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A platform game, or platformer, is a video game genre and subgenre of action game. In a platformer the player controls a character or avatar to jump between suspended platforms and avoid obstacles. Environments often feature uneven terrain requiring jumping and climbing in order to traverse them. The player often has some control over the height and distance of jumps to avoid letting their character fall to their death or miss necessary jumps. The most common unifying element of games of this genre is the jump button, but now there are other alternatives like swiping a touchscreen. Other acrobatic maneuvers may factor into the gameplay as well, such as swinging from objects such as vines or grappling hooks, as in Ristar or Bionic Commando, or bouncing from springboards or trampolines, as in Alpha Waves. These mechanics, even in the context of other genres, are commonly called platforming, a verbification of platform. Games where jumping is automated completely, such as 3D games in The Legend of Zelda series, fall outside of the genre.
Platform games originated in the early 1980s, which were often about climbing ladders as much as jumping, with 3D successors popularized in the mid-1990s. The term describes games where jumping on platforms is an integral part of the gameplay and came into use after the genre had been established, no later than 1983. The genre is frequently combined with elements of other genres, such as the shooter elements in Contra, Beat 'em up elements of Viewtiful Joe, adventure elements of Flashback, or role-playing game elements of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
While commonly associated with console gaming, there have been many important platform games released to video arcades, as well as for handheld game consoles and home computers. North America, Europe and Japan have played major parts in the genre's evolution. Platform themes range from cartoon-like games to science fiction and fantasy epics.
At one point, platform games were the most popular genre of video game. At the peak of their popularity, it is estimated that between one-quarter and one-third of console games were platformers. No genre either before or since has been able to achieve a similar market share. As of 2006, the genre had become far less dominant, representing a two percentage market share as compared to fifteen percent in 1998, but is still commercially viable, with a number of games selling in the millions of units. Since 2010, a variety of endless running platformers for mobile devices have brought renewed popularity to the genre.