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Video Game» Forums » Video Game Related » General Video Gaming

Subject: VGG QOTD 2019 May 11 - How do you feel about 2D platformers? rss

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Gabe Hawkins
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Today's question was submitted by Simon

Simon Woodward
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Thanks again, Simon!

How do you feel about 2D platformers? Is it a genre you grew up with? Do you find them easy or hard? What are some of your favourites? What mechanics do you not want to see in your platformers?
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Gabe Hawkins
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I'm definitely a fan of 2D platformers, though I rarely play them these days. They were the first games I was exposed to via home console. Playing the Super Mario series on the NES is perhaps my earliest "gaming at home" memory. When I got a SNES, Super Mario All-Stars and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest quickly became a couple of my favorites, though I played many others as well. As for their difficulty, I do find them challenging. I certainly thought so as a kid, but those that I have revisited later in life have proven to offer a fair amount of challenge -- sometimes even more than I remember. I know a lot of modern 2D platformers are intentionally difficult, but I've not played enough of them to know how they compare.

One thing I'm generally not a fan of in 2D platformers is overly complicated combat. I want to be able to jump on enemies or use a power up. Anything more than that is, at least generally speaking, not something I'm looking for in a platformer.
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Joakim Schön
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2D platform is fun, eg Super Mario and Wonderboy. First one I played was Donkey Kong on Game & Watch.
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I tend to like them, though much depends on the art style and gameplay structure. I like well animated platformers with beautiful backgrounds, but I dislike pixel art retro graphics. Gameplay wise, I really dislike Metroidvanias, and prefer a linear progression through a series of levels.
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Simon Woodward
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2D platformers are such puzzle to me, it's a genre I've never managed to click with. I guess the genre fit very well with early videogaming hardware limitations, and this is why it became so dominant maybe?

I've tried a few 2D platformers but almost all of them I found too difficult. The exception being Kirby's Epic Yarn. However I also find that the gameplay is not that interesting to me, and the stories are generally pretty thin. I did enjoy Muramasa: The Demon Blade but that is more RPG/action game than platformer. I did get a few stages into Rayman Origins but wasn't really having fun with it.

So the appeal of 2D platformers remains a mystery to me.

I have enjoyed 3D platformers however, such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Mirror's Edge (which is kind of it's own thing). The third dimension is a lot more satisfying to me, and they tend to be a bit slower paced.
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2D platformers are great. It's a genre of game that has been around for a very long time, and is at its core extremely simple and intuititve. I think one reason platformers have enjoyed so much popularity in the past is that they are very easy to see what is going on visually, and they can be as easy or challenging as a developer wants to make it. Compared to many other genres platformers are easy to make and easy to play, but can be hard to master.

The framework of a platformer is so simple that you can add a twist or a new mechanic to make very different experiences. Compare Super Mario Bros to LIMBO to Fez to Castlevania Symphony of the Night to Super Contra to Guacamelee.
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It's the kind of game that delayed my getting into video games for a number of years. I was well into my twenties when I started seeing them. The cartoonish look made it clear to me that it was just a kids' thing. In the early 1980s or so, I saw my few-year-old nephew playing them with his mother or grandmother--but they were playing only because he was playing.

So I totally ignored video games and consoles until around 1988, when my wife and I got a PC system and started playing classic games, RPGs, and strategy games.

Around 2008, I bought my wife a Nintendo DS Lite as a sort of gag gift. Hers came with Tetris, but I got a Super Mario Bros game just to make more of a joke out of it (the joke, in case anyone missed it, is giving a kids' toy to a woman in her forties).

She didn't play the Mario game, but I got curious about it and played it myself, just to see what I'd missed out on. I felt silly at first, but it turned out to be quite a good game. With practice, I got a little better. And after a while I got over my notion that cartoonish things are only for kids. (I went on to get Advance Wars and Mario Kart for the DS--both top-notch games.)

I still don't care much for action games of any kind; I'm a turn-based old fogy. But if I were stranded someplace with only Super Mario Bros to entertain me, I wouldn't complain. I've had fun with it before, and I could do it again.
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I grew up with and love them.
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Kevin Brown
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Grew up with them but the shine has largely worn off for me. Typically I avoid them. My reflexes have slowed down in my old age and when I need to jump-jump-dash-double jump-dash-dash-jump I usually only manage jump-jump-dash-double jump-miss the jump-frustration-miss the dash-rage-rage-rage and then I stop playing.

But Ori and the Blind Forest is one of my favorite games from the last 5 years.
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Grew up on them and loved them as well. They're fun.

And it's not just all Mario. There's Sonic, shooters like Metal Slug Contra and Mega Man, "whippers" like Castlevania.

Some of my faves include:
The full Super Mario Bros. series.
Hell, I believe even Super Smash Bros. series counts
Metroid series
Castlevania series
Contra series
Metal Slug series
Actraiser
Ghosts & Goblins series
Sonic The Hedgehog series
Mega Man series
Run Saber
Double Dragon series (not counting perhaps when they went into "full fighting game")
Super Mario Run (yes, the mobile version was a blast)


Some super precision jumps required is fine, but not too many ducks-in-a-row to line up please! Some games gave you a break and gave you an alternative, easier, and less rewarding route (less powerups, coins, etc., whatever), while others let you use some booster to get past it if it got too frustrating). I've read through quite a few FAQs and strategy guides on GameFAQs.com in the days, and you know the author makes no bones about such spots when he says "if you're on an emulator and can abuse save states... now's the time!".

Other hard parts also include boosts of some form (e.g. Later Mario games let you use a powerup prior to or during the level. Megaman X series had Sub Tanks you can use, and refill, for tough boss battles)

If we need to multitask, then for the sake of fun and doable over challenge and "faux achievements", just actually pause the action when you bring up some menu screen.

If the game actually does NOT require variable movement with the analog stick controller, then let us use the cross-key joystick instead! If on Switch, consider supporting the Pro controller b/c of this!
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Sudo Dudaković
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I like them and many memories.
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Mostly nostalgic. They aren't my favorite, but I did play a lot of them growing up, and I'll still dabble with them from time to time. But I won't go out of my way to play them without some other reason prompting me - such as a great story, good puzzles, and awesome artwork to lure me in.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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I also grew up on 2D platformers. The more the merrier!
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I fall asleep when I think about playing them. They're honestly about the lowest-common denominator when it comes to good gaming (just my opinion).

I do and have liked 3D platformers though.

Is Trine considered a 2D platformer or Deadlight? I liked those a bit?
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13 responses about 2D platformers and not one mention of Super Mario Bros. 3? surprise

I'd rank SMB3 as not only one of the best 2D platformers of all time, but one of the best games of all time full stop. The game features a staggering amount of diversity in art design, mechanics, and ingenuity. It was so far ahead of its time that in some ways no game since has ever really matched it. I think people who watch Super Mario Maker levels would be surprised to know just how many stages were inspired or directly lifted from a game released in 1988.

ackmondual wrote:
And it's not just all Mario. There's Sonic, shooters like Metal Slug Contra and Mega Man, "whippers" like Castlevania.

I don't think of Metal Slug as a platformer whatsoever, and a lot of the rest are at best hybrids of different genres and it's questionable if the platforming is what shines in those games. (Maybe Mega Man. The platforming can be quite difficult in those games.) Contra and Castlevania really emphasize their action more than platforming, though it's true that they do have platforming. Food for thought, anyway.
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Lauren Allbritain
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2D platformers are my favorite genre. I first played them (a lot of them) on DOS. The ones on DOS are usually easy. I definitely prefer playing easier platformers like Kirby games (Nightmare in Dream Land, Star Allies) Ice Climber and misc. GBA games. Mario platformers, Donkey Kong games and Mega Man games are too tough for me. I couldn't get past the moving platforms in the Guts Man level of Mega Man.
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They have been my shit since I could hold an NES paddle as a child. I was originally reared on Super Mario Bros and the first couple of Mega Man games and they stayed favorites all my life and all platforms. I've overjoyed at the recent influx of retro-style platformers from indie devs but I've also found out that my reflexes aren't quite what they used to be
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2D platformer and the spinoff genre of metroidvania are two of my favorite genres ever of all time.
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I always loved them, especially the old-school shareware ones in the PC:

Commander Keen (Numerous in the series)
Crystal Caves
Halloween Harry
Duke Nukem (1991) (So much better than the FPS versions.)
Abuse (Might not have been the first with mouse-aiming, but the first to really do it well. Slightly mind blowing.)
Several others whose names escape me.

Plus, of course, many of the NES and SNES greats:
Super Mario Bros. 1/2/3
Castlevania (1986)
Mega Man 2
Mega Man X
And many more.

They seem like a rarity these days, and too many modern ones try to be overly retro (which can be okay, but usually leaves me wanting to play the originals instead), or they go for such a ridiculous difficulty level that they're not fun to just sit down and play.
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Woelf wrote:
or they go for such a ridiculous difficulty level that they're not fun to just sit down and play.


I think it is you that has changed. Many of those games on your list are quite challenging.
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frumpish wrote:
Woelf wrote:
or they go for such a ridiculous difficulty level that they're not fun to just sit down and play.


I think it is you that has changed. Many of those games on your list are quite challenging.
That's entirely possible. I don't have anywhere near as much time to spend on them these days, which is definitely a factor.
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I grew up with them, specifically with the SMB trilogy and Super Mario World.

I rarely play them today (I wouldn't consider genres like Metroidvania, Beat'em'ups, or Run-n-gun to be included in the question).

I've always felt that there are a number of misconceptions swirling around the genre that all come back to the same unwillingness or inability to give Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo full credit for what they did.

Today, you get people who dismiss platforming as outdated. The reasoning goes: they were fun because we didn't have anything better. We look back on them fondly out of nostalgia. But even at the time, other companies frantically tried to cash in on the success of Super Mario Bros, and *very* few of them were successful. You could play most platformers back then for 30 seconds and know immediately that they were not designed mechanically or spatially with anywhere near the same vision. Many of them had a fool's understanding: you move from left to right and navigate around obstacles? What's there to know?

Turns out, a lot.

Miyamoto himself largely killed 2D platforming by creating Super Mario 64, one of the most influential and forward-thinking games of ever made. So that spelled the end for empty-headed copying in 2D and gave Nintendo their own path forward. But for the most part, when Nintendo gets around to a modern 2D platformer, they still know what they're doing (New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn etc).

Occasionally, you get indie 2D platformers and some of them get at least some things right. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is pretty sound, mechanically, but quite ill-conceived in terms of whole-level design. As a platformer, LittleBIGPlanet is actually pretty bad, but it shines through in a few ancillary ways. LittleBIGPlanet 2 improves upon the first game to the extent that it moves on from 2D platforming. You also have games like Unravel, which are just bad - heavy on art style, low on carefully crafted gameplay.

Which goes back to the fool's understanding: you move from left to right and navigate around obstacles. What's there to know?

(The last time I played a brilliant non-Nintendo 2D platformer was probably Rayman Origins, a huge achievement that Ubisoft immediately gave up on by pandering to mobile audiences in Rayman Legends)
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Not my thing. I lack the hand/eye coordination.

Though Thomas Was Alone is an exception to many of my preferences including the platformer one. The others include preferring people/charismatic animals, hating "Winnie the Pooh" style narration, and throwing away any game that requires me to double jump.

Thomas Was Alone is too good of a story to give up on, and I like its cooperative/squad-based elements.
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Mysti_Fogg wrote:

Though Thomas Was Alone is an exception to many of my preferences including the platformer one.


I'm glad you brought this up; I hadn't thought about Thomas Was Alone in a while.

For me, it's a very good game while being a solid platformer. I feel like the platforming is competent, consistent, and a bit slower-paced, but a good vehicle for the charming story, and the playfulness of even having a story that is about rectangular blocks.
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For me, 2D platformers is the base of all video games that I enjoy. It's comfortable and known, and I can immediately connect. Usually, games that includes but doesn't only contain some 2d platforming is a game that I'm likely to like. Metroidvanias are still one of my absolutely favourite genres.

However, these days, games that only or mostly rely on platforming are not enjoyable for me, as they tend to skewer the difficulty to a level where I'm not enjoying myself the least (Celeste, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams)

wytefang wrote:
Is Trine considered a 2D platformer or Deadlight? I liked those a bit?


Those are prime examples of games that also have other aspects, and that don't only rely on platforming. But yeah, both of them required some jumping-whatever skill and stuff, but mixed that with some puzzles (and fighting, in the case of Trine). If you liked Deadlight, you might be interested in Another World, or Limbo, though they are way more punishing. Also, I recently played The Way, which had a decent amount of platforming + logical puzzled + point-and-click.

JohnRayJr wrote:
Occasionally, you get indie 2D platformers and some of them get at least some things right. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is pretty sound, mechanically, but quite ill-conceived in terms of whole-level design. […] You also have games like Unravel, which are just bad - heavy on art style, low on carefully crafted gameplay.


Interesting. For the record, I found Unravel 2 to be absolutely super duper charming, and I loved it. I found Giana Sister Twisted Dreams to be extremely and utterly disappointing, and abandoned it to never look back.
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