Whether 2D or 3D, the platformer is my favorite genre of game. That's why I'm always happy to have a mighty fine selection of platformers to choose from each year for this very special, near and dear to my gamer heart awards category. From mobile runners starring familiar game characters to reboots starring unlikely allies, this top five list of my favorite platformers runs the gamut of great jump 'n runs!
5) Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Multi)
A successful Kickstarter gave developer WayForward the ability to create and launch the fourth entry in the Shantae franchise, Half-Genie Hero, just in time for the end of the year! The game features a different structure compared to previous entries, having players return to levels with different animal transformations like an elephant or the all-new spider to reach previously inaccessible locations. The jumping, running, and lashing of Shantae's hair feels the best it ever has, and the aforementioned benefit of returning to levels is something that players will want to do since the game is so much fun. It makes for a game that may star a half-genie, but it's nowhere near a half-hearted effort. (Ugh. Even I groaned at how forced that last line sounded!)
4) Super Mario Run (iOS)
Coming to Android devices next year, Super Mario Run debuted on iOS-compatible devices in the middle of this month, rounding off a year of mobile gaming in style. This auto-runner is simple enough to be accessible to beginning players who may just want to reach each level's end, but it's complicated enough with all of the stunts like wall jumps and vaults that Mario can perform to reach hard to access areas to collect those dastardly pink, purple, and black coins! Nintendo and DeNA successfully transplanted the Mario formula and gameplay to mobile devices, making it work, making it unique, and most importantly, making it fun.
3) Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS)
HAL Laboratory has done really well with the Kirby series as of late. A couple of years ago, Kirby: Triple Deluxe received various honors at the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards, and now it's its successor's turn with Kirby: Planet Robobot. With stages that take clever advantage of the depth that the Nintendo 3DS's stereoscopic 3D provides, sprawling in the foreground as well as background, and new abilities for Kirby to snatch up, even allowing him to pilot a marvelous mech, Kirby: Planet Robobot may not deviate too far from the formula of past games, but it's a finely tuned experience overall. This is pure platforming fun in adorable form, so if it's not too cute for you, then Kirby: Planet Robobot is a recommended purchase for platforming fans with a Nintendo 3DS system.
2) Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (3DS)
Sold separately on the Nintendo 3DS eShop or bundled physically on one game card with the original Azure Striker Gunvolt with the Striker Pack, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 presents to the player an adrenaline-pumping action game that showcases the unique play styles of both Gunvolt and new character Copen. While there is a great focus on blasting enemies to smithereens, there are a multitude of moments where precise platforming is a prerequisite to get by unscathed. While Mighty No. 9 faltered in taking up the mantle of Mega Man-like action platformers, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 feels like a terrific successor to that style of gameplay.
1) Ratchet & Clank (PS4)
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 showed that you don't just need to focus on jumping to have a great platformer. Ratchet & Clank continues to show this with its excellent, near perfect combination of enjoyable platforming and challenging run and gun action. Being a remake of sorts of the very first Ratchet & Clank from 2002, this PlayStation 4 debut of the lombax and robot pair presents many moments where you're engaged in pure platforming, many moments of unadulterated action, and many moments where you get a pleasant mix of the two. It's for these reasons that 2016's Ratchet & Clank is my pick for top platformer this year.