Looking for a list of the best platform games on PC? Back in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, there were countless platformers for console gamers, while the PC had a reputation as a sort of wasteland for this one particular genre. Thankfully, this stigma has lessened since the days of Commander Keen, and we owe that in large part to the explosion of indie retro games that have flooded onto digital platforms over the past decade, meaning our fair platform is now bursting at the seams with solid platforming games.
A quick note: since the exact definition of platform games is disputed by many, we’re going to include pretty much any game where jumping on platforms is necessary to progress through each level.
Platforming games have garnered a reputation as requiring mechanical mastery and sublime timing to get into, but developers continue to push the genre forward by introducing gameplay elements from puzzle games and metroidvanias. Now you can even play through a beautiful story in a platform game, thanks to releases like Celeste and Ori and the Blind Forest. With all that said, here are the best platformers you can play on your PC right now.
The best platform games are:
One of the earliest examples of a must-play indie game, Playdead’s expressionist, monochrome classic remains one of the best platform games around. While Limbo is an enigmatic puzzler that relies more on your common sense than pinpoint reflexes, it has more than its fair share of tense jumps over desolate pits and whirling buzzsaws.
Its stark black-on-black artstyle makes a firm impression, and the grisly traps that your child avatar falls prey to still have the capacity to shock – the lack of detail makes the violence all the more striking. Clocking in at two or three hours, it’s one of the shortest games on this list, but it’s a haunting, elusive experience that’ll stick with you far longer than many of the best horror games that rely on jump scares to keep your attention.
Edmund McMillen might be better known these days for The Binding of Isaac, his roguelike take on the top-down Zelda formula, but it was platformer Super Meat Boy that put him on the map. Team Meat’s outstanding effort wasn’t the first platformer to market itself on sheer difficulty, but its irreverent tone and downright gratuitous volume of content has made it one of the most famous and recognisable platform games.
Armed with only a jump and a grab, you must steer the heroic Meat Boy through screenful after screenful of cruel and devious obstacles in order to rescue his beloved Bandage Girl. The unabashedly retro games aesthetic and frequent homages to its 16-bit progenitors helped Super Meat Boy define the first wave of standout indie games, and its influence continues well into the present, as evidenced by several other platform games on this list. If you don’t enjoy pixel-perfect platformers, it’s unlikely to sway you from your position, but if you haven’t at least tried your best to brave its first world then you’re missing out.
Celeste is far more than just a collection of challenging video game levels. Viewed as a whole package, it might be the most brilliant game on this entire list. It’s packed with smart, fresh platforming mechanics, from bubbles that launch you into oblivion to clouds that give you a boost if you jump at just the right time. Each of its exacting courses provides a new layer of depth for you to master.
Unlike most in the genre, Celeste earns its extreme difficulty by building itself around the struggles of player character Madeline, who must battle insecurity and mental health issues in order to climb the titular mountain. Even if isolated from the game’s well-wrought levels, it’s one of the most moving stories in the genre. Its unrelenting approach to level design isn’t for everyone, but there are accessibility options that make it possible for almost anybody to brave Celeste Mountain. This gem isn’t just a great platformer, but one of the best games of 2018.
Like its forerunners in the metroidvania genre, Hollow Knight adds so many action elements to its core hop-and-jump gameplay that you’d be forgiven for putting it in another list. But beneath its kinetic melee combat and array of challenging bosses lies a robust platformer, complete with double-jumps and super-dashes.
More than anything, Hollow Knight is a game that promotes an old-school mentality, sometimes to a frustrating extent. You must find a nebbish cartographer in order to obtain the map of each of its twisty-turning areas, which promotes a sense of ceaseless exploration. And like Symphony of the Night before it, you aren’t given a health bar for any enemy in the game, leaving you to guess at how much you’ve bloodied a target, even for tough bosses.
Become hollow: Here are the best games like Dark Souls
For those who can stomach these retro touches, there’s an alluring world full of hidden treasures and elusive figures to plunge into. Don’t get too comfortable thinking this is only an action game, though – if you want to get one of the ‘better’ endings you’ll have to best an ivory world of gleaming buzzsaws and tricky platforms in order to make it through.
There’s a sequel in the works, too, titled Hollow Knight: Silksong, where we’ll play as Hornet, a character from the original game. So far we’ve been promised 150 new enemies, acrobatic combat and on-the-fly healing – we’re eagerly awaiting the Hollow Knight: Silksong release date.
It’s taken long enough, but the Crash Bandicoot is finally on PC in the form of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which remasters all three original games: Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back, and Warped. This platform game series features all the staples you’d expect from a mid-’90s 3D platformer: you defeat most enemies with a rudimentary spin attack or by jumping on them, there are heaps of hidden segments and collectables, and no shortage of conveyor belt levels. The remastered trilogy even includes a couple of new levels, including a finished and polished version of a previously unreleased level from the first game, plus a brand-new level.
The nostalgia trip of playing these platforming classics again is reason enough to earn Crash a place on this list, but if you missed out on the famous marsupial’s adventures when you were younger then there’s a lot to love about this series. Crash Bandicoot is a platformer with so many tricks up its sleeve that you’re always on your toes, and where memorising devious traps always takes precedence over timing or skills. You’ll spend hours in some levels, trying to figure out every jumping sequence and where every enemy is, or wandering off the beaten path in search of more Wumpa Fruit. Whenever you lose a life you’ll want to dive straight back in to conquer the obstacle, convinced it’ll only take one more try even if it takes several.
It’s one of the lesser-known games on this list, but one-man developer Nifflas and their Knytt series hearken back to a different era for PC games, when the best indie games were relegated to freeware download sites or Flash portals. Unlike most of its competitors, neither Knytt nor its sequels (Knytt Stories and Knytt Underground) require incredible twitch reflexes from the player – instead, these are chill-out games, complete with a striking ambient soundtrack that make them some of the most relaxing games around.
While there are minor challenges spread throughout their strange worlds, the Knytt series hangs its hat on an experience of pure exploration through a space defined by otherness and whimsy, with plenty of shortcuts and hidden routes threaded throughout. Knytt Underground is the most ambitious of the three – given that it actually costs money, unlike its predecessors – but for our money, the original Knytt is the real standout platformer here.
There are no baddies to stomp or levels to conquer here. You’re just a tiny creature trying to gather ship parts to get home. It only takes a few hours to finish, but it’s an experience that’ll stick with you.
Terry Cavanagh has cranked out a number of excellent games since the early days of the indie explosion, but his first hit was bold enough to excise the jump button entirely. Instead, you navigate the environment by flipping from one gravity field to another, threading your way through technicolored space detritus and other hazards on your way to the ceiling/floor. Since it came out almost a full year before Super Meat Boy, you might consider it the original devastatingly-difficult indie platformer, especially if you go for all of the Shiny Trinkets deviously hidden throughout each level.
3D platforming fans on PC have slim pickings compared to the likes of the Nintendo Switch. There have been a handful of notable efforts in recent years, but A Hat in Time remains the best example by a long shot.
Read more: Check out the best action-adventure games on PC
This is a game that wears its influences on its sleeves, with a vibrant color palette and a variety of movement options that recall the N64 era of open-level platformers, complete with a mid-air dive straight out of Super Mario 64. The mechanics are nothing novel, but its charm helps elevate it from a simple imitator into a game worth playing in its own right. One level forces your intrepid “Hat Girl” to star in different movies filmed by two rival directors, an Elvis imitator and a wannabe DJ. Not every platformer would be brave enough to try to force a Murder on the Orient Express parody into its second level, but A Hat in Time is nothing if not adventurous.
Coming in at a dozen or so hours, it’s far from the longest game on this list but it has punch in every fiber of its being, right on down to the haunted toilet you fight in Act 3.
The eagerly anticipated sequel to the beloved Ori and the Blind Forest, Ori and the Will of the Wisps takes the staggering beauty and atmospheric heft of its predecessor to new heights. Combat has been refined, and there are even more abilities to use as you help Ori battle the forces of evil.
Both of these games are more metroidvania than straightforward platformer, with a fair share of backtracking, and plenty of abilities to unlock. There’s a little less platforming in Will of the Wisps than Blind Forest – instead there’s more of a focus on challenging boss battles. With a stunning orchestral soundtrack, and a story that’s certain to bring a tear to your eye, Ori and the Blind Forest will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The original Sonic games remain iconic to this day, but they’re very much a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, especially if you didn’t grow up with the blue blur. Sonic Mania takes everything that works from the original trilogy and throws it into a blender, producing perhaps the best game in the series ever, or certainly the best since the ‘90s.
More classics: Here are the finest old games around
Developed by fans for fans, this greatest hits of classic Sonic remixes favorite levels from the Sonic canon, as well as adding in a few creative ones of its own. More than any series reboot out there, Mania knows how to sate your nostalgia while also building on the style and attitude that made the blue hedgehog into a culturally-embedded character durable enough to survive decades of mediocre games.
The first act of every zone reminds you of the basic mechanics of a level you likely played a long time ago. Add in a gloriously throwback remixed soundtrack, and you have one of the best retro games of all time.
Built to look, sound, and feel like a lost 8-bit game made with today’s technology, Shovel Knight is a marvel of retro engineering. Like the best throwbacks, it’s not afraid to cast away some of the more dated aspects of NES-era design – ‘lives’ are replaced by a Souls-esque system where you retrieve your loot from your corpse, and the difficulty is far more balanced than some older platform games.
The Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove includes the Plague of Shadows, Spector or Torment, and King of Cards expansions which allow you to play as three of the original game’s bosses. Each expansion is a full blown game, complete with brand new bosses, areas, and backstories to some of Shovel Knight’s most memorable characters. The Treasure Trove also includes Shovel Knight Showdown, a platform fighting game designed for up to four local players.
Shovel Knight himself is an amalgam of some of the era’s best heroes. He can pogo on his shovel like Scrooge in DuckTales, or simply swing it around like Link in Zelda. Though the game is highly enjoyable from stem to stern, what really makes it stand out is its commitment to the 8-bit aesthetic. Though it takes its environments to a limit that a real NES could never achieve, it serves as a love letter to an era of gaming that has largely been supplanted by others in recent years, chock-full of references and little touches.
It Takes Two
You’ll need to recruit a friend to navigate It Takes Two’s delightfully quirky platforming challenges and minigames – like Hazelight Studios’ previous game A Way Out, It Takes Two is co-op only. After teaming up locally or online, you and your partner play as May and Cody, a married couple whose relationship is on the brink of disaster.
Through some mysterious means, their daughter’s sorrow has transformed them into doll versions of themselves, and the pair must learn to work together to get back to normal, exploring their relationship in the process. Each gleefully absurd level is perfectly adapted to co-op gameplay, while also thoughtfully exploring various obstacles in the couple’s marriage.
Whether you call it an adventure game, a puzzler, or a platformer, there’s no doubt that Another World (or Out of This World in the US) is probably the most notable PC platformer of the early ‘90s. Prince of Persia might have spawned a multi-million dollar franchise, and Flashback had a more coherent story, but nothing quite beats the moment-to-moment novelty of developer Éric Chahi’s best work.
As a scientist transposed into an alien world by an errant experiment, you must fight your way out of the clutches of your alien overlords by outwitting and outgunning them at every turn. Some aspects of the game show their age – particularly its glacial, finicky platforming, which takes quite a lot of getting used to – but the fact that it constantly reinvents itself gives it a vitality that very few platformers have – no wonder Another World is one of the best platform games you can get your hands on.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy overhauls all three original Spyro games and finally bringing the beloved dragon to PC with a polished new look, but the same intricate levels, and beloved characters.
This 3D platform game is part of a platforming renaissance on PC, as the launches of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Snake Pass, and Yooka Laylee have already proven. The Sypro Reignited Trilogy is a nostalgia trip into the dazzling and colorful world of our fiery pal, built from the ground up by studios Iron Galaxy and Toys for Bob. Spyro offers new challenges, tougher bosses, but the same hodge-podge of minigames and tricky platforming that kept us hooked so long ago.
Inspired by 1930s cartoons like Looney Toons and Betty Boop, conquering this tough platformer is no mean feat. It’s meticulous hand-drawn visuals take our wide-eyed heroes on a run and gun side-scrolling adventure through unforgiving levels and boss fights – all set to the brash beats of an original jazz, early big band, and ragtime score.
As you progress through the game, playing as either Cuphead or Mugman (that’s player two if you’re in co-op) – you’ll encounter strange bosses, such as a carrot with sonic powers, a boxing frog, and a fiendish sunflower. You’ll acquire new powers, too, all while earning HP and time bonuses to help you progress further. Cuphead isn’t at the top of our list for relaxing games, but if you want a challenging platform game on PC, Cuphead has the moves.
And there you have it, the very best platform games on PC, from narrative-driven adventures and combat-heavy metroidvanias, to platformers that break the genre rules entirely. If you’re after more lists then be sure to check out our rundown of the best PC games to play right now or our list of the best free online games, which features a few great platforming games. Either way there’s enough running and jumping goodness here to sate your appetite.