In the process of researching the history of platform games, I heard from a few people (and saw a few outside references) who cited Heiankyo Alien as a formative platformer. If you’ve heard of Heiankyo Alien, it’s probably because of the Game Boy version that came to the U.S. in the early ’90s. But in fact, it first appeared more than a decade before that as a computer game (1979) and arcade conversion (1980) created at the University of Tokyo, of all places.
But, honestly, I don’t see it. Heiankyo Alien is a top-down maze title that involves creating holes to trap aliens. You don’t jump, you don’t climb.
Still, I guess can see where the claim is coming from if I squint hard enough. The chase-and-trap objectives of Heiankyo Alien became pretty popular in the coming years with games that were platformers: Space Panic, Lode Runner, Mr. Do’s Castle, and others. And I suppose you could make the case that the pit-digging action demonstrated an early, raw awareness of the plane of the player’s action and breaking beyond it. By trapping aliens, you’re putting them “beneath” the ground. Platformers would revolve largely around the relationship between characters and the surfaces on which they travel, so this could be treated as a tentative first step toward the birth of a genre.
But yeah, not really.