Monday, December 28, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Five Platformers

A genre so nice and enjoyable that it annually gets its own awards category here as the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards continue! It's the platformer, my personal favorite genre of game, so if there were any other type of game that deserved its own category, I just don't see it! Fortunately, despite 2020 being a gnarly year in general, it was a fantastic year for platformers, as evident by this upcoming countdown. The genre sees more and more releases, and plenty of them are terrific. Here's hoping the platformer renaissance continues into 2021! For now, let's take a look back at the year that was with the Top Five Platformers of 2020!

5) Shantae and the Seven Sirens (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Initially released as an Apple Arcade exclusive last year, Shantae and the Seven Sirens arrived on consoles and PC this past spring, bringing back the half-genie hero and putting her on an adventure on an island to rescue the other captured half-genies in this wonderful Metroidvania game. The way that Shantae's transformation abilities were seamlessly integrated into the game rather than forcing players to enter a quick select menu to transform, meant for a snappier, faster-paced game. Whether she dashes across maps or climbs walls as a newt or burrows under sand like a drill, Shantae has the skills to take down whatever nefarious force is behind the half-genies' capture. Shantae and the Seven Sirens was a welcome return to the Metroidvania formula that Half-Genie Hero abandoned, and ultimately the full experience overall worked really, really well. Hence the game's placement at the start of this best platformers of 2020 countdown.

4) Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (PS4, XB1)

Crash Bandicoot was back, and he was joined by a motley crew of playable characters, such as Coco, Tawna, Dingodile, and even Dr. Cortex himself in one time trip of an adventure. Crash and Coco never felt better than before with responsive platforming goodness, new moves via the mask abilities, and generally smart and clever level design that used myriad tricks and gimmicks to keep the game fresh. By no means is the experience perfect, as some of the Cortex sections offer a bit of imprecision, and levels--albeit extremely well made--tend to run overly long in the duration department. And forget about trying to complete the game with the top percentage--you'll go mad like a certain aforementioned scientists. Still, the quality of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time can't be argued against, at least by yours truly, making it arrive at the four spot on this countdown of best platformers of 2020.

3) Super Mario 3D All-Stars (NSW)

As a collection itself, Super Mario 3D All-Stars offered higher resolution visuals and little else new, but as for the games themselves, these are some of the best 3D platformers on offer to date--and then, of course, there's Super Mario Sunshine. No, no. I kid, Sunshine fans. The game might have a multitude of issues, but it's still a greater platformer than so many of its rivals and contemporaries alike. Super Mario 64, meanwhile, is still a marvel to play, and as important to gaming as ever. Finally, Super Mario Galaxy remains a near-perfect 3D platformer for me, offering an abundance of creativity in its levels, concepts, and execution. Really, if this was a collection of new platformers, Super Mario 3D All-Stars would easily be at the top of this list, but considering this is a collection of remastered games, it'll have to do with number three on the countdown. Seeing its competition ahead, that's still high praise for an adequately assembled collection of masterful games.

2) Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XB1, NSW, PC)

Ori and the Blind Forest already amazed with its brilliance, whether that be in its gorgeous, breathtaking visuals or its precision platforming prowess. Ori and the Will of the Wisps took the foundation laid down by its predecessor and improved upon it in utterly remarkable fashion. Adding a slew of new mechanics alongside familiar old ones such as the ability to chain bash attacks to launch Ori off enemies and projectiles alike for greater height and distance, little spirit Ori never felt better to control. The world, too, put these abilities to great use, delivering challenging platforming gameplay alongside presenting a mysterious and whimsical series of areas to enjoy exploring. Ori and the Will of the Wisps didn't just make for a stronger outing than its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest; it made for a stunning and stellar platformer period.

1) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

It almost seems like blasphemy, but I think I preferred Sumo Digital's Sackboy: A Big Adventure more than Nintendo EAD's own Super Mario 3D World. Perhaps my opinion will change come February when that game is re-released on the Switch, but Sackboy's latest outing offers so much greatness packed into its virtual stuffing. From the copious amounts of creative, clever, and interesting level designs--where I literally felt I couldn't stop playing because I wanted to see what the designers would present to me next in the game's levels--to Sackboy actually controlling well without the floaty-ness of past LittleBigPlanet games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure was a total delight for me to play. Certainly, Sackboy might not feel as tight to control as other games on this list, but his repertoire of moves and just playing as the yarned mascot felt fun to control regardless. Between this and the aforementioned stellar level design, and you have my pick for the top platformer of 2020. Well done, Sumo Digital.


Later in the evening I invite you to join me as the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards chugs along and enters remake and remaster territory with the Top Five Best Remakes/Remasters from the past year. The award show fun continues until the new year, so be there!

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