The 50 Best Modern 2D Platformers (2023 Guide)

One of the 10 Best 2D Platformers - Ori and the Blind Forest

Righto, what are the best modern 2D platforming games? As we have a love for side-scrollers, a marvellously inventive genre, we figured we’d gather together the best ones we’ve played since 2010.

The result? The top 50 best modern 2D platformers available right now. Huzzah!

The Very Best 2D Platformers

Oh yes, we review this list regularly to accommodate the best new titles we discover. We updated this list from 30 to 50 on January 1st 2023, meaning there’s a whole chunk of new gaming potential here.

If you like this list, you can also check out our guide to the best indie games of all time. That’s 100 of them!

50. Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy the indie game

Developer: Team Meat
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Linux, OS X, PS4, Switch, Vita

A longstanding indie classic, Super Meat Boy helped define a new genre of precision platformers with sky-high difficulty levels.

The goal is simple. Take on each level, die due to (usually) chainsaws, try again, die, try again, and etc.

Eventually, you’ll reach the Holy Grail of finishing a level! Rewarding as it is punishing, it’s a fine title and will delight the gamer who likes punishment.

49. HUNTDOWN

HUNTDOWN the indie game

Developer: Easy Trigger Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Epic Games, Linux, macOS, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, iOS

If mayhem, death, and destruction are your thing then HUNTDOWN is the run-and-gun game for you. It plays like so many Mega Drive (Genesis) classics, with added dollops of Metal Slug in there.

There’s a neo-noir theme going on with extras from RoboCop and the like.

The goal? Head out into a grimy, crime-ridden city and blast everything to smithereens! Great fun and we had a blast with our time on it. Indeed.

48. Carrion

Carrion the indie game

Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Epic Games, macOS, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

The horror! The reversal horror of Carrion! In this creepy wonder, you take on the role of an amorphous being that’s a bit of a freakshow. Your job? To consume and destroy the humans who DARED to imprison you!

Elements of Metroidvania abound in this fast-paced, eerie title. Controlling the monstrosity you are is a lot of fun and wiping out those SOB humans is also a bit of a treat.

The usual map exploration and powering up is there, too, but all with that gut wrencher of a monster twist.

47. FLY’N

FLY'N the indie game

Developer: Ankama
Platforms: Steam

We consider FLY’N to be an underrated gem. From November 2012, it’s slipped into obscurity. But we think the game has a lot of psychedelic peaks, relying on its flying principle alongside puzzle-platforming mechanics.

As the sprite character Flyn, you have the ability to double jump, float, and fly through levels collecting items. It moves at a hell of a rate and is super fast-paced.

It’s very colourful and engaging, plus has a great little soundtrack to go with it. One to consider if you’ve tried all the more famous indie games.

46. Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone

Developer: Mike Bithell
Platforms: Steam, OS X, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, iOS

A perennial indie game favourite, Thomas Was Alone balances existential musings alongside a witty script. And good old platforming, puzzle solving fun.

It’s minimalistic in design, but doesn’t hold back from creative goals. There’s a running narrative from Danny Wallace describing Thomas’ search for freedom and understanding.

You control various shapes and help them reach some form of AI emancipation in a classic video game narrative of anti-gravity friendships.

45. The Messenger

The Messenger indie game

Developer: Sabotage
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Epic, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

An action-packed 2D platformer from 2018, The Messenger is a tough-as-nails romp with a focus on ninja acrobatics.

Sabotage’s unique take here is the title makes graphical transformations, starting like an 8-bit NES Ninja Gaiden. Then it shifts into 16-bit later on.

At its best it’s fantastic. But we do think the game bogs itself down in a ridiculous difficulty level, not least with the precision perfection absurdity of some of the bosses. Still, well worth your time if you want to relive a hardcore NES experience.

44. New Super Mario Bros. U

New Super Mario Bros. U

Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii U, Switch

Nintendo’s foray into 2D Mario titles is rare these days, with this 2012 outing on the Wii U (ported to the Switch in 2019) one of the modern examples.

Nintendo’s genius is best served in open 3D world Mario titles, but New Super Mario Bros U. is a fine entry into the more retro styled Mario.

Directed by Masataka Takemoto (and not the legendary Shigsy Miyamoto), it’s not on the level of, say, Super Mario World. But it’s a lot of fun and features some of the trademark brilliance in level design you’d expect here.

43. Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth

Developer: Team Ladybug
Platforms: Steam, PS4/5, Switch, Xbox One, Series X/S

Okay, so Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth may have a title that reveals sod all about the game. But let’s just say it’s a homage to PlayStation classic Symphony of the Night.

And that’s a very good thing indeed! Love that title? Then you’ll love this, as it’s a faithful recreation of that late ’90s era of PS gaming.

It’s great little game packed with fantastic attention to detail and platforming excellence. Small Japanese indie Team Ladybug did a brilliant homage here and it’ll reward your Metroidvania desires.

42. Kaze and the Wild Masks

Developer: PixelHive
Platforms: Steam, Linux, Google Stadia, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

If you fancy a bit of a SNES era Donkey Kong Country trilogy action, then Kaze and the Wild Masks is for you. It’s a love letter to Rare’s mid-’90s classics.

Although it may appear derivative, at first, as you progress you realise the level design is often outstanding. And the Kaze experience has a personality all of its own.

But it’s still deeply rooted in ’90s era platformers and it works a treat.

41. THE LONGING

THE LONGING

Developer: Studio Seufz
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Linux, macOS, Switch

Patience is a virtue. And Studio Seufz’s THE LONGING (2020) sees you take control of a solitary Shade.

You live underground and your King is sleeping. You have 400 days of solitude until he wakes up. What are you going to do with the time? Because it’s going to take you 400 solid days to complete the thing.

Good thing there’s a library with complete copies of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and a labyrinth maze to explore. Whatever takes your fancy in this inventive idle platformer mishmash.

40. Super Cable Boy

Super Cable Boy

Developer: Sørb Games
Platforms: Steam, Switch

A precision platformer here, where you take control of a cute retro handheld gaming console.

The twist? Super Cable Boy is actually accessible! Yes, that’s right, you won’t be punished mercilessly from the get-go for just daring to play the thing. Instead, there’s a heady and challenging gameplay mix that’s fun and rewarding.

It looks fantastic, too, and throws into the bargain a brilliant soundtrack.

39. Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares II

Developer: Tarsier Studios
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Google Stadia, PS4/5, Switch, Xbox One, Series X/S

A bit of 2.5D action here with the atmospheric suspense adventure jaunt Little Nightmares II.

Yes, it looks amazing. There’s a fabulous soundtrack. But the sense of horror is also there, with all sorts of disturbing stuff to discover as you stumble onward and solve puzzles.

If you want to be put onto the edge of your seat then this could well be the right choice for you.

38. The Artful Escape

The Artful Escape

Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Platforms: Steam, PS4/5, Switch, Xbox One

Well, it’s fair to say The Artful Escape is quite the experience. It’s a fantastical title, beginning with a humble folk singer before catapulting itself into headbanging, space opera lore.

It’s a crazy old ride and one that’ll put a massive smile on your face. It’s just so life-affirming and fun.

Whilst the gameplay requirements are quite minimal, it doesn’t really matter as there’s a lot of spectacle to take in here. And you’d be daft to miss out on it.

37. Narita Boy

Narita Boy

Developer: Studio Koba
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Okay, Narita Boy proved divisive in the gaming press. And the Metroidvania’s lack of an in-game map is troublesome.

However, a few issues aside, we thought this one to be a highly underrated gem. It’s got a fantastic Eighties aesthetic and is pumped up on ’80s music.

Classic platforming awaits, with exploration of many futuristic corridors as a pixel art hero trapped in a Digital Kingdom. Unlock the Techno Sword and save the world, hero!

36. Olija

Olija the indie game

Developer: Skeleton Crew Studio and Thomas Olsson
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Epic Games, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Remember those old MS-DOS and Amiga games from the early 1990s? Remember how exciting it felt to play in those weird, unpredictable worlds?

Well, that’s what Skeleton Crew Studio’s 2020 release Olija delivers. You take control of a shipwrecked man called Faraday and harpoon your way back to a distant homeland.

With its brilliant aesthetic, soundtrack, and crunchy gameplay we love this one. And its nods to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick are also most welcome.

35. Flynn: Son of Crimson

Flynn: Son of Crimson

Developer: Studio Thunderhorse
Platforms: Steam, GOG, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

This was one we went into not expecting much. But the charming Flynn: Son of Crimson had us won over within 30 minutes.

It doesn’t reinvent the platforming genre. But it does deliver fantastic action in a rich and colourful world of classic SNES-era exploration action.

You take control of the hero Flynn, who uses enigmatic magic to power himself, and you battle across a kingdom to save your trusty doggy! Mega stuff.

34. Splasher

Splasher the indie game

Developer: Splashteam
Platforms: Steam, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

The fast-paced Splasher is a lot of fun, but also packs in a great deal of challenge. It has an arcade type quality, arming the player with a paint cannon.

Your job? Head out into levels, save POW type dudes, and use different coloured paint to traverse stages.

It’s frantic stuff. But it’s also fantastically entertaining and great for short bursts of play. If speedrunning is your thing, then Splasher is also a dream title to own.

33. Haiku, the Robot

Haiku, the Robot

Developer: Mister Morris
Platforms: Steam, macOS, Switch

One of the best Metroidvania titles from 2022, Haiku, the Robot is a sprawling platformer that nods clearly to Hollow Knight as its inspiration.

Haiku, the Robot offers classic Metroidvania action, but with a noticeably reduced difficulty level over what inspired its structure. Some will welcome that, others not.

But what we got from it is a cute, often inspired, adventure with a lot to love. Great looks, music, and action. Plus, a magnificent attention to detail.

32. Hoa

Hoa the indie game

Developer: Skrollcat Studio
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Itch.io, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Launched in August of 2021, this Studio Ghibli inspired 2D platformer may be simplistic. But it’s a relaxing beauty to behold.

The artwork! The music! It’s like playing Spirited Away in video game form.

There are other Studio Ghibli type indie games available (such as Spiritfarer and Owlboy further below on this list), but Skrollcat Studio’s Hoa feels the truest to the cause.

It’s a platformer-puzzler at heart and, again, it’s pretty straightforward and short. But then that’s one of the joys of indie games! Emotive, fun, and engaging—it’s well worth a look.

31. KATANA Zero

KATANA Zero

Developer: Askiisoft
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, Switch, Xbox One

What does katana mean? It means Japanese sword (film buff reference there). KATANA Zero is a stylish romp, steeped in Japanese sensibilities with martial arts (and stuff).

There’s also an Eighties heavy neo-noir atmosphere. But the action centres on bloody mayhem. You take control of an assassin and carve your way through baddies like a demon.

It’s fast-paced, it’s bloody, and it’s brilliant. The attention to detail, and moody plot, make it one of the coolest platformers out there. And a great calling card for anyone unsure about the genre.

30. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

After much dithering, we’ve added Hollow Knight as Team Cherry’s Metroidvania epic is great. It’s just infuriatingly difficult a lot of the time.

If that’s your type of thing (“gitting good”, and all that) then this’ll be massively rewarding for you. As it’s a beautiful and quite dramatic experience.

Buckle yourself in for this one as it’s a tough old ride, but well worth your perseverance. In the murky, macabre depths there’s fun to be had.

29. Dome Keeper

Dome Keeper the indie game

Developer: Bippinbits
Platforms: Steam (PC, Linux, Mac)

Launched in late 2022, this roguelike strategy platformer nods towards two classics—the SteamWorld Dig games and Bullfrog’s amazing Dungeon Keeper (1998).

Dome Keeper has its unique qualities, though, and Bippinbits has delivered a masterclass in fast-paced and frantic resource gathering action. You dig, you gather, you develop, and you blast away wave after wave of aliens.

Incredibly rewarding and with different modes to explore, we already think this deserves some cult classic status.

28. FEZ

FEZ the indie game

Developer: Polytron Corporation
Platforms: Steam, Itch.io, Linux, OS X, PS4, PS5, Switch, iOS

FEZ is a clever puzzle platformer that takes its inspirations from Edwin A. Abbott’s equally clever novella Flatland.

You take control of a dude called Gomez, who receives a magical fez that transforms his 2D world into a 3D one As the player, you can rotate the world you’re in to reveal fancy new perspectives and dimensions.

Wrapped around that excellent concept are brilliant retro styled graphics and a most excellent soundtrack. You can’t go wrong here.

27. The Alto Collection

The Alto Collection

Developer: Team Alto, plus Harry Nesbitt
Platforms: Epic Games, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, iOS

Consisting of Alto’s Adventure (2015) and Alto’s Odyssey (2018), The Alto Collection from 2020 is a masterful merger of the two endless runners.

It’s a lesson in absolute, blissful serenity as you guide Alto down mountain ranges whilst completing missions. Or you can just relax and bask in the glory of it all using Zen mode—challenge free.

Although intended for smartphones, the games work very well on consoles as well (for PC, it’s on Epic Games). It looks fantastic and the wonderful soundtrack makes it arguably the greatest mobile games ever created.

26. GRIS

GRIS the indie game

Developer: Nomada Studio
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, PS4, Switch, Android, iOS

GRIS is an artistic puzzle platformer and launched in 2019. It rightfully won a lot of critical acclaim for its emotive package.

It has a dreamlike quality where you control a girl called Gris, who you guide through unusual landscapes in a slow-paced platform adventure experience.

It’s clever with its area designs, has a great look about it, plus the soundtrack is incredible.

25. CHILD of LIGHT

CHILD of LIGHT

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Stadia, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita

CHILD of LIGHT is a brilliant platformer-RPG and one we feel has been overlooked. From Ubisoft Montreal, the 2014 title boasts an incredible art style and amazing soundtrack from Cœur de pirate.

The game is so engaging thanks to its emotive nature. You guide Aurora through the world of Lemuria. Along the way you add new characters to your party, most notably the excellent Rubella (a clumsy jester).

CHILD of LIGHT’s RPG elements, especially the battle system, are also masterfully handled. A yes from us.

24. Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Itch.io, macOS, Linux, Stadia, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

This gorgeous little number is a management sim and sandbox style action game. With its Studio Ghibli looks, it’s a really upbeat title.

Yet it’s also about death! You’re a ferry master who has to build a boat and explore your world to help spirits depart.

The result? Spiritfarer (2020) is a charming affair with surprising depth. You’ll need to put a fair bit of time into this one to get the most from it.

However, the rewards are joyous. Add into the bargain DLC in 2021, fabulous graphics, and a quite outstanding soundtrack… and what isn’t there to love?

23. Gato Roboto

Gato Roboto

Developer: Doinksoft
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Switch, Xbox One

A short but engaging Metroidvania romp with a cat in a robot suit. Taking your inspiration from Earthworm Jim is a fine way to go.

And Gato Roboto takes its steampunk aesthetic and gaming roots very seriously, whilst adding in a cute sense of humour.

So, this title is all about engaging and fast-paced gameplay. It throws you into the action and is able to delight regularly, with clever the usual power-ups and map exploration.

We also like the black and white aesthetic, like it’s a Game Boy title. And as it’s short but sweet, it makes it all a memorable Super Metroid homage.

22. Broforce

Broforce the indie game

Developer: Free Lives
Platforms: Steam, GOG, OS X, Linux, PS4, Switch

Bombastic to the extreme, and all the more enjoyable for it, this run-and-gun platformer is just ludicrous. It’s also amazing.

Broforce has surprising complexity. Along with its sense of humour poking fun at hypermasculinity, you get to play as all sorts of action heroes (bros).

You can blast through the scenery around you, adding an element of strategy, but the game is just relentless fun. Boom!

21. Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge

Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Platforms: Steam, macOS, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Vita

This is essentially a reworking of the SNES masterpiece Super Metroid, but there’s nothing wrong with that when it’s done with such exceptional panache.

Axiom Verge nails it big time as a Metroidvania. A project by one man (Thomas Happ), you can tell he’s super talented based off this intricate work of wonder.

As part of its Metroidvania roots, there are retro run-and-gun sensibilities mixed with exploration, mesmerising power-ups, and it packs one heck of a challenge.

20. ElecHead

ElecHead the indie game

Developer: NamaTakahashi
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Itch.io

Released in October 2021, ElecHead is a clever puzzle platformer—it’s compelling stuff, despite its short length. From one-man indie studio NamaTakahashi, it mixes increasingly complex electricity puzzles with excellent platforming fun.

There are Metroidvania elements as well, which are perfectly introduced and add engaging new dynamics repeatedly.

The game advances at a fast rate and, again, it’s very short. But it’s totally worth your time as a package thanks to its striking appearance and outright inventiveness in the genre.

19. Downwell

Downwell the indie game

Developer: Moppin
Platforms: Steam, GOG, PS4, Switch, Vita, Android, iOS

In 2018 we got this for £2. Several years later, we’re still playing it on a regular basis. And have over 40+ hours thumped into it.

Downwell is a vertical shooter and platformer (with roguelike qualities). It’s also incredibly addictive, with surprising depths—so, despite those minimalistic looks, here’s a mammoth title with much to offer.

Bounce, shoot, and bop your way to higher scores and happy memories.

18. SteamWorld Dig 2

SteamWorld Dig 2

Developer: Image & Form Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Stadia, macOS, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Vita, 3DS

Its predecessor is also a wonderful gaming experience, but SteamWorld Dig 2 nails it for its scale, gameplay quality, and looks.

It really drags you in as you, of course, dig your way into the dirt. The Wild West includes a steampunk element, but the main focus is digging.

As you power up Metroidvania style, the imagination at play makes for a compelling journey.

17. Yoku’s Island Express

Yoku's Island Express

Developer: Villa Gorilla
Platforms: Steam, GOG, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

It’s fair to say this is one of the most joyous and uplifting indie games we’ve ever played.

Everything about Yoku’s Island Express is just so life-affirming. You star as Yoku, a dung beetle, and head off on a mail delivering adventure.

Visually, it’s reminiscent of Ori and the Blind Forest (more on that later), but the pinball gameplay mechanics are largely accessible and very enjoyable. It’s also charming and lovingly created—highly recommended on every level.

16. FAR: Lone Sails

FAR: Lone Sails

Developer: Okomotive
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS

This dystopian journey is a little marvel. A peaceful, melancholic trek across an isolated world.

FAR: Lone Sails offers up visual splendour in a concise package, where you solve puzzles and manage your locomotive.

It’s strategic and engaging. You have your work cut out dealing with the likes of storms and mechanical problems, all while coming to love the vehicle you guide quietly across the deserted wildernesses.

And to add to that lot is a quite fantastic soundtrack. So, yes, we highly recommend the whole experience—particularly for introspective sorts.

15. FAR: Changing Tides

FAR: Changing Tides

Developer: Okomotive
Platforms: Steam, macOS, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, iOS

Right, FAR: Changing Tides launched in early March 2022 and immediately surged its way onto our list! It improves on the first game in many ways, advancing the scale and complexity of your dystopian adventure.

But it also plays on the brilliance of Lone Sails, ramping up the sense of introspection as you battle the odds on your boat contraption.

It’s a stirring adventure, backed up by that distinctive visual style and another amazing soundtrack from Joel Schoch.

14. Owlboy

Owlboy the indie game

Developer: D-Pad Studio
Platforms: Steam, GOG, macOS, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Like a Studio Ghibli film in game form, Owlboy is a lovingly crafted masterpiece released in late 2016 and seemingly ignored by much of the gaming media.

Insulting, really, as this is an absolute gem with Metroidvania attributes, lovable characters, an excellent artistic style.

You star as Otus, the mute owl—he heads off on an epic adventure to save the world around him. As you progress, Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) springs to mind.

It’s almost like playing that! A wonderful experience. And there’s another magnificent indie game soundtrack to complement it all.

13. Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2

Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Switch

Whilst Nintendo usually busies itself with 3D adventures these days, there’s still plenty of room for traditional 2D romps.

Super Mario Maker 2 is the best. And it’s quite possibly one of the most insane games ever made! The player-generated levels are often ballistic.

Along with being able to make your own levels, and play those of others, Nintendo also added in an entire new Super Mario style adventure of its own.

So, here you have a title that offers a perpetual stream of Mario levels. What could be better than that? Fantastic fun.

12. Ghost Song

Ghost Song the Metroidvania indie game

Developer: Old Moon
Platforms: Steam, Switch, PS4/5, Xbox One

This fantastic, melancholic Metroidvania launched in November 2022. It immediately marked itself out as one of the best indie games of the year.

Ghost Song is an atmospheric gem. Its maudlin overtones merge with a compelling sense of exploration—right up there with the best Metroid games. And it works a treat! This is a real surprise for fans of the genre.

It looks great. And Scottish composer Grant Graham throws a synth heavy soundtrack into the mix, with echoes of Vangelis’ Blade Runner ringing throughout. All highly recommended.

11. Teslagrad

Teslagrad the indie game

Developer: Rain Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, OS X, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Vita, Android, iOS

Although it launched to critical acclaim, Teslagrad has since been swallowed up into a world of nothingness due to the relentless release of new titles.

Developer Rain Games has a cult following and a new title on the way thanks to it, which is excellent news, but the Soviet-era tinged poignancy of Teslagrad remains a stunning achievement (even if it is rather difficult).

It plays around with a magnetism gaming mechanic to terrific effect, also wooing you in with melancholic graphics and music.

10. Celeste

Developer: Extremely OK Games
Platforms: Steam, Itchi.io, Linux, macOS, Stadia, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

One of the best games of 2018, Celeste is a tough and brilliant platformer that’ll test your jumping skills and wow you with its creativity.

It also dazzles with its SNES era style graphics, charm, and story with a focus on mental health battles. Added to that is an amazing soundtrack. It’s quite the package!

Whilst a tough as nails game, Celeste manages everything with impressive flair. You’ll love the magnificent trek up a gaitn mountain and the heady heights you reach.

9. Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Developer: Gaijin Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, OS X, Linux, PS4, Vita, iOS

This endless runner is an unusual take on 2D platforming, but it’s still an enduring classic as it hits is 10th anniversary in 2023.

Take control of Commander Video in Runner2. As he dashes heroically to the right you must guide him up, over, around, and beyond obstacles. Sounds simple? It isn’t. But it’s addictive, compelling, brilliant, beautiful, joyous, and many other things.

There’s also a quite outstanding, pulse-pounding soundtrack that really immerses you into the game in stunning fashion. All of which adds up to a brilliant indie classic.

8. Dead Cells

Developer: Motion Twin
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Itch.io, macOS, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Android, iOS

Oh, hey! Don’t forget there’s the stone-cold classic Dead Cells—positively one of the best gaming experiences of 2017 and beyond.

It’s mental, it’s crazed, it’s berserk, it’s intense, and it’s brutal. It’s available across most devices now (including smartphone), plus there’s a steady stream of DLC to ramp up the intensity.

It’s a must, as once you get into the flow it becomes a tactical and inspired romp with roguelike and Metroidvania elements.

Since 2017, we’ve put at least 150 hours into it. Dead Cells is that good! That addictive. That essential to own and is an essential indie game classic.

7. Shovel Knight

Developer: Yacht Club Games
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Amazon Fire TV, OS X, Linux, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Vita

Launched in 2014, the Shovel Knight franchise immediately wowed gamers with its mix of NES style gameplay and outright platforming fun.

It’s all about the little details. Shovel Knight is a lovingly crafted outing reminiscent of the Mega Man games.

It’s challenging, it’s funny, it’s great fun, and the one thing we always get upon returning to it is just the sense of joy. It’s just a fantastic video game.

The Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package covers everything you need. With new gameplay styles and levels, beginning with the brilliant Plague of Shadows (2015). Then we got Specter of Torment (2017) and the final campaign King of Cards (2019) rouning off a brilliant series.

6. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Developer: Retro Studio
Platforms: Wii U, Switch

Upon its launch in 2014, Destructoid rightly handed Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a 10/10. But most other gaming publications stumbled drunkenly into a cesspit of 6/10 reviews.

Thankfully, Retro Studios ported it to the Nintendo Switch in 2018 for a new lease of life for widespread appreciation. But it’s tough! A difficult game that needs total concentration and skill. The rewards for your effort include an epic scale adventure and masterful level design.

Massive highlights? The outstanding Grassland Groove level, which we consider one of the greatest stages in gaming history, and David Wise’s incredible soundtrack. This one is a 10/10 from us, too.

5. Rayman Origins

Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Xbox One

Flat out one of the best games from the last generation of consoles, the sheer scale of Ubisoft’s imagination is unleashed in this wonderfully vibrant, charming, and engaging adventure.

Rayman Origins is a miraculous game, packing in so much detail and life-affirming heft into every second of its gameplay. We really struggle to think of a bit moment in it, every single level is crafted lovingly.

Wildly engrossing and delightful, it’s difficult to play it without a big stupid grin on your face. Complementing the fun factor, it’s also funny. Plus, Rayman Origins’ soundtrack by Christophe Héral is a work of art.

4. Metroid Dread

Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Switch

Released in October 2021, Nintendo’s Metroid Dread skyrocketed near to the front of our list. Over a year since its release and we have to say it’s a classic. One of the best from the celebrated series.

In bringing to gamers the first 2D Metroid since 2002, Nintendo landed what we’d class as an absolute masterpiece on the community. Vast in its structure, it delivers an incredible adventure. And its addition of stealth to familiar gameplay mechanics is a wonderful touch.

It doesn’t reinvent the series, but that’s the point. It takes what made Super Metroid so special and we think it improves on the formula in every way.

3. INSIDE

Developer: Playdead
Platforms: Steam, GOG, Itchi.io, macOS, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, iOS

This astonishing creation is one hell of an experience. INSIDE is a dystopian tale of an unnamed boy in red running away from the state. Or is he!?

You continuously run to the right in the monochrome 2.5D, overcoming truly bizarre and frightening experiences. It’s tense. It’s scary. A sense of sensory overload grows as INSIDE reveals its inner machinations to you.

Ultimately, it builds to one of the most confounding, surreal, and grotesquely brilliant finales in recent memory.

It was our pick for Game of the Year 2016 and is already a classic. And we think of it as a real landmark moment in gaming history.

2. Ori and the Blind Forest

Developer: Moon Studios
Platforms: Steam, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

A masterpiece, Ori and the Blind Forest is a fine example of what video games can achieve.

From Moon Studios in 2015, this thing is a work of art. The soundtrack, graphics, story, challenge, and emotional impact are all flat out exceptional.

For us, it highlights the importance of the indie scene in gaming. Indie studios can land something of this creative might, whilst most AAA devs roll out increasingly formulaic and bland titles.

Blind Forest is best enjoyed with your your earphones in as it’s an overwhelming experience, with the music swelling and lovable Ori heading out on his intrepid adventure.

When we first played it in 2015, we rapidly realised it was one of the best games we’d ever played. And we couldn’t envisage how Moon Studios could ever better the experience.

1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Developer: Moon Studios
Platforms: Steam, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Hitting the indie scene on March 11th 2020, this instant classic takes the original and improves on it in every conceivable way.

The scale of the adventure is ramped up, with a massive improvement in the combat system, and the interaction with NPCs.

It’s also just very intense and emotional—your skills and platforming creativity need to be on top form here.

The game is also stunning to look at. Complementing its striking visual style is a quite outstanding score from Gareth Coker (see Will of the Wisps’ soundtrack).

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a masterpiece. It represents the very peak of what a platforming game can achieve. And we consider it one of the greatest video games of all time.

10 comments

  1. Great list Moron! Anything with David Wise music should automatically receive a 10/10 score. What the heck was that reviewer playing? 6/10 is a slap in the face.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve found that I appreciate Braid’s impact on the indie scene to the extent that it helped encourage others to join in. Other than that, I feel once the scene started moving away from the super-artsy approach Mr. Blow pioneered, it was better off for it, as I feel it actively dissuaded people from checking out indies (at least it did for me). To wit, Shovel Knight crafted a game from the medium’s 2D platforming roots, and it avoids the trap many throwback works fall into wherein they demonstrate why those design decisions were abandoned by utilizing many of the innovations found in modern gaming. We have this game and Papers, Please to thank for me checking out the indie scene in earnest.

    I’ve tried out Owlboy recently. I’ve been impressed so far, though I haven’t made much progress. When I finish, you can expect a review. Also, I totally advocate ranking Super Mario Maker higher than Braid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • World of Goo did it for me back in 2008, that was the first indie game I tried out and it’s still quite brilliant. I picked it up and the Switch and fell in love all over again. Little Inferno was another fab effort from the Tomorrow Corporation – a rather unique concept.

      Indie games have come into their own over the last few years, they’re just getting better and better. You’re right, it’s the merger of the best elements of the retro (primarily the SNES) era with modern sensibilities, and it works a treat. Conversely, I’ve found many AAA titles have shifted in tedious directions – the obsession with graphics, the endless cutscenes, the awful dialogue etc. So I like to balance out my gaming time, which is rather limited these days, mainly with indies, but then big old gems like Breath of the Wild are welcome, too.

      Dead Cells is the best indie game I’ve played so far this year, and I might furtively add it into this list! I might add in a Hate Section for Braid as I did not enjoy that one, unfortunately. Although it’s had a lingering influence on the indie scene, there’s not doubt, so I admit some credit for it there *mumble grumble*.

      Liked by 1 person

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