Ah, the humble platformer. Who would have thought that simply leaping from platform to platform, perhaps collecting a few things along the way, would provide such a compelling experience?
From 1985’s Super Mario Bros all the way to more modern offerings like A Hat In Time or Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, platformers have kept us enthralled and entertained for many years.
As you can imagine, the PC is fertile ground for great platformers, so without further ado, here are the top 20 platformers you can play on PC right now.
Hollow Knight is more than just an ode to Metroidvania games and Soulslikes; it’s a perfect fusion of the two.
From the former, it takes a sprawling map structure and lots of interconnectivity in its world, and from the latter comes Hollow Knight’s deep lore and unforgiving difficulty.
The result is an unforgettable masterpiece that transcends genre boundaries to become one of the most memorable gaming experiences in recent years.
2. It Takes Two
The writing in It Takes Two has proven somewhat divisive.
Some people love the game’s bittersweet exploration of a couple’s relationship dissolving, while others think the game’s bad dialogue and strange tonal shifts make its story unsuccessful.
Whatever your take on the story, the gameplay in It Takes Two is simply sublime. It’s packed full of co-op platforming challenges to warm the heart and test the mind.
The Rayman games are often overlooked in the annals of platforming history, and that’s a real shame.
Rayman Legends is a colourful, exciting platformer odyssey that’s simply bursting with life, charm, and wit. From its excellent soundtrack to its gorgeous visuals, this is one you won’t soon forget.
The highlight? The musical levels, of course; you haven’t laid siege to a castle until you’ve done it to a nonsense-syllable version of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” cover.
While Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a perfectly fine game, it can’t quite compete with Blind Forest’s simplicity.
This is, to put it simply, a breathtakingly gorgeous platformer with some incredible art, fluid gameplay, and a surprisingly affecting narrative as well.
If you’re looking for an argument that video games are unquestionably art, then look no further than Ori and the Blind Forest, and check its sequel out if you love this one too.
Limbo might be a short game, but it’s long enough to get under your skin for the time it lasts.
Created by Inside developer Playdead Studios, Limbo is a dark, depressing horror platformer that tracks the progress of an unnamed child as he searches for his lost sister.
Suffice it to say you shouldn’t play this one if you’re looking for an uplifting experience, but it remains an excellent platformer nonetheless.
On the other end of the spectrum to Limbo is A Hat In Time, a wonderfully imaginative and charismatic platformer developed by Gears for Breakfast.
Evoking the spirit of classic 3D platformers like Super Mario Sunshine, A Hat In Time is a hilarious and charming game, and while it’s on the short side, that simply means it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Its levels are packed with collectibles to find and varied platforming challenges to enjoy, so pick this up if you want to put a smile on your face.
We think that Poi is one of the most overlooked and underrated platformers on the market right now, and it deserves some extra love.
Poi’s problem is that it was released a little too close to the mighty Super Mario Odyssey, so this charming 3D platformer went largely ignored.
That’s a shame, because it takes the genre back to delightful basics, letting you loose in a variety of levels and asking you to collect everything that isn’t nailed down.
Fans of Nintendo 64 platformers like Banjo-Kazooie should investigate Cavern of Dreams, as it’ll give you nostalgic feelings.
This charming combat-free platformer stars a little dragon who must rescue their unhatched siblings. So far, so Spyro, but Cavern of Dreams is deliberately evoking games like that.
It’s got beautiful N64-inspired visuals, a relaxing core gameplay loop, and a surprising level of challenge once things ramp up.
9. Sonic Mania
More recent Sonic games have, it’s fair to say, dropped the ball somewhat, and Sonic Mania represents an attempt to turn back the clock.
It’s got classic Sega Genesis-style visuals and gameplay; Sonic Mania would prefer you pretend that the 3D Sonic games never happened, and frankly, that’s fine with us.
It may be treading water, but when treading water is this fun, who wouldn’t want to do it?
10. Pizza Tower
Are you a big Wario Land fan? Do you like games that evoke the haunted, twisted aesthetic of 90s Nickelodeon cartoons? If so, Pizza Tower is your jam.
Geared heavily towards speedrunners, Pizza Tower is a ludicrously fast-paced platformer that’s all about figuring out how to traverse levels as quickly as possible.
When things come together (which they seldom will when you start out), it’s like poetry in motion.
Crash Bandicoot 4 felt just a little too weird and difficult for our tastes, but this remastered trilogy is the real deal.
Whether you’ve got nostalgia for Crash’s early adventures or you’re experiencing them for the first time, the N. Sane Trilogy represents insane value for money.
You’re getting three excellent platforming adventures that simply improve with age, as well as reworked visuals and gameplay to bring them into the modern era.
12. Super Meat Boy
If we had to choose just one game to represent the “masocore” genre, it’d be Super Meat Boy.
Oh, sure, Celeste means well, but Super Meat Boy’s relentless difficulty combines well with its warped aesthetic to create an unforgettable experience.
You’ll curse, you’ll scream, and you’ll hurl your controller at your monitor, but when you finally complete a level, the feeling of satisfaction is second to none.
13. Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight may not have kicked off the wave of retro love letter platformers, but it certainly feels like their apex.
Rather than feeling like a cheap, low-effort retread, Shovel Knight’s love for its forebears doesn’t stop it from making some much-needed improvements, like ditching the lives system and adding checkpoints.
This results in a game that is effortlessly superior to many of the games that inspired it, and one with a surprisingly deep and affecting story as well.
Back in the PS1’s halcyon days, Spyro and Crash were often the subject of heated debates. Which game was better?
Happily, this Reignited Trilogy remaster means you don’t have to choose; you can now play both N. Sane and Reignited at your leisure, rivalry be damned.
The Spyro games are much more open-ended and collectible-heavy than their erstwhile rivals, so if you prefer combing levels for new challenges rather than zippily speeding through linear challenges, these games are for you.
You might not hear much about Mark of the Ninja on other lists, but that’s because it’s hugely underrated.
This stealth platformer mixes elements of immersive sims, stealth games, and 2D platformers to create a unique and compelling hybrid that feels great to play.
Your ninja’s movements are fluid, the stealth just makes sense, and the levels are packed with alternate routes to discover and challenges to overcome.
16. Psychonauts 2
Consider this a recommendation for both the original Psychonauts and its sequel.
Psychonauts 2 returns to the story of Raz, former acrobat and psychic summer camp student. This sequel is more about the adults around him than Raz himself, but it’s more of the same collect-’em-up platforming goodness.
Start with Psychonauts, and if you love it, then Psychonauts 2 continues the same standard of quality that its predecessor did, which is impressive considering how much time there is between them.
As we’ve already mentioned, the 3D Sonic games are in a tricky place right now, but Spark the Electric Jester is here to put paid to that.
Developed by indie studio Feperd Games, Spark the Electric Jester 3 (and its immediate predecessor) pay tribute to 3D Sonic titles, but they manage to nail the fast-paced platforming better than Sonic Team ever has.
If you like this, do revisit the original, too, which pays tribute to Sonic Advance.
The original Super Lucky’s Tale was a charming but flawed platformer, but New Super Lucky’s Tale is the real deal.
It reworks a number of aspects of the original game, including the story, the camera, and the implementation of the rather excellent Gilly’s Island DLC.
In short, if you’re interested in 3D platformers, don’t play the original Super Lucky’s Tale; get this one instead.
The Klonoa games come from a rather experimental and interesting time in the platforming genre’s history.
They’re strange games that incorporate all kinds of other genres, including puzzle games, shooters, and even snowboarding games at one point.
This is all tied together with a bittersweet narrative that will make you surprisingly misty-eyed by the time the credits roll around (which won’t take long, sadly).
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is brutally, eye-wateringly difficult.
This is not the kind of game you play if you want to relax of an evening; it’s the kind of game you play if you want to test your gaming skills to their absolute limit.
It’s an expertly-crafted platformer with incredible level design and great music, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.