibles and secrets that are hidden throughout the game world. These can range from power-ups, weapons, and items to secret levels, areas, and characters. By including these collectibles and secrets, platformer games encourage players to replay the game multiple times in order to find and collect everything.
- Speedrunning: Platformer games often have a competitive element, and many players enjoy trying to beat their previous high scores or compete against other players in speedrunning. This involves attempting to complete the game as quickly as possible, often by using advanced techniques and strategies to optimize gameplay.
Overall, the concept of replayability is a key aspect of the platformer genre, as it allows players to continue engaging with the game’s mechanics, levels, and challenges in a meaningful way. Whether it’s attempting to beat high scores, collect hidden items, or compete against other players, replayability is what keeps players coming back to platformer games time and time again.
Influential Platformer Games
Early Platformer Games
Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Donkey Kong are often cited as the earliest and most influential platformer games. These games set the stage for the genre, introducing mechanics and gameplay elements that would become staples of the platformer genre.
- Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It featured the character Mario, who was already popular from earlier arcade games, and his brother Luigi. The game’s success led to the creation of numerous sequels and spin-offs, cementing Mario as a pop culture icon.
- Sonic the Hedgehog was released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and iconic characters, such as Sonic and his nemesis Dr. Robotnik, made it a hit among gamers. Sonic the Hedgehog also popularized the concept of “speed” in platformers, which has been a recurring theme in the series.
- Donkey Kong was first released in 1981 for arcades. The game starred Jumpman (later renamed Mario) and featured the iconic character of Donkey Kong. The game’s innovative use of multiple screens and the introduction of a platform-jumping mechanic set the stage for future platformers.
These early platformer games were not only groundbreaking in their own right but also laid the foundation for the genre as a whole. Their innovative gameplay mechanics, memorable characters, and engaging level designs have influenced countless platformer games that followed in their footsteps.
Modern Platformer Games
The modern platformer games have taken the genre to new heights with their innovative gameplay mechanics, immersive storylines, and visually stunning graphics. Here are some of the most notable modern platformer games that have made a significant impact on the gaming industry:
The Mario franchise is one of the most iconic and beloved platformer games of all time. Developed by Nintendo, the game has been a huge success since its debut in 1985. The game features a mustachioed plumber named Mario, who must navigate through various obstacles and enemies to save Princess Peach from the clutches of the evil Bowser. The game’s popularity has led to numerous sequels, spin-offs, and merchandise, making it one of the most recognizable and influential video game franchises of all time.
The Sonic franchise, developed by Sega, is another hugely successful platformer game that has captivated gamers for over two decades. The game follows the adventures of a blue hedgehog named Sonic, who uses his incredible speed and agility to navigate through different levels and defeat enemies. The game’s unique gameplay mechanics, which emphasize speed and momentum, have made it a favorite among gamers who enjoy fast-paced and thrilling gameplay.
The Castlevania franchise, developed by Konami, is a popular platformer game that has been around since 1986. The game is set in a sprawling castle that is home to a variety of monsters and supernatural creatures. The player takes on the role of a vampire hunter named Simon Belmont, who must navigate through the castle and defeat Dracula, the lord of the castle, to save the world from eternal darkness. The game’s atmospheric music, challenging gameplay, and rich storyline have made it a fan favorite among platformer games.
Indie Platformer Games
In recent years, indie developers have made a significant impact on the platformer genre. These games are characterized by their innovative gameplay, unique art styles, and engaging storytelling. Some of the most notable indie platformer games include:
The Rayman franchise, developed by Ubisoft, is a classic example of a platformer game. The series, which first debuted in 1995, follows the adventures of Rayman, a heroic character who navigates through various environments, defeating enemies and overcoming obstacles. The Rayman franchise is known for its vibrant graphics, smooth animations, and challenging gameplay. The series has also received critical acclaim for its innovative use of music and sound effects.
Celeste, developed by Matt Thorson and Noelle Brady, is a popular indie platformer game that was released in 2018. The game follows the story of Madeline, a young girl who climbs a mountain to escape her problems. Celeste is known for its challenging gameplay, unique art style, and engaging storytelling. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Lena Raine, has also been praised for its ability to enhance the player’s experience.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest, developed by Moon Studios, is another critically acclaimed indie platformer game. The game follows the story of Ori, a small spirit who must navigate through a dangerous forest to save the world. Ori and the Blind Forest is known for its stunning visuals, challenging gameplay, and emotional storytelling. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Gareth Coker, has also been praised for its ability to enhance the player’s experience.
Overall, indie platformer games have brought a fresh perspective to the genre, introducing innovative gameplay mechanics, unique art styles, and engaging storytelling. These games have become popular among players who are looking for a more personal and emotional experience, as well as those who enjoy a challenge.
The Future of Platformer Games
Evolution of Platformer Games
New mechanics and gameplay elements
As platformer games continue to evolve, developers are constantly introducing new mechanics and gameplay elements to keep the genre fresh and exciting. For example, some recent platformers have incorporated time manipulation mechanics, where players can reverse or slow down time to navigate difficult obstacles. Other games have introduced gravity-defying mechanics, where players can manipulate gravity to move through levels in unique ways. These new mechanics not only add depth to the gameplay, but also challenge players to think creatively and develop new strategies.
Another factor contributing to the evolution of platformer games is technological advancements. As hardware becomes more powerful, developers can create more complex and visually stunning environments for players to explore. Additionally, advancements in physics engines allow for more realistic and interactive environments, where players can manipulate objects and environment to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles.
In addition to new mechanics and technological advancements, there are also emerging trends in the platformer game genre. For example, some developers are exploring procedurally generated levels, where levels are generated on the fly based on player actions. This creates a unique experience for each player, as well as adding replayability to the game. Another trend is the integration of virtual reality technology, which allows players to immerse themselves in the game world in a more interactive and engaging way.
Overall, the evolution of platformer games is driven by a combination of new mechanics, technological advancements, and emerging trends. As the genre continues to evolve, players can expect to see even more innovative and exciting games that push the boundaries of what is possible in the platformer genre.
Challenges and Opportunities
Accessibility and Inclusivity
One of the main challenges facing platformer games is ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for all players. This includes designing games that can be played by people with disabilities, as well as creating games that appeal to a diverse range of players in terms of race, gender, and cultural background. This requires developers to consider a wide range of factors, such as language support, controller options, and game design choices that are inclusive and representative.
Competition from Other Genres
Another challenge facing platformer games is competition from other genres. As the gaming industry continues to evolve, players have access to a wider range of games that cater to different interests and preferences. Platformer games must compete with other genres such as open-world games, multiplayer games, and mobile games for players’ attention and time. To remain relevant, platformer games must differentiate themselves from other genres and offer unique experiences that cannot be found elsewhere.
Changing Player Preferences
Finally, changing player preferences also pose a challenge for platformer games. Players’ preferences are constantly evolving, and what was once popular may no longer be desired. Platformer games must keep up with these changes and adapt to players’ evolving preferences. This may involve incorporating new features, mechanics, and gameplay elements to keep players engaged and interested.
Despite these challenges, there are also opportunities for platformer games to grow and evolve. By embracing new technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, platformer games can offer players new and exciting experiences. Additionally, by collaborating with other industries, such as fashion and entertainment, platformer games can create unique and engaging worlds that appeal to a wider audience. Ultimately, the future of platformer games lies in the hands of developers who are willing to take risks, innovate, and push the boundaries of what is possible.
Exciting Developments in Platformer Games
The platformer genre has come a long way since its inception, and it continues to evolve with each passing year. There are several exciting developments on the horizon that promise to push the boundaries of what a platformer can be. Here are some of the most anticipated developments in the world of platformer games:
One of the most exciting aspects of the platformer genre is the steady stream of new releases. Some of the most highly anticipated platformer games set to release in the near future include:
- Spelunky 2: The original Spelunky was a critical darling, praised for its challenging gameplay and charming graphics. The sequel promises to build on that success, with new levels, enemies, and gameplay mechanics.
- Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time: The classic platformer series is set to make a comeback with a new entry, featuring the same classic gameplay and humor that made the original games so beloved.
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps: The critically acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest was a masterclass in platformer game design, and the sequel promises to be even better, with new abilities, enemies, and environments.
While many platformer games are content to stick to the tried-and-true formula of jumping, running, and platforming, there are also many developers who are pushing the boundaries of what a platformer can be. Here are a few examples of innovative concepts that are shaking up the genre:
- A Short Hike: This indie game takes a unique approach to platforming by focusing on exploration and relaxation rather than challenging gameplay. Players control a bird who is just trying to make it to the top of a mountain, but along the way, they can take their time to explore the beautiful environment and interact with other characters.
- Kena: Bridge of Spirits: This game combines traditional platforming with exploration, puzzle-solving, and even combat. Players control a young spirit named Kena, who is on a quest to restore balance to the world by defeating corrupted spirits.
- LittleBigPlanet 3: This franchise has always been known for its creativity and user-generated content, but the third installment takes things to a new level by introducing new tools and features that allow players to create even more complex and elaborate levels.
Anticipated Franchise Installments
Finally, there are several beloved platformer franchises that are set to receive new installments in the coming years. Here are a few of the most anticipated:
- Mario: Nintendo’s flagship franchise is always a big deal, and the next installment in the Mario series is sure to be no exception. Details are scarce, but rumors suggest that it may feature a new world or character.
- Ratchet & Clank: This franchise combines fast-paced platforming with shooting mechanics, and the latest installment promises to be the biggest and most ambitious yet.
- Banjo-Kazooie: This classic platformer series hasn’t seen a new installment in years, but fans are still holding out hope for a new game featuring the lovable bear and his bird companion.
1. What is a platformer game?
A platformer game is a type of video game where the player controls a character that runs, jumps, and interacts with the environment to overcome obstacles and enemies. The player must time their jumps and movements carefully to avoid hazards and reach their destination.
2. What are the key elements of a platformer game?
The key elements of a platformer game include a jump button, a running character, a variety of obstacles and enemies, and a series of levels or stages. Platformers also often feature power-ups, such as increased speed or the ability to shoot projectiles, that can help the player progress through the game.
3. What makes a game a true platformer?
A true platformer is a game that primarily consists of the player controlling a character that jumps and runs across a series of platforms or levels. Platformers typically have a variety of obstacles and enemies that the player must overcome, and may also feature power-ups and other gameplay mechanics. The gameplay in a platformer is focused on precise timing and movement, and the player must use their skills to navigate the environment and defeat enemies.
4. What are some popular platformer games?
Some popular platformer games include Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Crash Bandicoot. These games are known for their challenging gameplay, colorful graphics, and iconic characters. Other popular platformers include Donkey Kong, Rayman, and Katamari Damacy.
5. What are some modern platformer games?
Some modern platformer games include games like Mario Odyssey, Celeste, and Ori and the Blind Forest. These games build on the classic gameplay of platformers while introducing new mechanics and innovations. They often feature beautiful, hand-drawn graphics and challenging gameplay that appeals to both casual and hardcore gamers.