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.
Super Meat Boy
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.
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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.
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.
A Hat in Time
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.
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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.
Ori and the Blind Forrest
Developed by a fragmented team strewn across the far-flung reaches of the globe, Ori remains one of the most beautiful games on any storefront, even several years after its release. Don’t be fooled by its cutesy protagonist, though – this is a game with serious teeth, with a dearth of checkpoints to mark your progress through corridors of thorny bushes and other deadly obstacles.
Like Hollow Knight, this is more of a metroidvania than a straightforward platformer, with more than its fair share of backtracking, and plenty of abilities to unlock. It’s not perfect: the combat can be a drag at times, and its story is typical storybook fare. It’s probably most notable for its sweeping orchestral soundtrack and painstakingly-rendered pastel world, but it’s more than some sublime aesthetics, too. There are several non-optional sections with rising hazards that might take the average player several hours of nonstop play to vault your way through, so don’t underestimate this handsome platform game.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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. Either way there’s enough running and jumping goodness here to sate your appetite.