With so many excellent platformers available on Switch, picking something out from the overwhelming selection can be hard. The platforming genre has a very strong pedigree on Nintendo systems going all the way back to the original Super Mario Bros. on NES. Over the years that followed other developers mastered the grammar laid down in that game and the genre ballooned, spawning countless side-scrolling jumpers and a tangled web of sub-genres. There are flavours to suit every conceivable 2D platforming taste and plenty of room for debate about how they should be categorised.
Below you will find our picks for the best 2D platform games currently available on Switch. This selection is presented in no particular order and will continue to grow and evolve over time. We have separated out what we consider to be the best Metroidvania-style platformers onto another list, giving both collections more room to breathe without becoming ridiculously large, so check that out if you like your platformers a little less left-to-right than our chosen selection here.
As well as playing host to plenty of new games, Switch has become a repository for many of the best platformers in recent years, usually presented in souped-up 'Deluxe' editions featuring DLC and other goodies. You'll find several of those here and we're very happy to include them; Switch is an ideal way to check out games you might have missed last generation, and all of the ones below that originally saw release elsewhere really sing on the handheld.
Check out our guide to the best 3D platformers on Switch if you prefer an extra dimension with your running and jumping, but here we present for your enjoyment and amusement our selection of the best 2D platformers currently available on Nintendo Switch.
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Celeste is an exemplary amalgamation of style, mechanics and character. A devilishly brilliant action platformer with enough skill required to excite genre purists and the speedrunning community, while at the same time featuring a breakdown of gameplay elements to customize and cater for all audiences. While the game mechanically is great, if familiar, the art style and narrative are truly special, showing both a visual and emotional range and depth that will resonate and inspire. Celeste is the absolute peak of personal exploration and discovery on Nintendo Switch.
Mega Man 11 is an excellent resurgence for the Blue Bomber, imbuing the tried-and-true classic gameplay with modern touches and new ideas that expand on existing concepts in interesting ways. The underlying action platforming gameplay is just as tight and challenging as you remember, and when combined with the new visuals and extra options for replayability, you’ve got a game that’s every bit as good as those that came before, while surpassing them in some ways. Mega Man 11 is a modern classic, a fitting refresh for a beloved series, and we’d highly recommend you add this one to your Switch library whether you’re a newcomer or you’ve been playing since the NES days. Bravo, Capcom.
Inside is a grimly beautiful puzzle-platformer that, while brief, is packed full of jaw-dropping highlights. While its dark tone won't be for everyone - it's certainly not a game for very young or squeamish players - it's all been executed brilliantly, with gently taxing physics-based conundrums woven into a haunting wordless narrative. It doesn't waste a single second of your time and is entirely free of pointless padding and dull repetition; there are more memorable moments packed in here than in most games three times the size.
Honourable Mention: Limbo
Limbo remains a brilliantly moody and expertly poised platform-puzzler all these years after its original release. It might be a little stark, but it's dense with ingenious physics puzzles and weighty platforming challenges. It's the perfect companion piece to Inside, and a brilliant game in its own right.
Despite its ‘Definitive Edition’ moniker, the vast majority of what you get in the Switch version of Rayman Legends has been seen in every other edition. The only truly new features here are a complete character roster for the first time and a tournament mode for its football mini-game. That’s not to say it's a bad game; that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s one of the best plumber-free platformers ever made, and its budget price means if you haven’t played it before, this is the perfect time to jump in.
Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the mascot, in his 2D 'Classic' guise at least, and celebrates the glory days of the original games while also enhancing their qualities and taking on new ideas. From new areas, imaginative second acts and some delightful boss encounters, the development team poured a lot of passion and talent into the project. With new characters and modes added in the 'Plus' version, some neat tweaks iron out some of the kinks present in the original release, but regardless of the version you pick up, it's of the best 2D platformers of recent memory.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is an impressive package, offering the best of modern-era 2D Mario, madcap multiplayer and glimpses of the outrageous invention that was to come in Super Mario Odyssey. The chance to replay a top-drawer Mario game on a handheld is tantalising, although gameplay aside, ageing visuals and the irritation of being kicked back to the world map after every death stand out as things that could have been improved. The bottom line, though, is that Switch has a very fine 2D Mario to its name.
Shovel Knight has always been excellent, but bundling these three chapters together and including new functionality increases the attractiveness of an already incredibly compelling package. These games are fantastic, and having the complete Shovel Knight experience in one spot, clocking in at around 15 hours of gameplay in our case, makes this a must-have for Switch owners - especially those that have so far failed to dig into this game and its add-ons.
We’re very careful when we use this word, but Gris is a masterpiece. Its jaw-dropping visual style and heart-wrenching score combine for one of the most emotional pieces of interactive art you’ll ever play. It may be too short for some, its puzzles may be on the simple side and the lack of any real challenge may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is a game focused more on fragility than ability and as long as you’re willing to go along for the ride, it’s one that will stick with you for a very long time indeed.
VVVVVV is a unique platformer in many ways - one that lacks a jump button for starters - and it feels every bit as fresh on Switch as it did in its original form on 3DS; if you didn't try it back then you should definitely pick it up now. Even if you did, it's well worth revisiting - multiplayer makes the Switch version even more interesting, and this is a game that still serves up an intense and enjoyable challenge. VVVVVV is fantastic value and a great addition to the Switch library.
There's no doubt about it, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is one of the most refined and enjoyable platformers money can buy. The levels are all beautiful, the characters move with fluidity and brilliant responsiveness, and the inclusion of Funky Kong brings balance for those who have less experience with brutally tough platformers. It’s so well-made that it’s almost too well-made; there's an absence of a certain 'rough-and-ready' charm found in the original DKC trilogy. This is, however, a complaint so minor it's practically insignificant. Donkey Kong’s first appearance on Switch is streamlined, rewarding, and immensely good fun; any fan of 2D platformers simply has to get this game.
Some excellent platforming picks there, we're sure you agree, and there are plenty to choose from. Feel free to discuss your favourites below.