Inspiring Classic Adventure Platformers
All modern 2d platformers owe a lot to the game industry’s rich history of classic adventure platformers. Whether trying to capture pure nostalgia or create a modified experience with updated mechanics, platformers today owe a lot to adventure platformers of the past.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of Twitter posts celebrating older games that were inspirational for my game (Adventures of Chris) as well as games that were just new and interesting to me. Exploring these older games was a lot of fun, so I thought it’d be cool to post them all in one place as a sort of kaleidoscope of awesome platformer classic-ness!
With that said, none of these are listed in any particular order. Maybe you’ll find something new, or rediscover a bit of gaming nostalgia. I hope you enjoy!
Adventure Island 2
This side-scrolling platformer for the NES is an absolute classic. The game mechanics are basic but the real joy is finding various types of dinosaurs to help you on your journey, each having its unique ability. There’s also plenty of different levels that introduce new challenges, making this a must-play.
I can’t think of a better game that literally takes you back into time quite like Time Lord for the NES. Your character is sent to the past and must find your way back by fighting enemies, finding secret items, and using weapons from different time periods. This provides a great sense of adventure, never knowing which time period you’re going to get sucked into next.
Quackshot Starring Donald Duck
I absolutely loved “QuackShot starring Donald Duck” as a kid. It has a great Genesis soundtrack, and is quite the colorful, globe-trotting adventure. In fact, this retrogame is the one that influenced Adventures of Chris more than any other game – check out that epic world map and that Indiana Jones flair! Granted, the plunger mechanics could be a bit frustrating here and there, but mostly it was a lot of fun.
Little Nemo Dream Master
Probably one of the most imaginative NES adventure platformers, Little Nemo Dream Master takes you to some extraordinary levels. There are several charming characters you interact with that help you along your way, and probably one of the best NES soundtracks to date. This title still holds up well to this day.
Disney's Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
Disney’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom was one of those games I absolutely loved for how diverse and frankly…random it was. Basically, it’s a game that consists of several mini-games/levels, with some platforming.
Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack was quite memorable and it was one heck of a challenge to get all six keys! Not a straight-up platformer, but the variety and sense of adventure is sure to keep you happily amused in this NES classic.
If there is one awesome platform game that takes things to the darker side, it has to be Batman. Between the various weapons, NPCs, and challenging levels (not to mention an amazing soundtrack to get you through it all), this is a timeless classic that everyone will enjoy!
Vice - Project Doom
There’s a lot of retro platformers but none are quite like Vice: Project Doom. The multi-genre game’s opening setting seems very similar to Big Trouble in Little China, but then goes all over the place.
Levels are challenging and then split from platforming to some racing and shooting sequences.
A BOY AND HIS BLOB
Another very imaginative title similar to Little Nemo is A Boy and His Blob. Equipped with nothing more than a variety of jellybeans, you’re able to feed and transform your pet blob into various items to help you on your journey.
Nothing quite captures the spirit of children’s imaginations from the 80s and 90s better than this, another great title that definitely inspired me.
CHIP AND DALE RESCUE RANGERS
No case too big or small! With satisfying, simple mechanics, a lot of colorful places to have an adventure in and some great co-op action, Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers remains a solid entry in the platformers of yore. Those chipmunks are quite the apple throwers!
THE MAGICAL QUEST OF MICKEY MOUSE
The Magical Quest of Mickey Mouse was probably one of the best platformers of its time. The amazing landscapes, quirky bosses and magical enhancements complete with helpful items that aided Mickey on his journey made this one a treasure everyone will surely enjoy!
TINY TOON ADVENTURES
Another favorite 90s platformer which was based on the popular cartoon with the same title was Tiny Toons Adventures: Buster Busts Loose. In general, the mechanics were fairly simple but the fun was in the challenging levels and the quirky characters. All of which fits perfectly for a game based on the lovable cartoon.
MEGA MAN X
One of the biggest inspirations for Adventures of Chris is Mega Man X – the ability to play levels in any order, to go back and find secrets and upgrades and that awesome 90’s animated look adds up to a wonderful classic.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
As frustrating and random as the first Ninja Turtles game on the NES felt the sheer whimsical randomness of the monsters was kind of an inspiration to me. While it had its flaws, the diverse levels and basic item upgrades still made it entertaining nonetheless.
One of the things that we absolutely loved about Metroid (and heavily influenced our game’s structure) was the gradual visceral feeling of becoming more powerful.
Metroid is one game that does that exceptionally well through the introduction of items and abilities. Especially that “Screw Attack feeling.” Nothing quite like plowing through your enemies mid-air!
Offering an interesting take on a duel-platformer, Balloon Fight took things to an elevated level that wasn’t commonplace for other games that were available during the mid-1980s era. Players battle by popping the other’s balloons while floating across platforms and doing what they can to gain the advantage.
SNAKE, RATTLE N ROLL
If there is one game that was a little out of the norm, it was Snake Rattle and Roll. The isometric, checkerboard levels with its high contrast colors paired with a great 50s inspired-rock soundtrack (by David Wise) made for quite the experience.
But that wasn’t all. Strange obstacles and weird enemies (flying carpets and bodiless stomping feet to name a couple) made for an adventure platformer like no other.
ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES
Based on a cartoon that was based on a movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was one quirky platforming adventure. The player has to explore isometric levels for items while avoiding killer tomatoes…only equipped with a hammer as a weapon.
One game that is a personal favorite of ours is Kirby’s Adventure. He’s cute, he blows up and flies, and when inhaling enemies he gets their powers. What isn’t there to like about that?
Beyond that, the levels are quite imaginative, posing fun, different challenges. Above all, the soundtrack is captivating, making quite an experience.
GHOSTS N GOBLINS
Originally published as an arcade title in 1985 by Capcom, Ghosts ‘n Goblins became an instant action platformer hit. Players control a knight through various levels and overcome obstacles with the help of armor and weapon upgrades found in various hidden treasure chests. (Difficulty-wise, though, the NES version was just a tad on the… what’s a good word… sadistic side?)
First published in 1983, Lode Runner was one of the first puzzle platformers that included a level editor, in a way…making this one of the first “build-your-own” adventure platformers.
While relatively basic, the game had 150 levels where players helped a miner retrieve gold from a mine and figure out how to leave unharmed.
THE GOONIES II
Based on the popular film in 1985, The Goonies II is another classic platformer you need to check out. (The original version was only available at arcades.) It’s chock full of minions, has challenging obstacles and some pretty interesting abilities to help you along the way.
Oh yeah, and the soundtrack features a chiptune version of Cyndi Lauper’s hit “Good Enough” which was also the theme song for the film.
Contra was definitely a tough run-and-gun action platformer, but the feeling of adventure – the diverse levels combined with the amazing soundtrack – made it rewarding to keep plugging away until you made it (or plugged in the Game Genie).
(You might notice some parallels, by the way, to the Chilean level in Adventures of Chris!)
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 3
Super Mario Bros 3 was amazing for a lot of reasons – but for me especially because it brought a new “adventure” spirit to the series – world maps, inventories, random encounters! It not only redefined the genre but is so solid and well put-together it’s still worth revisiting today.
I definitely have a thing for adventure platformers that explore quirky comic-book-like worlds, which is why Bucky O-Hare is another title that resonates with me. It’s a classic that offers challenging and diverse levels, wrapped in an upbeat soundtrack with fun, wacky characters!
SUPER MARIO WORLD
With the release of Super Nintendo, Super Mario World kicked platformers up a big notch. Great diverse levels and challenges, awesome landscapes, hidden levels and secrets to unlock, and best of all the introduction of Yoshi! Probably one of the best adventure platformers of all time. (One of Mario’s powers here was also an inspiration for Chris’s abilities in Adventures of Chris!)