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What is a Platformer?

Definition of the Platformer Video Game Genre

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What is a Platformer Video Game?

A platfomer is a video game in which the game-play revolves heavily around players running and jumping onto platforms, floors, ledges, stairs or other objects depicted on a single or scrolling game screen. First developed back in the early 1980s, platformers are one of the earliest genre of video games. While it's debated which game actually started the platformer genre, it's clear that early classics such as Donkey Kong, Space Panic, and Mario Bros were very influential and all had a hand in shaping the genre.

Single Screen Platformers

Single screen platformers, as the name suggests, are played on a single game screen and typically contain obstacles the player must avoid and an objective he or she tries complete. The best example of a single screen platformer is Donkey Kong, where Mario travels up steel platforms while dodging and jumping barrels being thrown down at him. Once the single screen's objective is complete the player typically moves on to a different screen with the same or new objective.

Side and Vertical Scrolling Platformers

Side and vertical scrolling platformer games on the other hand, have a game screen/background that moves or scrolls along as the player moves towards the edges of the screen. Many side scrolling platformers are also characterized by having multiple levels, each ending in a boss fight before advancing to the next level. Examples of side scrolling platformers include classics such as Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pitfall!

Decline and Resurgence

As graphics have become more advanced and video games in general more complex, the popularity of the platformer genre has declined considerably. According to the video game developer website Gamasutra, platformers only accounted for a 2% share of the video game market as of 2002. In more recent years however, the popularity of the Nintendo Wii's virtual console and other classic game packs has helped introduce many classic Atari, Nintendo, SEGA and other console platformers to a new generation of gamers and may, hopefully, breathe new life into the genre.

My list of Top Freeware Platformers include some classic remakes as well as original PC titles such as Icy Tower that can be downloaded and played on your PC for free.

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