The Best of the Best Issue II: Platformers

The premise of our new “Best of the Best” column is quite simple. We’re going to take a look at all the games that have won various awards over the years and them rank them from best to worst to crown what is, well, “The Best of the Best.” The purpose of this is two-fold. The first is to generate some fun (AND CIVIL) discussions between readers and staff as they agree, disagree and make their own rankings of the award winning games. The second is to look back at the history of Diehard GameFAN and see if we can find any trends in what’s won over the years. Obviously any “Top Whatever” list is highly subjective, so keep that in mind. After all, if you give ten people a list of ten games, the likelihood that even two have them in the same exact order is quite small. So anyone taking this as SERIOUS BUSINESS and getting butt hurt that Game A is ranking higher/lower than Game B will be given a pat on the head and reminded that we’re talking about something as inconsequential to the world as video games and that they should really just relax. Last time we look at the “Game of the Year” award winners. This time we’re doing Platformers.

Of course the joke here is that Platformers are one of my three least favorite genres along with driving games (because they’re nothing LIKE driving) and First Person Shooters. I’m an RPG, Shoot ‘Em Up, RPG, Point and Click Adventure game and Beat ‘Em Up fan primarily. So the fact I’m ranking the platformers should be amusing to long time readers, lets me get this category out of the way and should be an interesting experiment to see how these ten games stack up in the eyes of a person who hates the genre. The good news is I can honestly say I like six of the ten games that have won the award, which shocked me because of the whole “hating the genre” thing. The bad news is that I had to rank my favorite of the ten games dead last.

10. Viewtiful Joe (2003’s Platformer of the Year)

Look, I love Viewtiful Joe. It’s a great game and it should have stayed a GameCube exclusive. It’s one of the few franchises Capcom hasn’t milked to death and the game has aged extremely well. The problem is…it isn’t a platformer. It’s a side-scrolling Beat ‘Em Up. I have no idea how this got to win the Platformer award – probably because I wasn’t in charge back then. My guess is that it’s because we didn’t have an action award that year so multiple genres were lumped together with this misnomer. Kind of like how we had a “Shooter of the Year” award and it was meant to be an FPS award but because of the vague naming, everyone voted for Ikargua instead, because hey, Ikaruga! So yes, while this game is probably my favorite of the ten, we’re ranking platformers rather than random games. Sorry Viewtiful Joe, but you take the number ten spot.

9.Super Mario Galaxy (2007’s Platformer of the Year)

Not a surprise here. As I mentioned in the GOTY award winner column, I don’t get the love for Super Mario Galaxy. I HATED that game. There was absolutely nothing I enjoyed about it and to this day I don’t get the appeal. I tried, I really did, but it was pretty much everything I hate about platformers wrapped up into one. So once again, it’s at the bottom of the barrel. Hey, at least this time it’s not in last place again, right? I honestly feel SMG is up there with Super Mario Sunshine as the worst platformer in the Mario series, but it’s all subjective. At least I’m not in alone in feeling the game has aged poorly and that it is far from a classic game or worthy of the Hall of Fame. It’s definitely my least favorite game on the list and surprisingly, the only platformer here I actually hate.

8. Yoshi’s Island DS (2006’s Platformer of the Year)

See, now we’re all into games I can either quasi-stand or outright enjoy. Yoshi’s Island was a lot of fun to play, taking the core concepts of Super Mario World 2 and improving them in nearly every way. My two big complaints about the game are the story (which was dull and uninteresting) and the fact it felt paint by numbers at time. Still, looking back at 2006, this was an easy winner for the Platformer of the Year award and it would go on to win the Best DS game of the Year award as well, although I disagree with that one because there were far better games released that year for the system. Yoshi’s Island DS ends up with the number eight spot for one big reason: that damn blind spot. If you haven’t played the game than you may recall that the two DS screens don’t match up perfectly, creating a blind spot between the two where stuff is going on, but you can’t see it. This has caused every gamer who has ever played it to lose/die/whatever repeatedly and you would think of all companies, that Nintendo would have prevented that from happening. It was their system after all. Still, aside from that boneheaded move, the game is worthy of being an award winner. It’s a platformer I didn’t hate and that says something.

7. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004’s Platformer of the Year)

I’m not really a fan of the Ratchet and Clank series but this is one of the better R&C titles. This is down towards the bottom for two reasons. The first is that like Bebito, I voted for Jak 3 over this in 2004 and the other is that a large portion of the game, the online multiplayer component, can no longer be accessed, which means well, one of the big selling points of the game is just dead code at this point. I actually played the multi-player with Bebito and Matt Yaeger and had fun doing so, but I found the single player mode to be far less entertaining. Because a big part of the appeal can no longer be accessed, it means the game hasn’t aged well and I have to mark this thing lower than I would have otherwise. I’m not sure if Up Your Arsenal in the PS3 Ratchet & Clank Collection has the multiplayer component intact, but I’m sure it does. However, that too will be shutting down someday, rendering it equally useless and I can only rank the PS2 version here. Alas.

6. Kirby Mass Attack (2011’s Platformer of the Year<)

Kirby is a fun series and one of the few platforming franchises I consider picking up every so often. I have a few Virtual Console games starring the big pink puffball for my 3DS< but honestly, I'd rather have another Adventures of Lolo. Mass Attack was a fun little platformer and although it wasn’t my favorite DS game of 2011, it was still one I had fun fiddling with. I felt that several levels were a bit too long and those caused the game to drag in a few places. The game also didn’t have much of a story. You got a hook at the beginning and an ending, but the rest of the game was just mindless button pressing. I loved the world design, mini games and the entire aspect of having ten mini Kirbys. Mass Effect really gave the Kirby franchise some much needed fresh ideas and I enjoyed it a lot.

5. Super Smash Bros Brawl: The Subspace Emissary (2008’s Platformer of the Year)

Okay, so this may take a bit of explaining. Most of the Diehard GameFAN staff, past and present, don’t consider the SSB series to be fighting games. They’re platformers. Is a bulk of gameplay jumping oriented? Check. Is a huge part of the game jumping from platform to platform? Check. Do you die if you fall? Check. IT’S A PLATFORMER. Even though some deluded gamers still try to cling to the series as one in the fighting game genre, Super Smash Bros. Brawl should have broken that delusion once and for all. Not only did the creator, Masahiro Sakurai, repeatedly refer to the series as a platformer, but he made the big push for Brawl to feature a long in-depth and interconnected story mode that was one big platformer, while the multiplayer content, being mostly an afterthought. We all agreed that Super Smash Bros. Brawl was fun, but that it was in no way a fighting game. We did feel that “Adventure Mode” aka “The Subspace Emissary” was a really enjoyable platformer. It was funny, it explained how characters from all these different games ended up together and it took Sonic to save the day. So while SSSB had no chance of winning the fighting game of the year award, especially when games like Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe came out to a huge resurgence that year, “The Subspace Emissary” really was the most fun any of us had with a platformer that year and so it got the duke. Some readers cried foul, sticking to the, “but it’s a fighting game” fantasy, but honestly, if you’ve even played a few levels of “The Subspace Emissary” and you don’t consider it a platformer than man, I don’t know what to tell you. Anyway, TSSE is a fun experience, but it was one I played once, enjoyed immensely…and then never played again. I had a great deal of fun with it, but unlike the next four games in our countdown, I’ve never had the desire to pick this up again.

4. Dokuro (2012’s Platformer of the Year)

Although relatively new, I really enjoy Dokuro. It’s a puzzle/platformer hybrid and like Ashe, it quickly won me over. It has a really fun and whimsical storyline about a skeleton deciding to be the hero instead of bad guy cannon fodder so he helps the princess his master had kidnapped escape by guiding her through a LOT of short but highly entertaining levels. Each level should take about a minute to get through, but only after you have figured out the actual puzzle. The skeleton can turn into a heroic prince after drinking a potion a few levels in, giving him two very different sets of powers. The end result is some short platforming levels that test your mental muscles as much as your hand-to-eye coordination. The art style is gorgeous and highly striking and the entire game is down in the Miminalist style. It’s as much fun to look at as it is to play through and it’s one of those games that conveys so much while barely saying a word. The game makes great use of the Vita’s touchscreens and the fact it debuted with only a twenty dollar price tag, while offering more playtime and content than most sixty dollar games, was just icing on the cake. In time, Dokuro might not age as well, but right now I still enjoy going through the game when I have only five-fifteen minutes to spare and try to beat old level times or find some coins I missed on the original playthrough of a level. It’s really one of the best platformers I’ve ever played and easily the best for the Playstation Vita.

3. Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2010’s Platformer of the Year)

I know, right? A LICENSED PLATFORMER making it up this high on the countdown? Aren’t those usually horribly? Well, not in this case. In fact, it’s one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. Unlike poor Viewtiful Joe, this game is actually a blend of beat ’em up awesomeness and classic old school side scrolling platforming. The game makes great use of the license, is extremely fun to play, offers drop-in and out co-player action and uses the writers and voice actors from the TV show. Even Widro, our biggest platformer fan on the team, raved about this game. When the biggest platformer fan and the biggest platformer detractor both adore the same game, you know it’s something extraordinary. Best of all, The Brave and the Bold is actually four platformers in one. Each game features Batman teaming with a different ally (Robin, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle and Hawkman), meaning each one plays slightly differently, but each are as long as most old school platformers (an hour to three, depending on your skill level). Each platformer is also laid out like an episode of the cartoon series, meaning you have a short little one level platformer to start things off and then the core adventure, which consists of many stages, a lot of fights and even more jumping. This game is awesome and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has played it that didn’t adore it and praise it nigh zealously. Seriously, if you’ve missed out on this Nintendo Wii game, you need to at least try it and see why it was not only one of the best games of 2010, but is also proof the Wii had a lot of great third party releases if you bothered to look for them.

2. Psychonauts (2005’s Platformer of the Year)

…and the runner up is a game that may not have sold well, but still has a massive cult following to this day. I love Psychonauts and it was really hard NOT to give it the number spot. I mean really hard. The characters are awesome, the story is one of the funniest and most entertaining I’ve ever sat through and the game is just well done in nearly every way. There’s only one thing that kept Psychonauts from the top spot on this countdown and that’s the Meat Circus. Wow, is that last level just nasty across the board. It’s like SNK End Boss cruel and I know so many people that were addicted to the game until they hit the Meat Circus and eventually threw the controller down in disgust. So while Psychonauts is nearly perfect in every way, the Meat Circus is Borgan from Lunar: Eternal Blue horrible. As I told Matt though, I’d rather play any part of the Meat Circus than any part of Super Mario Galaxy. Ick.

If you haven’t played Psychonauts, you really are missing out on an incredible experience. It’s like five bucks on XBLA or PSN, so you can download it for next to nothing. It’s crazy cheap for the PC these days too, so there’s really no excuse why you haven’t joined the cult of Raz and his friends. There is so much to see, do and fall in love with in Psychonauts. Maybe someday Double Fine will see fit to give us a sequel!

1. A Boy and His Blob (2009’s Platformer of the Year)

…and here we go. The best Platformer of the ten is more than likely one you never played, and because of that, shame on you. A Boy and His Blob is a Nintendo Wii exclusive and once again proof that the Wii had an amazing assortment of top tier third party games, but because most Nintendo system owners only play Nintendo published games on them, they missed out on some truly great titles. I’d even go so far as to say that this remake is superior to the original NES A Boy and His Blob in every way. This game is fun to play, the graphics are gorgeous, and you just can’t help going “Awwwwww” at the level of cuteness that his the relationship between the Boy and the Blob. Not only did A Boy and His Blob win the “Best Platformer” award from us, but it also won “Best Wii Game” and “Best All Ages” game. In fact it was even a runner up for Game of the Year, which it lost to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Everyone who played this game went nuts over it and even today, it’s pretty close to being the best platformer I’ve ever played. It does nothing at all wrong and I can’t imagine anyone NOT fawning all over this once they’ve experienced. The game received universal acclaim when it came out and even now I can’t think of a platformer I’d rather play through than this one. SMB3? I’d rather play this. Sonic 1 & 2? I’d rather play this. Seriously, if you have somehow missed out on A Boy and His Blob for the Nintendo Wii, than shame on you. This game is one of the reasons to not only own a Nintendo Wii, but it’s proof to even me, the ultimate anti-platformer gamer, than the genre is capable of producing some truly wonderful games that anyone can enjoy.

There we are! A full countdown of the ten “Plaformer of the Year” award winners from 2003 to 2013. Would you rank these in the same exact order? Most than likely no. Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on these games, as well as the order you’d rank them in. We’ll close at this column with statistics time!

Developers That Have Won the Platformer of the Year Award:
Artoon: Once
Capcom Production Studio 4: Once
Double Fine Games: Once
Game Arts: Twice
Hal Labs: Once
Insomniac Games: Once
Nintendo: Once
Wayforward: Twice

Publishers That Have Won the Platformer of the Year Award:
Capcom: Once
Gung Ho: Once
Majesco: Twice
Nintendo: Four Times
Sony: Once
Warner Home Games: Once

Systems That Have Won the Platformer of the Year Award:
Multi-System Game: Once
Nintendo Game Cube: Once
Nintendo DS: Twice
Nintendo Wii: Four Times
Sony Playstation 2: Once
Sony Playstation Vita: Once



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3 responses to “The Best of the Best Issue II: Platformers”

  1. Aaron Sirois Avatar

    And you see, A Boy and His Blob still has nothing on the game that SHOULD have won platformer of the year in 2009. That would be Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.

    I will never let that go.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar
      Alexander Lucard

      Heh. Some award every year triggers that emotion in a staffer. Unfortunately, you were pretty much alone in the Henry Hatsworth camp.

  2. Sean Madson Avatar

    I’m glad I wasn’t around for the “SSBB isn’t a fighting game” argument. That could’ve gotten ugly. ;)

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