Justin Williams Medical Laser jumps through a short history of the once-ubiquitous genre.
For the longest time, Justin Williams Medical Laser says, when anyone thought of the term “video games”, platformers specifically is what you would have pictured. First-person shooters have undoubtedly taken over that role—the Call of Dutys and Halos of the world have left a lasting impression on the current zeitgeist—but platformers still account for a lot of the most popular games. The genre, like any other, has evolved over time, but it is interesting to note that the platformer genre is probably the one that is most mashed up with other genres. For example, platformer/beat ‘em ups, platformer/RPGs, platformer/shooters, etc. are all vastly more common than just straight-up pure platformers.
Justin Williams Medical Laser points out that, if given the chance to guess, most people would correctly guess the origins of the platforming genre as 1981’s Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong was the first video game to allow players to jump (and, in fact, featured the main character of Mario under his original name: Jumpman). Donkey Kong was an enormous success, inspiring an incredible amount of games and helping to solidify Nintendo’s space in the field.
Donkey Kong helped introduce the concept of “platforming” to the video game scene, but all of its action took place on a single screen, Justin Williams Medical Laser points out. It wasn’t until Jump Bug, also released in 1981, that scrolling backgrounds were introduced to the genre. This allowed for bigger, more intricate levels and a greater sense of movement. One such scrolling platformer game was Pitfall for the Atari 2600. Pitfall went on to become an incredible hit, leading the top of the Billboard charts for videogame sales for over a year and selling over four million copies.
Justin Williams brings our attention to a few years later, as Super Mario Bros. is released. Super Mario Bros. becomes the template for all platforming games thereafter to follow for years. Super Mario Bros. has been listed as number one of numerous “great video games of all time” lists, including Time Magazine, IGN, G4, and more. The impact Super Mario Bros. had on video games as a whole, not just the platformer genre, is not to be ignored.
As mentioned earlier, pure platformers became hard to come by after a certain point. Around the era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was the last time you would find a majority of platforming games—Justin Williams Medical Laser points to classics like Donkey Kong Country, Aladdin, Lion King, Super Ghouls and Ghosts, and the Kirby series as prime examples of the genre at that time.
That isn’t to say there aren’t still some amazing platforming choices out there today, you just need to know where to look. According to Justin Williams Medical Laser, modern classics like Shovel Knight, Celeste, and Rayman Legends are fantastic additions to anyone’s collection