When I think of video games, the only genre that comes to mind immediately is platforming. To me, platforming is the only genre that is unique to gaming; Other genres are deliverable in other fashions. For example, RPGs you can get from tabletop gaming. Action games you can get from watching a high octane movie or television show. Sports games… well, you can go outside and play actual football. But quality platform action is hard to come by outside of a controller and television screen.
Though many critics praised the Dagger of Time aspect of gameplay, which allowed the player to rewind time and give them a second chance on any missed platforming stunts, it was the clever puzzles and intimate platforming locations that really drew me in. The influence of the time manipulation did have its lasting effects, as it would later show up in other games, including one on this very list.
9. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Sly Cooper isn’t the most original platforming adventure ever to hit consoles, even upon its release in 2002. So why is the drudgery of item collecting, enemy stomping and pit jumping a work of art here, but a tedious and generic workout in games like Ty the Tazmanian Tiger, Spyro, and Croc? Because the presentation is kick ass. Between the cel-shading, stealth elements, and the heist-film storyline, Sly Cooper takes the cliche platforming elements and freshens them up with quality atmosphere and some of the most fun boss battles this side of Super Mario 64. It’s no coincidence that Sly Cooper was included our 10 Games with Oscar Worthy Voice Acting list.
Hell, even anthropomorphic animals are a stigma of cutesy platform video games, and somehow Sucker Punch Productions got around that one as well. Put simply, Sly Cooper is just one charming little raccoon thief.
Tim Schafer, mad genius of video games and the force behind the upcoming (and much hyped) Brutal Legend, released an under-performing but much loved platform game in 2005 called Psychonauts, starring a young cadet training to become a “paranormal paratrooper”. The game is a quirky adventure that is filled to the brim with irreverent humor, great voice work, brilliant level design and a truly visceral visual experience.
Of course, as most games of such high artistic relevance often do, the game failed commercially and that was that. Had the game been released only a couple of years later, perhaps on the thriving XBLA or WiiWare market (albeit perhaps a bit scaled down), it’s amazing to think of what a success it could have been. In any event, you can’t keep a good man down, and Schafer will soon be back, with Jack Black in tow, for Brutal Legend.
I still have this VHS tape, and I recall watching it eagerly over and over again – mind you, it’s only about 15 minutes long – day after day, in anticipation of my allowance finally building up enough to the point where I could go to Babbage’s and buy the damn thing. My goal was soon reached, and I haven’t stopped playing since.