[From now until mid-January, IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2009, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category. Previously: Top 10 Shoot 'em Ups, Top 10 Puzzle Games, Top 10 Browser Platformers]

The fourth of our in-depth 2009 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for '10 article), we're proud to present twenty of the best freeware platformers released in 2009.

2D platformers make up a large portion of freeware indie games, and if you're looking for the next Cave Story, Knytt or Spelunky, then there's no better place to start than here - our selection of the freshest platform games released in 2009 for your enjoyment.

(You can also access the full 2009 Top Freeware Platformers chart -- with extra screenshots and information -- as part of the IndieGames.com Features section, which includes indie game charts from 2006 to 2008.)

Here are the top freeware downloadable platformers of the year:

20. Takishawa is Dead (Andrew Brophy) [Windows, freeware]

Takishawa is Dead is a difficult 3D platformer created by Andrew Brophy, where players are sent on a quest to find the aforementioned individual who is hiding in a world filled with dangerous pitfalls and traps.

The game is a rather short one, and players aren't really expected to use more than five or six different save points throughout their adventure.

19. Devil's Tuning Fork (DePaul Game Elites) [Windows, freeware]

Devil's Tuning Fork is an exploration game viewed from a first-person perspective, where you play as a child trapped in an alternate reality after catching a strange illness and falling into a coma. The unknown world is a dark one and has no illumination, but a tuning fork that you find at the start of your adventure can be used to feel your way around the maze of rooms and platforms.

18. Being Struck By Lightning... (Scapegoat Software) [Windows, freeware]

There's no way that you can pass a game by that has the title 'Being Struck By Lightning is Probably the Best Way That You Could Die On Account of All of It's Awesomeness' and not try it out.

Gameplay-wise, the game extends about as far at its name in terms of sheer agonising design. Initially simple, the combination of tight jumping and evil level design make this the most keyboard-bashing experience I've had in a while. It's worth holding out and playing on when you feel like you can't take anymore, just to see how utterly harsh it really gets.

17. We Want YOU (Quicksand Games) [Windows, freeware]

We Want YOU is a 'satirical, procedurally-generated war platformer' which simultaneously tells you 'War is Fun!' while throwing in news now and again of how many people have died and why you really shouldn't be enjoying yourself. After being air-lifted in, it's your job to drop through the various areas, killing any threats and staying alive.

There's not much to it other than that, but there are lots of nice touches. For example, the title screen and the end of game screen look nearly identical, apart from the fact that in the end of game screen you are, well, dead. Of course, as the game suggests, this isn't about who wins or loses - it's about being a hero, soldier!

16. Saut (Mabi Games) [Windows, freeware]

Created for the Game Jolt's Minimal Contest, Saut is a dark platformer in which you need to tactically time your jumps so as not to end up down one of the many pits - using only one button, of course. Oh, and it's amazing fun.

Graphically it reminded me a lot of Boss Baddie's Lunnye Devitsy - there's a lovely atmosphere about it all, especially helped along by the great soundtrack. Give it a try.

15. Descent (Ted Lauterbach) [Windows, freeware]

Descent is a retro 2D platformer created by the developer of the Visit series, where complicated moves such as air jumps, spring jumps and ledge grabbing must be mastered if you are to stand any chance of completing the game. Players assume control over an unnamed character who has to explore winding corridors and climb down pits, so that he or she could discover what lies at the bottom of this massive cave.

14. The Manipulator (Virtanen Games) [Windows, freeware]

The Manipulator is a 2D puzzle platformer created by Virtanen Games, developer of Seven Minutes and Virtual Silence. In it, you play a psychic who has the ability to control the minds of others and influence them to carry out your orders.

There are multiple endings to discover in this game.

13. Assassin Blue (Banov) [Windows, freeware]

Assassin Blue is a 2D platformer with combat elements, consisting of twelve levels split evenly between four distinct areas to explore. In the game, players assume control over a sword-wielding hitman who must carry out a series of missions for his superior. This naturally translates to a lot of jumping, climbing and fighting as you make your way past hordes of henchmen leading up to the commander of each resistance group.

12. Focus (Jesse Venbrux) [Windows, freeware]

In Focus you find yourself trapped in a cave full of traps and robots that fire missiles at you on sight. You will learn a skill called 'focus mode' early in the game, which can be used to teleport yourself anywhere inside a blue circle. Some momentum is applied as well, but the longer you hold the focus button the smaller the circle becomes, hence your teleport range will shrink until it is no longer possible to perform the feat. The focus field also causes everything inside the circle to move in slow motion, and focus power is regained by not using it for a couple of seconds.

Players who complete the game will receive a rank and a medal to honour their achievement, although some might find the game a bit too challenging because of random elements such as the behavior of falling debris and homing missiles.

11. Tower of Heaven (Askiisoft) [Windows, freeware]

Askiisoft's Tower of Heaven is a wonderful platformer which will have you tearing large chunks of hair - nay, SKIN - from your cranium. Your task is to ascend said tower, but a mysterious power which resides at the top is doing everything it can to make sure you don't succeed. The introduction of the 'Book of Laws' early on ramps the difficulty up tenfold. Oh, and there's a time limit too.

Special mention should go to Flashy Goodness, whose provided soundtrack is simply amazing. It really gels well with the general feel of the entire experience. Prepare to shout OH COME ON many, many times.

10. Excavatorrr (Hempuli) [Windows, freeware]

In Excavatorrr you play as an adventurer who is searching for rare treasures in an unexplored network of caves, equipped with only a pickaxe and some starting items strewn on the floor. Maps are procedurally generated every time you start a new game, and you can only replenish items or offload treasures for cash back at the shop (press up at the entrance) on the surface.

9. Holdover (Fox Eye) [Windows, freeware]

Holdover is a puzzle platformer in the style of the old Metroid series, where you are in control of a girl named Marie who had just woken up from a deep slumber inside an abandoned research complex. The research facility itself is a labyrinth of corridors, platforms and underwater sections. Since you can't swim nor jump very high at the start of the game, the time in which you spent underwater will be limited to how long you can hold your breath.

Note that Holdover does have some blood and nudity in it.

8. Saintrooper (Yamoto) [Windows, freeware]

Saintrooper is a challenging exploration platform game that takes place mostly under water, where your character has to swim up for air often or collect oxygen tanks to prevent from losing valuable hearts. The game ends if you run out of lives, but players can always continue playing from the last level attempted by using the stage select option shown after the control selection menu.

One key feature of the game is that you have the ability to grab on to walls and climb upwards by jumping off a vertical surface. You can shoot in four different directions, and acquiring the special power-up item will temporary increase your firepower and oxygen reserves.

7. Glum Buster (Justin Leingang) [Windows, freeware]

Glum Buster is a puzzle adventure game which took CosMind four years to create with the Game Maker engine. Comparisons to Seiklus are likely, since both share more than a couple of similarities in terms of sparseness in storytelling efforts and a heavy emphasis on exploration.

6. Beacon (Chevy Ray Johnston) [Windows, freeware]

Depending on how good you are at overcoming difficult challenges, Beacon can be a rather lengthy platformer that will take some time to beat. Shadows are lurking in every corner waiting for our protagonist to make a wrong move, but as luck would have it a beacon of light appears out of nowhere to help him illuminate the way forward.

The beacon will occasionally take a branching path that is out of your reach, and you would have to rely on the light from blue and red crystals just as often to progress.

5. Nezumiman (Fishman) [Windows, freeware]

Nezumiman (Rat man) is a 2D platformer created in the same style as early Megaman games, where you are in control of a rodent who has to defeat the evil Dr. Gyoniku and his henchmen. Ratman can jump, shoot, slide, and earn special abilities by beating the boss characters in each of the eight levels included.

A hidden bonus chapter can also be unlocked once you've completed the entire game, although it doesn't really take more than two hours to achieve that feat if you're already accustomed to playing difficult platformers by now. The save feature will come in handy if you need a short break or two between sessions as well.

4. Pylo Noveau (Grif and Omnilith) [Windows, freeware]

Pylo Noveau is a 2D platformer created using the Game Maker engine. You play as Pylo, a dragon with fire-breathing ability that can be further upgraded whenever you collect a red gem. Any jewels you collect also allows you to use special powers that can either reveal secrets in a stage, heal Pylo, or even hurt enemies in a myriad of ways.

3. Jumpman (Andi McClure) [Windows/Mac/Linux, freeware]

Jumpman is a retro 2D platformer which took Andi more than a year to make, where a variety gameplay elements such as level rotations, infinite repeating patterns and physics are introduced after every couple of stages. One neat trick implemented by the developer is that you can see the next few maps which you will have to play shown in the distant background, as if taunting you with the difficulties and obstacles that you have to face next.

A level editor and playground feature is included, should you find yourself craving for more platforming action after completing the main campaign. There are nine paths to play in total, and a special bonus can be unlocked by completing all challenges.

2. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Dot Zo Games) [Windows, freeware]

Journey to the Center of the Earth is an exploration platform game in which you play the role of a treasure hunter, out to retrieve forty pieces of relics from the ruins of an ancient civilization. You carry an unlimited number of bombs that can be used to hurt enemies or launch yourself higher into the air. A treasure map showing location hints and relics collected is accessible by pressing the A key at any time.

The game runs at a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels, but you can also play it in full screen mode by pressing the F4 function key. There is no progress save feature, so you will have to spend about half an hour or more to complete the entire adventure in one go.

1. The Legend of Princess (Joakim Sandberg) [Windows, freeware]

The Legend of Princess is a 2D platformer created by the developer of Chalk and the Noitu Love series, where players get to step into the shoes of a tunic-wearing hero on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess. As with most of Joakim's releases, there are plenty of memorable boss encounters to be had here.

[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]