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Houston: I just thought of something... how do these platforms float?


Samus: NEVER question the physics in a video game!

Ah, the floating platform. A staple of platformers and many other games beside. Their popularity is usually attributed to their use in the Mario series.

What do floating platforms do? They float. In the air. Unattached to anything. Inexplicably. Usually motionless, sometimes moving in a circular or back-and-forth pattern. Their sole purpose of existence is to allow you, the player, to jump onto them to get to where you are going. After all, you can't fly.

If it just so happens that you can fly, floating platforms will serve the opposite purpose and become inane obstacles in your way, forcing you to go around them. Unless, of course, you can only fly short distances, in which case, they allow you a rest to recharge your flight meter or whatever the game happens to use; maybe all you have to do is land for an instant and you're ready to go.

Floating platforms aren't just immune to gravity, but to all laws of physics. Regardless of what happens to them, they'll either just stay frozen in place as if in some state of dimensional stasis or keep moving in their pre-defined pattern, ignoring all thrusts of inertia which attempt to affect them — unless it's a Temporary Platform, in which case the weight of the player will suddenly shock it back to reality in a couple of seconds and cause it to fall, crumble, or vanish. And woe is the player who lands (or, more accurately, doesn't land) on a Fake Platform.

Some games try to justify this, often by putting jet thrusters or something on floating platforms, or by making the platforms clouds (although that raises Fridge Logic of how it's solid enough to support the player and why it's perfectly shaped like a platform).

Floating platforms are quickly becoming a Discredited Trope in video games. Game developers are now opting for ways to make them seem more realistic to preserve immersion, such as attaching them to the surrounding terrain or making up excuses (see: Flight) as to why they're just hovering there. But other than that, this is Art Major Physics and Rule of Fun.

Examples of Floating Platforms include:

Video Games

  • Present and subverted in Castlevania where there are platforms in the middle of the empty air but it could be justifiably connected to the wall of the castle. But that doesn't explain why the platforms may move or the platforms that are floating on empty air in the gardens.
    • The moving platforms are SOMETIMES subverted when you can see them being connected to a set of wires or a set of chains or cables.
  • Maple Story doesn't even bother to explain away why there are floating platforms everywhere, from meadows to volcanoes. Given that it is basically a cutesy MMO Metroidvania, this is probably excusable.
  • Golden Sun features floating platforms at the tops of the four Elemental Lighthouses; the Lighthouses are similar to Evil Tower Of Ominousnesses until you beat the Evil Counterpart or the Big Bad). The floating platforms are supposedly held up by Psyenergy (the series' version of magic).
  • Half-Life and its expansions are unusual in their use of this trope in their Xen segments (where the platforms aren't supported by any visible force), since the game's popularity is in part grounding the surreality of fighting aliens in a realistic environment.
    • In Portal, the Unstationary Scaffold fits, requiring a button or trigger to activate, but otherwise not unlike those in Half-Life.
  • Mass Effect 2's Collectors use hexagonal platforms inside their ship and bases. They seem to be built for quick movement around the huge caverns they seem to favour, but have conveniently located blocks for Shepard to take cover behind attacked. During one mission, the Collectors use one of these to spring an ambush by allowing Commander Shepard to pilot one out into open space before locking it down and sending drones after the Commander. Shepard systematically blasts through every one before EDI can hack the platform and Shepard can escape. These platforms probably float around using mass effect fields.
  • Floating platforms in the Mega Man X games are usually justified by having propulsion jets attached. The jets' condition also indicate their status. Platforms with smoking jets are Temporary Platforms.
  • As said earlier, Metroid Prime has jet-powered floating platforms. They simply sit on the ground when the power is off, and one puzzle involves filling a room with water to float such platforms. However, there are also plenty of non-powered floating platforms, including an underwater crash site with perpetually-floating debris that's perfectly spaced out for Samus to hop across.
    • Also, the game never gives any explanation on why some platforms have rockets attached to them. Presumably the Space Pirates did it, but why would they bother strapping rockets to hunks of rocks?
    • Well, they're already known for wacky experiments...also, they really like jumping.
      • It's more likely that the Chozo did it. They're the ones with the floating city, after all.
  • Drawn to Life has you draw two different varieties of cloud to serve as platforms, one sort which is stationary, and another sort which moves up and down or back and forth. And in the "floating in water" department, it later has you draw two kinds of ice cube, one which is stationary, and one which floats back and forth on the water. Certain parts also have floating, stationary Shadow Goo platforms which you ooze through.
    • The main gimmick of Drawn to Life gives the player the ability to add whatever justification he or she likes. Sure the game advises you to draw clouds, but there's nothing stopping you drawing a metal platform with rocket thrusters, or a giant balloon, or some kind of non-moving bird. They'll still be floating platforms, but at least the justification is in the hands of the player.
  • Sonic Adventure and its sequel often have entire floating freaking roadways which no car would ever drive on, for reasons including, well, the loops, and, of course, the fact that there's no access point unless you can jump or fly. Also, as in the 2D games, there are numerous small platforms attached to nothing.
    • The best example in the series would be Sky Sanctuary in Sonic & Knuckles, which is the ruin of an entire floating city, traversed mostly vertically instead of horizontally as with most levels. Appropriately, the place collapses at the end of both Sonic and Knuckles's respective versions of the level.
  • Floating platforms, or "cloudstones," are considered proof of very powerful (and dark) magick in Vagrant Story, and they only exist within Lèa Monde. Later on, Ashley acquires a Grimoire that allows him to raise cloudstones himself. At the end of the game, when all the magic ceased to exist in Lèa Monde, the cloudstones are seen tumbling onto the ground.
  • Conquest of the Stratosphere invents Phlebotinum called floatstone, a mineral that allows the floating fortresses of the game to--float. In practice, this is an virtually inconsequential feature of the game as the only combat that occurs from the ground involve artillery units that can missile you down, and you need to be use a special aerial view to target them. Otherwise, all fighting occurs at a single altitude.
  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter has these in the forms of giant hovering caged fans. A variation is the ones that will sink while you are standing on them, but are not temporary platforms as they will stop sinking at a certain level, but still may sink enough to prevent you from making your next jump or you are required to stay on it long enough to jump to a lower area that would have been impossible to reach from a higher point due to an overhang. Also some of them move sideways while floating.
  • Many Worms maps have inexplicably floating platforms. And that's just to start out with; as in so many other artillery games, you can blast away everything around a single pixel, and it will remain gravity-proof.
    • Scorch aka "Scorched Earth", self-proclaimed "the mother of all games", averts it - by default, the ground particles fall. X Scorch and Atomic Tanks follow the suite.
  • Largely averted in Devil May Cry, as the platforms are usually firmly affixed to a wall. When they aren't, it's clearly magic. At one point, the game looks like it's setting you up for a jumping puzzle with classic floating platforms... and then the platforms fuse into a bridge as you come near.
    • One level in Devil May Cry sees you having to traverse a series of invisible floating platforms, presumably made of some kind of magical energy, to obtain the item needed to unlock the last room and proceed to the Boss Fight. These magical platforms are only visible when the lightning flashes from the storm outside temporarily illuminate them.
  • Tomb Raider 2 included some of these in the next-to-last level, in the form of "jade islands"--which were outside the confines of Lara's otherwise relatively mundane reality.
  • Averted AND Handwaved in Little Big Planet where all platforms must be attached to something in order appear floating unless of course it's made of dark matter then it just plain floats.
    • Thankfully, the sequel lets you play it straight by attaching a tool to an object that allows you to make it float, making dark matter redundant.
  • The few platforms that do float in Final Fantasy XI are either powered by crystals and magic (Tu'Lia) or are in an area created by ungodly formless beings (Promivion).
  • Pokémon Platinum has the area known as the Distortion World, and it's filled with only floating platforms.
  • In one particular point in I Wanna Be the Guy, a spiked part of the ground actively floats up to try and kill you. It does have a thruster but it's probably just there to give it a larger hitbox to kill you with.
  • Hovering rocks are an important feature of Spire, one of the Ages from Myst IV. Adjusting the electrical currents to raise, lower, or propel them is required to complete that Age's puzzles.
  • The Harry Potter games use them, especially the earlier ones. Note Hogwarts has got to be one of the few settings where floating platforms actually make complete sense.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda series, some platforms, some more of which are hardlight, are activated by touch, lift you up, and then disappear, whether you like it or not.
    • The most jarring example has to be in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, where, for no real reason, a crumbly-rock type platform hovers in the room you get the slingshot in. Saves all of three seconds of time, and just stands out in a game where most of the platforms are well placed and build, and the only floating ones are in more "magical" areas - why one suddenly needs to drop just stands out.
  • In Rogue Galaxy, you get a gun which can create floating platforms.
  • In Viewtiful Joe, floating platforms are lifted by propellers on the bottom. Speeding up or slowing down time will also speed up or slow down the propellers, causing the platforms to rise or fall respectively.
  • Gravity in Clonk is somewhat selective, similar to Minecraft, and ground that you dig out (unlike sand) will simply float there. Bizarrely, they can still collapse due to earthquakes. There are also quite a few levels that take place entirely in the sky. Falling off these is a bad idea. Also, all objects (separate entities, as opposed to materials which are parts of the level) that behave solid are unaffected by all gravitation.
  • Super Mario Bros. is fond of this. However, in Super Mario 64, the very first level had but a single floating piece of land called the floating island that looks ridiculously out of place.
    • Ironically, Shigeru Miyamoto once stated in an interview that he still has some issues with floating platforms, due to the lack of any real logic behind them. He then said that he pretends that they are attached to the background in the 2D games.
  • Crystal Caves has mechanical platforms with jet engines, allowing them to hover. There are also some classic floating platforms, though; since it's a game with a Side View, let's just say they're actually attached to the background.
  • Secret Agent has a lot of Floating Platforms, though it always takes care to make them at least a little realistic; even in outdoor settings, all platforms are visibly attached to something solid, like a pole. Though, curiously, the clouds sometimes serve as Floating Platforms.
  • Laputa in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is flying with help of magnetic force. Or so they say.
  • The entirety of the six levels of Bug!! take place on a floating terrain- which is actually part of a movie set.
  • Legend of Kalevala has plenty of them, especially in the Eternal Engine stage.
  • The sandbox game Minecraft allows players to build up structures, but the physics engine only allows for some blocks to be affected by gravity. Only sand, gravel, water, and lava will fall if the space directly beneath it is unoccupied. All other blocks are not affected by gravity and can be used to create floating platforms.
  • Very common in Magical Whip Wizards of Phantasmal Forest, with no explanation. The platforms are just floating in midair in the middle of the forest.
  • In Crea Vures, giant dragonflies act as floating platforms.
  • A Valley Without Wind features player-placed wooden platforms that are critical for navigating dungeons, but must have a backdrop to adhere to - trying to place them on empty air results in them dropping to the ground. Chunks of land can also naturally occur suspended in mid-air, but are always held up by the background.


  • A rare example and justification of this: the newer Journey to the Center of the Earth movie has floating stones large enough to stand on suspended by magnetic force.
  • In James Cameron's Avatar, massive islands of stone known as the Hallelujah Mountains (Thundering Rocks to the natives) float high above the planet Pandora's surface. It is loosely explained that the magnetic energies from the literal Unobtainium keep them suspended mid-air due to the Meissner Effect. It's also known that the resulting magnetic "Flux Vortex" also interferes with the navigational instruments of human aircraft. The Principle is actually scientifically sound; A superconductor like unobtanium would float whe exposed to a sufficiently powerful magnetic field. However, a magnetic field strong enough to make mountains float would do a lot more than interfere with navigation.
  • In Toy Story 2, Rex is seen playing a Buzz Lightyear video game, and walks up some magically appearing floating steps to fight the final boss.


  • Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series feature the Ways, which are seemingly suspended in nothing. A Wizard Did It.
  • The Worlds of Power Bionic Commando book actually features moving floating platforms without the slightest bit of humour.

Card Games

  • In the Magic: The Gathering expansion Zendikar, several geographic formations float in mid-air, including floating plains, mountains, and islands. This can be clearly seen in the artwork of the appropriate land cards. Of course, this expansion is based on the idea that the land is alive and is very volatile/unstable.

Real Life

  • Everybody is currently positioned on a giant floating platform which we can all navigate around in all directions suspended above a Bottomless Pit, with much too much of a Broken Bridge to get to the next platform. Also planes.