Xbox has a lot of incredibly established franchises that cover different genres. Halo takes care of the first-person shooter genre, Gears of War is the go-to third-person shooter series for the brand, and Forza is the best racing franchise on any platform.
What Microsoft’s missing, however, is a platformer.
Xbox has plenty of platformer franchises that can be brought back, but there are some studios that are more qualified than others. We feel that any of the following five developers could give Xbox a strong platformer to compete with the other iconic platformers already available elsewhere.
5. Double Fine
When Xbox purchased Double Fine in 2019, they took ownership of an incredible studio responsible for a wide range of beloved titles over the past 20 years. Between Brutal Legend, Grim Fandango, and Psychonauts, Double Fine has perfected the formula for strange games that capture a niche audience with outstanding success.
Double Fine is already working on Psychonauts 2, a platforming game that will have the player make use of Psi-Powers like telekinesis and levitation to traverse through levels. The only problem there is that Psychonauts 2 will release on all platforms and is not an Xbox exclusive.
Once Psychonauts 2 is published, however, Double Fine’s games going forward are presumably destined to be first-party Xbox titles. Furthermore, since it took 16 years to develop a sequel to the original Psychonauts, it feels safe to assume that it will be a while before we see another entry in this franchise.
In the meantime, I think Double Fine would be a perfect developer to bring ‘Splosion Man to Xbox Series X and PC. ‘Splosion Man is such a weird concept for a game and it fits perfectly with the design sensibilities that have been established at Double Fine. They should be more than able to take the weirdness of that character and make it shine brighter than ever before in a brand new adventure.
This may well be the most obvious choice of developer to make a platforming game for Xbox. After all, Rare was once a dominant force in the platformer genre with franchises like Conker and Banjo-Kazooie, to say nothing of their work with the Donkey Kong franchise.
Since being acquired by Microsoft, though, Rare were tasked with development of games for Kinect and working on the Viva Piñata series. In more recent years, they have been able to spread their wings again with titles such as Sea of Thieves and Everwild.
Bottom line, it would be a crime not to have another platform adventure come from this studio and Microsoft should know that. We feel that they should let Rare play with the franchises from their illustrious past. For a studio whose very DNA is rooted in platforming games, not getting to work on such games for a long time is a waste of talent and potential.
Imagine if the next Xbox Games Showcase opened with a video in which Conker the Squirrel or Banjo the Bear showed up, as part of an announcement for new games in their respective franchises. That announcement alone would be the biggest talking point of that conference and would have players around the world excited and ready to purchase a Xbox console.
3. Mojang Studios
It’s hard not to feel as though Mojang Studios is Minecraft, rather than just working on it. Besides updating the base game, their focus is on licensing and co-developing Minecraft related projects, whether it be Minecraft: Dungeons or Minecraft: Story Mode
To that end, let’s see what Mojang can do to bring Minecraft into the platforming world.
If you look at a game like Astro’s Playroom on PlayStation 5, there are multiple levels that offer players a specialized accessory to help them accomplish a given goal. Minecraft has plenty of weapons and accessories that can make for a unique adventure. Having different levels make use of the crossbow or a minecart, along with other abilities like the fireball, can give the player plenty of ways to traverse each level while dodging the various enemy creatures.
Consider that in Mario games, there are the Super and 1-Up Mushrooms which give the Mario brothers a size boost and an extra life, respectively. Using potions in this potential Minecraft game could have the same effect. In a similar vein, using the mine cart could make for some fun levels comparable to those found in a Donkey Kong Country game.
This franchise is one of the most successful of all time, owing in part to its ability to adapt to any space or idea to which it is introduced. Any inclusion of the Minecraft brand in a gaming genre or other property has the distinct potential to be a grand success.
2. Compulsion Games
In the past, Compulsion Games has developed Contrast and We Happy Few, the latter of which took place in a cheerful dystopia in 1960’s London. The game was critically divisive to say the least but I remember seeing the original trailer and falling in love with the world that they built.
Compulsion Games should create a brand new IP that takes the same concept of the dystopian world from We Happy Few, but structures it as a platforming adventure. The franchise doesn’t have to try to be like Mario or Sonic, but instead be able to set itself apart from the traditional platformer environments and give players something completely different.
Using the horror aspect of We Happy Few, this platformer can operate at a slower pace. Instead of using fictional weapons like fireballs, players could use guns and swords to defeat the enemies that are in their way. Jump scares, a horror inducing soundtrack, and the right use of lighting could bring a unique experience to the genre that we haven’t seen in a while.
Obviously, we have seen ‘darker’ platformers such as Inside, but I believe Compulsion Games can make a game that will go further with the concept. Such a game could have the horror aspect cranked up to 11 to keep the players scared about what’s to come with each step.
With all the DLC for We Happy Few being released, we don’t have a clear idea of what the team over at Compulsion Games is currently developing. I feel, however, that they truly would be the optimal team to put together an unforgettable horror platformer.
1. Playtonic Games
With the recent rumors of Microsoft looking to purchase another studio, one standout candidate amid the discourse has been Playtonic Games, of Yooka-Laylee fame. It would make sense, then, if Playtonic were being brought in to serve as Microsoft’s go-to developer for platformers.
While Yooka-Laylee released to some critical problems, a series of updates and a sequel have made it a solid foundation for an ongoing franchise. That said, there are currently no plans for extra content for the sequel Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, besides updates to help improve the gameplay. In addition, there haven’t been any rumors about a third entry in the franchise being developed.
Thus, a takeover by Microsoft right now would be perfect for helping Playonic finish off the updates for Impossible Lair. From there, the studio would be free to either begin development on a third entry or take control of an older IP that Microsoft hasn’t touched in a long time, especially anything typically handled by the now-busy Rare.
Playtonic Games making incredible platformers isn’t a coincidence, since the entire team is made up of former Rare employees. Having some of the original development studio team come back and work on projects they once helped create 20 years ago, like Banjo-Kazooie or Conker, would ensure that those franchises are in the best possible hands. A new entry in either of those franchises would likely be kept as close to the original as possible, all while making it feel like it’s a brand new game.
With the possibility of Playtonic Games being acquired by Microsoft, Rare would be in a position to assist Playtonic if they were to bring back one of their former franchises. Whether it be an aspect of gameplay or recapturing the spirit of the character dialogue, cooperation between the two studios feels like it can only result in good things.