Platformers really deserve more love, with the obvious exception of a certain mustachioed man – frankly there are enough lists out there that fixate on him. But this is an Xbox website, so let’s stick to Xbox!
It’s a genre filled with unique stories and gameplay mechanics that result in fun and rewarding gameplay that can be suitable for both casual gamers who are looking for a way to fill brief moments of free time, to hardcore gamers who would rather 100% a game instead of sleeping. But what are some of the best and greatest platformers available through the Xbox ecosystem, namely Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S? Well, these 7 certainly deserve a look…
Ori and the Blind Forest
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It’s hard to play Xbox without hearing about the Ori series. Developed by independent developer Moon Studios and part of a development and distribution agreement with Microsoft, Ori is a beautiful and challenging Metroidvania platformer.
Ori and the Blind Forest revolves around the story of Ori – a small guardian spirit that was separated from the Spirit Tree during a cataclysm. Ori is found and adopted by a kind creature named Naru who decides to raise Ori. But as the forest withers, food becomes scarce and Naru succumbs to starvation and passes away.
An orphan once more, Ori sets out, seeking answers to the cause of the calamity that has taken away their family.
The gameplay mechanics are fluid, the graphics are gorgeous, the soundtrack is beautiful, and the plot is incredible. There is a reason it consistently receives praise from both critics and players. It’s basically the quintessential platformer.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
It may be a bit lazy to include both Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps on this list, but it would be a disservice not to. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a direct sequel: it follows the events of the first game and greatly expands on the game mechanics and world.
There are new abilities to unlock, characters to meet, and areas to explore. Everything that is great about Ori and the Blind Forest is improved upon in Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
It’s also possible to talk and interact with NPCs outside of cutscenes, and with them comes new optional quests, all of which add to the fullness of the world. The plot is again incredibly well-done, and the visuals and world-building are taken to new heights.
If you’ve managed to avoid story spoilers up until this point I’m not going to be the one to ruin it for you, but the point is Ori and the Will of the Wisps is another fantastic choice to scratch that platforming itch. Just make sure you’ve finished Ori and the Blind Forest first.
For fans of platforming and horror, look no further than Little Nightmares. Little Nightmares is the dark tale of Six – a young girl trapped aboard the Maw, which is a mysterious vessel that traverses the world, arriving once a year to collect its gluttonous guests. These guests are the extremely wealthy and powerful elite who board the Maw to satiate their ravenous hunger. Once aboard, no one ever leaves…
Six’s background is unknown and it is never explained why she is aboard the Maw, but the horrors contained there would be enough to encourage anyone to want to escape.
It’s a great platformer with a dark plotline. While it is on the short side, only taking a few hours to get through, the mystery and world-building are fantastic. There is also a DLC expansion – Secrets of the Maw.
In Secrets of the Maw you play as the Runaway Kid, a child trapped in the Maw’s depths who hopes to escape. Throughout the DLC you’ll encounter new and old characters alike while uncovering more about the world of Little Nightmares.
With Little Nightmares II scheduled to drop early 2021, never has there been a better time to play the original game.
Inside is another great platformer game created by developer Playdead. For those of you who don’t know, they are also responsible for another great platformer, Limbo – also worth checking out.
Inside takes place in a dystopian future and you take control of a young boy. The plot is conveyed through the world and interactions that the boy has throughout the game. All of the people you encounter are either openly hostile towards you or are drones with mind-control devices firmly planted on their heads.
It comes packed with a dark atmosphere filled with fun and challenging puzzles, along with suspenseful sequences where you have to run for your life. It’ll give a few hours of playtime for more casual gamers, but there are also secrets to uncover for those who want to dedicate more time to it.
It’s not as fast-paced as some of the other games on this list, but it’s still great.
Celeste is the story of a girl named Madeline who, despite warnings advising her against it, decides to climb Celeste mountain, an ordeal during which she has to face her own externalized demons. The creators of Celeste modeled the narrative on their own experiences with anxiety and depression, making it a very personal game to them.
The plot is the first defining feature of Celeste; the second is its difficulty. As a game, it is incredibly challenging. Quick reactions are essential to playing Celeste and seeing it through to the end.
That being said, Celeste is a story about being able to extend kindness to others as well as yourself. As a result, there is an Assist mode that allows you to modify the gameplay elements to be as easy as you want. This makes it a great game for gamers of all skill levels.
The Messenger is a side-scrolling action-platformer that was inspired by the Ninja Gaiden series. You play as a ninja who is sick of his life of running drills and memorizing prophecies, always hoping for more. Within the first few minutes of the game this changes when all of his ninja friends get murdered and he is tasked with carrying a scroll across the land. Careful what you wish for I suppose.
The Messenger is a great game filled with great meta jokes, a fun story, a catchy soundtrack, and challenging gameplay.
Out of all of the games on this list, this one will easily take the most time. The average player can easily expect to spend over 10 hours on a full playthrough. Over that time you’ll go up against bosses, traverse a changing map, and hear some pretty funny jokes. This is a great game for people looking for a quick-paced challenge.
Compared to the rest of the games mentioned here Rogue Legacy is the most unique when compared to the rest. It is a rogue lite platformer with a heavy emphasis on combat. It originally came out in 2013 on PC before making its way to Xbox.
Each run consists of fighting through a randomly generated dungeon in an attempt to defeat the bosses that live there. Each time you die and respawn you can select between one to three different characters that will each have unique character traits. The farther you get the more character classes that are unlocked, each with different abilities and playstyles.
There are still plenty of platforming elements, with traps aplenty and special rooms that will put your dexterity to the test. Complete the challenges and you’ll unlock unique items to equip and use in future runs.
It may be an older game but it’s still tons of fun.
“Platformer” is a pretty loosely defined genre of games and as such there are a wide variety that fit the definition. This means that no matter your taste, you’re almost guaranteed to find a game that is to your liking and all of the above are available from the Xbox Store should you wish to check them out.
This is by no stretch of the imagination a conclusive list of amazing platformers, and there are plenty more worth talking about – these just happened to be a few that I loved. Let us know in the comments what your favorite platformers are!
[…] saw plenty of innovative games pushing the medium’s storytelling capability forward, whether through triple-A powerhouses or […]