Videogames give us a world to play in where the laws of physics don’t matter, where death is an inconvenience rather than a permanent full stop, and where actions rarely have consequences other than sitting through a loading screen or buying your way out of jail. When you add that to the human propensity to push their limits, to see how far we can go in a single bound, you’re left with the perfect recipe for doing ridiculous jumps.
It’s no wonder then, that leaping around has been a mainstay of the videogame industry for so long. Whether you’re playing a platformer, and throwing the lead character around, collecting chits and surviving perilous jumps over bottomless pits, or guiding a super charged vehicle over the edge of a ramp, gaming has revelled in the simple joy of trying to defeat the cruel grip of gravity.
It’s not just about the take off though, jumps are as much about the landing, or in most cases, about the crash. Videogames give us the space and time to experiment, to see how far we can push things. Sure, you might have performed a graceful landing after spinning three hundred and sixty degrees in the air, but that’ll never be as memorable as the time you smashed down, head first, into a moving bus.
But which are the best jumps in gaming? Which are the ones that make us feel invincible, that make us feel like we could burst out of the front door and jump over any obstacle that God or man might thrown in our path? Well, here are some that we think fit that bill, but feel free to add your own in the comments below.
They say that the first steps are the hardest to take, and they’re right about that, doubly so with first jumps. The original Donkey Kong introduced jumping to platform gaming, the world to Mario (or Jumpman as he was known then) and millions of gamers to the wonders of leaping a few feet into the air over things. By today’s standards, the game is as tough as, if not tougher than, old boots, but its well timed jumps set the standard for generations of platformers that came after it, and its charming aesthetic set the stall for pretty much every Nintendo game that came after it.
Platforming as we know it started with Donkey Kong, and whilst it might be Super Mario Brothers that receives the bulk of the praise for really kicking the genre into life, without the barrel and gap leaping escapades of Donkey Kong, none of that would have been possible. If you’ve ever enjoyed a bit of jumping in videogames, then you’ve got Donkey Kong to thank for that.
The eighties were a gold mine for imaginatively borrowed licenses in videogames, and few of the games created in that heady times were as impressive as Kikstart. The game borrowed heavily from a UK TV show of the same name, which was all about the struggle between man, motorbike, and obstacle, going as far as to digitally recreate the music from the show whilst you played. It was your job to navigate a series of barrels, fences, cars, undulations and jumps too set as fast a time as possible on the different courses.
Again, the leaps here aren’t as dramatic or as gravity defying as you’ll find in modern games, such as the upcoming Dirt: Showdown, but required patience, trial and error, and a decent understanding of the physics of the game to get right. That made successes all the sweeter, and turned throwing your trials bike over a bus filled gaps one of the most rewarding things you could do in games. Intrepid internet explorers might even be able to find a version of its sequel out there in web-land to play.
Sonic The Hedgehog
If Super Mario Bros. Revolutionised the platformer, then Sonic gave it an adrenaline shot to the chest, then pushed it off the edge of a cliff and told it to run when it hit the ground. Sega’s mascot might not have been all about speed, but once he set off running, you could be sure a giant leap wasn’t going to be too far behind.
Careening through the air, collecting chiming rings, this blue blur could essentially leap through half of some levels, bypassing the ground in favour of a kamikaze aerial approach. It wasn’t just the jumps that were impressive though, it was the landing too, where you found your stride without missing a step. That transition from airborne hedgehog shaped bullet to ground based hedgehog shaped bullet is still a wonder to behold, some twenty years since the original was released.
Other games might have featured rocket jumping, including a horizontal version in id’s own Doom, but it was Quake, specifically in the multiplayer, where the fad really took off. It’s a simple enough technique to get your head around, you point your rocket launcher at the floor, then fire and jump at the same time, propelling yourself further than you normally would thanks to the blast from your projectile.
The rocket jump is a perfect example of gamers finding new ways to play within already existing structures, exploiting areas they wouldn’t normally being able to reach thanks to intelligent use of the tools they’ve been given. It’s also a perfect example of things in games that you should never, ever, ever try in real life. Especially if you like having legs.
Grand Theft Auto IV
While GTA IV showcases Rockstar’s ability to build huge, immersive, gritty worlds populated by enough scum to clog up even the widest plug hole, it also showed how the developer isn’t afraid to let their silly side shine through as well. Sure, you might be in the middle of a brutal struggle for power in what’s basically New York, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive around the city looking for places to perform stupid automotive stunts.
There are a huge number of stunt jumps to perform, and by extension a huge number of ways to kill the star of the show, Niko. The open nature of the game means your death defying, or causing leaps, are brilliant reward for extended periods of exploration, and once you’ve finished with the story, you’ll be coming back time and again to try and cripple Niko in new and exciting ways.