Playing Celeste after it was released in 2018 changed everything I knew about platformers. Its developers Matt Makes Games and Extremely OK Games Ltd. designed levels that challenged me in ways I had never been challenged and offered an unprecedented amount of accessibility features at the time. For those reasons and others, it’s a game should be recognized even more than it already has, and rank among all-time platforming classics like as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Crash Bandicoot.
While those two games redefined the platfomer genre in their own ways, Celeste paved the way to making platformers accessible for everyone. It does not matter if your game is an indie title or big studio blockbuster – it should be a game that everyone can play and enjoy, and if it contains a memorable lesson then all the better! My interest in accessibility in games can be traced back to the first article I wrote for DualShockers, where I talk about the challenges that come with having been born with only one arm, and how gaming has helped me navigate them.
Celeste showed me that there are developers out there who think like people like me despite not ever meeting me, and for that I am forever thankful to the developers of this game. Yes, this game won multiple awards including Best Independent Game and The Game Awards’ Games For Impact Award (which is given to the game that contains the deepest, most positive message for those who play it), but its importance goes far beyond the 2018 game awards season.
Before you even start your climb up the titular mountain, its options menu is a trove of possibilities that fill me with glee, with every toggle creating a unique adventure for every one of us. From changing the grab mode from an on/off toggle to a button you hold down, to offering those with visual issues a photosensitive mode, and the ability to change the shake effects on the screen, there is something to make the game that bit more comfortable for you.
Speedrunners will appreciate the clock you can turn on to track your time, but for me, the winner is the ability to fully customize and remap your controls. Most games do offer a form of control reconfiguration, however, unlike Celeste you cannot change the buttons to YOUR specifications and needs. But in Celeste, you cannot only change the commands for its main character Madeline, but you can also change the controls for the menu itself. I have never played a game where that was possible.
Anyone can play Celeste, whether you want infinite stamina, infinite air dashes, a dash assist. You can even play through the game as a god with ‘invincibility mode,’ where you take no damage and can clear levels with extreme ease. Your level of skill is not something that needs to be thought about, all that matters is climbing the mountain.
Accessibility isn’t the only reason Celeste should be ranked among the best platformers of all time. Its story provides a unique and wonderful look at what it’s like to have anxiety through its protagonist Madeline. It’s a game I always recommend to people – both those I know personally and those I chat with at the midnight release of a game (yep, those still exist!).
As the days and years go by, more developers are adding various video game features in their games surrounding accessibility, but the fact is that if any indie game like Celeste can do it, there’s no reason the big triple-A games shouldn’t. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to change Link’s controller commands in Breath of the Wild and its upcoming sequel, there is no reason why a game should not assist players in a variety of ways. When a wonderful indie title has more accessibility options than a big-budget game, that says something about the state of the industry.
Beyond the accessibility, Celeste offers unique levels, fun challenges, and more – I cannot recommend it enough. If there is a sequel in the works I will be first in line (at midnight, if need be) to buy it Day One because its developers have redefined how games should be made. Cheers to everyone at Matt Makes Games and Extremely OK Games Ltd. You have a fan for life.