The Death of the Platformer

Mel discusses why platformers are perceived as a dying breed.

By Mel Turnquist. Posted 09/02/2011 15:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

The lack of platformers makes me sad panda

The platformer seems to be a dying video game genre, according to some folks. What was once the bread and butter of Nintendo’s industry has fallen by the wayside in favor for shooters, fighters, sandbox games, adventure games and RPGs. The platformer seems like it may have run its course; however, is it really as much of a dying breed as it’s made out to be? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Now, let’s be honest here; the platformer can be pretty boring. All you do is jump from platform to platform and just try to reach the goal. It can get boring and to a point where you feel like everything is done. However, the key to making it not so boring is to bring something new to the table. Metroid and Castlevania combined the adventure genre with a fantastic platforming mechanic which allowed you to go back to your locations just in case you missed something, unlike most other games. Super Mario 64 brought 3D into the equation and even the concept of a hub world connecting to all the other worlds. Super Mario Galaxy brought in some fantastic twists to the platform as well, using gravity and interplanetary travel to help save the princess. Some folks may just think of it as being just the same old donkey but it has a monkey riding on it. Perhaps it may be, but since when is that a bad thing?

Just because something has been done time and time again doesn’t make it any less fun or any less boring, unless if you choose to make it so. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is probably one the most fun video game experiences I’ve had in a while. It’s a game I can go back to at anytime and I just have a blast playing it. It’s simple but it’s fun to work towards the goal no matter how many times you play it because it never seems to bore itself out. It may not be the most original thing out there and the whole plot of saving the Princess is so overdone, but honestly, it’s not about saving the Princess. It’s about the adventure you have along the way and the hard work you put into finally beating the game. Peach is just an excuse to go out and have fun for Mario, at least in my opinion.

Kirby's Epic Yarn screenshot
Some people might accuse Epic Yarn of not reinventing the wheel but sometimes if it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it.

I think the reason why people seem to think that platformers are dying is because they don’t think that anything else can be done with it. They think that it’s been done so many times over and that it’s time for the more “grown up” type of games to take over as the kings of the video game industry. My thought is that if you don’t like platformers– that’s fine. I can see why people don’t like them. However, they’re not going away anytime soon. As long as there’s platformers, there’ll be someone finding a new way or a new twist to it.

Say what you want about Kirby’s Epic Yarn about how easy it is, but you got to admit that Good-Feel and HAL Laboratories did something new. They created a stunningly beautiful world that looks like an arts and crafts project and utilized it to its best ability. They found new ways of helping reach the goal and they instituted some very clever mechanics with the patches and the usage of zippers and buttons. It’s a fantastic game to experience, even if you may beat it in one sitting. Of course, one can argue that they also ripped off LittleBigPlanet, but I think those are two different games with the similar aesthetic.

The platformer is a genre that seems to also never get that much respect. Whenever you hear anything about potential Games of the Year (other than LittleBigPlanet) these games are always thrown by the wayside and dismissed in favor of other games. Is it because it’s not so dark and gritty? Is it because of a bias towards FPS or sandbox games in this modern age? Or maybe it really is because of the lack of originality in the eyes of others? All I know is that whenever there seems to be any discussions, platformers seem to get the “Great Game, but…” stock phrases and it really annoys me.

So before I go wandering off in stranger pastures thanks to my poor attention span, I should probably wrap this up. So, is the platformer a dying breed? Personally, I say no. I think as long as there’s someone out there willing to make platformers, there’ll be evolutions that will be made and people that will play them, even if it’s only me. However, that all really depends on if people are willing to make them and willing to take those risks. If they don’t on either point, then perhaps the platformer is a dead man walking.

The future of video games is always strange and always unpredictable, so I think the best way to get the answers on this is to just wait and see.

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