Platformers have essentially been around since the dawn of videogames themselves. Some of the earliest games, dating back to the quarter-draining days of the Arcade Era, held the earliest influences of what we’ve come to know as platforming. For long after said time, platformers thrived within the constraints of the 2D era, spawning legendary franchises like Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, and, of course, the Lion King videogame. Nowadays, however, things are a bit different, and finding high-quality videogames dedicated to platforming is much scarcer than we’d like it to be. Still, after sifting through the history books of the past 10 years I was able to compile a list of what I consider to be the best of the best from the decade we are now leaving. Of course, this is all my opinion, so don’t get mad at me, or do, I’m not your boss.
10. Super Meat Boy
Meat, ya know? Super Meat Boy is an insanely difficult game that laughs at you as you fail over and over again. The best part about it though, is it really wants you to laugh along with it. The constant challenge the game presents to you is packaged as a light-hearted stroll through a meat meadow that ultimately does nothing but forces you to not get mad at it and hate yourself a little bit along the way. A lot of the platforming in the game relies heavily on momentum, which is incredibly fun, and also can be very frustrating.
9. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Monster Boy is an extremely charming game that only wants to invite the player on an adventure through the world of shapeshifting. In it, you can change forms into multiple different animals to solve puzzles, clear courses, and defeat enemies. There’s a lot to love in this game, and if you’re a fan of retro games you might just find some nostalgia, given this is a wonderful entry into the Wonder Boy series which started all the way back in 1986.
As I said earlier, the platforming genre fully thrived when the gaming world was limited to only the second dimension. Fez decides to take a look at what a modern platformer could be, rather than what it has been. It’s a charming game that fully embraces the new technological advances of the decade and forces the player to think in a bigger picture than most of its predecessors. With charming writing, an incredible score, and wonderful puzzles throughout, the game fully encapsulates the love that is put into a good platforming game.
One big mystery of a game that tells you absolutely nothing and leaves everything to the imagination. The puzzles are short, as is the game, but the true heart of Limbo is in its art style and its mechanics. The game is clever in its use of movement restriction as a core mechanic and absolutely never stops trying to confuse its player.
6. Sonic Mania
The constant struggle all major studios who hold extremely popular franchises face is a simple one: how do you please all the people who love this thing? In Sonic’s case, the answer has been incredibly muddled, with reviews of almost every new release this decade being overwhelmingly negative. At some point some major studio has just got to say “fine, you do it.” That’s what Sega did, and what we got is an incredible homage to the original Sonic games. Sonic Mania is fresh, exciting, and more fun than the series has been in about a decade.
5. Shovel Knight
This game was a full-on sensation when it first dropped back in 2014, and its legacy has only grown since. Multiple sequels, lots of digging, and an endless sense of adventure through the familiar, Shovel Knight is fun, very fun. The platforming is incredibly tight, the controls are concise, and the mechanics are easy to grasp. The game gives simple rules and lets the player use their imagination fully to get through levels and defeat enemies.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
Peace is a rare thing to find in a game. The struggles of our virtual worlds often fall parallel with those of our physical, yet Ori does not try to stress the player out but instead asks us to solve our problems by stepping back, taking a deep breath, and relax. The music and art of this game are its draws, and both are incredible, but when you sit down to play you’ll find a never-ending sense of wonder and joy. You’ll care about the creatures even though you barely know them and you’ll want to cleanse all pain from its Eden-esque world. It’s a joy, it’s peaceful, it’s a good place to be.
3. Hollow Knight
When I first heard about this game I was told it’s just like Dark Souls. ‘Great,’ I thought to myself, ‘this and every other slightly challenging game in existence.’ What I didn’t know, and would soon find out, is that the game really does feel like Dark Souls. The influences are overt, from the dark world of a collapsed society to the experience you might lose forever if you don’t pick it back up before dying again. The game is difficult, and the way the combat is set up makes boss fights feel like intense platforming challenges, but there’s also so much heart here, which makes the world all that more engaging.
There’s so much I can say about Celeste, but I’ll limit it to a few simple key points. This game is incredibly difficult, but also more rewarding to complete than any other game on this list. Celeste was created with a goal in mind and achieves that goal beautifully. Everyone on Earth has had their life touched by mental illness at some point in their lives, and this game brings the rawest and meaningful struggles into the limelight. On the surface, the game is incredibly overt about its themes, but when you dig deeper and really zoom in on each individual encounter, an important point is being incredibly conveyed. The game has amazing music, some of the best I’ve ever heard in my life. The game’s main character is relatable, and when stuck on a difficult level, I found myself not only rooting for myself to win but for her, as well.
1. Super Mario Odyssey
Jumping, man, it’s just the best. Nintendo really outdid themselves here, the pure amount of good content this game has is astounding. Admittedly, this is probably the easiest game on this list to complete, but there is so much joy in every location visited, every secret revealed, every puzzle solved, that I just can’t begin to describe it all. Being able to change into your surroundings is the new gimmick of this game, but it absolutely never gets bogged down by its own mechanic. The game treats every world like a 5-course meal it has to nail perfectly or else nothing else will work, and it’s that level of effort put into this game you can practically taste. It feels like the latest entry in a series of games, but also somehow feels as fresh and new as any other indie game. The amount of secrets held inside this game is unknown to me, but I know there are much more than meets the eye. Another wonderful part of the game is it can be as long as you want. There are a certain amount of Moons you need to collect to complete the story, but much more available, and rewards for finding the extra ones. This means you can set your own goal and try to achieve it, not an arbitrary goal the game has set for you in advance.
Peters first gaming memory was playing Pokemon Red on his Gameboy Color when he was ever so tiny, and as soon as he eternally got stuck in Pewter City, he knew he'd love video games forever. Peter...