Introducing TAG Mount Rushmore
In our last Mount Rushmore, we described Golden Age RPGs. This time around, we’re staying in the Golden Age and discussing Platformers.
We are officially in the twilight years of the 8th generation of video games. Here’s a quick recap of our TAG Ages:
- Golden Age | “The Bit Era”: Nintendo Entertainment System | Gameboy | Sega Genesis | Game Gear | Super Nintendo | Other 3rd + 4th gen consoles
- 3D Age | “The Disc Era”: Playstation | Nintendo 64 | Dreamcast | Playstation 2 | Gamecube | Xbox | Other 5th + 6th gen consoles
- MMO Age | “The Social Era”: Xbox 360 | Playstation 3 | Wii | Other 7th gen consoles
- Present Day | “The Greatness Awaits Era”: Wii U | PS4 | Xbox One | Other 8th gen consoles
Feel free to check out our original Tag Mount Rushmore post on Golden Age RPGs for more details on each era!
Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
At the very base level, platform games (or platformers) have the character move across a level, typically from left to right. Unsurprisingly, you often jump from platform to platform.
The premise is simple, but game developers add their flare to each game by varying the number of vertical levels to the stage, design of the environment, and movement mechanics. Additionally, you’ll often see platform games with attacks to defeat enemies.
Flash is a bigger fan of platformers than Yoshyaes, but we did have a few similarities on our respective lists.
We ranked our favorite Bit Era Platformers individually and then came together to form a combined list. After assigning values for 1st through 4th place, we summed up their total score then ordered this list based on the total.
After compiling our own lists, we polled the Average Gamer community to get additional input.
Without further ado, here is the TAG Mount Rushmore – Golden Age Platformer Edition.
#1. Super Mario World (SNES, 1990)
Julian (1st), Fred (1st)
Super Mario games don’t deviate from the formula much. Princess Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser and its up to Mario to save her. If you want to be a bit more specific, feel free to read up on the actual plot. On the way, Mario visits many worlds and defeat hundreds of foes.
In this version, several Mario staples were introduced. Yoshi, the spin jump, and several new power-ups (including the cape) made their mark in this SNES port.
The king of video games is a plumber and his games never disappoint. My number 1 game was always either going to be Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros 3. Super Mario World edges out its predecessor for me because of a few things:
- The boss battles – The koopalings grew a ton in this entry. Each had its own personality, castle, and showdown. This was a major step up from how they appeared in Super Mario Bros 3.
- Yoshi – Mario’s most trusted sidekick (sorry, Luigi), makes his debut and it adds seemingly unlimited possibilities. Walking or bouncing on danger that would otherwise kill you or completing a yolo jump as you send Yoshi to his demise. Yoshi would always greet you with the same smile next time you saw him.
- Star World and Alternate Exits – Super Mario Bros 3 wasn’t linear. You could skip levels and worlds entirely. Super Mario World added to this diversity by adding the ability to find secret exits to levels. This uncovered different pathing or secret levels. If you were lucky enough you would even find the Star World which allowed for quick traversing of the map.
Again, Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World could easily be 1a and 1b. However, I’m going with the latter as it was a smidge more fun for me growing up.
This one’s a no-brainer. Top-5 for video game music, Yoshi accompanies you through the levels and the variety in level design is extraordinarily high for a SNES game.
The replayability of Mario games are generally high and Super Mario world is no exception. You’ll find yourself returning to previous levels as you unlock new block types on your journey.
There are also so many hidden tubes, treasures and levels to explore. I’m glad Nintendo was able to recapture the feel of SMW in the Wii U insta-classic over two decades later.
#2. Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES, 1995)
Julian (2nd), Fred (N/A)
Donkey Kong Country 2 is the follow up to the Kongs’ adventure to thwart the plans of King K. Rool. This time, Kaptain K. Rool, alias of King, is able to capture Donkey Kong and it’s up to Diddy and Dixie to set him free.
The smaller Kongs capitalize on unique movement attributes as they progress through levels. These levels range from the jungle to pirate ships to snowy and volcanic levels, all requiring precise platforming skills.
My second favorite platformer was another where I could have gone with a different title. Donkey Kong Country 2, for me, was slightly better than the original.
Even with the big guy stepping this one out, Diddy carried Donkey Kong’s torch and brought along Dixie Kong. Diddy’s girlfriend, provided much more survivability than his bruising best friend. Her ability to glide with her hair made a surprisingly demanding game, slightly more manageable.
Along the way, you could team up with the animal buddies ranging from a spider to seal. Even though I preferred the animals from the original more, these critters were still a good addition. Collecting the K-O-N-G letters added difficulty and replayability.
Finally, the music.
Donkey Kong games have always had some of the best music in video game history. David Wise composed the music which really brought the levels to life. Stickerbush Symphony, Mining Melancholy, and Aquatic Ambiance (from DKC 1) are some of my all time favorites.
This game takes all the things that made the first SNES game great and adds cartwheeling youngsters. There are timed challenges, alligator men, rhinos and all sorts of other critters to bop on the head.
Switching between the playable characters gives you new moves to play around with, like gliding through the air and using your hair to throw barrels. DKC2 has a good amount of verticality, which makes sense for a game centered around monkeys.
There’s also something really satisfying about the animations in this game. The jumping, rolling and gliding all felt really smooth, especially when you consider the primary characters are gorillas.
#3. Mega Man X (SNES, 1993)
Julian (N/A), Fred (2nd)
Mega Man has a gun for an arm. Pretty cool.
To make things even better, the game let’s you choose the order in which you attempt the levels. After winning a boss battle, your character gets stronger.
In this iteration of the series, free-willed robots are on the loose! Meg Man is tasked with preventing these Mavericks from killing off the humans. He shoots baddies, climbs up walls and blasts his way to victory.
The fact that I don’t have this gem ranked at all, speaks to just how stacked the platforming genre was back in the day. As Egoraptor covers in the featured video, Mega Man X was not only a great game, but a smart one.
The design decisions that went into the levels were deliberate and thought-out. It really was one of the first games that made use of in-game instructions, foregoing reliance on game manuals.
But enough about that boring stuff; this game was sheer fun! Megaman granted the player the ability to tackle the bosses in any order. Defeating the bosses in particular orders, however, would allow you to utilize their power-up against the next foe. If done correctly the boss battles would be substantially easier. Even still, this game got quite difficult towards the end. They don’t make ’em as tough as this anymore.
Mega Man almost took my number one spot on the list due to the depth of the story. This game is one of my earliest memories of the hero losing an early boss battle by design, which sets the tone for the rest of the game. Thankfully Zero swoops in to save the day!
I like the addition of the mech suits (which essentially turn you into a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot) as a new way to kill things. I’ve also always been a fan of bosses blowing up after you defeat them. This seemed to be characteristic of the 90’s greats if you take a look at Secret of Mana.
Most of all, since I’m a huge RPG nerd, I enjoyed unlocking new energies for the blaster. By the end of the game Mega Man had enough counter attacks to have a reasonable chance against the end boss. They were still a challenge, but you could set yourself up for success by having the right blaster equipped.
#4. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis, 1992)
Julian (4th), Fred (3rd)
In Part 2, the titular hero teams up with his dual-tailed fox companion to once again stop the plans of Dr. Robotnik. The evil doctor has an army of animal-power robots and is building a weapon of mass destruction.
Sonic and Tails pursue D.R. through an island and onto his Death Egg to stop his world domination efforts. You’ll recognize the familiar loops and boosts from the prior game with some new game mechanics.
The competitive mode is a nice bonus that allows you to race against a friend as Sonic or Tails.
If you were like me and grew up as a younger sibling, you are well-aware of the legend of Miles “Tails” Prowler. The invincible two-tailed, “flying” fox was, and is, the most iconic player 2 character of all time. That’s right – not Luigi, not Diddy Kong, not Falco.
You may have also spent hours on end trying to keep up with the speedy blue hedgehog, often plummeting to your coin-less death. No worries, you’d come flying in from the top of the screen moments later. Every time.
Alas, once Sonic reached the boss it was your time to shine. If played smart, Sonic would find somewhere to stand safely. Meanwhile, you, Tails made sacrifice after sacrifice bouncing on Dr. Robtnik’s latest mecha contraption.
Again, combined with a great soundtrack, this game was great to play by yourself or with a friend. Just remember to give Tails a chance to catch up every now and then.
I like the use of coins as life vs the typical health bar in platformers. It’s relatively easy to get at least a few rings back after being hit so I didn’t die very often in this game.
I know I’ll be judged for saying this, but I like the special stages slightly more than the standard levels. For one, it’s cool to be rewarded for collecting rings throughout the level. Secondly, half pipes are awesome.
As the face of Sega, this Sonic game continues the tradition of smooth gameplay, catchy music and vibrant graphics. It would seem very counter-intuitive to have a super fast hedgehog who regularly stops on a dime to fight bad guys. However, the franchise has a way of letting the player enjoy the hyperspeed while instilling abruptness that doesn’t negatively affect the game.
From the Community
We surveyed the Average Gamer Community to hear which honorable mentions should be on the list.
Here are some great games that would sit proudly on the hypothetical fifth head of our mountain!
- Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985) – This article would be obsolete and oozing with disrespect if we didn’t mention the original Super Mario Bros. From the unforgettable levels and music to the first time sending Bowser into the lava pit. Without this original, we would never be blessed with all that follows the most iconic video game series of all time. Go play it here: https://supermariobros.io/
- Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles (Genesis, 1994) – Two words – Super Sonic. Managing to make a hyper fast hedgehog even cooler was answered by making him temporarily turn into a Super Saiyan. If Super Sonic doesn’t get you, Knuckles the Echidna surely would. A gliding, fighting guardian of the Master Emerald joins your side as a playable character. Fun fact, these titles were originally developed as one game. The original, Sonic the Hedgehog, deserves some love too.
- DuckTales (NES, 1989) – The video game adaptation for one of the best cartoons, DuckTales puts you in control of Scrooge McDuck. It had a Mega Man meets Metroid feel with cartoonish elements. You travel around the world and outer space in search of treasure. The 8-bit DuckTales theme is awesome and bouncing around on a cane has never been so fun!
- Battletoads and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES, 1991 and 1989) – No, these games aren’t related. We combined them as one entry to talk about what they have in common. Unforgiving difficulty. Don’t believe me? Do a quick google of “hardest games of all time” and look what shows up. Actually, lmgtfy:
Battletoads is famous for its Turbo Tunnel being perceived as the hardest level. However, veterans disagree here. The probable reason level 3 is seen as the hardest is because the majority of people never get beyond it to experience the hell that awaits. Why was TMNT difficult? Check out this article which explained how the PC port was literally impossible.
How’d we do?
What grade would you give our Mount Rushmore? Would you change any of our selections? Which game was your favorite platformer from the Golden Age (Bit Era)? Let us know in the comments!
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