The indie universe continued to offer up in 2012 platformers of all types: auto-running, puzzle, exploratory, narrative-driven, and subversive. And even in this age where developers can easily charge money for their creations, some choose to release them for free.
This Top 10 Free Platformer Games of 2012 list celebrates those developers who keep pushing us forward, backward, or beyond, while sometimes asking us simply to change our perspective to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yes, platformers can teach us about life. But for now, let’s just enjoy some free indie games!
10. Lee Lee’s Quest 2 (Marcus Richert) [Browsers]
Gorgeous and humorous, Lee Lee’s second quest is somehow crazier than the first. The princess wants to be in another castle here, or just about any castle other than where the main character is. That doesn’t stop him (you) from “saving her, though. The jokes are still the main attraction to this game, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play this from start to finish.
9. Walker (Blake Fix) [Freeware, Windows]
Walker shows that “auto platformers” can offer deep experiences with its huge, open areas and puzzles. The one button gameplay has players scale objects or ricochet off them to change direction. Frantically flailing that same button will revive Walker if death becomes him/her/it. I’ve yet to find all the plusms, but that doesn’t mean the journey isn’t fun along the way!
8. 100% Complete (NoLanLabs) [Browsers]
100% Complete is the name and goal of the game. Those who enjoy item gathering and thoroughly exploring stages to get power-ups to explore deeper still, here goes your afternoon! This is also great for people who want a Metroidvania or exploratory platformer experience without difficult boss battles.
7. Spin-Spin Episode 1 and 2 (Chris Hughes) [Browsers]
A wonderful mix of VVVVVV and And Yet It Moves, Hughes’ Spin Spin offers some great puzzle platforming that doesn’t last too long as to get stale. Playing Episode 1 and then Episode 2 is encouraged, since the tricky, mid-air mechanics build on each other. Hopefully 2013 will bring Episode 3!
6. A Game with a Kitty 5: Smash Star (Bernie) [Freeware, Windows]
A Game with a Kitty 5 continues the challenging platform tradition Bernie’s other classics, but with more (unused) muscle. The big green kitty in Smash Star commands his star companion (with “S”) to pick up, throw, and use items and enemies for mid-air jumping momentum and other puzzle and platforming mechanics. Expect multiple playthroughs as you gain more abilities, too!
5. I Wanna Be the Guy Gaiden (Kayin) [Freeware, Windows]
Like your subverted platformers well done? Kayin’s follow-up makes you doubt every jump, step, and breath you take once again. Loaded with tons of classic game cameos and a new bionic arm power-up to frustrate players even more, I Wanna Be the Guy Gaiden will eat up hours of your time in an attempt to pass only three levels.
4. Moustache King Adventure (various) [Freeware, Windows]
The developers sought to create an action platformer similar to Castlevania II or Zelda II, and they delivered! The action and the platforming are both crazy hard at times here. Players must run or later catapult-warp from town to town to fight various barons, gather power-ups and grow their mustache until it and its owner are formidable enough to be king. I’m glad these devs paired up to create such a great little game: Jason Boyer and Kevin Carville from Jables’s Adventure, Masjin dev Hempuli, writer Ryan Pietz, and the Hyperduck Soundworks team. I hope more competitions allow for a weeks of collaboration in 2013.
3. Perspective (Digipen) [Freeware, Windows]
Probably more puzzler than platformer, Digipen’s Perspective requires players to change the game’s perspective to make platforms line up, hide, or scale to make a safe path. This game will only take a couple hours of your time, but it deserves your attention. The creators (Laura Borgen, Pohung Chen, Logan Fieth, Ariel Gitomer, Jason Meisel, Edward Peters, MJ Quigley, and Sean Reilly) earned it.
2. Nugget (Ryan Touk) [freeware, Mac and Windows]
Ryan Touk’s Nugget is “a tragic love story about intolerance and genetic experimentation as portrayed by squares with eyes.” Mechanically, Nugget features multi-layered, challenging platforming topped with some light puzzles. Nugget also has quite a bit of mystery surrounding it, further making it a must-play.
1. You Have to Win the Game (J. Kyle Pittman) [Freeware, Windows]
When will employer Gearbox Studios allow J. Kyle Pittman to lead a team to make games like this for a different audience? If the day ever comes, it probably won’t result in a free game, so rejoice! This “exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic” is hard but rewarding. What the game lacks in color, it makes up for in style, challenge, power-ups, and bosses. Curiously enough, the developer paid to put the game on Greenlight. I can’t wait to hear how this experiment has gone.
Honorable mentions: Atum, The Power, ASCIIVania, Asphyx, Jamie’s Revenge 2, and Kodachrome.
[IndieGames continues its year in review, with lists including the Top 10 (Free) Experimental Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Adventure Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Strategy Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Horror Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Shoot-‘Em-Ups of 2012 and our Top 10 Indie Games of 2012 (+2!).]