Gaming

The 20 best platformers of all time

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Ian Dransfield
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You run, you jump, you land, or you die - platformers have followed the same general theme since the earliest days of gaming. And it's one we've never grown tired of.

To celebrate our love of running, jumping and bouncing on heads, we've rounded up 20 of the best platformers ever to occupy our thumbs. Note: we've had to limit the number of Mario entries. Otherwise nobody else would get a look in.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time

    Earthworm Jim

    Silly, stupid, funny, Earthworm Jim didn't play the best of all the platformers, but it more than made up for it in other ways.

    The sequel was just as good, if not better - though where things went post-EWJ2... it's not worth talking about.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 1

    Treasure Island Dizzy

    One of the earliest games to popularise the platforming mechanic, Treasure Island Dizzy does hold up these days beyond just your usual nostalgia overload an insane use of purple text.

    It's clever, fun and utterly punishing - one hit and you're dead. Kids had to suffer to love this one.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 2

    Super Metroid

    Deeper than you'd think a game of the SNES era to be, Super Metroid rewarded players who are able to think and plan ahead.

    It's also gorgeous and still great fun, which helps.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 3

    Turrican 2

    While the consoles looked like they were having all the fun, Turrican 2 came out on the likes of the Amiga and blew everyone away.

    And oh god the soundtrack - it's still one of the best ever.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 4

    Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

    Licensed games usually get a bad rap, and with good cause (we're looking at you, E.T.). But Castle of Illusion was one of the few exceptions - a great game based on the adventures of Disney's mascot.

    It even has a fairly creepy element to things... just look at this image for proof. Mickey trapped in a bubble while his clone stares on with glassy eyes. Harrowing.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 5

    Super Meat Boy

    Have you ever thought 'I like platformers, but would really like one that looks cutesy but actually punishes me brutally in every level'? Well, you're weird.

    Also: Super Meat Boy exists! So satisfy your weird urges with it.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 6

    Super Mario World

    It's just the best. It's the best 2D platformer ever made. It just is. End of.

    To be honest, there could be a list of 20 Mario platformers here, so we've purposefully limited ourselves to just a few. See also: Super Mario Bros, Mario 3, Mario Galaxy and so on and so on.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 7

    Crash Bandicoot

    Somewhat derided over time - and not helped by latter releases being largely awful - Crash Bandicoot seems to be overlooked these days: it was a genuinely great platformer.

    Naughty Dog, who made it, moved on to making the Uncharted and Last of Us games. So they've done pretty well, haven't they?

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 8

    Psychonauts

    Creative and funny, Psychonauts wouldn't win awards for being the best-of-the-best when it came to pure mechanics, but as an overall package it's up there with the greats.

    And when we say funny, we genuinely mean funny. It's a hoot.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 9

    Spyro the Dragon

    He's sort of morphed into the Skylanders series now, but the original three Spyro the Dragon games on PSone are all minor classics.

    Seriously - go back and play them now, you can get the off PSN. They're better than you'd expect. We're hoping PlayStation turns them into a mobile title...

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 10

    Aladdin

    This has to be the Mega Drive version of Aladdin, because while we have some love for the sword-less SNES version, it's Sega's console that won this round.

    An absolutely gorgeous game and a hell of a lot of fun, it was the perfect accompaniment to the film.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 11

    Rayman Legends

    In recent history there haven't been many 2D platformers attempting to compete with Super Mario World. Rayman Legends threw one might gauntlet down.

    Comfortably the best platformer out there that doesn't have 'Mario' in the title, this is probably the perfect "players of all ages" game. We're still chasing a high score to be proud of.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 12

    Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

    Ooooh, controversial. Except not really, because those who've played this entry to the long-running R&C series know it's a true great.

    Mixing the fun guns-n-jumping mechanics of previous games with some taxing time-based puzzles, A Crack in Time is an overlooked triumph.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 13

    Rainbow Islands

    BAM. Anyone who played this in their younger years now has the music stuck in their head. Sorry about that.

    Rainbow Islands, like Bubble Bobble before it, is an arcade champion that eventually made its way into our homes and hearts. Don't let those primary school colours fool you - it was a mean little bruiser. 

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 14

    Yoshi's Island

    One of the few Mario games we're allowing ourselves to put on the list, Yoshi's Island gets in by virtue of being so different to what came before - Super Mario Land (did we mention we liked that one?).

    It's so good, some prefer it to Mario's best 2D outing. Some, not all.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 15

    Sonic the Hedgehog 3

    Again, this is a case of boiling the whole series down to one entry, and we've gone with the third. The second is a valid choice, the first less so these days.

    But Sonic 3 perfected everything. It's also the only platformer in this list to have Michael Jackson involved in the creation of its soundtrack. Which is pretty special.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 16

    LittleBigPlanet 2

    LBP2 was less about what it did, and more about what you could do with it. Basically you could make your own levels and blah de blah - all good fun.

    But you could do so much more - making entire games within the game. Brilliant stuff, if not necessarily a pure platformer.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 17

    Super Mario 64

    It was the game that changed everything for platformers. Many 3D games had come before, many turned up after - but Mario 64 was the one that raised the bar so high everyone else had to squint to see it.

    The N64's finest moment, as well as being one of its first.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 18

    Tomb Raider

    The series strayed from its original vision as time went by, but the first three or so games are still great examples of the other 3D platforming series that we've loved since the mid-90s.

    It feels a bit sticky and predetermined these days, but it is still fun.

  • The 20 best platformers of all time 19

    Banjo Kazooie

    It failed to receive as attention as Mario 64 on the N64, but Banjo Kazooie still deserves some of your time.

    Inventive, cute and interesting, it's stood the test of time very well indeed.

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Ian Dransfield

Ian is a man with a face, a beard that doesn't qualify as 'a beard' and a brain that knows way too much about video games. He uses it poorly.

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