Games Business

What Is A Platform Game? Everything You Need To Know

Photograph of the blog post author, Dylan Easton

Dylan Easton

4.8.2021

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Platform games have been around since gaming began. Some of our favourite games are platformers whether we know it or not. Since the early eighties, this kind of gameplay has been popular in game consoles, arcades, and in hand-held games. But what is a platform game? 

platform video game

In this article, we will take a look at what a platform game is, what they involve and also some notable platform games.

Be sure to stick around until the very end so you don’t miss out on any key information!

What Is A Platform Game?

mario platform video game

A platformer, or platform video game, is a game that typically features two-dimensional graphics where players control characters who jump or climb between different platforms.

Additionally, platformers are side-scrolling video games, with the most famous platformer being Super Mario Bros. (and all of the many, many sequels). 

However, Mario isn’t the only platformer out there of course. There are countless others including Sonic the Hedgehog, LittleBigPlanet, Doodle Jump, Sound Shapes, and far more.

What Does A Platform Game Involve? 

Platform games typically involve a character moving through the chosen world to carry out an objective, earn a high score, or simply make it through in one piece. 

This genre of game has evolved considerably over the years so, of course, many platformers will differ and vary. 

However, platform games, more often than not, all share these features:

Interactive Environment

platform video game

The game’s environment design or level design will dictate what a character can do within the parameters set.

Specifically, platform games are typically designed to challenge the player as they progress through a game. 

The player will have to deal with intricate obstacles like fatal pitfalls, formidable foes, or objects to dodge.

Third-Person Perspective

platform video game

A vast majority of platform videogames are designed in the third-person perspective. This means the player can see the character they’re controlling on the screen.

On the other hand, first-person games are designed and played from the character’s direct point of view. 

In recent years, more games have experimented with first-person perspectives to create a more immersive experience.

Vertical & Horizontal Movement

platform video game

Most platformers are two-dimensional side-scrollers. This means that the player will have a side view of their character and the screen will follow them by moving with them horizontally or vertically. 

Newer platform games expanded to three-dimensional perspective, allowing for more dynamic movement and exploration.

Controlled Jumping

platform video game

The main feature of a platformer game is the player can control the character’s ability to jump.

Jumping is often necessary for these games to maneuver through the environment and move on to the next level.

Types Of Platforms In Games

Now we have been through the typical features of platform games, let’s have a look at the types of platforms in platform games. 

Standard Platform

platform video game

The standard platform is the building block in which the entire game is built upon. There are different variations that depend on which title you play.

The most common feature of the platform is that your character can stand on top of this and not fall through the bottom. 

For example, in Super Mario Bros, the regular platform is often breakable, if it is a particularly large character. 

Jump Through Platform

platform video game

Another common platform is the jump-through and this particular platform allows single-direction bypass. This means that players can jump through the bottom and stand safely on the top. 

The smash-hit iPhone game Doodle Jump is almost exclusively jumping through platforms.

Slippery / High Resistance Platform

platform video game

Adding material to different platforms is a great way to mix up the difficulty for the player and also a change of scenery. An ice-covered platform is slippery, meaning that the character slides with little resistance. 

These platforms could also be textured with oil or metal, or pretty much anything that implies a low-friction situation. 

Another material-based platform will slow down the character. Or perhaps it could lessen jumping strength etc. This could be textured by anything like tall grass or something that implies toughness.

Sticky Platform

Some platforms can be very sticky that allows the character to defy gravity or struggle out of tight spaces. 

For example, Sound Shapes includes brighter surfaces that allow the character to roll around upside down or up walls

Conveyor Belt Platform

platform video game

Creating a more difficult situation for the player makes the game more interesting.

The player depends on predictable character control and adding new variables, such as a conveyor belt platform, enhances the experience. 

A conveyor belt platform will automatically move the character one way or another, normally toward something that will fatally damage them.

These platforms have been used for many years to throw off overly confident gamers.

Disappearing / Reappearing Platform

platform video game

While you want to make the game challenging, you cannot make it impossible.

Therefore, a well-placed disappearing platform can add a new level of difficulty to the game.

Falling Platform

platform video game

Falling platforms are temporary structures that decay after a certain amount of contact with the character. 

These will prevent repeat play, therefore, they are usually used in situations where the player will inevitably have to start over on failure. 

Balanced / Leaning Platform

little big planet

LittleBigPlanet was a revolutionary platformer that incorporated realistic physics into the game. This is due to its many leaning platforms balanced from a rope or other form of suspension. 

These react to the characters’ weight and movement. Other games use balanced or leaning platforms as timing puzzles that require the player to move toward danger and only jump away at the right instant.

Bouncy Platform

sonic and tails

Some games, like Sonic the Hedgehog, have entire platforms that bounce. These can either act as a trampoline, with differing bounce heights that build or as a single bouncy experience. 

Designers will use these to compromise the player’s control over their character.

Alternatively, they could be used to give them access to areas that are difficult to reach with a normal jump.

Moving Platform

mario

Moving platforms are probably the most difficult to program, but can ultimately be the most satisfying platform type. Platforms can move horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or on a set path. 

They can go back and forth or even change direction based on where the character is standing.

These platforms, when placed appropriately, really make for some satisfying challenges and worthwhile gaming.

8 Notable Platform Games

Now we know everything that platformers have to offer, let’s take a look at 8 notable, popular platform games. 

Let’s dive in!

Limbo (2010)

limbo game

Limbo is a puzzle-platform video game developed by independent studio Playdead. The game was released in July 2010 on Xbox Live Arcade.

Since then it has been ported to several other systems, including the PlayStation 3, Linux, and Microsoft Windows. 

Limbo is a 2D side-scroller, incorporating a physics system that governs environmental objects and the player character.

The player guides an unnamed boy through dangerous environments and traps as he searches for his sister.

Mirror’s Edge (2008)

mirrors edge

Mirror’s Edge is a 3D platformer that provides the player with a first-person perspective, allowing them to see through the eyes of the character as they maneuver their way through dizzying heights and challenging obstacles.

LittleBigPlanet (2008)

little big planet

Little Big Planet is an imaginative take on the platforming genre. Its story mode, while short, is truly excellent.

If you’ve not got a creative bent then you might feel like you’re getting half a game, but that doesn’t stop Little Big Planet being a star that burns twice as bright, half as long.

Tomb Raider (1996)

tomb raider 1996

Tomb Raider is an iconic platformer and has spawned multiple games and even some films. You are Lara Croft, wealthy British fortune hunter and seeker of lost relics.

Your journey takes you into the ruins of ancient Inca civilization into the heart of demonic madness.

Crash Bandicoot (1996)

crash bandicoot

Crash Bandicoot is a 1996 platform video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation. 

The game’s premise chronicles the creation of the titular Crash, a bandicoot who has been uplifted by the mad scientist Doctor Neo Cortex. 

The story follows Crash as he aims to prevent Cortex’s plans for world domination and rescue his girlfriend Tawna, a female bandicoot also created by Cortex. 

The game is played from a third-person perspective in which the camera trails behind Crash, though some levels showcase forward-scrolling and side-scrolling perspectives.

Donkey Kong (1981)

donkey kong 1981

Donkey Kong originally began as an arcade game before moving to game consoles.

In the game, the Mario character tries to scale an obstacle-laden ladder and save Princess Peach, while the ape Donkey Kong drops barrels on him from above. 

It was the first platform game to incorporate jumping.

Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)

sonic the hedgehog

Players in this franchise game (originally launched by SEGA) control a lightning-fast blue hedgehog named Sonic. 

The main goal of these games is to quickly make it to the end of the level while collecting rings and defeating enemies along the way.

Super Mario Bros. (1985)

super mario bros

This is the quintessential platform game. The Mario brothers franchise game originally began as a multiplayer arcade game featuring the titular character, Mario (and sometimes his brother Luigi), as he navigates through different worlds and landscapes. 

Later Mario titles for the Nintendo 64 (N64) console were designed as 3D platformers (such as Super Mario 64).

Now You Know Everything About Platform Games

platform video game

There’s everything you need to know about platform games! We’ve touched on what characterizes a platform game and also the different types of platforms included in such games.

Additionally, we’ve been through some notable platform games throughout the years, including some golden oldies to some modern classics. 

So what are you waiting for? Fire up your gaming device and get stuck in with this excellent genre. Make sure that when you play platform games, try not to get frustrated as it’s only a bit of fun!

What’s your favourite platform game? Let us know in the comment section below! If you enjoyed this article, why not share it on your social media? Be sure to tag us @musicgateway in your post!

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out another on our blog? Here are articles on our Level Designer Guide, How To Become A Computer Programmer In The Gaming Industry, and How To Start A YouTube Gaming Channel to get you started.

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