Here’s a timeline consisting of major platform games over time with focus on milestone games that set new precedents and expectations of the genre.
Created by legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong stars a character known as Jumpman (who would later become Mario) who must climb a very tall building to save Pauline from the menacing Donkey Kong. Many of the genre’s conventions can be seen here, in the first true platformer, as the aptly-named Jumpman leapt across platforms, jumped over barrels and other obstacles, climbed ladders, and fought with hammer items to rescue a fair maiden.
Donkey Kong Jr.
Super Mario Brothers
Probably the most influential game in the genre, many concepts now taken for granted were developed in this game, another Shigeru Miyamoto masterpiece. Unlike most previous platformers, Super Mario Brothers did not take place on a single screen, but instead scrolled smoothly through varied environments. Its clever jumping puzzles and many hidden secrets make it an inspiration for many future platformers.
Ghosts n’ Goblins
Super Mario Brothers 2 (Japan)
Wonder Boy/Adventure Island
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Super Mario Brothers 2 (USA)
Super Mario Brothers 3
Super Mario World
Sonic the Hedgehog
For the launch of their Genesis console, Sega gave its developers the task of creating a mascot that could sell one million units and give Sega a head start against Nintendo. After going through a number of ideas, Yuji Naka (programmer), Naoto Oshima (character designer), and Hirokazu Yasuhara (game designer) came up with a blue hedgehog. Unlike the Mario games, Sonic was built around the idea of speed. Sonic uses this speed to combat the evil Dr. Eggman, who is kidnapping Sonic’s animal friends and using them as energy sources for his robots. Sonic’s cool design led to an entire subgenre of 1990s platformers starring animals with attitude.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Created by Masahiro Sakurai and Satoru Iwata (who is now the president of Nintendo), the Kirby games are less about precision platforming (Kirby, who can float indefinitely, is rarely in danger of dying from falling) and more about clever use of items. Kirby can suck up enemies, many of which will give him a unique ability.
Rocket Knight Adventures
Super Mario 64
Just like Donkey Kong and Super Mario before it, Super Mario 64 is an important milestone in platform games. It is the foundation upon which most other 3D platformers are built. It introduced analog control, a hub world from which other levels are accessed, and wide open levels built for exploration.
Sonic’s move to 3D once again moved in a different direction than Mario. Despite using a similar hub word, the levels in Sonic Adventure were more linear, and again, focused on speed. Also introduced were a number of new characters, designed to mix other play styles with the traditional platformer.
Sonic Adventure 2
Jak and Daxter
Super Mario Galaxy
Some platformers over the years have included mechanics usually associated with other genres.
Castlvania: Symphony of the Night
Run and Gun Platfomers
Ratchet and Clank
Platfomers are one of the most popular genres used in the making of licensed games; that is, games that are based on some existing property. Licensed games have a reputation for not being very good, but there have been some quality titles.
Disney’s Duck Tales