Platform games are those that have heavy reliance on jumping and climbing options, where these actions are vital to completing the game, all the while having the player avoid obstacles and unlock the pathway forward. Most action-adventure games have this quality now, but true platformers are those that form their gameplay around these features.
For this reason, games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed aren’t considered as genuine platformers, but you’ll still find many familiar names here. In this list, to avoid having the top-10 be dominated solely with Mario games, we’ve included only the top-ranked entry in a series. Now, you can check out 10 of the most unique platforming games that have been ranked as the absolute best by Metacritic.
10 Conker's Bad Fur Day (2001) - 92
Don’t be fooled by the cuteness of this squirrel, because Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a platformer that really isn’t for children. Filled with adult-oriented humor and violence that seems way off for the colorful backdrop, the game is for those who want a lot of edge in their game.
Gameplay wise, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a change from the norm in that it features an overworld where levels connect one to the other. Each area has its own set of objectives that players can interact with freely, although the gameplay execution is similar to your standard platformer where you run, jump, and attack enemies with a unique weapon.
9 Journey (2012) - 92
One of the games that define “art” when it comes to gaming, Journey is seen as a triumph for the industry which is stereotyped for being for action-heavy teenagers. In this game, however, you’re meant to appreciate the range of emotions that an experience hands you.
Although there’s not as much variety in gameplay as usual platformers, Journey’s winning quality is in the subtleties it provides. Every effort one makes toward their ascent to the peak has weight attached to it, and sharing these moments with nameless players somewhere around the world means even the slightest action in helping one another makes you connected.
8 Banjo-Kazooie (1998) - 92
Like Conker’s Bad Fur Day, this one also has nonlinear gameplay for players to immerse themselves in. Even better is that a sense of nostalgia will surround you if you were to play it now, as the game is a perfect representation of the offerings we had in gaming as children.
Banjo-Kazooie is about a bear and a bird who go on an adventure to stop the plans of an evil witch, with the world before us highlighting the childlike wonder of the target audience. The main goal in missions is for players to collect “Jiggies” in order to progress, in levels filled with areas where you’ll need to jump over obstacles.
7 Cave Story (2004) - 93
Although released fifteen years ago, it was the 3DS version of Cave Story that proved to be a remarkable hit. With gameplay that fits the handheld platform perfectly, players are given a classic 2D world to go through.
There’s not much depth in gameplay here, but what it does provide is entertainment that is fast paced without requiring you to learn the ropes for too long. The player generally needs to avoid enemies and shoot in their own offensive maneuvers before they’re overwhelmed by attacks; upgrades follow soon after, which ups the ante considerably.
6 Sonic CD (1993) - 93
Does Sonic really need an introduction? If you’re not sure which game we’re referring to here within the vast collection of offerings in the series, then let us remind you that Sonic CD is the one that is found most commonly around the world.
Most of us grew up playing this game, where the player is required to speed through levels collecting rings and avoiding attacks in order to confront Dr. Robotnik and his henchmen. The difficulty is off the charts for most, but that’s part of the challenge.
5 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) - 93
Nonlinear gameplay in 2D games is almost unheard of, but Castlevania: Symphony of the Night pulled this off in spades. The atmosphere of the title defines the experience, as the player traverses deep into the eerie castle encountering all sorts of ghoulish enemies.
The platforming aspect is tougher than most, as you’re required to perfect evasion quite a bit, all the while having to come close to your enemy to put them away. The presence of several RPG elements mean that Symphony of the Night carries excellent replay value as well.
4 Braid (2008) - 93
Mixing puzzles with platforming is this feature, which could very well be included in the best Xbox games you can play; although Braid has since become available on other platforms as well. The platforming part takes the backseat here, however, as puzzle solving is the main quest.
You need to use the main character to go about each level and uncover the puzzle, with the crux of the gameplay circling around the number of clues given to you in order to solve the puzzle. This makes Braid a unique offering, where platforming is used not just as part of the action but as a necessity.
3 Jet Grind Radio (2000) - 94
The current generation has Subway Surfers, but the previous generation had Jet Set Radio to keep them company for their rebellious urges. Here, the objective is to be a juvenile who sprays graffiti around the streets of Tokyo while evading the authorities.
This is one game that really stresses the platforming portion of its gameplay, as your basic style of play has to do with making the character jump around just about every part of the city to create a cool skate combo while escaping your pursuers.
2 LittleBigPlanet (2008) - 95
Considered as the saving grace in a horrible year for the PlayStation 3, LittleBigPlanet remains one of the greatest games to ever have been made for the console, and it is still credited as saving the PS3’s reputation in many ways.
Featuring entirely unique gameplay, the player has the option of customizing the main character along with the number of levels that are available. This means that you are responsible for creating your own levels, which leads to playing to your heart’s content as only you know what appeals you most. Platforming sequences are family-friendly, to the point that LittleBigPlanet’s gameplay is considered as the best option you can have for children on the PS3.
1 Super Mario Galaxy (2007) - 97
You knew that Mario would be topping this list the moment you saw the title, and everyone’s favorite plumber takes his rightful place in first place with the game that is considered by many critics as the greatest to have ever been, regardless of platform.
While having all of the usual fun that Mario games bring, this one adds to the experience by having a splash of colors, music, and level design to appeal to anybody. The player gets to travel to different worlds that offer distinct challenges, all the while retaining a fast pace and the Mario spirit that we all know and love.