Leaps and bounds above the rest
Shoot-Em-Ups might be gaming’s oldest genre, but platformers come a pretty close second. For many of us, these games defined our childhood experiences by capturing our imaginations. Whether that was stopping Eggman as we sped through the Green Hill Zone, rescuing Tawna from Dr Cortex, or saving Princess Peach as a portly Italian plumber, the best platformer games dominated console gaming.
The Best Platformer Games
There’s been a notable decline since the PS2-era sadly, and platforming experiences are no longer the industry juggernaut they once were. Big franchises like Super Mario have kept going but recent years have witnessed a genre revival, and a lot of that comes down to indie developers. Having brought us some truly memorable experiences, it would be tempting to discuss them all but as it stands, here’s five of the best platformer games around.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Xbox and PC had never been traditional homes for platformers, but when Ori and the Blind Forest launched in 2015, Ori showed us all what was possible. Incorporating Metroidvania mechanics into a platform-adventure, Moon Studios brought us this emotional tale about Ori, an orphaned guardian spirit that tries to restore life to the world of Nibel. Bringing us a rich and detailed world, it released to universal acclaim.
A high bar was set upon announcing a sequel called Will of the Wisps’, launching back in March. Taking us to the forest of Niwen this time, we found Ori raising a baby owl named Ku, becoming separated during a storm. Battling a vicious owl called Shriek, Wisps successfully improved upon Blind Forest’s gameplay, improving combat and exploration. As a duo, this is one series worth experiencing.
Celeste came to us promising a challenging platformer, but despite an icy setting, it proved utterly heart-warming. Developed by Matt Makes Games, Celeste focuses on the story of Madeline as she sets out to climb Mount Celeste, encountering new friends like Theo and Granny along her journey. This quickly becomes obstructed as her depression takes physical form, bringing a refreshingly honest portrayal of mental health.
Many games place story on the back seat, but not only does Celeste weave it into gameplay well, it genuinely makes you care. The higher difficulty was reminiscent of Super Meat Boy, but despite this, it remains an accessible experience which never felt unfair. Backed up by some beautiful visuals and loveable characters, Celeste is easily one of modern gaming’s most essential titles and one that all platforming fans must play.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Yacht Club Games’ take on 8-bit era platformers was an instant hit back in 2014, inspired by NES-era platformers both in graphics and gameplay. Playing as the titular Shovel Knight, we found our hero retired from adventuring after his beloved Shield Knight went missing. Discovering the Enchantress is spreading evil across the land, Shovel Knight returns to stop her, battling the Order of No Quarter along the way.
It presented a refreshing take on this classic formula, delivering a highly polished experience that won critical acclaim. Yacht Club Games weren’t done yet though, also releasing a multiplayer fighting game and three further campaigns focused on Plague Knight, Spectre Knight and King Knight. With Treasure Trove bringing them all into one package, the whole experience comes strongly recommended.
Child of Light
When it comes to impactful storytelling, few games pulled it together as well as Child of Light. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal in 2014, this adventure focused on the story of Aurora, daughter to an Austrian duke. Finding herself in the Kingdom of Lemuria, a land once ruled by the Queen of Light until her mysterious disappearance, Aurora quickly enlists help from new friends, locals living in fear of Umbra, Queen of the Night.
Finding a story interwoven between Lemuria and Austria, Child of Light thrives in more than just an engaging narrative. Using light RPG elements and a turn-based battle system not dissimilar to Final Fantasy, you can’t help but get stuck into this utterly enthralling platformer. Backed by stunning hand-drawn visuals and accessible gameplay, Child of Light is worth your time and whilst a sequel seems unlikely, we remain hopeful this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Aurora.
A Hat In Time
Of course, it isn’t just 2D platformers that have left their mark on the indie scene. Kickstarted back in 2013, developers Gears for Breakfast set out their plans for a 3D adventure, inspired by earlier 3D games like Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64 and Psychonauts. Getting funded almost immediately, A Hat in Time eventually launched in 2017 across PC, Mac, Xbox One and PS4, eventually making it to Switch last year.
Playing as Hat Kid, we find her on a voyage home via spaceship, one which is powered by Time Pieces. Refusing to pay the Mafia after passing their planet, they damage her ship, and as a result, these pieces are scattered across their world. You’ll need to find them all, and it doesn’t take long to see why A Hat In Time is more than just another collectathon. Coming with a reasonable campaign length, addictive gameplay and an entertaining cast, this is one adventure worth seeking out.
Also, honourable shout outs also go to Cave Story, VVVVV, Owlboy, Iconoclasts, Shantae, Snake Pass, Braid, Limbo, Thomas Was Alone, Unravel, Fez, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Katana Zero, Lostwinds, Yooka-Laylee & The Impossible Lair, Super Meat Boy, The Messenger, Iconoclasts, A Boy and His Blob, N++, Trine, Psychonauts and Guacamelee!.