For many, the original 'Super Mario Bros.' is the quintessential video game. Not only did it help the NES to usher in a new era of home consoles, but it also popularized a genre that would come to dominate gaming for decades: the platformer. Platformers arguably originated with 'Donkey Kong
,' which also starred the plumber-protagonist Mario, and challenged gamers to leap over hazards, climb ladders and traverse perilous platforms suspended in mid-air. 'Super Mario Bros.' was released five years after 'Donkey Kong,' and cemented the core mechanics of the genre: daring leaps across gaps and onto ledges and platforms, precariously placed in a horizontally scrolling landscape. The genre soon came to define 8- and 16-bit gaming with such classics as 'Castlevania,' 'Metroid' and 'Sonic the Hedgehog.' While platformers evolved into the realm of 3-D with 'Super Mario 64', its traditional, two-dimensional form still holds a fond place in the hearts of many gamers. Thankfully, indie and flash game development has led to a smorgasbord of incredible new platformers to satiate any aficionado. Today we'll present our picks of some of the best.
' has players taking on the role of Takeshi, the titular final ninja, in a quest to vanquish his former master Akuma. Takeshi has a host of ninja super powers at his disposal, all controlled by the keyboard and mouse. Arrow keys move Takeshi, and let him make incredible leaps and wall jumps, while the mouse controls his grappling hook and throwing stars. Players can also make themselves invisible to enemies and surveillance lasers by utilizing ninja sneakiness via the down arrow key. Players must use all these powers in order to overcome a series of gorgeously rendered levels that take place in a high-tech city. Hidden treasure abounds, so make sure to take your time, and explore every nook and cranny.
' takes its cues from two disparate NES sources. The game was created for the Action 52 Owns
project, which asked designers to remake games from the legendarily shoddy NES game compilation 'Action 52
.' The remake's principal inspiration is the original (and horrible) 'Streemerz' game, taken from that very compilation. Thankfully, though, its second inspiration is the classic NES platformer 'Bionic Commando
.' As with 'Bionic Commando,' your character cannot jump, but does have a cybernetic grappling hook with which to propel himself along walls and over deadly enemies and obstacles. The controls are smooth and intuitive, the arrow keys dictating movement and the X key triggering the grappling function, allowing for freewheeling acrobatic maneuvers. The game also offers a great deal of replay value, including a variety of alternate challenges, including player as the alternate character Dr. Tary and a timed attack "Superb Joe" mode for hardcore players.
' is a single-screen platformer that puts a player's jumping skills to the test. Using a combination of leaps, double-jumps, wall jumps and running jumps, players lead Sir Reginald Moneyseize II on a capitalistic quest to attain as many gold coins as possible. The game plays out over a series of individual, single-screen levels that are accessed via a hub. As players acquire more gold, more challenging levels become available, each rendered in quaint, pixelated graphics. Mastering precise jump mechanics is essential to traversing the game's perilous gaps and obstacles; objects such as cannons and trampolines help avoid deadly spinning razors, spiked outcroppings and cute animals. Testing Sir Reginald's limits will reward adventurous players, as secret levels and coins can be found in hard-to-reach areas.
' plays out like a bite-sized combination of 'Castlevania' and 'Donkey Kong'. The game takes place in the single-screen confines of a castle riddled with enemies, traps and locked doors. Controlling a knight with the arrow and spacebar keys, players begin with seemingly easy tasks such as defeating enemies and collecting keys to locked doors. Lest one think the game is a simplistic affair, 'Tiny Castle' quickly reveals itself to be incredibly dynamic, as the single "level" morphs and changes throughout the course of the game. The levels fill up with water, go dark or crumble to the ground, forcing players to use their altered environments to access new areas. Constantly confronted with these clever twists, players see that even seemingly straightforward games can belie a great deal of exciting depth and dynamism.
Like 'Portal', 'Fault Line
' takes an ingenious gameplay mechanic and applies it to an ever more complicated series of challenging levels, forcing players to think in new ways. With this mechanic, each level is littered with nodes, which can be manipulated by the hero's detachable arms. When two nodes are connected, the level will fold in on itself, making it possible to circumvent seemingly impassable walls and obstacles. The controls work in the same fashion as those of a first-person shooter: WASD keys controlling movement, and the mouse guiding the player's projectile arms. Each level is a combination of platforming and puzzling, as gamers must not only figure out how to manipulate the nodes (and thus the layout of the level itself), but also navigate moving platforms and avoid deadly obstacles.