Nintendo Switch Platformers
Since the dawn of time, platformers have been a staple of video games, both delighting and challenging gamers alike. And what better place to play them all than on the Nintendo Switch? Despite the ever-present risk of Joy-Con drift, the system has amassed an excellent catalog of ports, indie darlings, and new titles. It’s a platformer fan’s paradise. If you want the best, look no further than Super Mario Odyssey. It’s the premier platformer for the system, and for good reason. Super Mario Odyssey reinforces what a Mario game is capable of and how the genre itself is far from stagnant.
Best Overall: Super Mario Odyssey
You can always count on Nintendo to reimagine the platformer genre with every console generation, and Super Mario Odyssey is no different. Combining elements from three decades of some of the best games ever made, Super Mario Odyssey is a brand-new adventure that feels unique as well as a celebration of the famous plumber’s history.
Mario is once again in pursuit of a kidnapped Princess Peach, joined this time by Cappy. Mario’s new companion is a wisp that becomes Mario’s hat allowing the plumber to take control of almost anything with the toss of his cap. This mechanic opens Mario’s move set beyond the jumps and spins he’s best known for. Climbing a building? Take control of a pylon and fling yourself up or become an electric bolt and travel through the telephone wires. Gap is too wide? Throw your hat and bounce off it for an extra boost.
Mario’s freedom of movement is not just limited to the controls. Super Mario Odyssey borrows from the non-linear approach to level design that transformed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can approach challenges as you see fit, and the game is always rewarding the player for exploring every corner of each level, which includes prehistoric ruins (complete with a dinosaur!), a bustling metropolis (complete with humans!), and even the moon.
Super Mario Odyssey is a game that keeps giving. Just when you think you’ve seen everything Super Mario Odyssey has to offer, something new is introduced in the form of an outfit, a hidden world, or a new transformation. Experienced players looking for a challenge will enjoy the challenge of Luigi’s Balloon World, a hide and seek minigame that tasks you with finding balloons hidden by other players. Though there’s plenty to do, the game never feels overwhelming, and finding each of the nearly 1,000 moons is a constant treat. Gamers of all ages will find something to love in Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s easily the best platformer on the Nintendo Switch.
- Excellent control
- Non-linear game design encourages exploration
- Creative use of Mario’s body-swapping ability
- Might be too easy for experienced players
One of the best
Super Mario Odyssey is everything you’ve ever wanted a Mario game to be. Excellent control, endlessly creative, and pure fun.
Best Value: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Source: Yacht Club Games
What is now known as the poster child for successful Kickstarter campaigns, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a huge package that includes four campaigns. Each has a unique playable character, story, gameplay, and altered stages, and the fifth campaign is a fighting game that was initially just a Kickstarter stretch goal. It is easy to see why this is our pick for best value.
Shovel Knight has grown so much since its Kickstarter concluded in 2013. At its core, it is an 8-bit platformer, reminiscent of games like Mega Man, Zelda 2, and even Ducktales. Wearing its influences on its sleeve, the game features tight controls, a fantastic chiptune soundtrack, and fine-tuned platforming. The game is challenging but never unfair like those old NES platformers, and even gives you a chance to collect the belongings dropped from an untimely death.
Each of the campaigns is unique and makes use of the main protagonist’s signature move in creative ways. Whether it’s Shovel Knight’s pogo stick shovel or King Knight’s Wario-like shoulder bash, levels feel uniquely tailored to the characters and not just some simple retreads of older levels. The variety alone will ensure that there is something here for everybody’s playstyle.
With all the campaigns now available, the Treasure Trove is one of the best values on the Switch. It’s a perfect homage to 8-bit platforming while also modernizing and perfecting its age-old formula, just don’t expect too much from its multiplayer offering.
- Five campaigns in one package
- Each character is unique
- Excellent soundtrack
- Retro aesthetic comes with retro difficulty
- Multiplayer mode is somewhat bare
Shovel Knight is a retro darling, paying homage to classic 8-bit side scrollers while carving a distinct path of its own.
Best Indie: Celeste
Source: Matt Makes Games
Indie games are a dime a dozen on the Nintendo Switch, but every so often, an outstanding game bubbles to the surface. Celeste tells a sad, compelling story while also remaining fun and challenging to play.
You play as Madeline, a young woman who sets out to scale Celeste Mountain to find herself. The game’s story is poignant and relatable, and underneath the allegory is an unforgiving precision platformer that will put your platforming skills to the test. Players will guide Madeline over huge chasms, bouncing off walls and between spikes, with only a simple mid-air dash to assist. With levels that range from hard to insanely hard, Celeste is punishing but forgiving, allowing players to quickly resume where they died, so cumbersome loading screens never break up the pace of the game.
Celeste is a rare platformer that tells a compelling narrative while never lifting its foot off of the player’s neck. The game is difficult, and the unlockable B-side and C-side levels get even more brutal. But in doing so, the gameplay mirrors the traumatic themes of anxiety, social pressures, and being content with oneself that its heroine contends with. Celeste is compelling in its storytelling and is well worth the time of platformer fans.
- An emotional and engaging story
- Difficult but rewarding platforming
- Outstanding soundtrack
- Difficulty spike is not for the faint of heart
Make the jump
Celeste lays a deep story over hardcore platforming and creates something incredibly unique.
Best 2D Platformer: Sonic Mania
Depending on who you ask, Sonic the Hedgehog is either a beloved character like Mario or a washed-up mascot from the 90s. No matter what your opinion of the blue hedgehog is, everyone can agree that Sonic Mania is one of the best Sonic games ever created. Sonic Mania is a labor of love to the Sonic fanbase by the Sonic fanbase. Sega built Sonic Mania’s development team with members of the Sonic mod community. The lead developer, Christian Whitehead, is a well-known developer whose proof of concept videos were so successful, Sega commissioned him to work on console ports of Sonic CD and the mobile ports of Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2.
Sonic Mania consists of 12 levels, 8 of which are remixed versions of classic zones from Sonic’s past. Sega Genesis fans will feel right at home with the classic 2D Sonic formula, which follows Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles as they blast through levels at hyper speed, collecting rings, and battling Dr. Robotnik and his evil henchmen.
Fans of the older games might feel like they’re retreading mostly old ground due to the lack of new zones. Still, the levels, both new and old, are elevated to new heights thanks to gorgeous visuals and animations and a fantastic soundtrack that’s sure to have you bopping in your seat as you spin dash through levels.
When you’re done with the main content, the DLC will provide even more Sonic goodness for fans to enjoy. Included in the DLC are two fan-favorite characters, Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo, an Encore Mode, a pinball bonus stage, and four-player competitive multiplayer. This is a must-have for fans of 2D platformers and is one of the best Sonic games Sega has released in years.
- Visuals and animations
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Sonic is fun again
- Most of the levels are from older Sonic games
- Truly new content is locked behind DLC
Best 2D Platformer
Faster than ever before
Leave it to the fans to make one of the best Sonic games ever made. Sonic Mania is a love letter to the 16-bit era of Sonic games.
Best Port: Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
The Nintendo Switch has built an impressive library of great titles, thanks to the number of ports it has received over the years. One such gem is Rayman Legends, a game that was overlooked when it launched originally for the WiiU. What a shame; it is one of the best platformers ever made and, hands down, one of Rayman’s most entertaining adventures.
Rayman returns to his roots in this 2D side-scrolling game and looks gorgeous, thanks in part to the UbiArt Framework engine. Rayman and friends have never looked more expressive, and the environments feel alive, dripping with color and personality.
Levels are so masterfully designed that it is easy to slip into autopilot, jumping, and punching and finding a rhythm that’ll coast you through most levels. Speaking of rhythm, the music stages in Rayman Legends are superb, and some of the most entertaining stages I’ve ever experienced in a platformer. All that plus local co-op multiplayer, and it’s clear why it’s on the list.
Rayman Legends is bursting from the seams with content, in the form of levels, characters, and costumes, and you’ll be happy to know that the Switch version runs as smooth as butter, both in handheld and docked mode. Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition doesn’t have much new to offer returning players, but if you haven’t played this before — you have too. Rayman deserves all our love.
- Rayman has never looked better thanks to an amazing art style
- Packed to the brim with content
- Masterful level design
- Game sometimes feels like it’s playing itself
- Nothing new for those who played on older consoles
No limbs required
Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is the perfect way to experience this underrated classic.
Best Collection : Crash Bandicoot: The N.Sane Trilogy
It’s hard to believe that Crash Bandicoot, a goofy looking marsupial in baggy shorts, was once the premier mascot for the PlayStation. What’s even crazier is that the three PlayStation classics that made Crash Bandicoot a household name have made their way onto a Nintendo system. Yes, Crash Bandicoot: The N.Sane Trilogy is on the Switch and is the best collection of platformers on the console…for now.
The three original Crash Bandicoot games have been completely remade from the ground up in stunning detail, and while the Switch version isn’t the best-looking version of the game out there, it still looks very good, especially in handheld mode. The game now looks exactly like what we imagined it did back in the 90s.
Crash’s on-rails platforming remains firmly intact, for better or worse. For the most part, the platform is fun and fluid, but some levels are incredibly annoying because of the timing required for certain jumps. This is particularly true in the first game, which might feature the most frustrations out of the three games here.
Naughty Dog’s former mascot may have drifted off into obscurity in recent years, but these three PlayStation classics stand the test of time and are a reminder of a time when 3d platformers reigned supreme. They’re a joy to play if you can get past some of the clunky 3D platforming from the era.
- The visuals are redone from the ground up
- Includes three PlayStation classics
- Levels are exactly as you remember them
- Crash looks and performs better on other consoles
- Some frustrating levels could’ve used a redesign
Insane in the membrane
The first three adventures that made Crash Bandicoot a household name painstakingly recreated for modern consoles.
Whether you’re looking for a homage to platformers of old, a new modern classic, or something in between, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices on this list. There are so many great platformers to choose from on the Nintendo Switch. Still, our top pick is Super Mario Odyssey. It’s one of best games on the Nintendo Switch and proves that Nintendo platforming prowess hasn’t aged in the slightest.
Pulling inspiration from Mario’s storied history, as well as tapping into the freedom and non-linear design that reinvigorated the Zelda series in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo ensures that Mario stays two steps ahead of the competition. This series continues to innovate 3D platformers, more than 20 years since it defined the genre with Super Mario 64. Super Mario Odyssey is, by far, the best Nintendo Switch platformer to date.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Zackery CuevasZackery Cuevas loves talking about video games, complaining about videogames, praising videogames, and writing about videogames. You can find guides and reviews written by him on iMore and Windows Central.
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