When talking about the best platformers it’s hard to resist talking about the great classics that both founded the genre and remained as cul classic experiences. Games with iconic character and gameplay that shaped a generation of gamers yet and even those of recent times still may find it hard to compare. Thus many seem to get lost in the discussion and it is these modern platformers that I wanted to highlight.
An exception to this rule of course is Ori and the blind Forest that exploded upon the indie scene in …. . Boasting a gorgeous painterly style with backgrounds that are full of detail and colour as well as characters that seem to come to life in those short cinematic that exude emotion.
The gameplay is incredibly tight as well, which, when combined with the design of areas, platforms, mechanics and enemies create some rather difficult gameplay. It can be a little frustrating at first but becomes exhilarating and rather rewarding once you become more practiced with the controls. Performing such intense jumps, maneuvers and combinations attacks makes for an intense experience.
There is a considerable amount of progression during the course of the game too with unlocking and maximising new skills. Learning to use them in tandem with jumps and other attacks as well as the growth around energy and health. I also love the huge interconnected map that you continually open up as you play, and with new abilities continue to explore and find hidden areas and collectibles as this leads to it’s own ongoing reward.
It is a masterpiece in Platform design
Shovel knight looks much like a game from an era that’s long passed and while nostalgia does have it’s own allure it’s not what made Shovel Knight such an amazing platformer, well, not entirely anyway.
Shovel knight is a refined old-school platformer in every way with each and every mechanics you would expect honed and polished to absolute perfection. Animations flow in their crisp pixel art style while still seemingly appearing to be that disjointed switch you might have expected which is a rather hard balance to achieve. The backdrops show a level of care and detail you might not expect when contrasted with the simple platform tiles and mechanics within.
Progression aspects of gear and armor, as well as general character growth in the form of health and magic in it’s basic form is there too but with depth around armor styles and the magic and skills you have available. Even the variety of attacks have this refined quality to them with basic forms to them, and a mastery you are able to work towards.
It is a wonderfully quirky little game too that while paying homage to the characters and storytelling styles of past titles, is still able to lampoon these elements with witty character lines and retorts, enemy design and the overall story of this adventure. But never in a way to belittle. They developers just truly loved those games, understood them and this is shown throughout this amazing experience.
Oli Oli 2
The sequel that improved upon the base experience to create one of the more fast paced and technical platformers around. Based around a 2d skateboarding game comes some incredibly difficult platforming and while completing the various levels is reasonable there is an intense amount of challenge from attaining the various optional elements and attaining that perfect score.
The controls could be considered rather simplistic in terms of the move-sets you’re allowed but with the placement of the various elements in each level from the rails, to jumps and barriers it created some rather difficult maps. Just completing those later levels was rather tough.
Honestly it was just chasing those high scores where the most fun came out of the game. There were various little tricks you could accomplish that increased your score multiplier and finding the space, and perfectly enacting these elements took a lot of patience, planning, and absolute perfect timing. It was frustrating at times but when you chained together all those tricks to attain that near perfect run was pure elation.
Broforce is the most fun I’ve ever had with a platformer and that’s saying something. It’s crazy style and aesthetic, as well as chaotic gameplay create some amazing heart-pumping moments as you run and gun across the levels.
The level of distractibility is what makes the experience such a disorganized and enjoyable experience as you blow apart the terrain and enemies alike, as well as forge your own path across the levels. It is a cacophony of explosions and random physics flying around that are equally amusing when they kill the enemy as when they kill yourself.
The amount of characters you have access to is great too, and all are based on famous movie franchise with their own attacks and specialties. Of course just like the general gameplay, the characters and their skills are overtuned to 11. It is hilarious romp through an action game, but with pixel graphics and destructible platforming.
Rayman legends is easily my favourite platformer of recent times, and kept me entertained for many… MANY hours. I went through the entirety of the game with some kind of fervour just because of how engaged I was by the mechanics and gameplay.
The thing is, it perfectly balances both elements of progression and the practice of simplistic commands to create short-term goals of unlocking new areas but also refining your play throughout to be able to take on the harder levels as well as create those perfect runs in earlier spaces.
The levels themselves are masterpieces of design that are able to perfectly scale the level of difficulty from the earliest adventures, to the later. The way platforms are placed, as well as currency and other items has a certain flow to it throughout. An internal rhythm to be aware of, and while this is all too obvious with the musical levels, it’s inherent in the rest as well. Gradually the amount of leeway it gives for this rhythm but in such a way that grows with your own abilities.
I also love the amazing backdrops throughout the game. They are bright and colourful and show an incredibly amount of detail and depth.
One of the most innovative platformer style games we’ve had in recent times with both its mechanics around climbing and growing platforms. Utilising both arms to climb was a rather interesting twist on the formulae and created gameplay that naturally contained more tension and exciting than I expected.
Climbing out hose large structures, as well as jumping off I to the Abyss at points was so much fun. You would leap forward than blindly reach out for something to grab, and begin your ascent once more. The world was rather enlarge too and had a certain amount of freedom with how you explored it. There was rather a lot to explore too in this space, small hidden items and elements to uncover, new ways to climb and grow, and just the varying ways you found that enables you to explore further.
The 2d platformer that has, what I would say, are the most beautiful backdrops to have ever be designed for this genre and style of play. Each and every area has a surprising depth but more than that, it’s the richness of the scenes they were able to create that invoke a sense of awe and emotion.
I also enjoyed the level of depth woven within these levels that utilised the rather interesting mechanics from each of the three playable characters. They were fun puzzles to work through, and even more enjoyable with others as you were able to uncover new areas and secrets.
The story of each character, and the lore behind the world is rather entrancing as well. Woven throughout the beautiful backdrops, intrinsic within each moment but also told aloud at times. It is a well-rounded experience.
I am amazed at how well they were able to flesh out the rather unusual theme of Ninja Janitors so well with various mechanics and styles of play. I honestly expected it to be rather role-dimensional but was left constantly amazed with the depth crammed into such an amusing package.
While more simple and less flashy in terms of its artistic design than many on this list it boasts far more refined gameplay and mechanics. The simplified nature let it pare down and focus on the actual gameplay to create platforming perfection. Tight level design in terms of platform placement and the mechanics, and an absolutely perfect flow.
The way the characters move around feels so natural and fluid, and with the way you jump and manoeuvre to attain various pieces or clean the areas feels much like a dance. It’s wonderful to watch.
There is a decent amount of variation in this simple theme too with different Janitor characters with their own special way of cleaning, place the various environments and pollution types. Due to this I never really got bored through the entirety of the game.
Little Big Planet
Little Big Planet would have to be my favourite Platforming franchise, having played all three over the long life of these wonderful games. The first was a breath of fresh air to the genre with it’s tight platforming elements, colourful and detailed worlds and its absolutely adorable characters.
And with each edition the franchise went from strength to strength refining the mechanics, the wonderful worlds and areas they create, as well as adding new abilities and ways of playing. While each addition felt vaguely familiar with the gameplay and style there was enough that was new to make the journey through each level enjoyable again.
The levels and character just has an overwhelming charm you don’t often see with vibrant levels of various imaginary and familiar themes. There was a complexity to the design there two with the various hidden items and pathways there, as well as the puzzle elements that take one – or multiple people to complete.
I also love the amount of customisation there with your look, and your little base area. The personalisation of your own little sack person makes you feel a lot more connected to the little thing, and also allows a nice sense of progression with finding new cosmetics and fluff pieces. And then there is the amazing level creator system that enabled people to create some amazing new levels, and even new game modes which enabled greater longevity.
Yes there were some issues, especially with the third but it was overwhelmingly such a heartwarming experience that I’ve forgiven those concerns.
You can tell when the developers creating a game enjoyed what they were doing as a game just exudes that same enjoyment – Guacamelee is the product if that joy in this case.
It is a bright, humorous platforming adventure that revolves around a luchador style adventure. The combat is fast paced and has a nice flow to it with movement and combos, and the enemies are fun to attack. The platforming elements straddle that line between frustrating and flow quite well too.
I also really love the humour placed around the game from the dialogue, to the characters and even the world around. The bosses in particular have many amusing lines that literally made me laugh out loud and there are various amusing anecdotes and puns hidden within the world from popular media – especially gaming.