The original Sony Playstation released in North America in September of 1995. Over 25 years later and we’re still playing on our Playstations, albeit the much more powerful Playstation 5 (if you can find one). With every five or so years it seems the gaming landscape goes through a large reformation of what is the “in” genre. For the longest time I would say it was the first person shooter, but lately I don’t think so anymore. We’re probably looking at the era of the RPG-element or Roguelike, or quite possibly the indie era. Oh no wait, the “games as service” era! Hmm… this could be an entirely separate topic on its own…
Well anyway, looking back at the original Playstation I can safely say we were in the era of the platformer. Big hitters on Sony’s console include Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, while Nintendo damn near perfected the genre with Super Mario World and later on in 3D in Super Mario 64. Ask anyone their favorite platformers and you’ll get a multitude of solid answers.
But I’m not here to talk about those games. I don’t want to discuss breaking boxes with Crash or saving Gobbos with Croc. I want to talk about battling evil pumpkins with Jersey Devil. I want to talk about fighting your literal dreams with 40 Winks. I want to talk about games you’ve never even heard of, which happen to be the same games I tend to love collecting.
Let’s talk about the forgotten platformers of Playstation’s past.
If you were around in the mid to late 90s, you probably heard of some of these. Let’s start with Jersey Devil. I recently played through the first portions of the game over on Twitch, and it wasn’t all that bad. The visuals were strong, the puzzles and gameplay were solid, but the controls did leave a bit to be desired. I’m wondering if this will be a trend as we go on: “Tank Controls” this was not, but a bit awkward for sure. It had me wondering what other platformers of the PS1 era might turn out not as crisp and cool with a 2022 lens.
That other game I brought up, 40 Winks, is a more traditional collect-a-thon game akin to Nintendo’s Donkey Kong 64. The aesthetic of a dream world leads to a more whimsical world design, which I’m all for. I personally prefer games that feature colors and imaginative ideas as opposed to ones that look dark and “adult”. I’d rather have fun, I suppose. 40 Winks isn’t a super memorable game though, and I fear as we dig deeper into the catalog we’ll find that to be the case with many of these games.
Though not originally a Playstation game I feel the Gex series eventually just became one. Originally released on the doomed 3DO system (which I’d love to get my hands on some day), Gex took a wisecracking Gecko and threw him into the television worlds he so dearly loved. The game was a standard paltformer with light combat, decent visuals, and at the time pretty impressive voice acting. As the series got it’s footing and differentiated itself from the likes of Mario, Gex eventually game into his own. With two sequels on the PS1 and nothing since, I’d recommend playing each of these games if you’re a platforming fan. If you’d rather skip all that and just play the good ones, I would recommend the third game, Deep Cover Gecko, as it has the most refined gameplay and variety.
Digging deeper in the PS1 Platforming Pantheon we find games like Rascal. I’ve yet to play this one, but in looking it up recently for a DownStab Instagram post I was surprised to see the development included input from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop! The game doesn’t look all that amazing, but this is the stuff I want to see more of from streamers, YouTubers, and bloggers. I love learning about games I hadn’t known about before, quality of said game not withstanding.
Here, I’ll give one to you. I bet you didn’t know about Skullmonkeys. This little claymation looking game kind of reminds me of the Oddworld games, but not quite the same in execution. Skullmonkeys is a bit pricey and hard to find, but if you do you should definitely think about picking it up. The game is known for its visuals and humor. You may have seen this one pop up in videos here or there for it’s rather weird boss fight with a dude’s head with arms and legs. Yeah, it’s a weird one.
On the opposite end we have games like Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. This game is wonderful from top to bottom. The gameplay is unique and controls tight, the sound is superb, and the visuals are imaginative. The game got a sequel on the PS2, a spinoff/sequel on the Game Boy Advance, and then a remake on the Wii. And since then it was never heard from again. As stated above, game eras tend to come and go. A tragedy resulting in fun video games like Klonoa being left behind to history. If Mario and Crash can be remembered and continued year after year, we can make Klonoa grace us with another entry sooner rather than later.
If you haven’t guessed already, this post is really just for me to rant about some of my favorite PS1 platformers and some of the one’s I’m just getting around too. It is honestly quite impressive just how many there are: We haven’t even made a dent with the 8 or so mentioned here. But, seeing as this could go on for nigh infinity, I think we should stop and reflect.
Platforming games were perhaps biggest on the NES, SNES, and Genesis. This makes sense as these consoles couldn’t not sustainably maintain 3D gameplay. As we shifted toward 3D with the Playstation and beyond, developers began creating games that took advantage of their respective hardware. A platformer, though commendable, just wasn’t going to cut it to make a great game. Standouts like Jak and Daxter or Grabbed by the Ghoulies, for example, still popped up time to time, but never in the frequency as the decade prior. Because of this, it’s simple to look back at the PS1 era as a golden era of platforming. It’s been super fun to collect, and I’m looking forward to finding even more gems.