Top 10 2D Cinematic Platformers
An often overlooked genre of video games is the cinematic platformer. There really aren’t that many of them out there, and even less people talking about them.
I’ll be talking about them in this list, but keep in mind one game per franchise and retro games only (PS2 era and prior). However, the featured image for this countdown is from Limbo a new-ish cinematic platformer, that everyone should check out.
The cinematic platformer is a sub-genre of platforming action games. The games tend to have realistic physics and character movements. Your character can’t jump 20 feet into the air and land without any issues. In cinematic platformers moves are precise, you climb up and down platforms, and too great of a fall will probably kill you. They’re the games that take patience, but classics nonetheless.
10.) Beyond Dark Castle
You might have seen the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review of Dark Castle on the SEGA Genesis, and yes that game sucks. However, I’m not putting that terrible port on this list, nor am I putting the original on this list.
Instead the sequel, Beyond Dark Castle for Apple Macintosh computers gets the coveted number 10 spot. Just like the original game, Beyond Dark Castle is about taking down the Black Knight.
The game takes everything great about the original game and tweaks it with a save system, a health meter, a practice mode and just more enemies and levels. Don’t judge a game by its ports because the original is still great.
9.) Weird Dreams
I don’t know how to describe this game, it’s rare, obscure, and terrifying.
You play as Steve, who is in love with Emily. Unfortunately, Emily is possessed by a daemon. The daemon enters Steve’s body and gives him lucid and painful dreams. Steve’s health declines and he needs brain surgery. While under anesthesia he has one last dream to fight for his life and sanity.
Yeah… I told you the game was terrifying.
The gameplay isn’t spectacular. Puzzles and tough to complete and load times are rediculously long, but this game is worth it for the spectacular animation which is a combination of Monty Python, Salvador Dali, and nightmares.
Before you get up in arms, Flashback is a great game it’s just not my favorite or even in the top 5.
While Flashback didn’t introduce nothing new to the cinematic platform genre, it refined concepts and made the game fun. It was one of the best selling cinematic platformer to date. Just don’t play the 2013 remake.
While the game is fun, the story is what I remember about this game. You play as Conrad who has amnesia. He’s on a quest to reclaim his memory, discover the truth about the government, and perhaps save the world from aliens… also there’s a gameshow.
It’s pronounced “One Escapee”.
It’s just like Flashback with tight controls, and rotoscoped graphics, but slightly worse. The plot is also similar in that your main character is attempting to escape from aliens and a shape-shifter who takes the shape of a grim reaper like creature. Think of that creature to be similar to Nemesis from Resident Evil 3.
Blackthorne is an amazingly badass cinematic platformer from a little known studio called Blizzard.
Like many Blizzard games the plot is expansive, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few sentences for y’all. You play as Kyle who was originally from planet Tuul but was Supermanned (sent away from his home planet and sent to Earth). Now he must return to Tuul, armed with a trusy boomstick and destroy monsters and the evil ruler Sarlac.
As Kyle you have two jobs, destroy Sarlacs minions and save the good people of Tuul. You accomplish the latter by rescuing miners and prisoners, who will in turn give you upgrades. You accomplish the first job by cover based shootouts against humans and orc monsters. It’s as badass as it sounds, especially when Kyle no look fires his shotgun behind his back.
Also I highly recommend the Sega 32X version of this game.
5.) Heart of Darkness
Eric Chahi is the man. He’s responsible for Heart of Darkness and another game that will appear later on this list. While Heart of Darkness is a spiritual successor to that game, it’s not a sequel so one game per franchise rule doesn’t apply.
In this game you take control of Andy who travels to a distant planet to defeat the Darkness and rescue his dog.
This is one of those games that’s a bit frustrating to play, with trial and error gameplay and some really obscure moments, but tons of fun to watch. The animation and background in this game is some of the greatest I’ve seen and just fun to look at.
4.) Prince of Persia
The original Prince of Persia game is the grandfather of all cinematic platformers. It was originally created by Jordan Mechner and was revolutionary with animation and gameplay not yet seen. For the first time ever, the characters moved like real people.
The games plot is kinda similar to Aladdin, which itself is based off of Transformers or something. The evil wizard Jaffar seizes power from the Sultan. Now it’s up the the princess and her love interest (the protagonist) to escape the dungeon in 60 minutes.
A survival cinematic platformer based on The Poseidon Adventure and it reminds me Titanic.
In this game you play as one of four characters on board the ship, Lady Crithania. Suddenly, a huge wave crashes into the ship and it begins to sink. Now you must complete your characters main quest by rescuing specific people, then escape the sinking ship.
The game is stressful. While you’re trying to escape the ship will slowly rotate and shift making platforming quite difficult. In addition water begins to fill up the ship. You can rescue other people on the ship and rescuing a certain amount will give you the best ending, but giving them orders and getting them all out in under an hour is extremely nerve wrenching.
2.) Out of this World
Also known as Another World, this is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s atmospheric, tough, and quite fun. Also before anyone else comments, I’ll just say it “Mike Aruba”.
You play as a young physicist, who is transported to another world due to some unexplained science accident. Upon arriving on the alien world, everything is trying to kill him. Eventually the physicist gets a laser pistol from a fallen enemy and uses it along with his puzzle solving skills to escape the planet.
This game is great for two reasons. The first is the cutscenes and in game events that create a sense of immersion from this game. The second is that you’re not alone during this escape. You’re aided by an alien named “Buddy” aka “Mike Aruba”. If you beat this game, then you’ll love Buddy just as much as I do.
Also, to hell with the sequel Heart of the Alien.
1.) Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus
While I love Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, the sequel Abe’s Exodus is far superior and is my favorite cinematic platformer.
The original game starred Abe who was tasked with saving his fellow Mudokons from being converted into food. The sequel stars Abe who is tasked with saving his fellow Mudokons from being converted into drinks. More specifically their bones and tears will be turned into drinks.
That’s not the only similarity to Abe’s Odyssey because both games run on the same engine and feature the same moves. However, Abe’s Exodus just adds features that enhance the game. In Exodus you can now possess larger enemies, order groups of Mudokons at once, and transform into a Mudokon demigod. In addition, the Mudokons you’re tasked with saving have different emotional states and statuses that need to be addressed in order to progress through the game.
As I mentioned, Abe’s Exodus is Abe’s Odyssey but better. The trial and error gameplay of the original is back, but the addition of a quicksave feature prevents the game from becoming too hard.