Double Jumping: Mid-Air Leaping’s Chatterbox

This might take a few tries, yikes.
This might take a few tries to pull off, yikes! From You Can Double JUMP.

Double jumping: when a character jumps once, and then jumps again while airborne. It’s a game mechanic that has survived for nearly two decades since the release of Dragon Buster by Namco in 1984. Since then, double jumping has been a featured game mechanic in several games such as Team Fortress 2, Castlevania, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. However, there are times where the double jump doesn’t cut it, either. Super Mario Sunshine features triple jumping, and most recently the character Wrastor in Rivals of Aether can quadruple jump. Mid-air leaping has certainly grown from its seeds planted in the 1980s.

The obvious fact that air isn’t solid makes this type of leap truly impossible. Yet videos of people on YouTube attempting to double jump show that people try anyways. Some of these videos show people attempting to push themselves off the air, while others are edited to look highly realistic, like the one shown below (the jump occurs around 1:07):

Real Life Double Jump

Okay, so maybe launching into the stratosphere isn’t exactly what would really happen. But videos like the above tell us the double jump has earned its place as a novel video game skill. There’s several ways that mid-air leaping has integrated itself into games.

Collecting Items or Unlocking Features

Alucard visits the Librarian in the Long Library.
Alucard visits the Librarian in the Long Library.

Many characters can’t double jump at all, or at least not on their own. Possessing certain items, such as powerups or collectibles, often grant characters the ability to double jump. Konami’s Castlevania, a video game series focusing on a clan of vampire hunters that clash with the vampire Dracula, is a great example of this. A certain item collected in the games give playable characters the ability to jump in mid-air. In one case, characters find relics that give characters new abilities. Without collecting a relic, it may be impossible to reach the end of the game. In Symphony Of the Night, Alucard needs to get the Leap Stone to double jump. Other installments of Castlevania might need players to acquire souls instead of items, as Soma needs Malphas’ soul to unlock double jumping by defeating Malphas in Dawn of Sorrow.

In Symphony Of the Night, double jumping is necessary to reach places that couldn’t have been reached before. Preceding games to Symphony had actual levels, but this particular installment allowed the player to revisit old areas. This was often required here, as the Leap Stone would be found after continuing past the Long Library. With double jumping now part of the player’s skill set, more areas can be reached by double jumping to a certain place found near the Long Library.

Molding to Characters’ Abilities

Raz uses his psychic abilities to double jump.
Raz uses his psychic abilities to double jump.

At a structural level, an upwards force of a certain amount is acted on a character when a certain button on a controller is pressed. When jumping in mid-air, characters are technically pushed again by another force acted on them. What the character appears to do is up to the game designers: are they jumping, or performing some other form of mid-air ascension? Some characters are given abilities that are similar to the idea of double jumping, but relate more to their traits, such as Raz in the LucasArts game Psychonauts. Raz is a ten-year old boy who stows away to a summer camp from a circus. At the same time he arrives, a plot is unfolding at this camp, and Raz uses his gifts in order to put a stop to these evils. He is able to manipulate psychic energy, reflected in how the player explores in Psychonauts. As a character who wields psychic powers, he can create and bounce on a bubble of energy after leaping into the air. This “psychic energy bouncing” of sorts is another form of double jumping, even though the idea is to be propelled upwards from something other than a solid surface. Instead of jumping off an existing stationary object, one is being created at the moment the player makes a second jump. Combining the concept of double jump with the use of mental energy makes more sense to a character like Raz.

Psychic energy bouncing is one of two powers that Raz begins the game with, besides being able to create a large hand to strike objects with. It aids in exploration and collecting future skills later in the game. The need to double jump is not necessary as in Symphony Of the Night, but is useful in taking on the Psychonauts world right from the beginning.

Existing in A Certain Setting

Robot Unicorn Attack
It’s possible to reach that upper right ledge by double jumping.

Some characters simply can double jump because the time and place where they exist allow them to do so. Game mechanics often blossom from the brainstorming of game play ideas. These ideas then become part of the character’s makeup, and the world it lives in needs to accommodate for these traits. Small and large platform games alike have been known to show off double jumping as a typical move that players would use. Take the Robot Unicorn Attack series originally developed by Spiritonin Media Games, for instance. The object of the game is to keep the robot unicorn alive as long as possible in this neverending-running style platformer, with three lives granted per game. Double jumping and dashing are the two basic abilities the unicorn has. The controls menu listed on the title screen states how players can jump and double jump. There aren’t any reasons as to why the unicorn is able to jump in midair, but it’s simply inferred that it’s possible and players should know this.

Without double jumping, players wouldn’t be able to make it too far. Even more so, the difficulty increases as you play and that second jump may become necessary. More importantly, it’s more difficult to rack up points without double jumping. Robot Unicorn Attack players need to jump to higher ledges and more widely spaced platforms to stay in the game. There’s also rings to jump through and crystals to collect in these hard-to-reach areas.

Since the birth of Dragon Buster, double jumping has marketed itself in many ways. Today, people are now starting to question whether double jumping is possible outside of the video game. Doing a simple Google search leads to multiple forum posts, videos, and online discussions about this particular topic. In a way, it begs to question why double jumping is so widely discussed. On Kinja (Talk Amongst Yourselves), RedHotPeak writes about his double jumping encounters in the video games they played in the article “D’You Dig Double Jumping?” Giant Bomb hosts several forums, many talking about how neat it would be if double jumping in real life was as easy as pressing the spacebar. And of course, several videos of double jumping shenanigans live on YouTube. All of these media contributions reflect how popular this topic is among the gaming world. All thanks to how double jumping present itself in games today, either through items or character traits, or the game’s environment requires the player to jump lengthy distances. It’s important to note the necessity of double jumping also varies depending on the game. However, double jumping is only the beginning of what has been in store for mid-air leaping. Triple and quadruple jumping, and even Kirby’s balloon-hopping ability, all show how the idea of jumping is expanding. Surely, games will continue to introduce new possibilities on mid-air leaping, continuing to defy gravity for several years to come.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. For some reason, I just LOVE games that have characters that allow you to double-jump. For some reason, that simple game-mechanic feels very satisfying to me (as long as the double-jump move isn’t completely broken). I’m a weird guy.

  2. Sinclair

    Nowadays they’re often used to compensate for bad players flubbing their jumps, or to create more acrobatic/difficult level structures that rely on double-jumping from an early stage in the game.

  3. ChristelleMarie Chua

    I find double jumps useful in a lot of platformers, but strange when used in more realistic shooters. It looks like the characters are flying. This is a nice article on something overlooked in a lot of games.

  4. The first i ever played with a double jump was Valis, (1986) I remember thinking “That’s not right!” I was so mad, lol. even as a kid i wanted realistic physics in my games. Finally starting to come around now. But damn that was a long wait.

  5. I think that the purpose of double jump is to allow for tighter player control in positioning.

  6. Its such a buzzard concept!

  7. CoolMan

    If you’re not a gamer, the very notion of it is both unintuitive and unnatural — gravity is still in full effect, but what the hell, you can jump a second time in mid-air!

  8. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the SNES has a rather interesting implementation of double jumping:

    Once you’ve launched into the air, you ordinarily have no control over the character’s movement until you land again. You can, however, change direction when you execute the second, mid-air jump. So double-jumping represents your only opportunity to change your trajectory once you’re airborne.

  9. Emanuel

    Ape Escape and Sonic 3 & Knuckles immediately come to mind in terms of platformers.

  10. I love double-jumping. It makes me happy whenever it’s available in any video game, no matter how out of place or stupid it may seem.

  11. I personally only like double jump in games were it’s done well and necessary to master to successfully play the game. Find it ridiculous and annoying in stuff like Darksiders or Nier.

  12. Freitas

    Wall jumps are where it’s at.

  13. I feel like so many games I have played have it.

  14. most satisfying double jump ever. jak and daxter imo

  15. Emily Deibler

    This reminds me of how a lot of WoW players I’ve seen are immensely excited that the new class, demon hunters, can double jump, which is an ability no other class has. Great work on this article!

  16. Adnan Bey

    Very interesting article. When I was young, I used to try double jumping. I dunno about Super Mario Sunshine, but Super Mario 64 features Mario double jumping, but only after he lands, the momentum, (I’m guessing) allows him to jump higher once he lands, and then jump and flip higher in a triple jump. One thing for sure, you make me wish I had played Psychonauts before I lost my PS2. Stupid me.

  17. Best double jumping in a game ever IMO is in Megaman and Bass. Bass’ double jump is just so satisfying to me for some reason.

  18. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as the classic
    Dust: An Elysian Tail as the modern game

  19. Del Schreiber

    It was strange the first time I saw it and that was during my transition from PS1 to PS2. I think the first game for me was Devil may cry and then Ratchet and Clank after that I think. I was so long ago its hard to remember, now pretty much every action adventure 3rd person RPG game uses it. But for me Devil May cry did it best…..

  20. I’m not a big fan of double jumps. Got nothing against them, I just think they’re weird, and platformers are just generally better without them. But some games I love do have them, such as Devil May Cry (as an upgrade). There is also Smash Bros. which uses the feature incredably well.

  21. Ahhh, the double jump, I love the double jump, I adore the double jump.

  22. One of my favourite lines in a game was in the tutorial for Spiderman 2: The Game, where the narrator tells Spiderman to “press spacebar in mid-air to perform a double jump, also known as ‘defying the laws of physics’.” It surprises me how ingrained it is in players that double jumping is a thing that it feels completely natural to do it, despite the fact it’s physically implausible.

    By the way, it was Double Fine, not LucasArts who made Psychonauts. Basically the same company though, given that Double Fine was founded by ex-LucasArts people after Disney assimilated the company for its own nefarious purposes.

  23. It’s always nice when games at least attempt to explain the double jump, as you mentioned with Pyschonauts. The Metroid games (and certainly a few others) justify it by way of “rocket boots”, but I suppose the appeal of these games was never their realism!

  24. Christina Airola

    I get so confused when my characters can’t double-jump! In an amused way, of course. It almost feels natural, especially on platformers. I’m replaying Uncharted right now, though, and if Nathan Drake could double-jump…well, that would be ridiculous. I think it depends on the type of games.

    Good article. I’ve never seen something quite like this!

  25. baba44713

    Mario could never double jump, let alone triple, not even in Sunshine.

  26. Try playing trove where you can stack over 20+ jumps because of your equipment.

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