Best Nintendo Switch Platformers iMore 2021
Since the dawn of time, platformers have been a staple of video games, delighting and challenging gamers alike. And what better place to play them all than on the Nintendo Switch? Despite the ever-present risk of Joy-Con drift, the system has amassed an excellent catalog of ports, indie darlings, and new titles. It's a platformer fan's paradise. If you want the best, look no further than Super Mario Odyssey. It's the premier platformer for the system, and for good reason. Super Mario Odyssey reinforces what a Mario game is capable of and how the genre itself is far from stagnant.
- Best Overall: Super Mario Odyssey
- Best Value: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
- Best Indie: Celeste
- Best 2D Platformer: Sonic Mania
- Best Port: Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
- Best Collection: Super Mario 3D All-Stars
- Best Multiplayer: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
- Best Art Direction: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Best Overall: Super Mario Odyssey
You can always count on Nintendo to reimagine the platformer genre with every console generation, and Super Mario Odyssey is no different. Combining elements from three decades of some of the best games ever made, Super Mario Odyssey is a brand-new adventure that feels unique as well as a celebration of the famous plumber's history.
Mario is once again in pursuit of a kidnapped Princess Peach, joined this time by Cappy. Mario's new companion is a wisp that becomes Mario's hat, allowing the plumber to control almost anything with the toss of his cap. This mechanic opens Mario's move set beyond the jumps and spins he's best known for. Climbing a building? Take control of a pylon and fling yourself up or become an electric bolt and travel through the telephone wires. Gap is too wide? Throw your hat and bounce off it for an extra boost.
Mario's freedom of movement is not just limited to the controls. Super Mario Odyssey borrows from the non-linear approach to level design that transformed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can approach challenges as you see fit. The game is always rewarding the player for exploring every corner of each level, including prehistoric ruins (complete with a dinosaur!), a bustling metropolis (complete with humans!), and even the moon.
Super Mario Odyssey is a game that keeps giving. Just when you think you've seen everything Super Mario Odyssey has to offer, something new is introduced in the form of an outfit, a hidden world, or a new transformation. Experienced players looking for a challenge will enjoy the challenge of Luigi's Balloon World, a hide and seek minigame that tasks you with finding balloons hidden by other players. Though there's plenty to do, the game never feels overwhelming, and finding each of the nearly 1,000 moons is a constant treat. Gamers of all ages will find something to love in Super Mario Odyssey, and it's easily the best platformer on the Nintendo Switch.
- Excellent control
- Non-linear game design encourages exploration
- Creative use of Mario's body-swapping ability
- Might be too easy for experienced players
Best Value: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
What is now known as the poster child for successful Kickstarter campaigns, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a huge package that includes four campaigns. Each has a unique playable character, story, gameplay, and altered stages, and the fifth campaign is a fighting game that was initially just a Kickstarter stretch goal. It is easy to see why this is our pick for best value.
Shovel Knight has grown so much since its Kickstarter concluded in 2013. At its core, it is an 8-bit platformer, reminiscent of games like Mega Man, Zelda 2, and even Ducktales. Wearing its influences on its sleeve, the game features tight controls, a fantastic chiptune soundtrack, and fine-tuned platforming. The game is challenging but never unfair like those old NES platformers, and even gives you a chance to collect the belongings dropped from an untimely death.
Each of the campaigns is unique and uses the main protagonist's signature move in creative ways. Whether it's Shovel Knight's pogo stick shovel or King Knight's Wario-like shoulder bash, levels feel uniquely tailored to the characters and not just some simple retreads of older levels. The variety alone will ensure that there is something here for everybody's playstyle.
With all the campaigns now available, the Treasure Trove is one of the best values on the Switch. It's a perfect homage to 8-bit platforming while also modernizing and perfecting its age-old formula, just don't expect too much from its multiplayer offering.
- Five campaigns in one package
- Each character is unique
- Excellent soundtrack
- Retro aesthetic comes with retro difficulty
- Multiplayer mode is somewhat bare
Best Indie: Celeste
Indie games are a dime a dozen on the Nintendo Switch, but an outstanding game bubbles to the surface every so often. Celeste tells a sad, compelling story while also remaining fun and challenging to play.
You play as Madeline, a young woman who sets out to scale Celeste Mountain to find herself. The game's story is poignant and relatable, and underneath the allegory is an unforgiving precision platformer that will put your platforming skills to the test. Players will guide Madeline over huge chasms, bouncing off walls and between spikes, with only a simple mid-air dash to assist. With levels that range from hard to insanely hard, Celeste is punishing but forgiving, allowing players to quickly resume where they died, so cumbersome loading screens never break up the game's pace.
Celeste is a rare platformer that tells a compelling narrative while never lifting its foot off of the player's neck. The game is difficult, and the unlockable B-side and C-side levels get even more brutal. But in doing so, the gameplay mirrors the traumatic themes of anxiety, social pressures, and being content with oneself that its heroine contends with. Celeste is compelling in its storytelling and is well worth the time of platformer fans.
- An emotional and engaging story
- Difficult but rewarding platforming
- Outstanding soundtrack
- Difficulty spike is not for the faint of heart
Best 2D Platformer: Sonic Mania
Depending on who you ask, Sonic the Hedgehog is either a beloved character like Mario or a washed-up mascot from the 90s. No matter your opinion of the blue hedgehog, everyone can agree that Sonic Mania is one of the best Sonic games ever created. Sonic Mania is a labor of love to the Sonic fanbase by the Sonic fanbase. Sega built Sonic Mania's development team with members of the Sonic mod community. The lead developer, Christian Whitehead, is a well-known developer whose proof of concept videos were so successful, Sega commissioned him to work on console ports of Sonic CD and the mobile ports of Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2.
Sonic Mania consists of 12 levels, 8 of which are remixed versions of classic zones from Sonic's past. Sega Genesis fans will feel right at home with the classic 2D Sonic formula, which follows Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles as they blast through levels at hyper speed, collecting rings, and battling Dr. Robotnik and his evil henchmen.
Fans of the older games might feel like they're retreading mostly old ground due to the lack of new zones. Still, the new and old levels are elevated to new heights thanks to gorgeous visuals and animations and a fantastic soundtrack that's sure to have you bopping in your seat as you spin dash through levels.
When you're done with the main content, the DLC will provide even more Sonic goodness for fans to enjoy. The DLC includes two fan-favorite characters, Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo, an Encore Mode, a pinball bonus stage, and four-player competitive multiplayer. This is a must-have for fans of 2D platformers and is one of the best Sonic games Sega has released in years.
- Visuals and animations
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Sonic is fun again
- Most of the levels are from older Sonic games
- Truly new content is locked behind DLC
Best Port: Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
The Nintendo Switch has built an impressive library of great titles, thanks to the number of ports it has received over the years. One such gem is Rayman Legends, a game that was overlooked when it launched originally for the WiiU. What a shame; it is one of the best platformers ever made and, hands down, one of Rayman's most entertaining adventures.
Rayman returns to his roots in this 2D side-scrolling game and looks gorgeous thanks to the UbiArt Framework engine. Rayman and friends have never looked more expressive, and the environments feel alive, dripping with color and personality.
Levels are so masterfully designed that it is easy to slip into autopilot, jumping, punching, and finding a rhythm that'll coast you through most levels. Speaking of rhythm, the music stages in Rayman Legends are superb and some of the most entertaining stages I've ever experienced in a platformer. All that plus local co-op multiplayer, and it's clear why it's on the list.
Rayman Legends is bursting from the seams with content in the form of levels, characters, and costumes, and you'll be happy to know that the Switch version runs as smooth as butter, both in handheld and docked mode. Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition doesn't have much new to offer returning players, but if you haven't played this before — you have too. Rayman deserves all our love.
- Rayman has never looked better, thanks to an amazing art style
- Packed to the brim with content
- Masterful level design
- Game sometimes feels like it's playing itself
- Nothing new for those who played on older consoles
Best Collection : Super Mario Bros. 3D All-Stars
What if I told you you could experience three of the best 3D platformers ever made in one collection? The legendary Super Mario 64, the fan-favorite Super Mario Sunshine, and the out of this world Super Mario Galaxy have been gathered in one limited edition collection, updated in HD and, in the case of Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, presented for the first time in widescreen. Each of these games laid down the foundation of the games of their era. The pedigree of Super Mario Bros. 3D All-Stars is not to be understated.
However, aside from the bump in resolution and widescreen support, these games are virtually untouched otherwise. While purists might not have a problem with that, they might have a problem with all the glitches and anomalies that also made the jump to HD. It's particularly noticeable in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, the two oldest of the collection. Super Mario Galaxy also has its fair share of awkwardness, mostly from getting used to controlling the cursor with the Pro Controller's gyro sensor. It doesn't ruin the game by any means, but an option to get rid of it or assign movement to the right stick would've been a welcome edition.
Still, it's hard to come down too hard on Super Mario 64, the game that laid the groundwork for every 3D platformer released in the last 20+ years, or Super Mario Sunshine, my personal favorite and a classic Nintendo GameCube title, or even Super Mario Galaxy, who took the Wii's meager hardware to new heights, visually and musically. All of these games would be worth the price of admission alone, but together, they make the best collection available on the Switch. The only downside? They go back into Nintendo's vault at the end of March 2021.
- Three Mario classics that still hold up today
- Officially in HD and widescreen for the first time
- Sweet, sweet nostalgia
- Some of the older games could use some quality of life updates
- Limited availability for some reason
Best Multiplayer : New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a port of the WiiU launch title and is a 1:1 port of the game. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Staying true to its deluxe moniker, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe introduces two new characters and Super Luigi Bros. U, the downloadable "hard" mode, led by the Luigi himself.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe holds its own and offers a solid challenge throughout, but its real selling point is multiplayer. You and up to three players can play through the levels together, and what was once a simple platforming affair becomes an all-out brawl as players try to earn the most points at the end of the match. It's simple, but it works very well. This version of the game includes two new characters – Toadette and Nabbit, which act as an easy and easier mode, respectively. Toadette transforms into Princess Peach when she grabs a mushroom, allowing her to float over obstacles with ease. Nabbit has it even easier – he's impervious to attacks in general. Both act as a great entry point for new and inexperienced players.
All in all, this is a great buy for Switch owners who are looking for a fun multiplayer game to play with players of any skill level. If you missed out on the Wii U, now's your chance to experience classic Mario platforming with a twist.
- Four-player multiplayer
- Two new characters are good entry points for inexperienced gamers
- Includes all of the DLC
- Those who played the Wii U version can expect pretty much the same game
Best Art Direction : Ori and the Will of the Wisps
One of the biggest surprises to release on the Nintendo Switch is a game from one of Nintendo's biggest competitors. The Microsoft published Metroidvania, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, the original that also made its way to Nintendo's hybrid console. This isn't the first Microsoft published game to make it to Nintendo's shores, but it is hands down the most gorgeous, and when you're in the company of games like Cuphead and Gris, that's quite a testament to your game's art style.
Ori and the Will of the Wisp follows the events of the first game, with Ori and his adopted family inheriting a new member, in the form of Ku the Owl. While attempting to fly for the first time, Ku and Ori get separated deep in the forest, which is still suffering from similar decay and corruption that lingered in the first game. Like its presentation, Ori's story is memorable, haunting, and bittersweet, and shines as bright as its beautiful art direction.
The Nintendo Switch version manages to bring as much of Ori's fantastic visuals over to the system, as well as maintaining a solid 60 FPS throughout. Ori and the Will of the Wisp is one of the best games released in 2020 and is another gem in the Nintendo Switch's heavy crown. It's available digitally now, but you can grab the physical edition when it releases on December 8th, 2020.
- Beautiful art direction
- Excellent storytelling
- Challenging platforming and exploration
- The Xbox and PC versions look and run even better
Whether you're looking for a homage to platformers of old, a new modern classic, or something in between, you can't go wrong with any of the choices on this list. There are so many great platformers to choose from on the Nintendo Switch. Still, our top pick is Super Mario Odyssey. It's one of best games on the Nintendo Switch and proves that Nintendo platforming prowess hasn't aged in the slightest.
Pulling inspiration from Mario's storied history, as well as tapping into the freedom and non-linear design that reinvigorated the Zelda series in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo ensures that Mario stays two steps ahead of the competition. This series continues to innovate 3D platformers, more than 20 years since it defined the genre with Super Mario 64. Super Mario Odyssey is, by far, the best Nintendo Switch platformer 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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