It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s your favorite jump in video games?
The dash jump in Mega Man X. I’ve never felt anything quite like it to this day. Mega Man X’s regular jump kind of sucks. The dash is a little more satisfying. Combine the two together and you get something truly sublime. There’s less hang-time than a proper double jump, but more power and gusto too. Most video game jumps are aimed at unlocking verticality. Mega Man X’s dash jump is aimed at making you faster and more empowered, and it completely transforms the traditional Mega Man platformer in the process.
This one’s easy. I still dream about the soaring, mechanically-enhanced jumping from Blue Isle Studios’ indie adventure Valley. What starts off as a slow-paced walk in the woods evolves into awesome when the game’s main character finds a suit that makes them capable of running extremely fast and using their momentum to bound across gorgeous natural landscapes. You have to see it in motion to get it. Fortunately, I brought a video.
Currently unable to run or jump due to paralysis, this is the movement I imagine when I close my eyes.
The big jumps in Mirror’s Edge. The first-person perspective, the speed at which the world rushes past in your peripheral vision, the disorientation that you can feel in the pit of your stomach as you lurch from ground to air and back (sometimes, anyway) to ground again, it’s perfection. A jump across buildings or high platforms in Mirror’s Edge is so much more than a jump. Mario jumps, Sonic jumps, they do it all the time and it’s like breathing to them. In Mirror’s Edge, a leap is an event, one as exhilarating as it is terrifying, no matter if it’s your first or 1000th.
There are so many good jumps in video games! Is it one of Mario’s many famous leaps from the past three-and-a-half decades? Maybe something from Celeste, Ori, Hollow Knight, or any number of finely tuned platformers? How about that ramp in the middle of Forza Horizon 4’s England, which lets me pretend my Lamborghini Aventador is a bona fide 747? Or perhaps “Jump,” by Van Halen, from Guitar Hero: Van Halen? The jump to hyperspace in any interstellar game?
All good contenders, but none compare to the ollie in Skate. Before 2007, performing an ollie in most popular skateboarding games was simple: Press a button. Then Skate came along, and changed everything with its “flick-it” system.
Rather than a simple button-push, you’d first have to hold the thumbstick back (simulating pressure on the back of a skateboard deck) before flicking it up (simulating the hurdle motion of a real-world ollie). And just like the real thing, it was hard to learn and harder to master, but putting in the time opened up an Encyclopedia Brittanica of sick tricks. That one jump now served as the basis for a kickflip, a heelflip, a varial flip, a 360 shuv-it, an inward heelflip, a nosegrab, a tailslide, a 5-0 grind, and, man, I could go on. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that your bag of tricks is actually four times its ostensible size, depending on your stance (regular, switch, fakie, or nollie). Has any single video game jump ever been so limitlessly versatile? Bring on Skate 4.
The triple jump in Super Mario 64. I can count three jumps as one, right? You push the control stick forward and tap A. Mario does a simple jump. As he lands, tap A again and he leaps higher. When he lands that, tap the button one more time and he launches into a huge flip jump, yelping with delight. The rhythm of the three button taps, the increased height of each jump, Mario’s joyful shouts…it feels, looks, and sounds great. It’s also really handy for moving through Mario’s world.
I had to think about this a lot longer than I expected. We jump so often in video games. Nearly every video game I play has some kind of jump button. And yet, most jumps are boring. Functional, useful, but forgotten only seconds after hitting the button.
However, the one jump that stays with me comes from an unexpected place: Destiny. Specifically, when playing as a high-flying, triple-jumpin’ hunter. I have fond memories of nimbly exploring large sections of that game while managing my jumps. You could use it to survive large drops or to reach out-of-the-way areas with ease. Sure, the titan can jump high, but with the hunter you have options, and it felt more skillful to use.
I think the video game jump that brings me the most joy is hopping in the Mario Kart series. There’s just something tactilely satisfying about coming to a turn, hopping, and leaning into a drift. I love Double Dash, but removing that tiny sequence from the equation definitely hurt it in terms of moment-to-moment texture. Honestly, I just love the idea that, for whatever reason, these vehicles have the hydraulic power to go airborne.
Post Tomb Raider, Lara Croft designer Toby Gard quit Core Design in search of creative freedom. Creating his follow-up Galleon, alas, was a seven-year ordeal, and Gard’s once-grand vision, slated for PC, Dreamcast, and then GameCube, only finally limped out, in 2004, as an OG Xbox exclusive almost no one played.
With its Jack Skellington-looking characters and unusual controls Galleon’s a strange game, but the devs at Confounding Factor found magic in its movement. Your hero, Rhama, is one of gaming’s all-time great athletes, sprinting and launching into soaring, floaty leaps that are more Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than Mario. What’s more, the game uses some sort of subtle assistance to help you land exactly where you intend, allowing an unprecedented level of precision without constraining movement to the blatantly coarse, grid-based snap-in of contemporaries like Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider. The end result is your dude’s dashing around, wall-running, almost flying at times, and every step feels sublime.
The other game that comes to mind is 2007’s Xbox 360 sleeper Crackdown, which secretly had some of the best 3D platforming of its generation. Acquiring a few levels of the jump upgrade unlocks Pacific City’s remarkable verticality, and the perfectly tuned analog inputs give you near-total control of which perch your ‘roided-up fascist lands on next. In Crackdown, getting high is always a joy.
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what’s your take? Got a leap that sets your heart aflutter? Have your say! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!