5 best 3D platformer games of the 2010s (and 5 best 2D platformers)

Which among these is your favorite? (Images via Nintendo/Team Cherry)
Which among these is your favorite? (Images via Nintendo/Team Cherry)

Platformers were one of the first popular genres in all of gaming, with the original Donkey Kong (arcade) being a notable example. Throughout the years, the genre has undergone a serious overhaul, including a shift to 3D in the 90s.

Whether 3D or a return to form in 2D, both types continue to be popular today, despite the highly saturated gaming market. This past decade has been especially fruitful, and has given rise to some of the greatest plaformer titles of all time. This article presents some of the best games that players should try out.

These 3D platformers continue their old-school predecessors' legacy

1) Super Mario Galaxy 2


2017's Super Mario Odyssey was a spectacular entry that brought something new to the long-running Nintendo platformer series. However, nothing can top the flawless execution of Super Mario Galaxy 2. The 2010 Nintendo Wii title didn't just improve upon the perfection of the original entry, but did so by accomplishing even more.

A varied level design that outclassed the original, more power-ups to mess around with, and new additions like ridable Yoshis encapsulated into a streamlined experience — while maintaining depth, challenge and charm.

Despite the simple narrative, this planet-faring adventure simply reinstates the fact that the wizards at Nintendo are masters of the genre

2) Psychonauts 2


Released last year, Double Fine's Psychonauts 2 was one of the most anticipated video game sequels ever — and it delivered, for the most part. The Unreal Engine 4 platformer sees players step back into the boots and mind of Raz, as he must uncover an infiltrator who has found their way into the Psychoanuts' ranks.

The original cult-classic entry saw players navigate creative mindscapes while collecting stray thoughts, emotional baggage, and more. They had to do so while dealing with troublesome manifestations of the human psyche with their psychic abilities. All of this is retained here and more, with more creative level design, new power-ups, and tighter paltforming.

It is a must-play for not just fans of the first entry but the platfformer genre as a whole.

3) Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time


Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is the latest offering in Activision's iconic bandicoot platform adventure. Developer Toys for Bob built upon the foundation established with Crash N. Sane trilogy (the PS1 trilogy remakes) to deliver something a lot more daring.

Not only are the levels bigger and more complex, but it adds in new ideas to the mix. For example, masks that allow gravity-switching, and slowing down time, and new additions to Crash's movement arsenal, like wall-running.

Staying true to the classics, Crash Bandicoot 4 has no shortage of the exact same charm and challenge, making it worth checking out for newcomers.

4) A Hat In Time


The indie scene is closely associated with the 3D platformer genre and one of the best such examples is A Hat In Time. After losing her Time Pieces, an alien girl called Hat Kid must traverse various levels to get them back.

Clearly inspired by iconic names like Super Mario 64, developer Gears for Breakfast nailed the sense of progression and exploration. Various power-ups and abilities acquired from new hats and badges further allow different approaches to combat as well as platforming, in ways that are always a joy to experience.

5) Ratchet & Clank (2016)


Released in 2016 as a reimagination of the PlayStation 2 original, Ratchet & Clank sees the iconic duo pair up again. The PlayStation 4 title brings the mersmerizing sci-fi world of the Lombax's humorous adventures to a new dimension while retaining what fans love about the games.

A well-paced level design, familiar faces, fun combat with cool weapons and varied enemies to fight keep the experience gripping from start to finish. Developer Insomniac Games definitely know what they are doing.

Modern 2D platformers that embody the genre's spirit quite well

1) Hollow Knight


Hollow Knight from team Cherry is easily one of the biggest names in the indie gaming scene. The 2017 Metroidvania mashes together its varied inspirations into one package that manages to feel truly unique.

As players navigate the harsh landscapes of Hallownest, they will experience both sides of the spectrum, from utter terror and frustration at the brutal difficulty of its countless combat and platforming moments, to sheer bliss on basking in their victories as well as the immersive atmosphere.

The Metroidvania experience checks all the boxes for a flawless experience, and then some more with meaningful upgrades, unrivaled level design, and a never-ending cycle of curiosity, surprise, and discovery. Considering that all of this was accomplished by a small team of passionate people is just the icing on the top.

WIth Hollow Knight: Silksong somewhere on the horizon, fans can't wait to see what more the team can achieve.

2) Cuphead


Cuphead is another example of a platformer game that is hard to fault because it revels in its simplicity. Studio MDHR's run-and-gun platformer brings classics like Capcom's Megaman series to mind, and yet goes above and beyond.

After Cuphead and Mugman are tricked into trading their souls to the Devil, they must do his bidding by going on a hunting spree. Armed with a variety of projectiles, Cuphead is all about shooting and avoiding fire. The striking 30s and 40s-inspired handdrawn visuals only accentuate the smooth platforming and amazing level design.

Of course, the brutal difficulty and wonderful boss fights deserves mention too, demanding pixel-perfect plaforming skills and mastery of the parry system. There have been many games like this before and there be will be more to come, but Cuphead will remain evergreen.

3) Rayman Legends


The core Rayman series may not receive the attention fans think it needs from developer Ubisoft, but when it does, it is always guaranteed to be a banger. 2013's Rayman Legends is one such example.

Like Cuphead, it is another game that prides itself on its simplicity as well as consistency, and that is also its biggest strength. Rayman and his unique cast of friends largely rely on nothing more than their movement and simple attacks, yet these fundamentals reach new heights thanks to the immense care put into each aspect of the level design.

From exhilarating musical sidescroller sectons to new gimmicks like stealth and platform manipulation, not one of its dozens of levels feel out of place, unfair or boring. All of this is amplified by the brilliant art direction, giving the platformer levles a cartoony and dreamlike look. Fans of 2D platformers should not miss this one.

4) Katana Zero


While not a traditional platformer, Katana Zero is an action experience quite unlike any other. Conceived by solo developer Justin Stander, players control a katana-weilding assassin who kills people at the behest of his psychiatrist.

The gameplay will feel familiar to fans of Devolver Digital's Hotline Miami as this game also encourages stylish executions via challenging levels. Branching narrative also adds suspense and replayabllity to the mix.

However, the core loop of inflitrating bases to take down foes in a Zen-like state remains the highlight of the experience - especially with the cinematic slow-motion mechanic.

5) Celeste


Another indie platformer hit, Extremely OK Games' Celeste is regarded as one of the best titles of 2018. It is a tough-as-nails pixel-platformer, featuring protagonist Madeline who is adamant about ascending Mount Celeste.

Each level of this dangerous journey demands precision on the players' behalf as they utilize the dash mechanic to avoid obstacles like pits, spikes, and other hazards. Memorization of the levels and practice of movement physics is key to progression because Celeste does not hold the players' hand and Madeline can die in one hit.

Collectibles and challenges aside, Celeste also succeeds in telling an emotional, heartfelt story that seamlessly ties into the game's difficulty curve, something that should be relatable to every player out there.

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Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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