Indie Platformer Classics

The next game in the Indie Platformer Marathon is taking longer to complete than expected, so I figured I’d tide things over by covering some other classic indie platformers you might be interested in. Some I’ve already posted about on this blog; be sure to read about LIMBO, Trine (actually this may not technically be indie), Spelunky (the original freeware version), VVVVVV, Stealth Bastard (which recently got a fancy new for-sale version), Treasure Adventure Game (which has a semi-remake called Treasure Adventure World in development), Noitu Love 2, Poacher, You Have To Win The Game, Moustache King Adventure, Red Rogue, and Endless Forms Most Beautiful, if you haven’t already. And don’t miss my previous round-up of super-hard platformers, if you’re into a bit of challenge. But there are many others that I haven’t posted about, or have only mentioned in passing, and I figured they deserve highlighting as well. Click through to read about some of them.

The first game I’d like to highlight is Aquaria, which I played a few years before starting this blog. It’s an exploration game, and some might argue that it’s not a platformer since most of the time you’re swimming around instead of jumping on platforms, but it felt enough like a platformer to me. Recalling classic exploration platformers like Super Metroid, it provides a massive world to explore, and both the hand-drawn graphics and music are absolutely beautiful. With tons of content and a lot of polish, I often forgot that it isn’t a AAA game. It’s definitely worth the price of admission. Fun fact: Derek Yu was one half of the two-person team who made Aquaria, although he may be better known for running the TIGSource site and making Spelunky.

Another game that’s well worth your time is Iji, by Daniel Remar. If you are deterred by the relatively simple graphic style, don’t be. It looks surprisingly good in motion, and the game itself is really well made. While it offers a set of levels rather than a seamless world, the levels are full of alternate routes and devious secrets. Inspired by games like Deus Ex and System Shock 2, Iji lets the player develop skills in different areas. If you want to focus on straight combat, you can increase skills with each of the awesome weapons, or even build your own new ones. If you’d rather be more stealthy, you can hack enemies so their weapons backfire on them, or simply focus on your agility to move through situations without combat. It’s even possible to complete the game without killing anyone, and the detailed story adapts to your choices at different points. It’s the kind of game you’ll want to go through several times to see how events change and to find all the secrets. And best of all, it’s completely free!

Eversion is an interesting little game. Originally made for the TIGSource Commonplace Book competition, it’s now got a commercial release on Steam. What begins as a bright, innocent Mario-esque platformer soon becomes something else entirely. Definitely worth a play.

Want a good two-player game? Check out Cowboyana, a game about cowboys. It’s a series of vignettes, endlessly running into one another. Sometimes you and your compatriot are teaming up to rob a train, other times you’re pouring whiskey for each other. Your performance in a scene determines your role in the next; if you’ve done particularly poorly, you might find yourself controlling your friend’s horse as he flees bandits. Scenes are separated by snippets of cowboy poetry. I love the reloading mechanic, which requires you to fan the directional keys to reload each chamber of your revolver. I recommend setting up a gamepad for this, even though you’ll have to program the buttons yourself.

Somehow I’ve gotten to this point without mentioning games by Nifflas (check the game links on the right). Oops. Best known for the Knytt series (Knytt, Knytt Stories, and the upcoming Knytt Underground) which are relaxing exploration platformers, he’s also made Within A Deep Forest and NightSky, both challenging games in which you control a ball. I’ve been meaning to check out his larger project Saira but never got around to it. Knytt, Knytt Stories and Within A Deep Forest are free and should give a good idea of whether you want to splash out for his for-sale games. I did for NightSky and had a great time.

Those looking for a real challenge should check out La-Mulana. I played the original freeware release, which was an ode to the MSX computer system, but there’s now a fancy new upgraded version. This game hearkens back to times when figuring out how to proceed in a game could be seriously difficult, and players could spend weeks searching for solutions. It’s packed with tough puzzles and is far bigger than you might expect at first. I admit that I chickened out and checked a walkthrough for much of the game. Still, it’s definitely an interesting project, and a look at what games might be like if they’d followed a different evolutionary path.

If you’re looking for more free games to play, I had a good time with Momodora II, a short exploration platformer. In a nice inversion of the norm, all the characters happen to be female, instead of defaulting to male. It’s well-made, and I enjoyed it much more than the first Momodora game (which is also free, if you’re interested). Fight things with a leaf! The quality soundtrack is also available for free.

Tired of all these exploration platformers? You could do worse than the A Game With A Kitty Series, which are clearly inspired by the Mario games, especially Super Mario World. I’m saddened to find that the creator’s site is throwing up a malware warning in my browser now [EDIT: malware warning gone, so I added the link]. I hope that’s not actually true, but for now I decided against linking to it. Still, it’s worth investigating these. I’ve played the first two, and spent some time with the third, but wasn’t as impressed with it. I also enjoyed Stargirl And The Thief From The Exploded Moon, which has an excellent title in addition to being another quality platform game. These games are all available for free as well.

Don’t want to download anything? There are plenty of browser-based options available. One that I quite liked was Endeavor, which is yet another exploration platformer but has a cool climbing mechanic where the little dwarf’s stamina level determines how long he can hold on. Upgrading his stamina lets you reach new areas. Lots of vertical exploration.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of games. And, as the Indie Platformer Marathon has revealed, there are plenty I haven’t played yet. Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments!

EDIT: I knew I forgot one! Bonesaw: The Game (scroll down) doesn’t really make sense until you read up on the strange relationship between the Clarkson Golden Knights hockey team and a scene in the 2002 Spiderman film. Then it still doesn’t make much sense, because you’re a hockey player in a bizarre platforming world full of jump pads and spikes, battling other hockey players and building up enough energy to unlock the mighty power of the Bonesaw. It’s a very difficult but very well-designed game, with a fantastic learning curve that will truly make you a master before you reach the end. It’s also quite lengthy, with tons of secrets and a bunch of cool bosses to fight, and it’s completely free!

EDIT: The Indie Platformer Marathon is now complete! See all the posts here.

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3 Responses to Indie Platformer Classics

  1. Gregg B says:

    Wow Walter, that’s quite a list! Clearly you’ve been playing a lot of them over the years. Many of these I still need to check out, Spelunky, Iji, Limbo, Stealth Bastard, Treasure Adventure Island. I picked up La Mulana the other week on GOG, it might scratch that Metroidvania itch I’ve had for a while.
    A few others to check out: Vessel and… what’s it called? Ah! Coincidentally the first entry in the 250 Indie Games You Must Play book by Mike Rose — Star Guard. That’s a great little platforming shooter. Also: Queens, Cave Story (I suspect you’ve played this!), And Yet It Moves and Eversion. I ought to say Terraria as well because that’s essentially Spelunky and Minecraft tossed in with Castlevania and Metroid.

    • waltorious says:

      Thanks for the suggestions Gregg! I can neither confirm nor deny that Vessel may or may not be slated to appear in the Indie Platformer Marathon. I have played Star Guard, and it’s another great game. And I have played Cave Story (I think I mentioned it in my earlier post about super-hard platformers, mainly based on the secret stage), although I’ve been meaning to check out Cave Story +, or whatever the new version is called. And I think you mentioned Queens to me before, so I should probably take a look. Eversion is actually mentioned in this post! But I think you brought it up in a comment a while ago, so it’s OK. I think I got a copy of And Yet It Moves in a bundle somewhere, so I’ll get to that eventually. To be honest, I don’t get the sense that I’d enjoy Terraria, although it certainly is interesting. Maybe I’ll try it someday though.

      So many games to play!

  2. Gregg B says:

    Ahhh, so you did. How the hell did I miss that? Glad you enjoyed that because it’s a bit of an odd one. Very hard but very intriguing. I love the ‘layers’ of the game and the hard won alternative endings.

    I didn’t think I’d enjoy Terraria much but it has a nice atmosphere about it and progression curve. With friends it’s even more fun digging together and finding stuff. I’m yet to check out Cave Story+ for myself. I enjoyed the original despite the difficulty spikes! All done by one guy as well… yeeeesh.

    And yes, so many games…

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