The Best Xbox Platformer Games Available in 2018

By Mark Delaney, 8 months ago
Few genres have been as important to the history of gaming as platformers. From legendary icons like Mario and Sonic to modern classics like some of those listed below, platforming is a genre with which everyone who plays games seems to have at least some experience, which definitely can't be said for all genres. If you're looking for something new in the genre or if you feel you've missed some of the best of the past few years on Xbox, this list should catch you up. You're just a hop, skip, and a jump away from platforming greatness. Did we miss any? Let us know which platformers you love!

Celeste

Announcement Screens

Celeste is a wonderful little platforming challenge that finds beauty in balance. Its sometimes brutal difficulty is softened by its innovative and inclusive approach to accessibility, thanks to a customisable Assist Mode that allows you to set the parameters. Its serious themes of mental health and coming to terms with oneself are leavened by its joyous audiovisual design and a small cast of well-realised characters. The frustration of dying for the thousandth time finds its counterweight in the gorgeously fluid ballet of a perfect run. With a wonderfully evocative soundtrack and a whole host of creative ideas and plenty of additional challenges beyond the main campaign, Celeste manages to cram in a whole lot of goodness without ever missing a step. Fans of tricky platformers will find much to love in the game's design, but it's also a perfect starting point for anyone new to the genre — perhaps even those actively averse to it. In short, it's a bit of a masterpiece.

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Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori 1

Ori and the Blind Forest is arguably the best game of 2015 so far. Visually it is gorgeous and has a beautiful soundtrack to complement it. The lack of load times helps the flow of the game, and the platforming gameplay is fluent and precise all the way through. Difficulty spikes bring a challenging edge, and the escape sections are some of the most hectic portions of any platformer game. Ultimately, I cannot recommend this game enough, it is a must play.

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INSIDE

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Inside is a game that has to be experienced first-hand to be understood and I’d urge everyone to play it. At three to four hours it is on the short side, but thanks to the thought provoking and surprising story, tight gameplay and exceptional sound and visual design, Inside will leave a long lasting impression that will more than make it worth its price tag.

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Shovel Knight

Battletoads

It can be challenging, frustrating and cause unwanted headaches, but despite all that you'll keep wanting to come back for more. Not everyone will be drawn in by an 8-bit, side-scrolling death fest in this day and age of gaming that seems overwhelmed by retro aesthetic titles, however, Shovel Knight rightly deserves a place among modern games. The amazing soundtrack and rewarding gameplay will spur you on right to the end, and even then you'll probably want to go back for another round of smacking things in the face with a shovel. The inspiration from 8-bit games of the past has caused a great feeling of nostalgia for many, and Shovel Knight is well worth the money and trip down memory lane if you prefer to be challenged on a regular basis. The game is proof that, although 8-bit side-scrollers look old, they certainly aren't outdated.

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Cuphead

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Cuphead is likely to reveal its deliberate frustrations too late for some people. It's hard not to become infatuated with the game's visuals, leaving uninformed buyers lured in by those blatant strengths to discover only then that it revels in its own relentlessness. This, in turn, could leave some wanting a refund and needing a new controller or two. However, for those that go into it with a co-op partner and with the knowledge that its design is as unforgiving as it is beautiful, it will be a unique and rewarding game. Always unabating but never unfair, Cuphead is tough to overcome but even tougher to put down.

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Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares screenshot

In terms of gameplay, there's little to be had in the way of new ideas within Little Nightmares but it seems the main appeal was always intended to be the art and atmosphere; in those respects the game is a massive success. The imagery and sounds of Tarsier's debut will stay with you, perhaps even haunt you for a long time. Retreaded but fun puzzle mechanics are more than enough to supplement this audio/visual spectacle. Little Nightmares feels like an experience that deserves to be repeated as soon as the credits roll, something not too common in games nowadays. Unlike the nightmare realm out of which Six is desperate to escape, Little Nightmares is a dream of a game that, upon completion, you may wish you could experience anew.

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Candleman

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Candleman is a great platformer with beautifully rendered graphics and wonderful attention to detail. You will find yourself cheering on the little candle as you help him navigate the many obstacles in his way as he tries to reach the magnificent beacon shining from the lighthouse. The gameplay is simple yet challenging, nicely varied, and requires a studied balance of using light, shadow, and movement. Players with vision issues, especially that relate to brightness and depth, may find the game quite difficult with no option to change the lighting, but it's still a fun experience despite the challenge.
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Unravel

Splash

Unravel is maybe the go-to if you're looking for a game to play with your kids (or your kid at heart). It's got a gorgeous art style spanning all the seasons and aesthetics. It tells a subtle story of family, love, and loss that will definitely pull at your heartstrings. To top it all off, the puzzle-platforming is seriously great. The way the game's protagonist Yarny can manipulate himself and his environment with the detailed red thread makes for varied and often fluid, momentum-based solutions. Unravel has it all.

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Hue

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While there are a few minor nitpicks here and there, Hue is an easy game to recommend. There's nothing world-changing on offer here, but the warm and vibrant colours in combination with an intriguing narrative and satisfying puzzles make it a pleasant experience to play. Throw in the easy completion and it's the perfect game to play through on a lazy day or across a weekend.

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Portal 2

Atlas and P-Body

While most of this list offers 2D experiences, Portal 2 offers something totally different. The sequel to one of the biggest surprise hits of the past twenty years, Valve's most recent Portal ups the ante with more mechanics like different gels to master, more of the game's dastardly humorous story, and even includes co-op for the first time in the series. Bring a friend to this one and see if your friendship survives. Coordination, timing, and a good amount of patience are all required, but when you succeed few games in the genre feel more satisfying.

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Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.