Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook. I’m talking about potions, hubs, bags, mountains, anything really – but things we ignore at the time. Then, years later, we find they’re cemented in our memory, inseparable from our experience of the game. Turns out they were important after all. So now we’re celebrating them.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces. Some of you have memories like elephants!
Today’s Five of the Best is…
Jumps! You know when the jump isn’t there. You press the button and nothing happens, and you’re locked to the floor. How restrictive it feels, how limiting, and yet there was a time when games were grounded. Then, all of a sudden, boing!, up they went and we were jumping on the heads of enemies and leaping up and off walls ever since. Nothing is more freeing than a strong jump and nothing fills the time like hopping up and down with your friends until someone thinks of something to do. Question is, which are the best jumps? Here’s Five of the Best. Have a lovely weekend!
First-person platforming is often infuriating – even Valve couldn’t make it work properly in Half-Life. With Mirror’s Edge, though, DICE decided to build its whole adventure around giving the player a sense of embodiment in a first-person world, and the platforming is a total thrill.
The jump is a gorgeous thing, long and lean and gently arcing, but it’s the way the rest of your actions help to propel it that make it so satisfying. Race along the ground and build up momentum. Look down to see your feet hitting the ground beneath you. Spring from the edge of one of the game’s white box rooftops, sail through the air, and then hit the ground with a juddering sense of impact. Fantastic.
The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
One thing Morrowind lacked was a fast travel system. You could pay to be transported but that cost money. Besides, there was another far more elegant way to get around: jumping. Yes in Morrowind you could, using totally legit methods – and I genuinely mean legit – make your jump so powerful you could leap from town to town.
Using a combination of a high Acrobatics skill, high health, low encumbrance, the Jump spell – or Jump-enchanted equipment and – most importantly of all – a levitate spell to break your fall, you could superpower yourself to temporarily leap high into the sky.
There’s a wonderful guide to Morrowind mega-jumping on the Steam forum, should you wish to try it. It’s perhaps the best unintended mega-jump in a game ever.
When a jump doesn’t quite cut it, why not get a little extra help from a rocket? Simply look down at the ground, jump and fire, and rejoice as you are propelled higher. Rocket jumping wasn’t an intended feature of Quake. Id Software didn’t know people would do it. But somehow, someone, somewhere, worked out a way they could gain a little rocket propulsion and so rocket-jumping was born, a way to shortcut levels and travel entirely new paths around the game.
Rocket-jumping was an instant classic and has remained a key feature of the Quake series ever since, particularly in multiplayer. There is no player who doesn’t try to dominate spawns without explosively bounding around. Just make sure you have enough health or else you’ll look silly.
But there is another jumping trick in Quake: bunny-hopping, and this one is far trickier. Ostensibly, you run forwards and strafe and jump at the same time, then jump again in the same way the moment you land, and somehow you gain extra momentum as you go. It’s a manipulation of physics which extended to finding any pokey-out surfaces on level geometry to leap off, and in Quake 2, jumping even became a kind of spin-off sport!
Street Fighter 2
Look, we all know Vega is a bit of a dick – but he has an amazing jump. The Street Fighter 2 boss character has a special move, dubbed the Flying Barcelona Attack (charge down the press up and kick), that sees him leap towards the edge of the screen and jump-kick off it high into the air and down towards his opponent. Add a punch and Vega will slash with his claw. Press punch and a direction and Vega will go for the Izuna Drop, a high-damage throw that slams his hapless foe into the floor head first.
The Flying Barcelona Attack is fast and can be tricky to deal with – just like the vain Spaniard himself (handsome fighters never lose battles, remember?). But Vega’s jump attack takes on an extra special quality when he performs it on his home stage. Here, with a fence protecting the flamenco dancer and her troupe in the background, Vega’s Flying Barcelona Attack can be transformed into a Cage Climb. Rather than jumping towards the edge of the screen, Vega leaps onto the fence, climbs up, then torpedoes down to his opponent, screaming in that high pitch voice of his. The Cage Climb is actually a godsend, really, as it telegraphs Vega’s dive bomb. As Vega climbs the fence, you know to ready your shoryuken – or, in this Guile player’s case, a flash kick. Smack Vega’s pretty face right out of his cocky jump attack – or get sliced up trying.
Mario’s jump isn’t just the most iconic jump in video games. It’s the original. The ur-jump. Before he was even called Mario, he was called Jumpman, leaping over tumbling barrels in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, the first game to feature a jump mechanic – the birth of the platformer. It was a modest little hop then, but it was the start of something beautiful.
That beautiful thing came to full flower in 1985’s Super Mario Bros. Now, you could vary the height of Mario’s jump according to how long you pressed the jump button. You could also use a dash button to add speed, and even pull back and change direction mid-jump, describing complex, impossible arcs through the air. He could jump so high and far it felt like he would almost take off – which he later did, in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. The jump was his primary weapon, too, used to bop enemies on the head.
Decades later, and after a move into 3D and back again, Mario’s jump has acquired countless embellishments and mutations, from wall-kicks to ground-pounds to, in 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey, a hat-toss that deploys Mario’s cap as a kind of temporary platform. Most of these are great fun to use. But the inviolable core of Mario’s jump is the sense of momentum, and the variable height, that were introduced back in Super Mario Bros. They make it so much more than a simple action – almost a tool for self-expression. They make it analogue.
That’s why I still regard the double-jump employed by almost every other platformer character as a heretical cop-out. That’s why Mario’s jump isn’t just the original, it’s the best.