You might not have thought it way back when, but parkour was once a pretty common thing in video games. More so now, of course. But back in the golden age of arcade gaming, doing something as simple as climbing a ladder would have been seen as borderline free running. Since then, developers have only looked to expand on the core mechanics of the sport, using a variety of tricky manoeuvres to assemble a specialised palette.
From climbing the walls of a research facility to leaping from a landmark way up in the clouds, video games pretty much give us the creative freedom to do whatever we want these days. The boundaries are forever being pushed back and the worlds within them are always finding new ways to evolve and prosper. As for today, we’re able to look over quite the collection of flourished worlds. But given the lack of time and space for this specific list — we’ll just hit you with the best of the best. So, let’s hit the ground running. Here are the five best parkour games of all time.
5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Prince of Persia has probably been under the hammer more times than most other games under Ubisoft’s belt, with remakes accounting for 50% of the entire franchise. And let’s not forget that the series is actually under construction as we speak, with The Sands of Time paving its way to current-gen hardware in time for Christmas. Hopefully.
Back in 2003, however, The Sands of Time was perhaps one of the greatest parkour games of its generation. With otherworldly skill sets that broke the fourth wall of video game mechanics, Ubisoft developed an iconic arsenal that would later go on to inspire countless others in the booming industry. Even with several instalments in the pipeline, 2003’s The Sands of Time is still hands down the greatest entry Ubisoft has put out to date. No comparison.
4. Tomb Raider (2013+)
How could we not put Tomb Raider up on this list? The series itself practically revolves around parkour when it’s not trying to shove myths and grave robbing down your throat. Plus, how could we forget that Lara actually used to perform handstands whenever ascending something as basic as a ladder? It was completely unnecessary — but we loved it.
Of course, Square Enix was able to tone the theatrics down a few notches when picking up the reins to the franchise. And yet, even under a new hammer, Lara continued to keep a firm hold on her original style and epic abilities. I mean, even watching her stumble after a jump would look effortless and slick. Now that’s how you do parkour.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Unity
You know, if Assassin’s Creed: Unity didn’t go on to receive such a poor reception over its slew of game-breaking bugs after launch, chances are it would’ve been the undisputed king in the series. However, glitches aside, Unity did actually produce probably some of the best parkour mechanics to date. Even with the likes of Valhalla on the market, and not to mention the previous two open worlds — Unity still stacks much higher when it boils down to the technicalities.
Okay, so story-wise, it wasn’t great — and Arno wasn’t exactly the greatest protagonist on the roster, either. But gameplay-wise, Assassin’s Creed: Unity was an absolute delight to play, with plenty of built up structures and districts to scale, synchronize and soar from. You know — when it worked and didn’t crash out to the home screen, of course.
2. Dying Light
It’s not very often we get to play leapfrog with a zombie, but there you go — Dying Light basically lets you do it. And that’s just one of the many things you’ll find yourself doing out on the run as a zombie-hunting, parkour-loving double agent, weirdly enough. The rest of your time out in Harran, however, is basically spent scrounging for leftover parts to build a bat. But that can be equally as entertaining in its own special way. Sometimes.
Like a spiritual successor to the beloved Dead Island series, Dying Light relies heavily on its parkour front, in which you adopt to your arsenal as a means to overthrow the evolving zombie hordes of Harran. Come night, just as the city turns sour and entices the dark forces to up the ante, those very skills can be what makes you — or what essentially leads you to your downfall.
1. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
Well, there you have it. After taking onboard all the negative feedback that the first Mirror’s Edge received — Catalyst was quick to strike back with even more ambition, loftier goals and a jam-packed open world that would go on to leave players traversing the iconic City of Glass for weeks without ever succumbing to fatigue.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst makes parkour your one and only tool for the duration of the journey. With no fast travel involved whatsoever, you’re made to zip, slide and leap over endless clusters of rooftops on a thread of quests that will keep you on your feet from beginning to end. It’s stylish, it’s slick — and it is most definitely the best parkour game on the market.
So, what did we miss? Are there any quality parkour games that should’ve made this top five? Let us know over on our socials here.