The PC isn't that well known for its platforming games... in fact, even the mention of "PC" and "platforming" in the same sentence might leave some scratching a hole through their head. Nevertheless there are platformers on the PC and some of them are actually good. Here's a list of the top 10.

A platforming game starring a kitty, made by Monolith Productions (F.E.A.R., No One Lives Forever), on the PC; can things get any more impossible than that? It turns out that they can, as Claw is actually an astoundingly good platformer with a pretty interesting story and setting. The game takes place in the 15th century in an alternate reality where the Cocker Spaniard Kingdom reigns supreme. What makes Claw different from most other platformers however is that the game is GIGANTIC. The first 3 levels took me over one and half hours to complete, and things got better from that point on. Levels include multiple boss fights, crazy chase sequences or daring escapes. Claw also sports a whopping 64 players online and has some of the most fluid and detailed cartoony-graphics this side of cell animation.

Flashback isn't a pure breed platformer per se; it's actually more of an action adventure game with a considerable dose of platforming thrown in. The game is mysterious and features a plethora of huge varied levels, ranging from steamy jungles to huge metropolises. The main character doesn't collect anything throughout the game (unlike in other platformers) and his gun is the only weapon he can use against the myriad of enemies ranging from robots to humanoid soldiers. Flashback is also a VERY difficult game. Some of the jumping sequences are unapologetically difficult. Nevertheless the stylish graphics and top-notch presentation make Flashback one of the best action/platforming games on any platform, not just the PC.

It's hard to even imagine it, but Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is not only a great platfomer but also one of the best 2D games ever made. In this game you play as a green, foul-mouthed rabbit in a fight against an evil mad genius. Throughout the game your brother, Spaz whom you can also be controlled, aids you in your quest. While having two characters is definitely a plus, what makes Jackrabbit 2 an impressive platformer is the level and weapon design. Players get to travel through some of the most ingenious levels ever crafted in a game: Flail worlds, grassy steeps, or Sonic-esque pinball levels are all expertly crafted and integrated into the crazy story. Jazz and Spaz also wield 9 destructive weapons as well as a few proprietary skills as they travel through the game BACKWARDS to stop their evil nemesis.

Sonic and Knuckles Collection is a 100% port of the Sega Genesis classics, and that's not a bad thing by ANY means. There isn't much to be said about these games that hasn't already been said: You play as either Sonic and Knuckles in an attempt to stop yet another mad scientist bound on destroying a happy world filled with cute and cuddly animals. The graphics in all Sonic games are state of the art 2D with a huge variety of levels ranging from decaying forests, to huge airships or to underwater palaces. Control is tight and precise even with the keyboard and the trademark speed of the game is preserved perfectly in this port, which doesn't chug either graphically or sound wise. Not to mention that this is also a great value as it includes all 3 Sega Genesis Sonic games, so those looking for a long lasting platformer should definitely check out this collection.

Abuse was probably stuck on the wrong platform. This platfomer does more for the genre in one fowl swoop than all of the Marios or Sonics of the world. Abuse's precise controls, which allow aiming with the mouse and moving with the keyboard, are the bread and butter of this game. The platforming sequences aren't all that creative, but with a whole slew of weapons, a ton of different monsters and an aiming system that is seemingly impossible to replicate on any other system, this game wins major ground through its simple control innovation. The graphics are also good, featuring a steady variety of tile sets as well as rock solid framerate and crystal clear sound. Fans of platform-shooters shouldn't miss out on this astoundingly innovative game.

Blizzard apparently has Midas' touch, because everything they actually put their grimy paws on turns out to be PC gaming gold. The Lost Vikings is a game starring 3 Vikings who are taken up by a spaceship and must now find their way back home. Each of the 3 Vikings has a separate power: One can block, the other can fight with a sword or bow and the third can run faster than the rest. The key to solving this platformer/strategy/puzzle game is to use all 3 Vikings' strengths to your advantage: You'll have to take out bad guys with the swordsman and block the incoming turret fire with the blocker while running around for keys with the third Viking. The levels are varied and lush with details such as crystal clear waterfalls or dark caves. The Vikings can move independently of each other throughout a level and losing one of your party member means losing the whole game. And while 1-shot-kills havenít proven themselves successful in games, Blizzard manages to pull it all together in an addictive mix that's not too difficult nor too easy and that's worth every penny.

Ironically, Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame does exactly what its 10 year younger brother, Prince of Persia 2: Warrior Within did wrong: It takes away from the platforming to make the action sequences better. However, don't be fooled by the newly implemented battle sequences or the lush new graphics and animation: The platforming prince still hasn't left the building in this second itineration of the series. Continuing some time after the first game, Prince of Persia 2 features the same wall hopping, ledge-grabbing action that the first game was so acclaimed for and it also throws in a spectacular fighting system to boot. As swords clash and platforms collapse the prince must run and try to save his kingdom and love through a plethora of settings and levels in this excellent platform/action-epic.

Ubisoft probably didn't choose the best time to release Rayman 2 when the game came out in 1999. While it was received very well critically the 3 platforms (PC, N64, DC) it was released on didn't really have the user base necessary to give this game the credit it deserved. Regardless of this marketing mistake though, Rayman 2 stands as the single best 3D platformer on the PC. The game features many of the same staples that were introduced with Super Mario 64, such as a connecting hub that helps players travel to different locations or the series of endless collectibles that must be acquired in order to open new areas for travel, but it also features new and innovative levels, superb voice acting and crisp graphics. Rayman 2 is also extremely long with over 40 levels that have a seemingly interminable supply of challenges and bosses to torment players as well as new abilities or objects for collection. All PC owners who haven't yet played Rayman 2 owe it to themselves to buy a gamepad and give this game a try.

Commander Keen was a platforming game made by id Software (DOOM) that completely revolutionized PC gaming, as we know it. Commander Keen was one of the first few games to be released in shareware format and even imagining the "Try it, then buy it"-system for that time was a preposterous dream. Yet Commander Keen not only successfully implemented this system, but it actually turned out to be a very good game. You played as a boy whose ship had careened onto a strange alien planet and you now have to find your way home. While jumping platforms, shooting monsters with a blaster or using such power-ups such as the gravity boots and the pogo stick controls are laid at your fingertips with the precise accuracy of the keyboard. Levels were fairly bland but the freedom that the game gave players (you could take more than one path through the game's levels) made up for any level or monster deficiencies. Commander Keen is a classic, and no PC gamer should be without id Software's premiere platformer.

In 1992 a little known company named Borderbound Software published a PC game that was going to become a legend: Prince of Persia. In this excellent platformer players take control of a young prince who most escape from the dungeon in which he was imprisoned by the evil Vizier Jaffar and save the princess from ultimate death... all within ONE HOUR of game time. Prince of Persia becomes a race against time, traps and enemies, which unfolds with the intensity of a good action movie. The smooth animation of the prince as he jumps, falls or flies across chasms is among the best in classic 2D platformers. The controls aren't perfect but this only serves to pump more adrenaline into gamers as they face the increasing difficulty of the game as well as the tough controls and time limits. Gamers everywhere should try out this landmark game, especially since it's available for free.

These 10 games represent the best platforming has to offer on a platform that hasn't been too kind to the genre. This list should address all fans of the genre and not just "PC fanboys", especially since most of these games are either exclusive to the PC or they're totally superior to their ported versions. What's more all of these games with the exception of Rayman 2 are open source now and can be downloaded, legally, free of charge. There's no reason not to play them, so go out and at least give them a try!

List by grasu (03/07/2006)

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