Not long ago we picked out 10 RPG gems that we think are pretty much indispensable for fans of the genre that own a 3DS. Now, with the recent release of Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, we thought it was high time to look at the best of the platforming genre. To do the word 'essential' justice, though, this list takes in both the Wii U and 3DS; Nintendo's home console has delivered terrific games in the genre. They're mostly retail titles, with a Nindie also getting the nod; needless to say there are a number of other platformers well worth considering that aren't on this list, especially with the Virtual Console also in mind.
So, let's get to it, with Wii U then 3DS titles.
Interestingly, while the two Super Mario Galaxy games on Wii were critical darlings and beloved by many, other Mario entries in that generation delivered stronger sales. In 3D World, a follow-up to a 3DS title further down the list, Nintendo adopted aspects popular in the wide-selling 'New' series - such as local multiplayer and relatively linear stage design - and produced those fundamentals within a 3D platforming experience. We're big fans and advocates for this game, which is bright, colourful and joyous whether played solo or with others; a delight on Wii U.
Now in two flavours, with the groundbreaking and wonderful online experience of the Wii U original and the largely offline 'collection' aspect of the portable outing. When at home the Wii U version is the stand-out version, especially for those excited by the idea of engaging with a large online community and sharing their own creations. The 3DS version, meanwhile, offers a lot of Mario gaming on the go along with the creative tool. We think the Wii U version is 'better', but both have a big role to play for respective audiences.
No list of Wii U and 3DS platformers should be without this Ubisoft game, produced by Michel Ancel and his team using the stunning UbiArt engine. Once thought to be a Wii U exclusive, it was controversially delayed to bring it to other systems as well. Extra content was added in that unexpected development time, however, and the end result is a stunning platformer, packed with imagination and smooth, delicious gameplay. There's quite a lot of content to enjoy too, with Kung Foot being a fun extra; on Wii U the GamePad is used for unique co-op controls, too.
After successfully rebooting the series with Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii, Retro Studios continued its fine work with this Wii U entry. With lovely HD fur, if you like that sort of detail, it takes the core design of its predecessor and makes some nice adjustments. Motion control is out, there are some smart level designs to put the hardware to work, and David Wise returns to produce some fantastic music for the soundtrack.
Now readily available at an affordable price, NSMBU was the key launch title for the Wii U back in late 2012. Perhaps harshly judged as 'another' Mario platformer thanks to its proximity to New Super Mario Bros. 2, it can be argued this HD entry could be the best of the 'New' series, with some pleasing level design and dashes of creative spark. It's another high-quality outing, and the Luigi DLC is also worth a look - it delivers fast and tricky remixes of levels for those that seek an extra challenge.
This Wii U title will get a second chance to win a big audience on the 3DS in 2017, and it deserves that opportunity. Visually stunning, it shows Good-Feel at its best in producing the 'art and craft' look for the ultimate cute-factor. Levels incorporate key Yoshi benchmarks, such as plenty of hidden collectibles, while areas of transforming into vehicles and more provide lovely distractions. This one is beautifully made and a pleasure from start to finish, and deserves all the attention it can get.
While the Virtual Console has been integral to Nintendo gaming since its introduction on Wii, a decade of re-releases and exposure has seen some rebellion towards the 'value' given to these downloads. This collection, available on 3DS and sadly not Wii U, perhaps represents an ideal way to bundle and distribute classic games at an enticing price. All six original NES Mega Man titles are included, with save states available, while extras in the package include a music player, galleries of artwork and special 'challenges' to complete. For Mega Man fans it's tough to resist.
Yacht Club Games made a big splash with this title on Kickstarter, but it was when the game launched that it truly took off; word of an exceptional retro-styled platformer spread fast. Gorgeous on Wii U in HD or on 3DS with stereoscopic 3D, this is one of the best in the genre of recent years. Full of humour and stylish pixel art, it also offers incredible value, with new (and free) content frequently added; more is on the way in 2017 with the Specter of Torment 'prequel'. There's even a Shovel Knight amiibo, which does different things depending on which version you're playing.
We could have easily featured Kirby: Triple Deluxe, but have opted for the most recent entry in the pink puff's portable adventures. Planet Robobot has much of the standard Kirby fare, though the ability to hop into mechs delivers some hugely enjoyable levels; there are fun alternative stages that shake up the gameplay, too. Kirby 3D Rumble and Team Kirby Clash add some extra flavour, and there's also a speedrunning option (of sorts) to unlock.
The predecessor of 3D World and, it's easy to forget, a showcase of the stereoscopic effect on the portable. Though the 3D effect is optional, this still delivers an impressive entry in the genre on the handheld, going much further than the likes of Super Mario 64 DS in the last generation to show that 3D platforming can be a lot of fun on the go. It's been around a while, but it's still a good 'un.
Those are ten of our favourites, but the Wii U and 3DS (particularly on the eShop) have plenty of platforming goodies; let us know which platformers are your favourites in the comments below!
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