Who would have thought that the simple act of leaping from one platform to another would be such a fulfilling activity? Ever since Pac-Land originated the platformer genre (that’s right, it wasn’t technically Super Mario Bros), platformers have been a mainstay on every single console generation, often serving as their flagship titles, especially in the case of Nintendo. Luckily, the Xbox and PC platforms are also fertile ground for platformers; there are plenty to play if you love jumping. Here are the 15 best platformers on Xbox Game Pass which you can play right now if you’ve got an active subscription!
1. Hollow Knight
Who would have thought that of all the pretenders to Dark Souls’ throne, a 2D Metroidvania platformer would be the one to finally get it right? Hollow Knight isn’t superficially similar to Dark Souls; it’s 2D, after all, and it has more in common with latter-period Castlevania games than it does with From Software’s game. It’s all in the world design, though. Hollow Knight’s world is bleak, beautiful, and absolutely massive; just when you think it’s stopped, it keeps on giving.
2. Human: Fall Flat
We don’t think Human: Fall Flat gets the love it deserves. This is an utterly bizarre 3D platformer that focuses mainly on physics; your little bean person doesn’t have a huge range of movement, so you’ll need to manipulate your environment in order to progress through the levels. It’s a mixture of 3D platformer, sandbox game, and cooperative-slash-competitive multiplayer. Dragging your co-op partner off a ledge after a tricky physics puzzling sequence simply never gets old.
3. Ori and the Blind Forest
If nothing else, Ori and the Blind Forest should be experienced simply for the quality of its animation. We’ve never seen a game that moves this fluidly. Watching Ori leap and bound through the game’s wooded environments never becomes a chore, and it helps that the platforming in this Metroidvania adventure is just as fluid and compelling as the animation. The story is a little rote, but there’s more than enough atmosphere and charm to carry this one through. Check out the sequel if you liked this game; it’s not quite as good, but it’s still worth experiencing.
4. New Super Lucky’s Tale
New Super Lucky’s Tale is an unashamedly retro-style platformer. It doesn’t have any XP bars, skill trees, or other modern trappings; what it offers is a pure 3D platforming experience with lots of collectibles and surprisingly varied gameplay. It’s worth checking out this new version over and above the original Super Lucky’s Tale; it revamps the art style, adds some new gameplay modes, and includes the game’s DLC, so it’s the definitive Lucky experience.
Much like Ori and the Blind Forest, Unravel has a sequel that’s worth playing if you liked the gameplay of the original. This is an indie physics puzzler that has you dragging your unspooling yarn over levers, around branches, and through gaps in order to solve puzzles. There’s a sense of freedom and momentum to Unravel’s platforming; it’s always satisfying to solve one of its puzzles, because they never feel arbitrary. Again, the story is a little “indie winsome”, but Unravel and its sequel are both well worth your time.
6. Cyber Shadow
It’s unfair to call Cyber Shadow a Ninja Gaiden ripoff, although that NES platformer is certainly this game’s principal inspiration. Cyber Shadow fixes a lot of Ninja Gaiden’s problems; while it has the razor-sharp platforming and satisfying combat of Gaiden, it ditches the frustrating level design and unfair enemies in order to create a much more well-rounded experience. Don’t get us wrong, though; this game is still brutally difficult and will give even the most seasoned platformer player a run for their money.
7. Mirror’s Edge
First-person parkour platforming might sound like a nauseating, vertiginous proposition, but believe us when we say 2008’s Mirror’s Edge finds a way to make it work. You are Faith, a courier in a dystopian city, and you must avoid the city’s police in order to make a living. The story is ho-hum, but the platforming in Mirror’s Edge absolutely sings against the stark backdrop of its blank city. You’ll be trying levels over and over again just to see if you can beat your previous time record.
Warning: don’t play Limbo if you are feeling in any way sad. It will drag you down even further and make you regret ever hitting that “play” button. That said, if you’re in the right mindset, Limbo is a harrowing, bleak odyssey through a dark underworld with plenty of exciting setpieces. The art style would be endlessly copied for years after Limbo’s release; it’s a simple black-and-white affair, with shapes and outlines telling much of the game’s ambiguous story and doing the heavy lifting when it comes to the puzzle platforming.
Xbox Game Pass is all about giving love to underappreciated titles, and they don’t come much more underappreciated than Omno. This is a beautiful 3D platformer with a wonderful art style, but Omno’s biggest triumph is the organic way in which it structures its platforming challenges. There’s usually a way to reach its collectibles that is, nominally speaking, the “right” way, but if you can find another method, that’s valid too. Omno is very short, but it’s well worth experiencing at least once.
10. The Pedestrian
We’re cheating a little here, because The Pedestrian is definitely more of a puzzle game than a platformer. However, it earns a place on this list due to the utterly unique concept and execution of the game. You are a little figure on a road sign, and you must navigate a series of road signs containing puzzles in order to…well, your goal isn’t particularly clear from the outset, but existing in this world is its own reward. The Pedestrian is beautiful, but its puzzles are fiendish, so bring your thinking cap.
11. Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
Don’t worry too much about the incredibly unwieldy and wordy title; Deedlit is a great Metroidvania platformer. If you prefer things to lean more to the Castlevania side of that equation – that is, winding corridors, castle-style environments, and meaningful upgrades – then Deedlit is definitely a game to check out. It technically takes place within the labyrinthine narrative of the Record of Lodoss War series, but you don’t need to have played any previous games to enjoy this one.
Supraland is one of those games that makes you grateful somebody took the time to make it. This is an expansive 3D Metroidvania-style platformer that incorporates physics-based puzzles, backtracking, and plenty of jumping, so if you’ve ever wanted to play Metroid Prime in a more cartoony environment, this one might be for you. The combat isn’t up to much and the game is perhaps a little brief, but Supraland is worth experiencing if you love 3D platforming.
13. Dead Cells
If Hollow Knight perfectly encapsulates Dark Souls’ interconnected, bleak world design, then Dead Cells nails its combat in 2D. You’ll want to try out a range of builds and styles in Dead Cells just to see how the reactive, exciting fighting engine changes as a result. As a roguelike, Dead Cells can’t offer the same level of exploration as its hand-designed peers, but if you play Soulslikes and roguelikes for their combat, then you owe it to yourself to try out Dead Cells as soon as possible.
14. Cluster Truck
Snickering pun title aside, Cluster Truck is 3D platforming distilled into its purest form. You are a faceless, nameless protagonist, and your role is simply to leap between trucks and not die. That’s it. That’s the entire game. Cluster Truck is not a lengthy experience; if you’re skilled, you’ll probably have it done within 3-4 hours. In that time, though, the game squeezes everything it can get out of the concept. Things lean a little Super Monkey Ball in the frustration department at times, but this is still a solid game.
15. Spelunky 2
While Spelunky wasn’t the first roguelike (not by a long shot), it arguably kicked off the current wave of “see how far you can get” platformers. Spelunky 2 takes that formula, refines it, and builds on what the first game achieved. That means more enemy types to take on, more traps to navigate, and more items to interact with. At its core, Spelunky is a sandbox in which half of the joy is figuring out how items behave when thrown at one another, and Spelunky 2 doesn’t abandon that joy.
As this is Xbox Game Pass, naturally, some of these games may not be available when you subscribe. The lineup changes constantly, and new and great platformers might be up for grabs on the service at the point you sign up. However, these are our favourite Game Pass platformers available right now. Which ones are your favourites? Did we miss anything important?