The world might be all about MMO’s and open world games right now, but don’t forget about all the best platform games that have helped to push the video gaming industry to greater heights over the years.
That’s why Retro Dodo exists, after all – to keep the classics alive and to pay tribute to all of the great names that make this industry so exciting.
From an Earthworm in a robotic suit to a Gorilla wearing a tie and a limbless hero that hangs out with a big blue guy, there have been so many amazing characters and duos in the platform genre over the years, keeping us entertained for hours and filling our heads with incredible memories
But which are the best platform games?
We’ve got a selection of 2D and 3D masterpieces spanning from the Sega Mega Drive to the Nintendo Switch for you to check out, so buckle up, get some snacks, and turn your phone to silent.
It’s platform time!
Table of Contents
Earthworm Jim 2 takes the 22nd spot in our list of the best platform games of all time, one of the first games that I remembered putting into my Sega Mega Drive back in the day.
To this day, it’s one of the maddest games that I’ve ever played. I mean, the concept of an earthworm making use of a robotic suit with a mate called snot helping him swing through caverns… it’s the kind of thing that comes before a mental breakdown.
Still, this game is incredible from start to finish, and the concept of the Barn Blaster has never been beaten by any game since.
Why has Earthworm Jim 2 made the cut but not the original Earthworm Jim game, I hear you ask?
Well, the truth is I just prefer the second game in the series. It flows better, has a more polished feel, and the general game just caught my attention more.
And don’t forget the guns too – I reckon James Bond could have done with those machine guns when heading after Trevelyan in GoldenEye!
This 3D Croc title might have a very similar theme to the other snappy titles that made the cut in our best Croc games list, but it’s also one of the most exciting games on the PS1, so we can forgive Baron Dante for being a bit ‘predictable’.
If you’ve never played a Croc game, then it’s essentially like a Spyro title, except this platforming game has a crocodile instead of a dragon.
There are 48 levels to beat and a boss at the end of every stage. The levels give me so much nostalgia whenever I kickstart my PS1 and dive into some retro gaming and Croc never fails to put a smile on my face.
This is definitely one for you to try if you’re into your platformers, and why else would you be here if you werent!
The Lion King takes the 20th spot in our list of the best platform games of all time, and man does this game still drive me crazy!
So many things about this game are perfect, from the colourful graphics to the cameos from all of our favourite Lion King characters.
Heck, the music alone makes this game worth buying.
But those blasted Giraffes… they have toyed with my emotions far too many times. Why did they never let me pass… why did it take me so many childhood years to pass that point!
Gamers take charge of moving Simba from cub to fully-grown lion, turning from a floundering fluffball into a bona fide warrior.
Adult Simba has the ability to maul enemies rather than just jumping on them, making the latter half of the game much more exciting.
And trust me, the final Showdown with Scar is going to take all of your concentration!
Take Timon and Pumba out for a stroll, follow the path of the film storyline, and enjoy one of Virgin Games’ most famous titles to date!
If you know your best platform games, then you’ll already know that this isn’t the only Sonic game you’re going to be seeing in this list. Sonic Adventure 2 Battle is still one of my favourite titles of all time, however, with all the spin-dashing, chao-racing, Eggman-bashing goodness you could ever ask for.
Just the first act of snowboarding on a plane wing down a steep street pulling off moves is enough to get you hooked!
And Shadow the Hedgehog, aka The Ultimate Lifeform has since become a fan favourite!
The Sonic Adventure series isn’t just about running wildly from one side of the screen to the other. You’ve got to explore and (shock horror) walk around certain areas as well as hurtling around like a rocket.
Sonic and Shadow’s levels are fast, Knuckles and Rouge’s levels are based around treasure hunting, and Tails and Eggman’s levels revolve around completing courses while piloting mecha warriors.
Yes, you can play as the good and the bad side in this game, with a different storyline for each.
As well as an epic multiplayer mode, there’s also the Chao Garden too! Collect Chao eggs through the game and pick up items that change their appearance, paving the way for even more multiplayer action!
Yoshi’s Story takes the 18th spot in our list of the best platform games. This isn’t just one of the best N64 games of all time; it’s also one of the fondest titles from my childhood, a game I can remember playing while my Grandma and Mum watched from neighbouring chairs.
Ok, I know that some of you reading this will be thinking that it’s a little bit tame compared to titles like the game in the first spot on our list, but having the chance to play as colourful Yoshi’s and thwarting Baby Bowser never gets old.
And, this is an important game for Yoshi as it’s actually one that he stars in without Mario, baby or adult.
These colourful, textured backgrounds set a precedent for some of the games we play today, namely Wooly World, Crafted World, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn!
The concept of playing through a pop-up book is still fantastic too. I mean, collecting fruit to rekindle the Super Happy Tree is a storyline that could quell the angriest gamer on earth.
And Shy Guy, my favourite Nintendo Character, does a great job in this game too. He’s just misunderstood; when are we going to see him starring in his own platforming game?
Games where you get to be a rebel are always high up on our list. Games that involve inline skating, however, usually aren’t, which make Jet Set Radio a bit of an enigma.
Jet Set Radio was an important platformer as it brought Cel Shaded graphics to the table, a style that many of you might recognise from one of the best Zelda games – The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Imagine mixing Tony Hawks, Parappa the Rapper, and Crazy Taxi together in a big pot, throwing in a strange vinyl record rumoured to be able to summon the devil. That’s Jet Set Radio in a nutshell!
Yes, this game has a bit of a mad plot line to rival Earthworm Jim’s adventures. Street taggers on skates are trying to destroy an evil villain by breaking his turntables and tagging his head.
Sounds great, doesn’t it!
And earlier on this year, we found out that a new Jet Set Radio game is in the works at Sega HQ, giving us another chance to experience the thrills and spills of this weird and wonderful game!
Mega Man X takes the 16th spot on our list of the best platform days of all time!
Alright, the purists are probably going to snub the fact that I’ve put an off shoot of the original Mega Man series in this list rather than one of the main titles, but hear me out.
Mega Man X brought a whole new set of moves to the table as well as bringing in a new era of Mega Man that was incredibly popular the world over.
And we all know that X is the coolest letter to put on the end of anything!
Mega Man X was shut away for 100 years in a capsule in a lab after his creation by a scientist. It was feared that he might be too dangerous, but what’s more dangerous is the fact that somebody cloned him and made a load of evil replicas.
Now, X has to clean up a mess that isn’t his fault and one that could have been avoided in the first place!
Along with an Android named Zero, he must stop the Reploids from taking over the world and destroying all human life.
I will always love this Mega Man title over all the others in the canon – it’s why it topped our list of the best Mega Man games too!
Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes the 15th spot in our list of the best platform games, and it’s one of the newest titles in our list too!
It’s also the last game to come out in the Kirby series and jumped straight to second place in our list of the best Kirby games.
I guess you can’t get a better accolade than that, right?
The Forgotten Land looks very similar to Super Mario Odyssey and has a lot of the same mechanics too. Ok, I know that Kirby has been sucking up enemies and stealing their abilities for years, but his car-gobbling abilities, while funny, aren’t quite as effective as Mario taking over a giant T-Rex!
Inhaling a tank with some incredible firepower never gets old, however, and this is the the closest we’ve come to having a Kirby title that feels like The Crystal Shards in a long time.
And, if you don’t like playing alone, then you can always get a mate to jump into the action with you and bring Banana Waddle Dee along for the ride!
You might need Banana Waddle Dee if you’re ever going to save all of the other Waddle Dees and bring order back to the world – I guess he’ll know what they all look like, right?
Hollow Knight could well be one of the best Nintendo Switch platform games we’ve ever played.
That’s a strong statement, I know, but if you look at this list as a whole, you’ll see that me and the other Retro Dodo team members love games that border on the weird, bizarre, and downright odd.
This game takes players down into the world of Hallownest, a kingdom the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Strange insects and monsters are the main inhabitants, and Hollow Knight has to discover all of the hidden wonders this world has to offer.
For those of you wanting to know a little more about the ins and outs of this game, it’s a Metroidvania-style title. That essentially means that its a side-scrolling game in the vain of Metroid and Castlevania.
And the bosses; if you’ve checked out our article on the best games like Hollow Knight, then you’ll know how much we revere the mammoth enemies in this game. Delving into a city of bones and fighting off insects in a mushroom jungle all await you as you explore Hallownest with a trusty nail in hand.
All this from a Kickstarter title… not bad, huh?
Smaug might be my favourite movie dragon of all time, but Spyro the Dragon takes the prize when it comes to the best platform games.
Like Mario, Crash Bandicoot, Link, and Sonic, Spyro is one of most recognisable characters in gaming history. He’s one of the most famous Sony characters and was actually created to appeal to the Nintendo fans that preferred more ‘cutesy platformers’ aimed at younger gamers.
What it actually did was capture the hearts and minds of gamers of all ages and become one of the best PS1 games of all time!
So what does Spyro do in this game? Well, in his first title, he must free all of the trapped dragons and stop Gnasty Gnorc from carrying out his evil plans. You and your best mate, a dragonfly named Sparx (cool, right) have to find treasure and ram sheep while defeating enemies.
So many people speed past the words of wisdom from the dragons in this game, but I enjoy their narrative – it helps to create a deeper plot, and they almost act like mentors for Spyro as he moves through the game.
Heck, if you own a PS1 and haven’t got a copy of Spyro, then you need to rectify this pronto!
Yes, this is a game that’s so odd that even its development company is named ‘Oddworld Inhabitants’. It’s an odd game in an odd world featuring odd people. Got it?
Abe is the guy on the cover with his mouth sewn shut. He’s a Mudokon slave forced to work in a meat factory, and he decides to break free when he realises his friends are about to be bumped off.
Abe’s mission to save his kind while exploring the stunning realm of Oddworld never ceases to amaze me. I mean, just look at the still above; this side-scroller has so much depth to the background in each of the levels that you’ll spend half your time focusing on minute details instead of moving forward through the game.
One annoying part of this game is that Abe dies super easily, sometimes just from an enemy touching you.
Patience is key here, and once you get used to that fact, you’ll enjoy this game a lot more. And besides, Abe is a Sony institution, and you won’t find another gaming character as odd out there in the world!
We’ve hit the halfway point in our list of the best platform games, which means it’s high time that Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time made an appearance.
Yes, Ratchet and Clank are two other platforming heroes from Sony’s back catalogue, and the fact that this game bears the ‘Greatest Hits’ banner won’t surprise many of our readers.
So what’s happening in this adventure?
Well, Ratchet is still trying to search for Clank after the Zoni’s took him hostage in ‘Quest for Booty’, and we get to learn a lot about both Ratchet and Clank in this game.
I suppose that this title serves as a bit of self-discovery adventure for each of the titular characters, with players finding out about Ratchet’s race and Clank uncovering his true destiny.
Talk about deep, right?
Dr Nefarious and Captain Qwark are both back, adding even more excitement to what is arguably the best plotline in the entire R&C canon. And there’s so much to do; it feels so familiar while being blown completely open with so many more textures to the storyline and gameplay.
There’s a reason it topped our list of the best Ratchet and Clank games, you know!
New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe takes us on a trip down memory lane, heading back to the Wii U via the Nintendo Switch.
This game has finally found the praise it deserves thanks to the Nintendo Switch deluxe offering, but it’ remains a reminder of the fact that the Wii-U was one of Nintendo’s biggest flops.
And at over 13 million units sold, that tells you that Nintendo are used to getting much bigger figures if the Wii-U was indeed considered ‘a flop’.
Still, thanks to the Nintendo Switch, we can take New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe out on the train, on a plane, or just play underneath our desks while hiding from Brandon ‘Bowser’ Saltalamacchia as he does his rounds of Retro Dodo towers.
We’re a big fan of the 4-player co-op Mario titles, and now there are 5 characters to pick from with the inclusion of Toadette and Nabbit.
Nabbit doesn’t get attacked by enemies too, so I have no idea why you’d want to play as anyone else!
Toadette also has the ability to turn into Peachette which is pretty damn handy, and you’ll need to utilise all the characters skills if you’re going to successfully complete all 164 courses!
Shovel Knight takes the 9th spot in this list of the best platform games of all time, and while shovelling in real life isn’t the most glamorous of tasks, Shovel Knight is one bad-ass dude who you’re going to want to get to know.
I mean, a shovel is basically just a short spear, right?
When days were old and knights were bold, two brave warriors roamed the land with a shovel and a shield. Shield Knight fell, and Shovel Knight is the world’s sole protector.
This platformer takes us right back to the days of games like Darkwing Duck and Mega Man, two other platform titles/series that I wanted to give a special mention to before we carry on!
It’s got a certain ‘Castle of Illusion’ vibe about it that we love too, except instead of throwing Apples you’ll be digging around and slapping enemies with the end of your shovel.
Find gold hidden everywhere, gain upgrades, and dig your way to victory!
Super Mario Galaxy is finally here, one of the most beloved Mario games in Mazza’s back catalogue!
Galaxy had all of the main Mario game feels to it while giving us something completely new to work with. The mechanic of moving over planets and gliding to new ones was amazing, as was having multiple smaller parts of levels rather than moving around one big level as in SM64 and Sunshine.
To be fair, Super Mario Galaxy had to be a huge success – for starters, it’s a Mario game, and Nintendo have got to make sure that they’re spot on every time. It was also following Super Mario Sunshine too, and we all know how much of a fan favourite Mario’s adventures around Isle Delfino was!
The premise is the same as always – save Peach, collect Power Stars, and defeat Bowser.
Hey, it wouldn’t be a Mario game without it!
The worlds in this game are phenomenal; if you can still get a copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, then it’s definitely worth playing on the Switch!
Listen, if like me, you played a lot of Donkey Kong Country on the SNES back in the day, then Donkey Kong Country Returns is going to be right up your street!
As one of the best SNES games, many of you will have already played DKC before at some stage in your life. Well, DKCR pays homage to the pre-rendered vine-swinging game of old, with Donkey and Diddy teaming out once more to save their bananas!
Miyamoto hated those old graphics, so he probably jumped for joy when this game came out. And as you can see from the game case above, so did pretty much all of the world too. The backgrounds are incredibly textured, more like Rayman Legends than the old SNES days.
Find the golden KONG letters, ride mine karts, and ride Rambi the Rhino!
I love Donkey Kong 64, but if you prefer the classic DK side-scrollers, then jump right in!
Crash Bandicoot takes the 5th spot on our list of the best platform games of all time. And if you don’t know who Crash Bandicoot is, then you best head to our list of the best Crash Bandicoot games and do some research.
Crash Bandicoot takes the 6th spot on our list of the best platform games of all time. And if you don’t know who Crash Bandicoot is, then you best head to our list of the best Crash Bandicoot games and do some research.
Ok, I’ll do the research for you. Crash Bandicoot came from developers Naughty Dog and dropped in 1996. It’s the first game in the ever-popular Crash Bandicoot series and took us on a whirlwind apple-collecting adventure.
Your mission is to rescue Crash’s girlfriend from Brio and Cortex, thwarting their plan for world domination in the process.
So Crash wasn’t the first game in the platform genre (that was 1981’s Donkey Kong for all the history nerds out there), but it certainly helped to push the genre throughout the 90s.
With 30 levels to beat, epic enemies, amazing characters, and Crash’s legendary protector Aku Aku joining the fray, it’s a game that you can easily lose yourself in.
And you know what, the first game in the series is 100% the best out of the bunch too!
Banjo-Kazooie are still my favourite gaming duo of all time.
Yooka-Laylee tried to take the crown and did a pretty good job of making platform games appealing to a new generation and rekindling those classic RARE vibes for nostalgic gamers, but the bird and bear duo are still the best.
This game is my childhood – I still want to learn a new move from Bottles the Mole whenever I pass a molehill, and jigsaws will forever be linked with stepping into magical worlds filled with Grunty’s minions.
From collecting notes and Jinjos to beating back bosses and cleaning up Clanker, this game has some truly amazing moments in it. And, let’s be honest, the levels still look great today when playing on the Nintendo Switch.
If you can get hold of a copy of Banjo-Tooie, then I would definitely recommend playing through it too. I didn’t appreciate it enough back in the day, but man, is it a work of art!
Super Mario 64 is undoubtedly one of the greatest platform games of all time, no questions about it.
I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of Nintendo’s crown jewels, a game that helped to shape the future of gaming and one that set a precedent for platforming games going forward.
I can never walk past a painting without thinking about jumping into it and racing Koopa the Quick, fighting King Bob-Omb, Battling Boo and and running around as Metal Mario.
That ‘Gwa-ha-ha’ followed by me swinging Bowser into a spike will always be one of my fondest childhood memories too!
Whether you play SM64 on the N64, the DS with Wario and the gang joining the fray, or on the Switch as part of the 3D All-Stars collection, having a copy of this game in your life will only make you happier and 100% more attractive to passers-by.
How many of you are about to go back and race that pesky penguin in Cool, Cool Mountain?
Sonic the Hedgehog has finally arrived!
Come on, you knew that he was going to be in the top 3, and the second game in the series is by far the best in the bunch,
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is perfect in every aspect. It’s one of the best SEGA Mega Drive games on the earth and I’ve played this game to death over the years, back in the days when you couldn’t turn your console off and had to leave it on all night if you wanted to carry on with your progress the next day.
Move from Westside Island to the powerful Death Egg, collecting Chaos Emeralds and stopping Doctor Robotnik from causing havoc.
And the special 3D half-pip zones were something else. Man, the Mega Drive was an absolute powerhouse!
Rayman Legends takes the silver medal in this list of the best platform games of all time, a title that we’ve seen on so may consoles but one that will forever be one of our favourite Wii-U games.
Our limbless friend will forever be one of the best platformer games of all time, and with whispers spreading of a new Rayman game, we could soon be heading back into his world once more for some side-scrolling goodness!
Rayman Legends is a direct sequel to Rayman Origins. Rayman, Globox, and the Teensies have been snoozing for 100 years, and things have really gone downhill while they’ve been asleep.
I mean, everyone deserves a break after saving the world, but 100 years is a bit much, right?
Just look at that still above – the textures, the use of depth, the graphics, it’s all incredible.
You and three mates can work together to tackle this game, or you can just go solo and spend hours taking in the sights.
Rayman’s trademark abilities like wall running and high jumping return, and you’ll need to use them all along with tonnes of items if you plan to save the day and bed back down for another 100 year sleep!
The results are in, the platform gaming gods have spoken, and Super Mario Odyssey has been crowned the best platform game of all time!
Mario has always been at the forefront of the platforming genre, so it’s no surprise that his latest adventure has topped this list.
One look at the detailing of the levels in this game is all it takes to make you realise why we’ve given it the top spot too. It’s nice to step out of the Mushroom Kingdom and explore a variety of different worlds via the Odyssey. Plus Cappy’s ability of taking over animals and objects is amazing!
Yes, he’s now our favourite Cap character of all time. Sorry Ezlo, but your days were always numbered.
Turning into a T-Rex to smash through hidden areas is absolutely incredible, as is taking over a tank and gunning down enemies. It’s such a change from what we know but very welcome in order to mix things up a bit.
Cappy also helps Mario reach new areas in the same vain as Scrooge McDuck’s cane in DuckTales. And, there’s a shop on each level that you can use to change up Mario’s look, along with themed costumes needed to enter secret areas!
And just look at that New York City-esque level; it’s Mario like you’ve never seen him before!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.