Remember when parkour was the biggest thing in the world? It seemed as though everyone was doing it, or at least wearing sweatbands and baggy shorts and watching online compilations of skinny French and American teenagers clambering over rooftops and scaling industrial cranes. It was a craze that translated slowly into the gaming world, as studios began to realise they could cash in on this emerging trend with a slew of games that integrated wall-hopping, free running and obstacle clambering into their arsenal of mechanics. Suddenly, parkour in gaming was everywhere.
The best bit about parkour games is that you can enjoy them from the convenience of your comfy, comfy sofa. Why get hot, sweaty and potentially dead when you can enjoy the red hot thrill of free-running from your own home? Far better to just convince yourself that you could be a parkour expert by playing games designed to simulate the exhilaration of throwing yourself off of buildings, jumping into haystacks or shimmying down rusty drainpipes. Whether it’s shooting zombies or extreme BMX, the real world is dangerous, scary and full of opportunities to lose a beloved limb. You’re much better off remaining indoors and checking out the ten best parkour games you should be playing instead. Stay safe.
The Best Parkour Games
10. Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
Developer: The Collective
Platform(s): PC, PS2 Xbox
Marco Ecko’s Getting Up may have a somewhat impenetrable title, but it’s a title that does already hint at the offbeat, subversive nature of a game that makes a very specific point of not playing by the rules.
MEGU: CUP focuses on Trane, a graffiti artist and rebel who merrily tags his way along his city as a way of protesting against the corrupt, totalitarian government that has taken control of the country. It’s a bit like Jet Set Radio crossed with Mirror’s Edge.
Marc Ecko’s Getting Up was a solid release when it debuted in 2006, a game that could have gone on to great things had it possessed just a few more layers of much-needed polish. Where it excelled was in melding its gritty urban premise to its satisfying game mechanics, the crowded urban environment of New Radius lending itself beautifully to the parkour traversal mechanics that were still relatively novel back in the mid-2000s.
Combining free running with some very enjoyable melee gameplay and a distinctive visual style, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up is always worthy of a revisit.
9. Super Cloudbuilt
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Probably the most obscure game on this list, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
Super Cloudbuilt is an indie free runner that puts you in control of a soldier named Demi who awakens to find herself “disconnected from her old life and physical body”. To get Demi home and help her discover the cause of her initial injuries, she must navigate her unknown world using smooth, floaty parkour, her rock-powered exo-suit giving her the pace, acceleration and the ability to perform exceptional leaps and jumps. Much of this is done while suspended over the void below, a neat twist that lends the action a degree of tension as you push to ensure you don’t plummet to your untimely demise.
Super Cloudbuilt is a fun little oddity, the sort of game you’re glad you gambled a bit of money on when browsing Steam on a Sunday afternoon. It’s fun, it looks good and it has hidden depths that add to its replay value, and while it isn’t as in-depth or flashy as some of the bigger releases on this list, it still packs a very decent punch for its size.
Developer: One More Level, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One, Switch
With a blend of free-running, slow-motion kills and a big samurai sword at your disposal, Ghostrunner feels like every Christmas coming at once.
Ok, it isn’t that good. One More Levels’ hardcore FPS slasher is a lot of fun, certainly, its heady blend of stylised violence and smooth parkour combining nicely to form a delicious concoction, but it does take elements that players will have seen before from similar games. It’s immensely enjoyable, but it’s an enjoyment that you’ll likely have experienced before if you’re already a fan of the genre.
Having said that, parkour enthusiasts will likely struggle to remain po-faced about a game that succeeds in its stylistic vision with such confident aplomb. The thing about Ghostrunner is that it’s almost impossibly smooth, and it gives enthusiasts of the genre all the ingredients they could want or need.
Ghostrunner is fluid, dynamic and fun, and plays at such a relentless pace that it often gives players the heralded sense of ‘flow’ that is so coveted in games of its ilk.
7. Sunset Overdrive
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
In Sunset Overdrive, players take control of an employee of FizzCo, an energy drinks company whose latest beverage has caused humans to mutate into hideously deformed creatures. Yes, it’s a paper-thin story, but any critical faculties are usually dulled as you look at the pretty colours and happily scream “weee” every time you grind a rail or use a zipline.
In many ways, Sunset Overdrive always felt like the best kind of throwback, a PS2-type adventure that relies on sound, color and fun, putting you in mind of Prince of Persia blended with Jet Set Radio, all slapped with the vibrant hues of Vice City or Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s an intoxicating, breathtaking mix, a blood-pumping thrill that is always infused with a sense of palpable joy.
Aside from the way it looks, Sunset Overdrive is exceptionally fun to play. There are numerous ways for players to traverse the incredible vistas of Sunset city, be it grinding, falling, freerunning, jumping, scrambling, wall-running or pretty much anything besides actually walking like a normal person. In fact, few games discourage standar d ambulation and force players into high-octane movement as much as Sunset Overdrive, but it’s all for the better.
This is a game to be played at a mile a minute.
6. Dying Light 2
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One
Freerunning and zombies is an odd mix, but it’s a mix that makes a degree of sense. If you suddenly found that your city had been infested with horde after horde of the flesh-eating undead, you’d probably find yourself shuffling up drainpipes or dangling off of rooftops in order to avoid having your torso turned into undead chow for the living impaired.
It’s also a mix that truly works for Dying Light 2 (and its predecessor), and the first-person perspective really lends itself to the game’s adrenalised, fast-paced chase sequences. Scrambling up a building as the undead hordes moan and groan below is a great experience only enhanced by having a first-person camera POV, as it means that you’re less likely to know exactly what’s behind you or in what quantity.
All of this combines with Dying Light 2’s satisfying, surprisingly brutal combat system that sees a heavy reliance on brutal, primitive weaponry to help players dispose of the living and undead alike. With a grappling hook and a paraglider also at your disposal once enough of the story is completed, Dying Light 2 ends up as a scarily good time and easily one of the best parkour games you should be playing right now.
5. Infamous: Second Son
Developer: Sucker Punch
Do you remember a time when it seemed as though everyone was talking about the PS4 exclusive Infamous: Second Son? Sucker Punch’s sequel to the hugely popular first Infamous installment was a certified hit, the sort of card PlayStation loyalists would happily pluck from their deck every time a heated console debate flared up with a rival Xbox enthusiast.
It’s a card that hasn’t diminished much in terms of value. Heralded as one of the best looking PS4 games and initially used as a showcase for what Sony’s console could do when it was still in its relative infancy, Second Son was probably partly responsible for quite a few defections from the green corner of the market over to the blue.
Not only does Second Son still look stellar, but it also plays brilliantly, protagonist Delsin Rowe’s (yes, he’s called Delsin) combination of various superpowers and free running ability giving players the freedom to utterly bend the city of Seattle to their will. This intoxicating combination really gives you the sense of power that this is truly your playground.
Seriously, though, who names a child Delsin? No wonder he went off the rails. Maybe he’s to blame for no new inFamous since.
4. Titanfall 2
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
It’s an inexplicable quirk of gaming industry logic that Titanfall 2 never really took over the world as many expected it to. EA’s expansive AAA shooter should have been a modern classic, but something about the timing of its release, possibly coupled with an underwhelming marketing campaign, failed to whip up the sort of hype that rival franchises manage to generate as a matter of course. Titanfall 2 is an exceptional game, but it’s hardly a household name.
For a game centred around allowing players to take control of massive robotic exoskeletons a la Avatar or Alien, it’s perhaps a surprise to see it take its place on a list of the best parkour games you should be playing. Nevertheless, Titanfall 2 did a lot of things very, very well, but arguably its crowning glory was its exceptional movement system: a fluid, intuitive piece of design that gave players complete control of the way in which they traversed their environs.
Titanfall 2 doesn’t look like a parkour game on the surface, but its excellent traversal and movement mechanics really add another dimension to an already fantastic piece of work.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Unity
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
There was a time when the immersive and actually mechanically impressive parkour of the Assassin’s Creed games was one of the series’ main selling points. Following from the more linear template set down by the excellent Prince of Persia franchise, Assassin’s Creed allowed for exploration of practically any aspect of its exterior environments through a smooth, intuitive and remarkably advanced freerunning system that still plays well in the series’ earliest games.
Sadly, this was, along with many other facets that made Assassin’s Creed so recognisable, a feature that became less and less integral as time went on. The first-ever AC, for instance, took flak for being somewhat repetitive in its design, but what the earlier games did was effectively meld stealth and parkour, having these elements integral to the game by making them vital to most central story missions. At a time when modern Assassin’s Creed games have pitched battles in open fields or storming of castles through the front gates, it’s hard not to long for the days when the ability to clamber up the side of a building was a central mechanic rather than a redundant gimmick.
Unity is by no means the best Assassin’s Creed game, but its parkour (bugs and glitches aside) is absolutely peerless. Freerunning across the Parisian skyline is a joy, and it easily reaches its apex in 2014’s troubled release. When playing properly, Unity looks absolutely exquisite, and when coupled with the most fluid and satisfying freerunning mechanics the series has yet seen, you have some of the best parkour ever seen in gaming.
2. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Platform(s): PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube
Free-hopping token-chasers like Mario and Sonic aside, there’s a very strong argument to be made to suggest that it was the Prince of Persia series that introduced the world to what we now recognise as parkour in gaming.
One game in particular can lay claim to giving the world its first taste of in-depth, cohesive free running in its earliest pixelated form: the utterly iconic and completely revolutionary epic that is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
The first entry in Ubisoft’s rebooted Prince of Persia series (there was a time the games used to look like this), The Sands of Time took platforming games from simple run, jump and occasionally grab affairs to games that incorporated the full range of human motion found in the burgeoning parkour craze: ledge shuffling, wall running, three-dimensional movement across a range of planes and platform. Sands of Time had it all, and it did it with remarkable confidence and polish.
What’s still so impressive about all three rebooted Prince of Persia games is how seamlessly integrated parkour is to the missions themselves, and how satisfying it is to time jumps, runs and leaps to avoid obstacles or hazards in true platforming style. Prince of Persia is undoubtedly the spiritual ancestor to Assassin’s Creed, but its legacy, starting with The Sands of Time, extends beyond inspiring a single franchise.
Ubisoft’s action-adventure titan helped put parkour on the map, and in doing so, changed the game forever.
1. Mirror’s Edge
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
As far as love letters to the art of parkour go, Mirror’s Edge is still the most visceral evocation of what it must be like to use nothing but the human body to move as effortlessly as possible through one’s environment.
DICE’s and EA’s Mirror’s Edge came out all the way back in 2008, and it still holds a special place in so many devoted hearts. The game follows Faith, an electrically charged free runner and member of a resistance group fighting a totalitarian government attempting to quell dissension and bring the citizens of its City of Glass to heel.
The parkour craze of the mid-2000s had already started to see its influence on the gaming industry, with releases like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed already incorporating freerunning as a new dimension to their respective arsenals. What Mirror’s Edge did, however, was make parkour the core component, the basis upon which the rest of the game was built and designed. Mirror’s Edge gives its players the closest thing possible to the genuine sensation of performing Faith’s death-defying feats of athleticism, its smooth, intuitive control system making you feel as though you are a master of your craft. Because of the game’s meticulous design and structure, there is always room for improvement as you look to find better, smoother means of traversing the City of Glass.
Mirror’s Edge isn’t just a good game. It’s the sort of title that people consistently and repeatedly still cite as one of their favorites of all time. Mirror’s Edge is still the number one parkour game you should be playing right now.
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