Everyone knows that Mario, while not solely responsible for the advent of platforming, was instrumental in showing literally everyone how to do it correctly. The following games took those lessons to heart, and some even gave the genre their own unique twist.
Kid Chameleon (Genesis): Forget about Sonic. While the hedgehog was doing his own thing, this was SEGA’s attempt at a full-on Mario clone, complete with power-ups hidden in blocks with a typographical character upon them (in this case, a “P”). The level design was anything but linear, as some levels had multiple exits, some of which knocked you backwards! The multitude of themed suits was also clearly inspired by Super Mario Bros 3. Let us not forget the final battle of said incredible game, which involves fighting five dozens floating heads on top of one another screaming “DIE!” at you. Wow.
PLOK (Super NES): This British-designed masterpiece also has different suits, as above, but has a unique 16-bit aesthetic and a fantastic soundtrack on top of its solid gameplay. What’s not great about letting fabric limbs fly and uncovering literally nearly one secret stage or area per level? This one was, unfortunately, lost in a sea of uninspired platformer mascots like Titus the Fox and Bubsy the Bobcat, both of which were super-lame.
Rocket Knight Adventures (Genesis): Like PLOK, Sparkster was also lost in the shuffle of ubiquitous and generic cartoon animals, which is a shame because his first game was simply a masterpiece of game design, spearheaded by the guy that created Contra. Plus, there were a couple of flying shooter stages, too! And let us not forget the incredible giant robot battles which were in no way superfluous.
Klonoa (PSX/Wii): The original PSX version of Klonoa bucked the trend of 3D and became one of the first great “2.5D” games ever. It used the 3D graphics to create a world that spiraled around its hero. It also had a cuteness factor about three times the speed of light. They have their own nonsense language — no, it’s not Japanese — but you can make them speak like normal people if you want in the Wii version.
Bionic Commando (NES): Capcom took an average arcade game and turned it into one of the most inventive platformers of the 8-bit generation by making it the first of its kind without any jumping. Since all of the game is based around using the bionic arm, developers had to get uber-creative. Sometimes, it takes five times longer to get up to a platform with a bionic arm than it would for Mario to do it with one bounce. And what look at Bionic Commando would be complete without referencing Hitler’s head exploding?
Drill Dozer (GBA): This gem was developed by Game Freak, who we know better as the people who crank out all those Pokémon games. Turns out they can make some other pretty good stuff, too, as Drill Dozer is a creative as 2D platformers come, with both jumping and drilling working in tandem. No pink or yellow monsters to battle, but there is some pink hair… Look for heroine Jill’s cameo in Super Smash Bros. Brawl!