The definition of this genre of game is that it involves a puzzle based level design in which you jump to and from various suspended platforms and/or over obstacles in order to reach a goal. One important feature of such games is that it must be possible to control these jumps, and also to fall from platforms or to miss a jump. The most common element that unifies this type of game is the use of a jump button or similar control feature in order to move between platforms. Other gameplay mechanics include such functions as swinging between platforms either on ropes or using extendable arms, in games like bionic commando, or using springboards or trampolines in order to jump higher, as in Sonic the Hedgehog.

This genre is very often coupled with features of other genres, including shooters, like Contra or Rush n’ Attack, or RPG style platforms such as Castlevania. So, because of this, there are many sub-genres within the platform genre, including puzzle platformers and run and gun platformers.

Early days

The first game to feature a jumping character was a game called frogs, which was released in 1978 by Gremlin. Although this was not strictly a platformer, it can be considered the genres earliest ancestor. Donkey Kong is possibly known for being the first true platform game, allowing the player to jump over obstacles and across gaps, it was released as an arcade game in 1981.

A major advancement in the genre was when improvements in the hardware of both home consoles and arcade machines allowed the development of the side scrolling platformer. Unlike before, with games such as Donkey Kong or Bubble Bobble, side scrolling platform games allowed for more advanced level design, and the addition of a level of uncertainty in not being able to see the full level.

There are many popular games in the genre, all which define its style and gameplay, possibly some of the most popular games being the Super Mario series or the Sonic the Hedgehog games. Such games set a standard and convention for many future side scrolling platformers, and many games tried to follow the fashions set by these games.

Modern platformers

The platform genre is now widely regarded as a mainstream genre in gaming. With the development into 3D, the genre is now a popular gameplay mechanic in adventure games, and really pushed the re-inclusion of analogue sticks as a primary control method, as the character no longer moved over a set plane. Other than the 3D versions of the popular 2D games (Mario and Sonic) possibly the most defining and ground breaking platformer in the 3D generation was Tomb Raider, a puzzle style platformer series that is still very popular today.

Sub genres

  • Hop and bop
  • Puzzle platformer
  • Run and gun platformer
  • Cinematic platformer
  • Comical action game
  • Isometric platformer

Popular Platform games

2D sidescroller/platformer

  • Mario bros.
  • Comix zone

2.5D platformers

  • New Super Mario Bros.
  • Pandemonium
  • Sonic Rush
  • Viewtiful Joe series

3D platformers

  • Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
  • God of War series
  • Spyro the Dragon series

2d to 3D platform series

  • Duke Nukem series
  • Kirby series
  • Rayman series
  • Sonic the Hedgehog series
  • Super Mario series
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