Considering how monumental of a year 2017 was, 2018 had a lot to live up to. And, while perhaps 2018 arguably didn’t quite reach the highs of its predecessor, it still turned out to be an excellent year for games. Much of that had to do with the stellar line-up of platformers, many of which came with some extremely novel ideas that forced us to re-examine how we view the genre.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to countdown the top 10 platformers of 2018!
- System: Sega Genesis, PC
- Publisher: Big Evil Corporation
- Developer: Big Evil Corporation
- Release Dates: August 14, 2018
Nymn just thought he would take a nap. Somehow, he’s found himself on the other side of the planet and now it’s gotten dark! Of course, on a planet with 2 suns, that only makes night time extra dangerous. There are some incredibly violent beasts that roam the land at night, and Nymn’s got to use his wits to survive!
You might have noticed looking at the game information that Tanglewood released on Sega Genesis. No, you’re not reading that incorrectly. There was in fact a new Genesis game released this year. Tanglewood uses the limitations of the console to create a haunting atmosphere, getting a lot of mileage from not just the visuals and soundtrack, but what you DON’T hear from them. It’s a quiet, strange little atmospheric platformer, and for sheer novelty alone, we needed to mention it.
9. Kirby Star Allies
- System: Switch
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: HAL Laboratory
- Release Dates: March 16th, 2018
It was business as usual on Popstar. Dedede was scheming, Meta Knight was training, Kirby was sleeping and eating… all up until their planet comes down with a nasty case of Jamba Hearts. These tap into the darkness found within all creatures and brings out the worst in them. However, Kirby, who we can only imagine is the purest being in the universe, instead gets the power to recruit anyone under the influence of a Jamba Heart over to his side! Once again, Kirby is the only hope that Dreamland has to ward off evil!
Many fans consider Kirby Star Allies to be the weakest of the recent “new” line of Kirby games that follow the same formula, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a fun romp. The readdition and retooling of co-op after dropping it for the 3DS game makes it an easygoing platforming romp with your friends; either just let them play with whatever power you stumble across, or they can get good with a single Star Ally. Even better, HAL Laboratory has been great about adding additional content, even releasing a free new expansion for it right towards the end of the year!
8. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
- System: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: FDG Entertainment
- Developer: Game Atelier
- Release Dates: December 4, 2018
Don’t you just hate it when someone in your extended family turns out to be a jerk? This is exactly what Jin is going through, but it’s actually much worse than having to deal with an awkward political discussion over Thanksgiving dinner. His uncle Nabu is cursing the entire kingdom with dark magic and transforming everyone into animals! Jin himself is turned into a pig, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be stuck like that forever! He sets out on a quest to locate 5 magic orbs that can reverse the curse. Who knows? Maybe along the way, Jin could learn how to transform into other animals!
The history of the Wonder Boy/Monster World/Monster Boy franchise(s) is so convoluted and confusing that it would take an entire separate article to sort out, but rest assured, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is the sequel to Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap that you didn’t realize you needed. It’s a delightful romp with some fantastic art and animation to bring its colorful world to life, mixed with some light puzzle-solving and 2D exploration that made the franchise a cult classic in the first place.
7. Guacamelee 2
- System: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch
- Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
- Developer: DrinkBox Studios
- Release Dates: August 21st, 2018
It’s been seven years since the events of Guacamelee. Juan has settled down with Lupita and they’ve been raising a family together. However, not everything seems to be working out for him. Their peaceful lives are disrupted when they notice the gathering storm clouds above the city. Uay Chivo explains this is due to a rift in the Mexiverse where, in an alternate timeline, Calaca managed to kill Juan and became the dark lord incarnate. Now, Juan is going to right the wrongs of this alternate timeline if he wants any chance of peace in his life!
There’s not much new to Guacamelee 2 beyond the addition of 4 player co-op, which is certainly novel for a Metroidvania-style adventure platformer. Otherwise, though, it’s still basically the same game as Guacamelee, just with new level designs and encounters with a few extra moves mixed in for good measure. Of course, the original Guacamelee was one of the best of the entire genre, finding the right balance of combat and exploration that makes this subgenre so rewarding. More of the same is hardly a detriment!
6. Unravel Two
- System: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Coldwood Interactive
- Release Dates: June 9th, 2018
Yarny’s not alone anymore! After getting stranded at sea, his spark escapes him. But, as luck would have it, it’s brought a new yarn doll to life. These two yarn dolls become entwined with one each other, and now the two simply can’t be separated! They’ll have to work together in order to traverse the very dangerous lair of the front yard and reclaim their spark for good!
Sure, we already included Kirby Star Allies on this list for the co-op, but Unravel Two is the real co-op experience. This game takes complete advantage of its co-op, relying on both players to actually work and move together in sync. That whole spiel about the two yarn dolls being inseparable wasn’t just flavor text, after all! You’re literally tied at the knot, and one can’t go anywhere without the other, which requires some outside-the-box thinking in order to survive. Sure, you can play it solo, but that’s not the real focus of Unravel Two!
5. Mega Man 11
- System: Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: October 2nd, 2018
Well, never say Dr. Wily is a quitter. Even now, 11 games later, he’s still finding new ways to be a headache for Mega Man. This time, he’s revived the Dual Gear system he came up with for his grad school thesis! The only way Mega Man can fight back is if he installs it for himself. Unfortunately, Dr. Light’s only got the original prototype, which comes with much more limited use. Still, it’s better than nothing, so Mega Man will have to make due in order to take on another 8 Robot Masters!
Finally, after 8 years, we finally got another brand new Mega Man game. And, for what feels like even longer, it was not a simple nostalgia bait game either! Mega Man 11 was a revival for the storied franchise for the modern age, reanalyzing what made those games work and then creating a system to help out newer players who may not be used to the patterned spontaneity of classic Mega Man with the Dual Gear system. This gives newer players a chance to catch their breath by slowing down or boosting their strength, and this added assistance also allowed Capcom to make sure they wouldn’t have to hold your hand through its 8 deviously tricky stages!
4. The Messenger
- System: Switch, PC
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Developer: Sabotage Studio
- Release Dates: August 30th, 2018
Ninja villages just can’t ever seem to catch a break. They’re always under attack by crazed demon kings hellbent on ravaging the planet. So is the case in The Messenger, where the events of the game are kickstarted by the crazed Demon King. One of the ninjas in town encounters someone known as “The Western Hero”, who gives them a mysterious scroll that they need to take to the top of the nearby mountain. The race for survival is on, and you’ll play as a ninja in an attempt to survive.
If you took just one glimpse at The Messenger, you’d think it’d just be a charming revival of Ninja Gaiden-esque action-platformers, complete with retro-style graphics. And you wouldn’t be wrong, per se! However, there’s so much more than meets the eye with The Messenger. Not only do you find a complete 8-bit throwback, but a 16-bit one as well! In fact, jumping between these 2 art styles becomes a key feature of The Messenger. This, mixed in with an intuitive and interesting jump mechanic (just hit something in the air to get an extra jump!) elevate The Messenger to true greatness.
3. Yoku’s Island Express
- System: Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Team17
- Developer: Villa Gorilla
- Release Dates: May 29th, 2018
Haven’t you ever wondered what working for the post office would be like? Turns out there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than you’d expect. Sometimes you’re even tasked with awakening a god trapped in an eternal slumber while being flung around in a pinball machine. Okay, that experience might be exclusive to the titular Yoku, but regardless, it’s a pretty wild adventure for someone who’s looking to just deliver the mail!
Here’s a question: how do you make a platformer where you can’t actually jump? Yoku’s Island Express attempts to answer that question by replacing jumps with being knocked around by pinball flippers. For the record, this does not actually turn Yoku’s Island Express into a pinball game, as it’s actually a complete Metroid-style adventure platformer. It’s a wild, inventive idea that somehow manages to actually work, and is a breath of fresh air in a genre that’s become overly stagnated with copy/paste wannabes of Super Metroid or Castlevania.
2. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
- System: Playstation VR
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developer: SIE Japan Studio
- Release Dates: October 2nd, 2018
There’s not much to the story of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. You’ll play as Captain Astro in search of his missing team of 212 over the course of 20 levels. As a PlayStation VR exclusive, you’ll need to keep track of your position in 3D space by actually using the visor to look around the game space while controlling Astro, as the only control you have on the camera is the VR itself!
It’s this dynamic between the control of Astro and the motion detection of the VR sensor that makes Astro Bot: Rescue Mission such a standout title. 3D platformers have become stale lately due to how they’ve all become very standardized in terms of camera control. They’re all big, expansive worlds to wander around in and effectively become obstacle courses to run around in at your leisure. Astro Bot, however, takes the idea of the camera being its own character like in Mario 64 and totally embraces it as a part of the core game experience. So much of the experience of Astro Bot is actually looking around corners yourself to find hidden treasures while the camera remains fixed. It’s a game that really needs to be played on its own to fully understand how special it is, so take the opportunity if it comes if you haven’t already!
- System: Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Matt Makes Games
- Developer: Matt Makes Games
- Release Dates: January 25th, 2018
No one really should be able to climb Celeste Mountain. At least, no one sane would think to do so. Yet Madeline has been having a rough go of it as of late and needs to do something to get her mind off of life, so, hey, why not give climbing an impossible mountain a shot? This might be a bit more than she can take, though, as there’s more to it than just a steep mountain path. Her dark side is out to get her… quite literally as Celeste Mountain has the power to manifest one’s darkness into a physical form. Madeline will have her hands full both climbing the mountain and running away from herself!
Celeste falls squarely into the masocore niche of platformers, but has a bit of a different take on the concept. Most masocore games exist purely for the sake of stroking the player’s ego for being a part of a chosen few who have the patience and time to put into mastering the game and seeks to put down anyone who’s unwilling to step up to the challenge. Celeste, on the other hand, is loaded to the brim with positivity and looks at difficulty from a different angle. The idea of overcoming a challenge should be an uplifting experience, not one where you feel empty for completing it. Celeste is always more than happy to remind you that your mistakes don’t make you a failure, but rather are just another opportunity for you to learn. In these extremely depressing times, it’s the exact sort of uplifting message we need, and precisely why it tops this list in 2018.
Maybe there was no Super Mario Odyssey or Cuphead that captured the public’s imaginations like in 2017, but there were so many quality titles that it’s hard to think of a better year for the genre otherwise. We feel this list highlights just the sheer amount of diversity and creativity that’s still left to be discovered in what is perhaps the oldest relevant genre in the gaming industry.
Disagree with us? Have you own favorite platformer of 2018 you’d like to share (Hollow Knight was 2017, Switch fans!)? Please, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!