The Origins of Platformer Games: Why Are They Called That?

Ever wondered why platformer games are called that? Well, wonder no more! Join us as we delve into the fascinating history of this beloved gaming genre. From its humble beginnings to its rise to fame, we’ll explore the origins of platformer games and discover why they’re called that. Get ready to be transported to a world of high-flying adventure and heart-pumping action as we uncover the secrets behind this iconic gaming genre. So, buckle up and let’s jump into the world of platformer games!

Quick Answer:
Platformer games are a popular genre of video games that typically involve the player controlling a character who must navigate a series of obstacles and enemies to reach a goal. The name “platformer” comes from the fact that these games often feature platforms that the player must jump between in order to progress. The origins of platformer games can be traced back to the early days of video games, with classic titles like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog serving as early examples of the genre. Since then, platformer games have evolved and diversified, with new mechanics and gameplay elements being introduced in titles like Rayman and Limbo. Despite these changes, the core gameplay mechanics of platformer games have remained relatively consistent, making them a beloved staple of the video game industry.

The Basics of Platformer Games

The Genre’s Name Explained

The term “platformer” is derived from the gameplay mechanic that is central to the genre. In a platformer game, the player must guide their character across a series of platforms, often while avoiding obstacles and enemies. This mechanic forms the backbone of the genre, and is what sets platformer games apart from other types of video games.

The name “platformer” is a literal description of the gameplay, as the player must navigate their character across various platforms in order to progress through the game. This is in contrast to other genres, such as action or adventure games, which may have different mechanics and objectives.

In addition to the core mechanic of platforming, platformer games often include other elements such as jumping, climbing, and combat. These elements are typically used in conjunction with platforming to create a more dynamic and engaging gameplay experience.

Overall, the name “platformer” accurately reflects the gameplay mechanics that define the genre, and helps to distinguish it from other types of video games.

Key Features of Platformer Games

Platformer games are a type of video game that is characterized by a player controlling a character who runs, jumps, and interacts with a two-dimensional environment. These games typically have the player navigating through a series of obstacles and enemies while collecting power-ups and other items. The key features of platformer games include:

  • Jumping and running mechanics: Platformer games rely heavily on the ability to jump and run, which are typically controlled using buttons on a game controller. Players must master these mechanics in order to navigate the game’s levels and overcome obstacles.
  • Collecting and power-ups: Many platformer games feature power-ups and other items that can be collected by the player. These items often give the player temporary boosts to their abilities, such as increased speed or strength, or new abilities altogether.
  • Enemies and obstacles: Platformer games often feature a variety of enemies and obstacles that the player must avoid or defeat in order to progress through the game. These enemies and obstacles can be both stationary and moving, and may require the player to use their jumping and running abilities in creative ways.
  • Boss battles: Some platformer games feature boss battles, in which the player must defeat a powerful enemy in order to progress through the game. These battles often require the player to use their abilities and power-ups strategically in order to defeat the boss.
  • Level progression: Platformer games often feature a series of levels that the player must complete in order to progress through the game. Each level may have a different theme or environment, and may require the player to use different skills and abilities to overcome obstacles and enemies.

Popular Platformer Games Throughout the Years

Throughout the years, there have been many popular platformer games that have captivated gamers worldwide. These games have evolved and changed over time, but they all share a common characteristic of having a platform for the player to move their character across. Here are some of the most popular platformer games of all time:

  • Super Mario Bros. (1985)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
  • Donkey Kong (1981)
  • Crash Bandicoot (1996)
  • Rayman (1995)
  • Mega Man (1987)
  • CastleVania (1989)
  • The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Each of these games has had a significant impact on the gaming industry and has inspired countless other games in the platformer genre. Super Mario Bros., for example, is widely regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time and has spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs. Similarly, Sonic the Hedgehog was a groundbreaking game that helped to establish the platformer genre as a staple of gaming culture.

In addition to these classic games, there have been many more recent platformer games that have become popular among gamers. Some examples include the Mario franchise’s more recent entries, such as Super Mario Odyssey (2017) and Super Mario 3D World (2013), as well as newer games like Rayman Legends (2013) and LittleBigPlanet (2014). These games have continued to push the boundaries of what is possible in the platformer genre and have introduced new mechanics and features that have kept the genre fresh and exciting for players.

The History of Platformer Games

Key takeaway: Platformer games are a genre of video games characterized by a player controlling a character who runs, jumps, and interacts with a two-dimensional environment. The name “platformer” accurately reflects the gameplay mechanics that define the genre, including jumping and platforming to navigate the environment. The genre has evolved over time, with early games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. paving the way for later 3D platformers like Super Mario 64 and Rayman. Platformer games continue to be popular today due to their challenging nature, demanding controls, and mastery of mechanics.

Early Platformer Games

In the early days of video games, developers were experimenting with different genres and mechanics. One of the earliest examples of a platformer game is “Space Invaders” (1978), which allowed players to move a spaceship across the screen to shoot aliens. While not a true platformer, this game featured a similar mechanic of moving a character across a screen to interact with the environment.

Another early platformer game was “Donkey Kong” (1981), which introduced the character of Jumpman (later known as Mario) and the concept of jumping over obstacles. In this game, the player had to guide Jumpman through a series of platforms while avoiding obstacles and jumping over gaps. This game established the basic mechanics of platformer games, including the use of jumping and platforming to navigate the environment.

In the following years, various platformer games were developed, including “Super Mario Bros.” (1985), which further refined the mechanics of platformer games and established Mario as a beloved character in the gaming world. Other notable early platformer games include “Sonic the Hedgehog” (1991), which introduced the concept of high-speed platforming, and “Crash Bandicoot” (1996), which added the concept of multiple dimensions and challenging platforming sequences.

Overall, the early platformer games laid the foundation for the genre, establishing key mechanics such as jumping, platforming, and navigating the environment. These games were instrumental in shaping the platformer genre as we know it today.

Evolution of the Genre

The evolution of platformer games can be traced back to the early days of video gaming. The first platformer game was developed in 1980 and was called “Space Panic”. This game involved the player guiding a character through a maze while avoiding obstacles and enemies. Since then, the genre has evolved and expanded to include a wide variety of games with different mechanics and styles.

One of the most significant evolutions in the platformer genre was the introduction of Super Mario Bros. in 1985. This game introduced new mechanics such as power-ups and a diverse range of enemies, making it a massive success and a benchmark for future platformer games.

In the 1990s, platformer games continued to evolve with the introduction of new technologies and gameplay mechanics. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong Country introduced new ways of moving through levels, such as rolling and jumping, and featured more complex level designs.

As the 21st century dawned, platformer games continued to evolve and expand. The release of games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Jak and Daxter introduced 3D platforming, allowing players to move through levels in three dimensions.

In recent years, indie developers have been pushing the boundaries of the platformer genre with innovative gameplay mechanics and unique art styles. Games like Celeste and Ori and the Blind Forest have received critical acclaim for their challenging gameplay and beautiful art direction.

Overall, the evolution of the platformer genre has been a gradual process of introducing new mechanics, expanding gameplay possibilities, and embracing new technologies. With each new release, platformer games continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in video gaming.

The Rise of 3D Platformers

In the early 1990s, the video game industry saw a significant shift with the rise of 3D platformers. These games marked a turning point in the evolution of platformer games, which were first introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

One of the earliest 3D platformers was “Super Mario 64,” released in 1996 for the Nintendo 64 console. This game introduced a three-dimensional environment, where players controlled the character of Mario and explored various levels. The game featured new mechanics such as jumping, swimming, and climbing, which added depth to the gameplay.

Another influential 3D platformer was “GoldenEye 007,” released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64 console. This game was based on the popular James Bond franchise and featured a multiplayer mode, which was revolutionary at the time. The game’s use of split-screen multiplayer allowed players to compete against each other in various modes, such as deathmatch and team deathmatch.

The success of these games led to a surge in the development of 3D platformers, with many developers creating their own versions. Some notable examples include “Sonic the Hedgehog” (1998), “Rayman” (1995), and “Banjo-Kazooie” (1998).

The rise of 3D platformers also saw the introduction of new mechanics and features, such as collectibles, puzzles, and secret areas. These games required players to navigate through levels, overcome obstacles, and defeat enemies while collecting items and power-ups.

The popularity of 3D platformers continued into the 2000s, with games like “Super Mario Sunshine” (2002), “Jak and Daxter” (2001), and “Ratchet and Clank” (2002) becoming household names. These games further refined the mechanics and features of the genre, leading to even more complex and challenging gameplay.

Overall, the rise of 3D platformers marked a significant turning point in the history of platformer games. These games expanded the possibilities of the genre, introducing new mechanics, features, and challenges that continue to inspire developers and players alike.

The Significance of Platformer Games

Impact on Gaming Industry

The impact of platformer games on the gaming industry cannot be overstated. These games have played a pivotal role in shaping the industry, inspiring countless imitators and innovations. By examining their influence, we can better understand the evolution of video games and the platformer’s enduring appeal.

  1. Pioneering Gameplay Mechanics: Platformer games introduced groundbreaking mechanics that have since become staples of the gaming world. These games popularized the concept of jumping, running, and climbing, which have since been incorporated into countless other genres. The mechanics of platformers laid the foundation for numerous gameplay conventions, making them an essential part of the gaming lexicon.
  2. Popularizing 2D Gaming: The success of platformer games in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a surge in 2D gaming. These games proved that 2D graphics could be just as engaging and immersive as their 3D counterparts, and their popularity sparked a renaissance of 2D gaming. The platformer’s success demonstrated that simple, yet effective gameplay could be just as captivating as more complex, polygonal designs.
  3. Inspiring Creativity: The platformer genre has inspired creativity in game designers, leading to a wide array of innovative and imaginative games. The basic formula of running, jumping, and conquering obstacles has been reinterpreted in countless ways, from the dark, brooding world of Castlevania to the whimsical realm of Super Mario Bros. The platformer’s versatility has allowed it to evolve and adapt to new trends and technologies, ensuring its relevance in the ever-changing world of gaming.
  4. Breaking Barriers: Platformer games have also played a role in breaking down barriers in the gaming industry. These games have been enjoyed by millions of players around the world, transcending age, gender, and cultural boundaries. By appealing to such a broad audience, platformers have helped to democratize the gaming experience and have contributed to the industry’s mainstream acceptance.
  5. Influencing Other Genres: The platformer’s impact extends beyond its own genre. Its influence can be seen in various other game types, such as metroidvania-style games, where players explore vast, interconnected worlds, and the fast-paced, combo-driven gameplay of modern action games. The platformer’s influence is felt across the gaming spectrum, making it a foundational genre that continues to shape the industry.

In conclusion, the impact of platformer games on the gaming industry is substantial and multifaceted. These games have not only introduced groundbreaking mechanics and popularized 2D gaming but have also inspired creativity, broken down barriers, and influenced other genres. Their enduring appeal and adaptability ensure that platformers will continue to be a vital part of the gaming landscape for years to come.

Influence on Pop Culture

  • The platformer genre has had a significant impact on popular culture, shaping the way people think about video games and their potential for storytelling and character development.
  • Many of the most iconic characters in gaming history, such as Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, were first introduced in platformer games and have since become cultural icons.
  • The success of these characters has also led to the creation of a vast array of merchandise, including toys, clothing, and other products, further solidifying the platformer genre’s place in popular culture.
  • Additionally, the platformer genre has inspired numerous imitators and spin-offs, leading to the creation of sub-genres such as metroidvania and run-and-gun.
  • These games often incorporate elements of platformers, such as jumping and shooting, but also introduce new mechanics and gameplay elements, making them unique and distinct from their predecessors.
  • Overall, the influence of platformer games on pop culture cannot be overstated, as they have inspired countless creations and have become a staple of the gaming industry.

Platformer Games Today

Platformer games have come a long way since their inception, and they continue to be popular today. There are several reasons for this:

Improved Graphics and Sound

One of the significant changes in platformer games is the improvement in graphics and sound. Today’s platformer games boast high-quality graphics and realistic sound effects that make the gaming experience more immersive. The characters and environments are designed with attention to detail, making them more appealing to players.

Wide Range of Characters and Environments

Another reason why platformer games are still popular today is the wide range of characters and environments available. From classic characters like Mario and Sonic to newcomers like Rayman and Ratchet & Clank, there is a platformer game for every type of player. Additionally, the environments in platformer games are just as diverse, ranging from lush forests to dark caves and everything in between.

Challenging Gameplay

Despite the advances in technology, platformer games continue to challenge players with difficult levels and obstacles. The challenge of platformer games is what makes them so appealing to players who enjoy a good puzzle or a tough boss fight. The difficulty of platformer games is what keeps players coming back for more, and developers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of level design and enemy AI.

Multiplayer Capabilities

In recent years, platformer games have embraced multiplayer capabilities, allowing players to compete against each other or team up to complete levels. This has added a new dimension to platformer games, making them more social and interactive. Players can now compete against each other in leaderboards or work together to complete levels, adding a new level of excitement to the genre.

Overall, platformer games continue to be popular today due to their improved graphics and sound, wide range of characters and environments, challenging gameplay, and multiplayer capabilities. Whether you are a fan of classic characters or newcomers, there is a platformer game out there for you.

The Mechanics of Platformer Games

Movement and Jumping

The mechanics of platformer games are centered around movement and jumping. These are the core elements that define the genre and make it so popular among gamers.


Movement in platformer games is typically controlled using the arrow keys or WASD keys on a keyboard. Players must navigate their character through various obstacles and challenges while moving from left to right or right to left, depending on the game’s orientation. Movement is usually smooth and fluid, allowing players to easily maneuver their characters around the game world.


Jumping is another key element of platformer games. Players must time their jumps carefully to avoid obstacles and reach higher platforms. Jumping is often accompanied by a button press, which initiates the jump action. Players must also be aware of their character’s jump height and distance, as well as any special jump abilities or techniques that may be available.

In addition to basic jumping, many platformer games also include special jumping mechanics, such as double jumps, wall jumps, and dash jumps. These mechanics add complexity and depth to the gameplay, requiring players to master new techniques in order to progress through the game.

Overall, movement and jumping are essential mechanics in platformer games, providing players with the ability to navigate the game world and overcome obstacles. By mastering these mechanics, players can successfully complete levels and progress through the game.

Combat and Power-ups

One of the defining features of platformer games is the inclusion of combat and power-ups. These elements add an extra layer of challenge and excitement to the gameplay, and help to keep players engaged as they progress through the game.

Combat in platformer games typically involves the player character battling against various enemies, such as monsters, robots, or other creatures. This combat can take place in a variety of settings, including open environments, hazard-filled levels, and boss battles. In order to succeed in combat, players must use a combination of offensive and defensive strategies, such as attacking enemies with weapons or special abilities, dodging attacks, and using power-ups to gain temporary advantages.

Power-ups are another key element of platformer games, and can come in a wide variety of forms. Some power-ups enhance the player character’s abilities, such as giving them increased speed, strength, or firepower. Others provide temporary invincibility, or allow the player to perform special moves or attacks. Power-ups can also be used to restore health, or to reveal hidden areas or secrets within the game world.

Overall, combat and power-ups are crucial components of platformer games, helping to add depth and excitement to the gameplay, and providing players with the tools they need to overcome challenges and progress through the game.

Puzzles and Obstacles

In platformer games, players control a character that navigates through various levels filled with obstacles and puzzles. These challenges are designed to test the player’s skills, including their ability to jump, run, and solve problems.

Obstacles in platformer games can take many forms, such as gaps in the ground, bottomless pits, and enemies that must be avoided or defeated. Players must use their reflexes and timing to overcome these obstacles and reach the end of the level.

Puzzles, on the other hand, require players to use their problem-solving skills to figure out how to progress through the level. These puzzles can be as simple as pressing a button to reveal a hidden path or as complex as manipulating multiple objects to create a specific sequence of events.

Platformer games often use a combination of both obstacles and puzzles to create challenging and engaging levels. Some games may also incorporate boss battles, where players must defeat a powerful enemy to progress to the next level.

Overall, the combination of obstacles and puzzles in platformer games is what makes them so popular and addictive. Players enjoy the challenge of overcoming these challenges and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

The Challenges of Platformer Games

Difficulty and Skill Requirements

Platformer games are known for their challenging nature, requiring players to have a certain level of skill and dexterity to succeed. The difficulty of these games often comes from the need to navigate a character through various obstacles, such as jumps, gaps, and enemies, while often trying to reach a specific goal or objective.

One of the main reasons why platformer games are challenging is due to their demanding controls. Players must be able to precisely time their movements and actions, often requiring quick reflexes and coordination. For example, players may need to jump over a gap or avoid an obstacle at just the right moment, which can be difficult to master.

Another aspect of platformer games that adds to their difficulty is the level design. These games often feature intricate and complex levels that require players to use a combination of skills and strategies to progress. This can include platforming, combat, and puzzle-solving, all of which can be challenging in their own right.

Furthermore, platformer games often have a steep learning curve, meaning that players must learn how to play the game gradually over time. This can be frustrating for some players, but it also adds to the sense of accomplishment when they finally master a challenging section of the game.

Overall, the difficulty and skill requirements of platformer games are what make them so engaging and rewarding for players. Whether it’s navigating tricky obstacles or overcoming tough boss battles, these games offer a unique and challenging experience that is unlike any other genre of video games.

Mastering the Mechanics

In platformer games, mastering the mechanics is essential to success. These games are designed to challenge players to navigate obstacles and enemies by jumping, running, and climbing. The mechanics of platformer games are what make them unique and challenging, and mastering them requires a combination of skill, timing, and patience.

One of the key mechanics of platformer games is jumping. Players must time their jumps perfectly to avoid obstacles and enemies, and to reach higher platforms. This requires a combination of timing and spacing, as well as an understanding of the game’s physics.

Another important mechanic is the use of special abilities or weapons. Many platformer games give players access to special abilities or weapons that can help them navigate obstacles and defeat enemies. Mastering these abilities and weapons is key to success in the game.

In addition to jumping and using special abilities, platformer games often require players to run, climb, and swim. Each of these mechanics requires a different set of skills and strategies, and mastering them is essential to progressing through the game.

Overall, mastering the mechanics of platformer games requires a combination of practice, patience, and perseverance. It is a challenge that requires players to learn and adapt to new mechanics, and to develop a sense of timing and spacing. With time and practice, however, players can become proficient in these mechanics and excel at platformer games.

The Satisfaction of Overcoming Challenges

Platformer games have long been a staple of the gaming world, with their unique blend of action, platforming, and challenges. But what is it about these games that make them so compelling? One of the main reasons is the satisfaction that comes from overcoming challenges.

Challenges are an integral part of platformer games. Players must navigate a variety of obstacles, including jumps, enemies, and hazards, to progress through the game. These challenges are often designed to be difficult but not impossible, creating a sense of accomplishment when they are overcome.

Moreover, platformer games often require precise timing and coordination, making them a test of both skill and patience. Players must learn to anticipate upcoming obstacles and plan their movements accordingly, all while avoiding danger and making quick decisions.

Overcoming these challenges is not just satisfying in a personal sense, but also in a social one. Many platformer games allow players to compete against each other for high scores or fastest times, creating a sense of competition and community around the game.

Furthermore, platformer games often have a high replay value, as players can attempt to improve their skills and conquer tough challenges. This creates a sense of investment in the game, as players strive to overcome obstacles and unlock new levels or abilities.

Overall, the satisfaction of overcoming challenges is a key part of what makes platformer games so addictive and enjoyable. Whether it’s the thrill of a tough jump or the satisfaction of beating a level, these games provide a unique and rewarding experience for players of all skill levels.

The Enduring Appeal of Platformer Games

One of the main reasons behind the enduring appeal of platformer games is their simplicity. These games typically involve a character moving from left to right, jumping over obstacles and enemies, and collecting power-ups along the way. This straightforward gameplay allows players to quickly learn the mechanics and dive into the action, making it accessible to both casual and experienced gamers.

Another factor contributing to the appeal of platformer games is their sense of progression. As players progress through levels, they unlock new abilities and weapons, which they can then use to tackle even more challenging obstacles. This sense of achievement and progression keeps players engaged and motivated to continue playing.

Furthermore, platformer games often feature charming and memorable characters, such as Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Rayman, which has helped to establish them as beloved icons in the gaming world. The characters’ distinct personalities and animations, as well as their catchy theme music, have all contributed to their lasting appeal.

In addition, platformer games have a unique sense of style that sets them apart from other genres. With their vibrant colors, smooth animations, and catchy soundtracks, these games have a timeless quality that transports players back to the golden age of arcade gaming.

Lastly, platformer games have evolved significantly over the years, with developers introducing new mechanics and gameplay elements to keep the genre fresh and exciting. From the introduction of multiplayer modes to the inclusion of new playable characters, platformer games continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible in gaming.

Overall, the enduring appeal of platformer games can be attributed to their simplicity, sense of progression, memorable characters, unique style, and continued evolution. These games have stood the test of time and remain a beloved and integral part of the gaming industry.

The Future of the Genre

  • The evolution of platformer games has been driven by technological advancements and changing player preferences.
    • Increased focus on immersive experiences through improved graphics and sound.
    • Integration of new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.
    • Greater emphasis on storytelling and character development.
  • The platformer genre continues to evolve, with new innovations and styles of play emerging.
    • The rise of “Metroidvania” style games, which combine exploration and platforming elements.
    • The popularity of “Roguelike” platformers, which incorporate elements of procedural generation and permadeath.
    • The integration of multiplayer functionality, allowing players to compete or cooperate in platforming challenges.
  • Despite these changes, the core gameplay mechanics of platformers remain relatively consistent.
    • The importance of precise timing and spacing in executing jumps and attacks.
    • The use of power-ups and upgrades to enhance the player’s abilities.
    • The inclusion of obstacles and enemies to challenge the player’s skills.
  • As the platformer genre continues to grow and adapt, it remains a beloved and enduring aspect of gaming culture.

The Importance of Understanding the Roots of Platformer Games

Comprehending the history and development of platformer games is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it allows players to appreciate the evolution of the genre and understand the influence of earlier games on modern titles. Secondly, it helps game designers and developers to learn from the past and avoid repeating the same mistakes or missed opportunities. Lastly, understanding the roots of platformer games can provide valuable insights into the gaming industry as a whole and its ongoing quest for innovation and growth. By examining the origins of platformer games, players and industry professionals alike can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs that have shaped this beloved genre.


1. What is a platformer game?

A platformer game is a type of video game where the player controls a character that runs, jumps, and interacts with the environment to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies. The character typically moves from left to right across a series of platforms, hence the name “platformer.”

2. How did platformer games originate?

Platformer games originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with games like “Pitfall!” and “Donkey Kong” leading the way. These early games were simple in terms of graphics and gameplay, but they laid the foundation for the platformer genre as we know it today.

3. Why are they called platformer games?

Platformer games are called that because the player must jump between platforms to progress through the game. These platforms are typically arranged in a linear fashion, with the player moving from left to right, and the goal is to reach the end of each level without falling off the platforms or being caught by enemies.

4. What makes platformer games unique?

Platformer games are unique because they require precise timing and spacing to succeed. Players must time their jumps and movements carefully to avoid obstacles and defeat enemies, making the gameplay challenging and rewarding. Additionally, platformer games often feature colorful and imaginative worlds, making them visually appealing as well.

5. Are platformer games still popular today?

Yes, platformer games are still popular today. They have evolved over the years, with new mechanics and features being added to keep the genre fresh and exciting. Some popular modern platformer games include “Super Mario Bros.,” “Rayman,” and “Celeste.”

What is a PLATFORMER? – Gaming Glossary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top