The best platformers available in 2021

By Heidi Nicholas,
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. With the abundance of stellar platformers we've had in recent years, there are way more great platformers out there than could reasonably fit on any list, but we've tried to condense some of the best options down to fit on this one. This list is based on personal opinions, site review scores, and TA community ratings, so if you don’t see your favourite on here, why not tell us what you love about it in the comments? Without further ado, here's our list of the nine best Xbox One platformers available in 2021.

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

Ori 1

Ori and the Blind Forest is a real gem. It combines excellent platforming and level design with an emotional, affecting story, a beautiful game world, and a magical soundtrack. The tiny, glowing figure of Ori might trick you into thinking this is a relaxed, easy-going game: far from it. There are moments of peace and exploration, where you can admire the background in relative safety, but Ori and the Blind Forest pulls no punches — let your guard down for too long and the game will make you regret it. Escape sequences in particular will have you gnashing your teeth as one wrong step sends you, furious, back to the beginning to start over, and you might question your sanity in some of the more chaotic parts of the game, but Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition is a must-play.

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

The forest of Nibel is dying. After a powerful storm sets a series of devastating events in motion, Ori must journey to find courage and confront a dark nemesis to save the forest of Nibel. Experience a visually stunning, hand-crafted adventure with a deeply emotional story in the Definitive Edition of Ori and the Blind Forest from Moon Studios.



Celeste

Announcement Screens

Celeste is a masterpiece. There's no other word for it, just as there's no other game like it. If anything, it can be far more challenging than Ori, and some segments will have you fuming with rage as you watch Madeleine plummeting through the sky or hurtling into ooze yet again. Yet this demanding difficulty is softened by the short load times between each death, and goes hand-in-hand with the game's message that you can do it. No matter how difficult it might be, how impossible a segment or how far away that infuriating Strawberry — you can do it eventually, as long as you try. Celeste extends this message to everyone with an Assist Mode which lets you ease the difficulty however you like. There's a much stronger, over-arching message about mental health and self-acceptance that's handled so thoughtfully and beautifully as to set Celeste even further apart from other games in its genre.

Celeste is truly a world of its own. The game's gorgeous soundtrack compliments its equally gorgeous backgrounds, with Madeleine flying through golden and pink skies or snowy, star-swept ruins. There's only a few characters, but their brief interactions are enough to make them essential parts of Madeline's journey. If there's ever a game that was easy to learn, near-impossible to master, it'd be Celeste, and you'll find yourself thinking about it long after you put the controller down.

Celeste

Celeste

Help Madeline survive her inner demons on her journey to the top of Celeste Mountain, in this super-tight platformer from the creators of TowerFall. Brave hundreds of hand-crafted challenges, uncover devious secrets, and piece together the mystery of the mountain.


Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Spyro Reignited Trilogy capitalises on that late 90s/early 00s nostalgia with beautifully-handled revivals of Spyro the Dragon, Ripto's Rage (known as Gateway to Glimmer in Europe) and Year of the Dragon. The graphical improvements are mind-boggling enough, especially when compared side-by-side with the originals, and the visuals of each level are gorgeous. There's much of what you'd remember from the originals, including some familiar faces you might not be that keen on seeing again — seriously, how lazy does Moneybags need to be, the gems are literally right there.

The Reignited Trilogy is rated at 4.56 by the TA community. Our Spyro Reignted Trilogy review gives it a similar 4.5/5, and notes the improvements added with some new features, such as a minimap and more camera options. All-in-all, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy ensures the purple dragon remains as iconic as ever, while also providing a great jumping-in point for any players who might be new to the series.

Spyro™ Reignited Trilogy

Spyro™ Reignited Trilogy

Same sick burns, same smoldering attitude, now all scaled up in stunning HD, Spyro is back in the Spyro™ Reignited Trilogy! Rekindle the fire with the original three games, Spyro™ the Dragon, Spyro™ 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro™: Year of the Dragon, all in fully-remastered glory.


Dead Cells

Dead Cells

Dead Cells often crops up on "best of" lists for its excellent combination of platforming and roguelite elements. It's rated at 4.27 by community votes, with our official Dead Cells review giving it 4.5/5 and saying it's "an excellent game that will challenge and delight seasoned roguelike addicts... The combination of roguelite and metroidvania genres wraps the bitter pill of permadeath in a sweet coating of exploration, with a solid progression system and plenty of reward loops to help inexperienced players get into the game."

Dead Cells

Dead Cells

Dead Cells puts you in control of a failed alchemic experiment trying to figure out what's happening on a sprawling, ever-changing and seemingly cursed Island. Tough but fair combat, responsive controls, challenging foes, permadeath and of course, the emergency panic roll to get you out of trouble, make for a demanding, visceral and cathartic action game.


Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Battletoads

Like Dead Cells, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove often crops up on "best of" lists, and is similarly highly rated: 4.45 by community votes, and 4.5/5 by our Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove review, which says, "It can be challenging, frustrating and cause unwanted headaches, but despite all that you'll keep wanting to come back for more... 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."

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is the full and complete edition of Shovel Knight, a sweeping classic action adventure game series with awesome gameplay, memorable characters, and an 8-bit retro aesthetic


Cuphead

Cuphead

Cuphead is a lot of things: infuriating, ridiculously challenging, and unforgiving among them, but if its 4.53/5 rating from TA community votes is anything to go by, it's also just as fun. Our Cuphead review, which rates it at 4/5, says "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."

Cuphead

Cuphead

Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e. traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings.


Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy

I was always in the Spyro loyalty camp, but even I can recognise just how much the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy gets right with its recreations. It's rated at 4.39/5 by the TA community, while our Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy review puts it at 4/5 and says, "In an age of remasters that don't always feel earned, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is one for which fans have been rightfully clamouring. Vicarious Visions' recreations are simply stunning. The nostalgia overflows from this collection for those that played them so many years ago, and if you're new to the series, they mostly still hold up today... the majority of your time in Crash Bandicoot will feel like a fun, wumpa fruit-laden stroll down memory lane."

Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy

Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy

Your favorite marsupial, Crash Bandicoot™, is back! He’s enhanced, entranced and ready-to-dance with the N. Sane Trilogy. Relive all your favorite moments in Crash Bandicoot™, Crash Bandicoot™ 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot™ 3: Warped, now in fully-remastered graphical glory!


Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom holds a respectably high position on our list of the highest-rated platformers, with a TA rating of 4.49/5. Described as “a truly enjoyable love letter to gaming from the 80s and 90s,” Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is based on Monster World’s Wonder Boy, and was a success with players and critics alike. It sees you exploring, facing bosses, solving puzzles, transforming into different creatures, and upgrading equipment, as you fight to remove the curse. Each creature Jin turns into has different abilities, and helps to refresh the gameplay across 15 hours of content. Given its high place of honour on TA’s list of the best platformers, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom more than belongs here.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

A legendary series returns with a grand new adventure!

Enjoy a colorful action-adventure game made alongside Ryuichi Nishizawa, creator of the original Wonder Boy in Monster World series.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom borrows the best from the classic series to deliver a fresh, modern adventure with fun gameplay, memorable music and gorgeous hand drawn animations.


Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares 2

Little Nightmares II has trumped Little Nightmares as TA’s favourite, with a TA rating of 4.5/5 as opposed to 4.1/5. It also scored a 4/5 from our Little Nightmares II review, where Sean called it a “wonderfully unnerving world filled with grotesque and fantastical creatures that is a horrifying pleasure to explore.” It revolves around Mono, a young boy trapped in a bizarre world where an evil signal hypnotises the residents of The Pale City. Mono joins forces with Six, a girl in a yellow raincoat, as they venture out into the world to find the source of the signal. As the game’s name suggests, their journey takes them through some pretty horrifying places — such as a terrifying hospital, filled with equally terrifying patients, and ruled over by the nightmarish Doctor.

Little Nightmares II

Little Nightmares II

Return to a world of charming horror in Little Nightmares II, a suspense adventure game in which you play as Mono, a young boy trapped in a world that has been distorted by the humming transmission of a distant tower.

Together with his new friend Six, Mono sets out to discover the disturbing secrets of The Signal Tower, if they can make it past a gallery of new threats and enemies.


Bonus: Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps E3 screen 1

I know, they're both on here. But in my opinion, they both deserve to be. It's rare to see a sequel hold up so well to its original, especially when that original was as beloved as Ori and the Blind Forest. Yet Will of the Wisps took that platforming excellence to another level, and somehow provided an even more beautiful world than the first game. It'll wreak just as much havoc with your emotions as Blind Forest ever did, mostly with its wonderful story, but also with those familiar feelings of rage at an unexpected difficulty spike. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is rated by the TA community at 4.56/5 and at 4.5/5 by our Ori and the Will of the Wisps review, and bolsters its own brilliance by its inclusion on Xbox Game Pass. The introduction of new modes, new features and a lot of new characters might cause some hesitation among fans of the first game, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a fantastic sequel and well worth a try.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Play the critically acclaimed masterpiece.

Embark on a journey in a vast, exotic world, fully optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. In this must-play sequel to the award winning Ori and the Blind Forest, Ori is no stranger to peril, but it will take more than bravery to reunite a family, heal a broken land, and discover Ori’s true destiny.


That’s just a few of the best platforming games on Xbox. If you’re not seeing your own favourite, you can head over to its game page and rate it, review it, chat about it in the forums, or else share your thoughts in the comments below!
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.