During the late 90s and early 2000’s, the video game industry was on a considerable upswing. Innovation ruled and developers continually created games with unique characters and interesting gameplay mechanics. During this time period, the video game landscape was a hodgepodge of genres. From action-heavy slash fests, to traditional RPGs and puzzle games, each and every month brought something new into the homes of eager gamers.
Of all the genres that saw attention during this era, the platformer was one of the most well-received. Since the dawn of video games, platformers have been available across almost ever console. However, the genre truly came into its own during the PlayStation/Nintendo 64/PlayStation 2 era – with dozens upon dozens of great titles being released each year.
Within the platforming genre as a whole, the robust selection of games available led to a variety of options. Starting from more simplistic 2D platforming games, the genre continued to grow all the way into massive, fully 3D games such as the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64. As platformers became more abundant, some of the best offerings quickly became out shadowed by games featuring company ‘mascots’ that dominated the market.
Below, are five of the best and most underrated platformers of all time. These titles are bursting at the seams with creative characters and enjoyable gameplay. While they haven’t seen the light of day in ages, there is no better time than now for these lovable platformers to make a new appearance on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.
5 – Heart of Darkness
Amazing Studio’s PlayStation 1 platformer, Heart of Darkness, is a game that certainly lives up to its name. Best known for its decidedly gruesome death animations, Heart of Darkness has gained a level of cult-infamy for the game’s violent content while still maintaining and E rating.
Heart of Darkness takes an interesting spin on the platforming genre by throwing players into the shoes of a young boy named Andy who witnesses his dog – named Whiskey, of all things – get kidnapped by shadow-like beings known as The Dark Souls.
Heart of Darkness is a superbly difficult platformer that can continually punish those who are not quick to adapt, which while frustrating at times, adds to a level of intensity to the game.
4 – Jersey Devil
In an era where platforming games seemed to need a mascot to stand out among the rest of the pack, Jersey Devil tried its hardest to compete. Players took control of the titular Cyrptoid, navigating through various locations in search of coins to spell out ‘KNARF’. Collecting the five coins allowed the Jersey Devil to move on to the next stage.
While rough around the edges, Jersey Devil was noted for its darker atmosphere than many of its peers and unique protagonist. The Devil had the ability to jump, spin, push and glide, which allowed for dynamic platforming that both challenged and often made players think.
Sadly, Jersey Devil never caught on after its release. The 3D platformer was quickly overshadowed by over-all clad Plumbers and purple dragons. His last known whereabouts are believed to be somewhere in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.
3 – Mischief Makers
The Nintendo 64’s platformer offerings steer more towards 3D titles, but Mischief Makers stood firmly rooted in two dimensions. The offbeat, cyborg filled world of Mischief Makers allowed the game to stand out from other titles, thanks largely to its speedy gameplay and unique visuals.
Players controlled Marina on a quest to save the constantly-kidnapped Professor Theo. Mischief Makers allowed players to grab just about everything in sight, from enemies to various weapons and environmental elements.
Mischief Makers was met with middling sales upon its stateside release, but has maintained a following in the years since. Those who are looking for a N64 platformer with some serious spunk need to look no further than Mischief Makers.
2 – Ty the Tasmanian Tiger
The PlayStation 2 platformer Ty the Tasmanian Tiger featured an emphasis on collectables as players romped about a fictionalized version of Australia. Ty’s quest to recover Thunder Eggs in hopes to free his family from Dreamland was an enjoyable –if not addicting – journey that resonated with gamers of all ages.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger plays similar to Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot games, and while not quite as perfect, is a game that certainly has charm in spades.
After the success of Ty, developers Krome Studios went on to release two sequels that followed the same formula as the original. The stylized world of Ty is one that has a sense of childlike exploration about it, ensuring that as the years continue to pass, Ty will be a game that fans continue to pick up.
1 – Klonoa
Namco’s Klonoa combined the best elements of both 2D and 3D platformers with a unique 2.5D perspective that featured levels with twists and turns like few others before it.
The cute-yet-stylish characters and visuals worked perfectly for Klonoa’s levels – which were refered to as Visions – and dream-based story.
Klonoa did exceptionally well when it was released in Japan, thanks to the game’s visuals and tight gameplay that allowed for non-traditional platforming. The 2.5D element created an experience that varied enough from traditional platforming games without straying too far into the 3D style.
Klonoa is one of the best kept secrets in the PlayStation’s vast library that practically begs for a playthrough. Despite its sometimes sickeningly cutesy visuals, underneath them lies an enjoyable and tight platformer.
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