[From now until mid-January, IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2010, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category. Previously: Top 10 Experimental Games, Top 10 Shoot ’em Ups, Top 10 Role-Playing Games, Top 10 Freeware Puzzlers, Top 10 Freeware Adventure Games, Top 10 Browser Arcade Games, Top 10 Freeware Arcade Games, Top 10 Browser Platformers]
The last of our in-depth 2010 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for ’11 article), we’re proud to present twenty of the best freeware platformers released in 2010.
We’ve got tons of 2D platformers for you in this installment of the best indie games of the year. Among our picks you can find a new game from Knytt Stories creator Nifflas, a premium iPhone release that’s actually free to play on Windows, Mac and Linux, a Spectrum ZX-style game by the developer of Hydorah and 8-Bit Killer, and the usual Metroid-inspired platformers that’ll keep players glued to their screens for some time.
Here are the top freeware downloadable platformers of the year:
20. Houkaimura (Peposoft) [Windows, freeware]
Houkaimura (Breaking Town) is an action platformer that plays similarly to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, where you have to guide an eggplant-headed character through eight levels packed with enemies, traps and boss encounters. There are a large selection of weapons that you can find and collect, although players are limited to the use of just one type of weapon at any time.
19. The Soul of Dracula (bunaguchi) [Windows, freeware]
The Soul of Dracula is a 2D platformer inspired by the Castlevania series, featuring appearances from mainstays such as Death and the Count himself in the role of level bosses. You play as a vampire hunter who must venture into the Dark Prince’s castle and defeat him using only your whip and the familiar array of ranged weapons at your disposal.
Though many of the enemies had appeared in monsieur Belmont’s adventures before, the developer of this tribute project had included a couple of twists and surprises that will please even the most hardcore of Castlevania fans out there.
18. Nudo (Ben Esposito and Manuel Pardo) [Windows, freeware]
Nudo is a slick puzzle platformer set around the concept of shifting the level to allow our naked hero to press the buttons and exit through the door.
The WASD keys control his movement, while the arrows keys shift the blocks depending on his position in relation to them. Later levels introduce obstacles that add an extra depth, including areas in which blocks cannot be shifted, and levels where sliding all the blocks into their holes reveals the exit.
There’s also a challenge mode, which asks you to play through each of the main campaign’s levels but only do a set number of shifts. Give this a download, it’s lovely stuff.
17. FiNCK (Nifflas) [Windows, freeware]
In Nifflas’ 2D platformer FiNCK (short for Fire Nuclear Crocodile Killer), you play an unnamed protagonist who has the ability to pick up blocks and enemies to use for solving puzzles. Heavy blocks are perfect for stacking, while blue blocks can slide through small corridors that you would normally have problems squeezing into. An enemy behavior also determines what kind of ability you would get when you grab one with your bare hands.
There are five areas to explore in total, with additional challenges presented in the form of coins that you can choose to collect or ignore.
16. Jigsaw (Miles Drummond) [Windows, freeware]
Jigsaw is a puzzle platformer made for Arthur Lee’s Action 52 cart-themed game development jam, featuring two worlds to explore and a healthy number of checkpoints that automatically saves your progress the moment you walk past them. The playable character in this remake has a gun that fires nails, which is mainly used for defeating the enemies he encounters and building small steps for him to scale walls with.
Only a maximum of three nails can be had on the screen as steps, so if a fourth nail is impaled on a wall then the first nail will disappear as well. This leads to some interesting switch puzzles later, since a switch will only be on when a nail is still stuck to it.
15. The Hive (Vanni del Moral) [Windows, freeware]
In The Hive you play as Alex Rig, a reporter who was investigating a missing persons case when he discovers a heavily-fortified research facility while snooping around for clues. Similar to Iji, Prince of Persia and Flashback, Alex will be doing a lot of climbing up platforms and crawling through air vents to find ammunition or health-replenishing items that he can keep in his inventory for later use.
Both the protagonist’s health and his weapons can be upgraded in small increments, provided that you manage to locate the special items required to level up their stats. The controls might feel clunky and unresponsive at first, but if you give the game a chance to impress it could even suprise you with its high production values in just about every other area.
This 2D platformer was created by Vanni del Moral as his entry for submission to the YoYo Games’ ‘Discovery’ competition.
14. Dear Agent (cactus) [Windows, freeware]
Dear Agent is a fiddly but ultimately rewarding platformer created by Jonatan during the Blekinge Tekniska Högskola Game Jam. Over several levels, your mission is to kill all the terrorists and destroy all their equipment, before escaping through the exit.
Your laser can cut through any block in the level, so you’re able to cut your own path. You’re never given enough ammo or explosives to win the level, but fortunately there are vats of lava that will ooze about the place if you blow a hole in the side of the container. It’s really tricky stuff, but once you get past the awkward controls there is plenty to like here.
13. They Need to be Fed (Jesse Venbrux) [Windows, freeware]
They Need to be Fed is a gravity-based platformer with six worlds to visit, created by Jesse Venbrux in just under a week for YoYo Games’ design-a-handheld competition. Your objective here is to reach the monster at the end of each level, jumping from platform to platform while avoiding contact with spikes, lasers, and even homing missiles fired from turrets.
A tutorial is included to help new players learn the controls, but anyone who is already familiar with Jesse’s other platformer Maru should be able to pick up the game and start playing immediately.
12. Teppoman 2 (Ikiki) [Windows, freeware]
Teppoman 2 is a 2D action platformer that puts you in control of a caped assassin with a craving for bananas, specifically the brown-coloured ones which can only be found inside a heavily-fortified base under the command of a white-hooded man.
Our trained killer has a number of specialized skills that could be used to navigate around traps and silence unsuspecting enemies, plus he can also utilize all manner of ranged weapons when the situation calls for it. Players have to learn how to execute dash, wall jumps, reverse jumps, glide, body surf, and more if they plan to make it further into the enemy’s fortress.
There is a boss battle in every fifth stage, and you’re only allowed to continue playing after beating the boss challenge if you manage to meet the banana collection requirements. For example, to pass the fifth level you would need to have five bananas in your possession, and playing level eleven and onwards require a minimum of fifteen bananas.
A beta build of Teppoman 2 (previously called Teppomanto) was released in late 2008. This new release (version 1.0) contains more content, levels, and cutscenes not included in the previous build.
11. Ninja Senki (Jonathan Lavigne) [Windows, freeware]
Ninja Senki is a Mega Man-style 2D platformer that has been in development for over a year, featuring sixteen levels to play through and multiple endings to discover. Here you play as the ninja master named Hayate, who must seek revenge on the assassin that mercilessly took the life of his clan’s princess Kinuhime.
Like most classic games from the early 80’s, the game utilizes only two buttons for jump and the default attack move. It doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily, and there’s even a generous continue option that allows you retry a stage as many times as you want (at the cost of a hundred points minused from your score). Gamepads are also supported and can be configured from the main menu screen.
Note that Ninja Senki doesn’t save your progress if you quit, so be sure to free up your afternoon schedule if you’re planning on beating the entire game in one go.
10. Teleportower (Kaho) [Windows, freeware]
Teleportower is a puzzle platformer with fifty levels to play, split evenly between the five towers that you have to visit in order to beat the game. The objective here is to collect a blue gem located in the final room of each tower, but to do that you would first have to overcome a series of increasingly difficult challenges designed to thwart the efforts of any brave adventurer who attempts to loot the treasures within.
Our hero can jump, cling to the edge of a platform, or use his teleportation ability to switch between the two rooms in every stage. A trap could appear in one room and not the other, so you would need to alternate between both of them regularly in order to beat a level.
9. Jables’s Adventure (Jason Boyer) [Windows, freeware]
Jables’s Adventure is a 2D platformer that took JaJitsu (developer of Cat Poke) over a year to make, although there’s only about an hour’s worth of gameplay in it even after taking the sparsity of checkpoints into consideration. The story is about a boy named Jables who one day wakes up with a squid on his head, and sets out to do heroic things after being advised to do so by the talking cephalopod.
8. Frogatto (Lost Pixels) [Windows/Mac/Linux, freeware]
Frogatto is a freeware 2D platformer which stars a frog that can swallow and spit out enemies as projectiles. At the beginning of the adventure you’ll discover that his reach is rather short, but the coins that you collect along the way can used to purchase upgrades that’ll increase the length of his tongue.
The game features six distinct areas with thirty levels split between them, and you can use magical pedestals to teleport yourself to the start of any location that you have previously explored. You’ll want to open any treasure chests that you find as well, since some of them carry life capsules or huge coin bonuses.
Depending on how thorough you are when searching for secrets and hidden areas, playing Frogatto from start to finish could take up to a couple of hours. An interesting piece of trivia about the development team is that all of them were involved in the Battle of Wesnoth project, and working together on the turn-based strategy game was how they got acquainted with each other.
7. L’Abbaye des Morts (Locomalito) [Windows, freeware]
L’ Abbaye des Morts (The Abbey of the Dead) is another excellent game from the creator of Hydorah and 8-Bit Killer, a 2D platformer that draws inspiration from classics such as Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. Here you play as Jean Raymond, a preacher who escapes to an abandoned church after being chased by a group of crusaders. Following the instructions on parchments left behind by past occupants of the building, Jean must seek out and collect the twelve cathar crosses before he can escape from his pursuers.
Each of the twenty-three rooms have a different name to label the location, and some of the short descriptive text may even provide clues on how to solve a puzzle or two. Jean does not carry a weapon nor will he acquire one during his adventure, and the cursor keys are the only controls you ever need to use in this game from start to end.
6. Flood the Chamber (Matt Scorah) [Windows, freeware]
Picture the scene – a mad scientist throws Dot Zo Games’ Journey to the Center of the Earth and Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV into his incredible game-splicing machine, and after it chugs away for a few hours suddenly the contraption grinds to a halt, the dust settles, and Flood the Chamber spews out of the other end. And they said he was crazy.
It’s precision platforming time, folks, with a time limit no less. Your job is to help the prisoner escape the chamber, reaching the top of the screen before the advancing water level reaches our agile rogue. A warning: you will not complete this on your first attempt. Or your second. Or your… well, let’s put it another way – if you manage to complete Flood the Chamber, you have some serious skills. Get to it.
5. Darkfate (Kevin Soulas) [Windows, freeware]
Darkfate is a lo-fi exploration platformer which tells the story of Chris Freeman, a man who suffers from a bout of amnesia and doesn’t recognize the wintery tundra that he is in. The only way Chris will get any answers is by venturing forward and braving whatever challenges that he might find, in hopes that he could somehow recover his memory if he encounters things that he has seen before.
Both English and French versions of Darkfate are available for download from the official site.
4. TowerClimb (Davioware) [Windows, freeware]
TowerClimb is a procedurally-generated 2D platformer created for Game Jolt’s Rogue Contest, in which you play as a random explorer trying to reach the highest point of an endless tower. There is only one action button to use in addition to standard character movement controls, but when holding the X key down you can jump off platforms, scale walls and even climb ceilings.
Besides the items that you carry in your inventory, you can also trade orange berries with shady merchants for more equipment to use. Purple berries bestow the power to double jump, but try not to consume too much or you’ll have a rather upset stomach to contend with.
3. Under the Garden (Paul Greasley) [Windows, freeware]
Under the Garden is a sandbox-style exploration game set in a harsh winter environment, where supplies are limited and resources such as food and lumber for your fireplace have to be gathered from the land. Here you’ll learn how to hunt, mine for valuable items, cut down trees for wood, and construct buildings or bridges out of bricks and boxes.
You can use a fireplace to save your game, but to do so you’d have to keep it lit with more firewood from the forest. There are quite a few safehouses to find in the wilderness, and many of them have their own individual fireplaces that you can utilize as checkpoint locations. Standing next to a fireplace also restores any stamina lost through constant exposure to bad weather conditions or injuries.
The AGBIC compo build of Under the Garden comes with a (slightly complicated) level editor that supports mods and user-created maps.
2. Momodora (Guilherme Martins) [Windows, freeware]
Momodora is a 2D platformer that tells the story of an orphan girl named Isadora who went looking for a rare item in a secluded labyrinth. This network of caves harbour bug-eyed enemies of different shapes and sizes, but all of them bear the intention of hurting you in some way or the other. Fortunately you came prepared with a magic leaf that can be used to attack your adversaries, and throughout your quest more powerful weapons can be discovered and added to your bag of tricks.
1. Escape from the Underworld (Banov) [Windows, freeware]
This. Is. AMAZING. Escape from the Underworld is the story of a dark angel’s fall from glory, and consequent rise from the underworld. With all your powers taken by heavenly beings, you’re left to roam the depths of Hell, building your strength back up so you exact your revenge.
There’s a very Metroid-like feel to this game – you begin with all your powers at full strength, before having it all taken away and being left to with nothing. Slowly but surely, powers are discovered through exploration. The level design is really fantastic – it’s a little difficult at first, as you only need to be touched once to die, but as your powers build, you can really feel your dark character becoming a force to be reckoned with.
[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we’ll do a special ‘best of reader comments’ round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]