10 Best Epic & Glorious Modern 2D Platformer Games

One of the 10 Best 2D Platformers - Ori and the Blind Forest
Our top pick from an exceptional batch!

The other day we watched a clip on YouTube called 10 Best Modern 2D Platforming Games by WhatCulture.

We like the channel and enjoy its videos, but this list made our blood boil! Super Meat Boy the best 2D platformer in a decade?!

The mediocre Braid second?! NOOBS! NOOBIE SCUM! Those noobs got it all wrong, forcing us to rage quit and sit in the corner blubbering.

10 Best Modern Platformers

Once we’d calmed down, we gathered ourselves and realised it was important to point out WhatCulture is noobie scum and we know best. It’s the mature thing to do and we’re all about maturity.

As we have a particular love for side-scrollers (better known as 2D platformers), a marvellously inventive genre, we’ve created this list to sing their praises. Hunt them down and enjoy!

10. Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

This endless runner is an unusual take on 2D platforming, but it’s still an enduring classic over four years after release (on this very day back in 2013!).

Runner2 sees you star as Commander Video and it’s your task, as he dashes heroically to the right, to guide him up, over, around, and beyond obstacles.

Sounds simple? It isn’t. But it’s certainly 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.

Unfortunately, Runner3 doesn’t have the same appeal—so we continue to recommend the super Runner2 over that. It’s a classic.

9. Owlboy

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.

8. Axiom Verge

It’s 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 masterpiece.

It’s the genre at its finest with retro run-and-gun sensibilities mixed with exploration, mesmerising power-ups, and one heck of a full-on challenge.

7. Super Mario Maker

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

Super Mario Maker is the result—except players design the levels. That allows you to create Mario courses and upload them online for the whole world to try out.

It’s quite possibly the most batshit crazy, surreal, mental game of all time and it’s all the better for it! Endless 2D Mario courses? Yes, please.

6. Teslagrad

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 insanely difficult).

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

5. INSIDE

This astonishing creation is one hell of a scary 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 so truly bizarre and frightening experiences.

It ultimately builds to one of the most confounding, surreal, disturbing, and grotesquely brilliant finales in recent memory.

It was our pick for Game of the Year 2016 and is already a classic. Playdead will have to pull out all the stops on its next game. This one will be difficult to match, let alone top.

4. Shovel Knight

The indie title which keeps on giving! Shovel Knight was developed by Yacht Club Games who keep using Kickstarter to fund extra DLC content.

There was the brilliant Plague of Shadows add on first, with the Specter of Torment DLC arriving shortly after.

The final campaign installment arrived in December 2019 in the form of Shovel Knight: King of Cards.

Put simply, the games are NES-era inspired and the result is 2D platforming at its finest.

3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

What is it with the games press and this title?! Whilst Destructoid rightly handed it 10/10, other publications stumbled drunkenly into a cesspit of 6/10 reviews.

Tropical Freeze is Retro Studio’s forgotten masterpiece—it’s a slice of genius.

Thankfully, it received a port over to the Nintendo Switch. That means those who missed it on the Wii U can now catch up with it.

David Wise returned to the DKC series and the soundtrack is glorious. And gamers take to an epic scale adventure and revel in the masterful level design. One of the great underrated titles of this generation of consoles.

2. Rayman Origins

Seemingly forgotten of late as it’s a cutesy 2D platformer and, like, that’s for noobs and kids, Rayman Origins is another ignored masterpiece.

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, funny, and challenging adventure.

It’s flat out 10/10 perfection. Not only does it look stunning, but its sense of humour is also wonderful. And as a gameplay experience, it’s just engrossing.

Rayman Origins also has a genius soundtrack from Christophe Heral. And the game may now be almost a decade old, but its lost none of its magic.

1. Ori and the Blind Forest

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

This thing is a work of art: the soundtrack, graphics, story, challenge, and emotional impact are all flat out exceptional.

Play with your earphones in and it’s an overwhelming experience, with the music swelling and lovable Ori heading out on his intrepid adventure.

Available on the Xbox One and Steam, it also made the trip onto the Nintendo Switch. Which makes for an exceptionally engaging experience.

Even better, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is set for release in March 2020. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Addendum #1: Dead Cells

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.

Addendum #2: Hollow Knight

After much dithering, we’ve added Hollow Knight as Team Cherry’s Metroidvania epic is infuriatingly difficult at times.

But it’s also massively rewarding, beautiful, and quite the emotive experience.

Buckle yourself in for this one, PC and Switch owners, as it’s a tough old ride, but well worth your perseverance.

Addendum #3: Celeste

One of the first indie gems of 2018, Celeste is a tough but 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 interesting story.

Added to that is an amazing soundtrack. Plus, it focuses on mental health issues, which is an increasingly common indie game approach.

But Celeste manages it with touching and impressive flair, alongside the magnificent trek up the mountain you undertake.

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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