Nintendo Switch on home screen in a portable standSource: iMore

Best Nintendo Switch 2D Platformers iMore 2020

Who says you need three dimensions to make a great platformer when two dimensions work just fine? 2D platformers have been the backbone of video games, from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Switch in the palm of your hand. The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of great platformers, especially if you like your platformers with only an X- and Y-axis. It's hard to choose the best, so we've done it for you, and it's easily Super Mario Maker 2. After years of enjoying Mario platformers, Nintendo has finally offered us the tools to do it ourselves, and it has given us endless hours of content thanks to the creativity of the internet.

Best Overall: Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 ScreenshotSource: Nintendo

A best platformer discussion for any Nintendo console would be remiss without a Mario game, and this is no exception. Nintendo is a company that consistently pumped out quality 2D and 3D platformers that almost always strike a balance between accessible and challenging. Super Mario Maker 2 is no different and takes it a step further by allowing users to create their own Mario levels.

Super Mario Maker 2 comes pre-packaged with 100 levels in its story mode. The story mode is what you'd expect from a Mario game. Undo Dog has accidentally deleted Princess Peach's castle and it's up to Mario to fix it. What follows is a series of increasingly difficult stages that you must beat to earn coins to repair the castle.

The 100 levels could be a full game on their own. Levels are made from classic Mario DNA and use the new building elements to consistently keep gamers on their toes. The creative ways Nintendo themselves remix levels are constantly a treat and are some of the most challenging and creative levels put into a Mario game. That is, of course, before you start to build levels yourself.

Super Mario Maker 2 offers players the tools necessary to make their own Mario levels. Blocks, enemies, power-ups, slopes, and even clear conditions can be customized to be as simple or as difficult as you'd like them to be. You can also select different styles of Mario if you want to play an 8-bit game or something akin to the New Super Mario Bros games. All of this and more are at your fingertips.

Accessing user-generated content is this game's bread and butter. The game does an excellent job of explaining how to build, as well as discovering other people's creations to upload on your own levels. There's a seemingly endless amount of content to be found in Super Mario Maker 2, and that's why it's our best overall pick.

Pros:

  • Level creator tools are intuitive and easy to use
  • Endless amount of user-created content
  • The pre-made levels are great

Cons:

  • Multiplayer is cumbersome

Best Overall

Super Mario Maker 2

Make the most with the best

Play 100 creative pre-made levels and then make and upload your own. The possibilities are endless.

Best Collection: Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 + 2

Mega Man Legacy Collection Switch ScreenshotSource: Capcom

Another herald of the 8-bit generation, Mega Man was a game-changer when it first released on the NES thanks to its nonlinear level structure, upgradeable protagonist, and ridiculous difficulty. The Mega Man Legacy Collection gathers the Blue Bomber's first 10 adventures into one collection. Be warned though, the second part of the collection is a download code and not included on the cartridge.

These classic platformers are recreated just as you remembered them. Fans might have their favorites, but every Mega Man game follows the same formula. Evil robots with unique powers are causing trouble, and Mega Man must defeat them to face off against his archnemesis, Dr. Wily. Levels can be accessed in any order, and once you defeat the boss of that level, you collect their power. These powers often give you an advantage over the next robot master.

The games are just as challenging as you remember but made much easier thanks to a new rewind feature that gives players the option to instantly reverse gameplay. You can also access a challenge mode to compete against friends for the fastest completion time. Combine all that with rare concept art and promotional materials in the game's Museum Mode, and you have a package that'll make any old-school platforming fan smile.

Pros:

  • 10 classic games
  • Lots of extras for fans of Mega Man
  • New rewind feature helps curve some of the game's difficulty

Cons:

  • Old-school difficulty still stings
  • The physical copy includes Legacy Collection 2 as a download code

Best Collection

Mega Man Legacy Collection 1+ 2

The Blue Bomber's History

Megaman Legacy Collection 1+ 2 features 10 of Megaman's earliest adventures. While most are classics, some hold up better than others.

Best WiiU Port: Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Switch ScreenshotSource: Nintendo

The Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES were some of the best 16-bit platformers made, combining impressive visuals, challenging gameplay, and catchy music into one complete package. The games went unmatched for decades until Retro Studios, known for their work on Metroid Prime, took over the series.

What they did was take those three pillars that made Donkey Kong Country such a memorable experience and built upon them to create an experience that feels in line with those 20-year-old classic platformers. The only problem was that this greatness was locked on the WiiU.

Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch has been able to give WiiU games a second shot at glory, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze can be enjoyed by a larger audience at home or on the go. The same excellent game that was released on the WiiU has returned here, with one important new feature—Funky Mode. The newest Kong might be a glorified easy mode, but he's also the perfect entry point for players who were frozen in place by the game's difficulty.

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze isn't much different than the WiiU version that came out a few years ago. For those who haven't experienced it yet, you'll be getting one of Nintendo's finest platformers with an additional character. For returning fans, aside from Funky Kong, there's nothing new for you here.

Pros:

  • Funky Mode is a great way to introduce inexperienced gamers
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • One of Nintendo's most challenging platformers

Cons:

  • It's mostly unchanged from the WiiU version
  • Co-op feels like an afterthought

Best WiiU Port

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong hasn't aged a day

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was an amazing platformer in 2014 and remains great six years later.

Best Action Platformer: Cuphead

Cuphead Switch ScreenshotSource: Studio MDHR

If you told me a few years ago that a Microsoft game would find its way to a Nintendo console, I'd call you crazy. Well, now there are four Microsoft games on the Switch, and two are on this list. The first is Cuphead, the beautifully animated run and gun platformer that debuted on Xbox in 2017. Now on the Nintendo Switch, Cuphead brings its gorgeous art and brutal difficulty to the hands of Nintendo fans. Thanks, Microsoft!

Cuphead's visuals are a sight to behold. Hand-drawn and animated to emulate classic 1930s' animation, Cuphead is absolutely gorgeous. The only downside is that it juxtaposes beauty with brutal difficulty. It's hard, and you will die a lot. Thankfully, it's not unfair. The game expects you to memorize and recognize patterns in enemy movement and placement to "get good." Boss fights on the other hand are more random and might make you want to fling your Switch across the room.

Studio MDHR did a great job of bringing Cuphead to the Nintendo Switch. Visually, it's as gorgeous as it is on the Xbox One and PC, and the performance clocks in at a stable 60 fps, with very minor drops throughout. Cuphead feels at home on the Nintendo Switch.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous art and animation
  • Fast-paced run and gun gameplay
  • Co-op is a blast

Cons:

  • Difficulty might turn players off
  • Bosses are especially hard

Best Action Platformer

Cuphead

A great game and then some

Cuphead is a thing of beauty. Gorgeous animation and art complement this game's intense difficulty.

Best Metroidvania: Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

Ori And The Blind Forest Definitive Edition Switch ScreenshotSource: Microsoft Studios

The second of Microsoft's platform offerings come to the Nintendo Switch in the form of Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition, a game that's gorgeous and fun to play, too. Ori and the Blind Forest takes inspiration from movies like the Lion King and The Iron Giant to craft a somber story that's told in few words but delivers on multiple levels.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a Metroidvania style game or a nonlinear platformer. As you explore the world, you'll find that parts of it are locked away and require you to find certain abilities to open them. The game is free of loading screens, and you can progress through the world seamlessly, occasionally making use of teleports when you need to travel great distances.

Ori is insanely detailed and looks amazing on the Nintendo Switch, both in docked and handheld mode. It's color pop, the animation is fluid, and the game world Ori moves through is one of the prettiest I've seen in recent years. Microsoft truly blessed Nintendo Switch when it shared two of its platformers with the system. And once you're done with the original, find your way to the equally excellent sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisp, which has also been released on the Nintendo Switch.

Pros:

  • Visually stunning
  • A somber story on par with some of the best-animated movies
  • Challenging nonlinear platforming

Cons:

  • Difficult to navigate if you're not used to the genre

Best Metroidvania

Ori and the Blind Forest

Microsoft's finest platformer on the Switch

Microsoft has blessed the Nintendo Switch with a truly excellent Metroidvania-style platformer.

Best Rouge-Lite: Dead Cells

Dead Cells Switch ScreenshotSource: Motion Twin

Run. Slash. Dodge. Upgrade. Die. Repeat. This is the mantra of Dead Cells. It's an aggressive, fast-paced rogue-lite made for quick bursts of play, which makes it a perfect platformer for the Nintendo Switch. Dead Cells is a Frankenstein monster comprised of popular indie genres that somehow works so well. It's insanely replayable and packed full of content to boot.

In Dead Cells, you play as a reanimated corpse locked away in a prison. Given just a plain weapon to defend yourself, you travel through the catacombs of a decrepit castle, killing monsters and finding loot as your progress through the game. The kicker is—if you die, you lose it all. Well, most of it. As you repeat levels, you earn Cells, which act as currency in the game. Using Cells, you can buy permanent upgrades to help you last a little longer each run. You will die a lot on this game, but you're meant to. Every run is brand new, thanks to procedurally generated levels, but you'll constantly be learning enemy movements and patterns with every replay.

We love Dead Cells. Every playthrough might last between five minutes and 60 minutes, but there's no other game that makes you feel so powerful and so fragile at the same time. It's a great game with great pixel art that's a perfect addition to your Switch library, as long as you don't mind the occasional frame-rate hiccup.

Pros:

  • Perfect for quick playthrough on the go
  • An awesome mix of popular indie genres
  • Fast-action gameplay

Cons:

  • You will die. A lot.
  • It doesn't run as well as it does on other consoles

Best Rogue-Lite

Dead Cells

Knock 'em dead

Dead Cells is a fast and furious rogue-lite that blends elements of other genres to create a hybrid of platforming goodness.

Bottom Line

Most 2D platformers are an evergreen experience. They're the perfect entry point into gaming for some and invoke memories of past gaming experiences for others. Often balancing skill-based challenges with a simple learning curve, you wouldn't go wrong with any of the choices on this list. Still, our top choice is Super Mario Maker 2. It's classic Nintendo, ripe with their familiar platforming formula that is then spun out in a variety of different unique directions.

With 100 levels to play through, the game would already be worth the full price, but the creative tools offered open up endless gameplay possibilities. Play with friends through a ridiculously hard level that tests your reflexes or enjoy a ride that requires little input. It's all up to you, and that's why it's the best 2D platformer for Nintendo Switch to date.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Zackery Cuevas loves talking about video games, complaining about videogames, praising videogames, and writing about videogames. You can find guides and reviews written by him on iMore, Android Central, and Windows Central.

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