In my honest opinion, I think that platformers are the most important games in the history of video games. Super Mario Bros completely saved the games industry, Sonic the Hedgehog revolutionized what Mario started, Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie added a hugely addictive collection system and brought the genre into three dimensions. Ask anyone to name a random video game, and chances are that they’ll name some kind of platformer.
There are countless platformers, and only half of them are Mario and Sonic games. These include Super Meat Boy, A Hat in Time, Yooka Laylee (yeah, remember that?) Shovel Knight (one of my personal favorites) and the classic Crash Bandicoot trilogy and Spyro trilogy.
Also Bubsy exists. They did bring him back last year, but… we don’t talk about him.
So which one is the best? At least, which is the best to me? Is it Mario Odyssey, with it’s addictive and extremely satisfying gameplay loop? Or maybe Sonic Mania Plus, which features the best Sonic gameplay and smartest level design the franchise has ever seen? How about the fantastic Spyro series, with it’s cute and lovable characters, art-style, and the awesome novelty of playing as a dragon?
Nope. While I do love every single one of those games, I wouldn’t call them the best classic platformer, at least not for me. My personal favorite is a game that I’m willing to bet you’ve never even heard of. A little game that came out all the way back in 2005 for the original Xbox.
A little game called Psychonauts.
5 bucks says you have never heard of it.
This is the best game ever made. Seriously, this isn’t just my favorite platformer; it’s my favorite game ever. The story, the characters, the odd but unique art-style, the nigh-perfect combat and platforming and the awesome collectibles all combine to make the perfect game, at least for me.
But what really sets it apart for me are the levels. See, Psychonauts falls under the Mario 64 style of level design: one overworld with several separated levels contained within it. Each have their own unique set of collectibles, and a lot of them.
Here’s the thing about Psychonauts: the whole premise of the game is going into the human mind. Put simply, while Mario 64 had paintings that you could enter, this game has NPCs whose minds you jump into. As such, each level is designed to reflect that person’s personality and mental disabilities.
Take the fan-favorite level ‘The Milkman Conspiracy’. This level takes place in the mind of Boyd Cooper, a security guard who suffers from extreme delusions and paranoia. He is obsessed with conspiracies, believing that everything is controlled by a secret organization hiding in the shadows. Keep all this in mind and guess what his level looks like.
Got it? Now throw it away. I guarantee whatever you came up with is wrong.
As he’s completely insane, Boyd’s mind is a twisting writhing neighborhood filled with secret spies and girl scouts who are actually super spies. And as Boyd is highly paranoid, this level has two primary things you need to use to progress: simple items to use as a disguise, and the new power Clairvoyance, which you use to see through the eyes of the people around you. With these two combined, you make your way through Boyd’s twisted and broken mind to unlock his alter ego in order to progress in the real world.0
That’s just one level, by the way. I didn’t even mention Gloria’s Theater, in which the character’s bipolar disorder is used to literally flip the level around in order to progress, or Black Velvetopia, in which you must struggle with the character’s personal demon that keeps him from dealing with his issues and move forward with his life.
Or Lungfishopolis, in which you become Godzilla and defeat an alien dictator. That one’s my personal favorite.
I know I say this a lot, but if you haven’t played this game, you need to play it. It’s on digital stores, such as the PS, Xbox, and Steam, for about ten bucks, and it goes on sale very frequently. And with Psychonauts 2 finally, after all these years, under development, now is the best time to hop on board.
Y’know. Now that you don’t need to wait over a decade and a half. Like I did.
This game has kept me going for a long time. In my darkest times, when I was depressed and lonely, I would play Psychonauts and remind myself of what it was like to feel happy and alive. This is the most important game in my entire life; it is, and always will be, both my favorite classic platformer and my favorite game ever made.
Now, if you’ll excuse me; I need to go play it again.