If I tried to catalog all the platformers on Switch, we’d be here for a long time. Nintendo’s hybrid system is home to so many titles in this genre between original software, subscription services, remakes, and port collections. It’s almost overwhelming.
However, for fans of the genre, the Switch is absolutely essential. It’s home to many titles that aren’t just among the best Switch platformers—but the best platformers of all time. So, bearing every eligible game in mind, here are 30 must-play platformers on the system.
To that point, we’re talking about straight-up platformers, both 2D and 3D. Action-oriented titles and Metroidvanias were not considered for this list. And, the games that were considered were evaluated based on several key criteria. I considered their overall quality, what they contributed to their franchise, and how they differentiate themselves from other entries in the genre.
This list is not comprehensive, but by playing these platformers on Switch, you’ll be busy for a while.
Super Mario Odyssey
For many people, Odyssey is the system’s definitive platformer. I can see why, as this game is easily one of the most creative Mario titles ever released. Its diverse Kingdoms introduce the player to myriad peculiar places and faces that are unlike anything else in the series. This feeling of originality motivates genuine exploration.
Whenever I replay Odyssey, I’m compelled to search around every corner because its unique art direction elicits a true sense of curiosity. And, it’s so easy to act on these feelings because Mario controls so well. Of all the platformers on Switch, none have better movement than this.
When the act of playing is this fluid and the world is this whimsical, it’s hard to ask for much more.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
For my money, this is easily among the best Switch platformers Nintendo has released. Forgotten Land gave Kirby the reinvention that he desperately needed. I’ve loved this series for so long, but it undeniably was getting incredibly stale. Everything here feels fresh, from the overgrown urban motifs to the 3D platforming format.
The game is so tightly designed, that each aspect of its overall experience interlocks beautifully. The stages reward exploration with meaningful upgrades to both Copy Abilities and the hub area, resulting in a deeply rewarding adventure.
Plus, it’s just a flat-out fun journey too. From Mouthful Mode to the Sub-Games, every element here is nothing short of joyful.
Super Mario Maker 2
From a value perspective, this may be the best platformer on Switch. After all, it’s effectively an infinite Mario game. Building upon the foundation of Super Mario Maker 1, the sequel blows the doors off the creative possibilities.
The world maker effectively lets you build your own mini Mario campaign, and the new level elements exponentially increase design options. You can make some truly incredible Mario stages here.
I enjoyed the first Mario Maker, but it felt like the concept reached its natural conclusion here. I’ve put nearly 100 hours into the title, and I could easily put in 100 more. While you sometimes have to dig for truly great content, the online community is replete with incredible work.
And, if you want to stay offline, Nintendo even crafted a robust single-player mode that’s quality rivals the best 2D Marios of past generations. It’s the complete package.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
There’s no doubt in my mind that Tropical Freeze’s level design is at a level of quality that other platformers on Switch can’t reach. Retro Studios’ attention to detail is incredible.
Often, 2D platforming stages can feel more like obstacle courses than truly lived-in locations. That isn’t the case here. The game’s world is cohesive, tying foreground and background elements together beautifully.
Tropical Freeze is an artistic marvel no doubt—but it’s also just really solid mechanically. It’s one of the best Switch platformers beyond a shadow of a doubt. The difficulty curve is just right and DK finds the perfect balance between being heavy and agile.
I’ve always loved Donkey Kong Country, and this latest title is arguably the series’ most impressive entry.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Perhaps I’m playing a bit fast and loose with the “platformer” term here. After all, Captain Toad can’t jump. However, his brand of puzzle-platforming feels so unique given that the genre’s core mechanic is missing.
How do you make a compelling platformer when the protagonist’s feet are stapled to the ground? Like this, that’s how. Treasure Tracker is certainly among the most unique platformers on Switch.
It’s also one of the most creative visually. While the game still operates within the New Super Mario Bros. motifs, for the most part, Treasure Tracker nonetheless finds ways to make these familiar ideas fresh. The tiny zen garden levels recontextualize overplayed themes in confined, playful dioramas. This foundation is so strong—hopefully, we get a sequel!
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Often, multiplayer platformers can get too busy. However, 3D World is designed so deliberately around 4-player action that any on-screen chaos is intentional. The balance here is brilliant, and so 3D World is easily among the best Switch platformers for multiplayer sessions.
It’s still good in single-player, but the bite-sized carousel of linear stages works best with friends on the couch.
The Switch version does include Bowser’s Fury though, which is built with one-player adventuring in mind. It’s alright. I’m not huge on Bowser’s Fury as it feels a bit aimless, although it’s nonetheless a compelling exploration of what open-world 3D Mario could be.
As a bonus, it’s hard to complain. Yet, the package’s success comes from 3D World primarily.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Sure, the New Super Mario Bros. subseries is certainly played out. However, these games are undeniably polished and beloved affairs. After all, NSMB U Deluxe is among the best-selling games on Switch.
If you’re looking for solid, polished platforming, you’ll find it here. Plus, you’ll find the robust challenge mode that’s genuinely among the series’ best ideas. It recontextualizes the 2D platforming well, as does the included New Super Luigi U DLC. Those shorter, harder stages are maybe my favorite bits of NSMB content.
It’s not the most glamorous package, but you can’t go wrong with the polish and amount of gameplay here.
Yoshi’s Crafted World
Surprisingly, many wouldn’t put Yoshi’s Crafted Island among the best Switch platformers. However, I certainly would. This is the most distinct and creative Yoshi game since the original, and that counts for a lot.
The pseudo-3D explorative levels and beautiful aesthetic are a reminder that Yoshi can be more than the same old egg-throwing romp.
Ultimately, there are a lot of familiar ideas here mechanically. Don’t get me wrong. But, the framework around them is so unique, and I can’t overstate how charming the world is. I truly loved going through this one and seeing a new side of Yoshi—literally!
The reverse stage mechanic of Good Feel’s previous title, Wario Land: Shake It!, returns.
There are just so many great ideas here that, like Forgotten Land, make a stale series seem new.
Super Mario Bros. 3 – Nintendo Switch Online
Now we’re getting into the classics. While 1985’s Super Mario Bros. is more important than this game, SMB3 is the pinnacle of the classic Mario series. There, I said it. Everything that its predecessors did well, 3 does better, and most things that World does well are owed to 3.
Even 34 years later, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the most timeless platformers on Switch.
The aesthetic, the music, the world map, the power-ups, the bonus games, the airships—it’s all so iconic. We wouldn’t have many of our favorite games without SMB3.
Ninja Gaiden – Nintendo Switch Online
Now, I wouldn’t be bold enough to suggest that Ninja Gaiden has aged particularly well on original hardware. Its level design and enemy placement can be downright infuriating. However, with NES Online’s rewind functionality, you can sand down those rough edges. When you do, you’re left with an incredible example of how ambitious the NES era was.
The presentation here, complete with cinematics, is a cut above other games of its time. The scope here is through the roof. Plus, the mechanics are truly satisfying when you get a feel for them.
This isn’t the single best platformer on Switch, but it is a wonderful historical curiosity that must be experienced firsthand. Playing it will offer a great sense of perspective on the genre’s growth.
Kirby’s Adventure – Nintendo Switch Online
While Adventure wasn’t the first Kirby game, it might as well have been. It introduced the Copy Abilities and many ideas that have since become series staples. Plus, it’s one of the most playable NES platformers, aging as well as Masahiro Sakurai himself.
For a distilled look at where Kirby was as a franchise two decades ago, you can’t go wrong with Adventure. By only playing modern platformers on Switch, you miss out on the context that makes Forgotten Land so great, for example.
Returning to these Nintendo franchise roots via Switch Online makes it easier to appreciate the evolution of their legacies.
Yoshi’s Island – Nintendo Switch Online
I maintain that Yoshi’s Island is perhaps the most beautiful SNES game. It’s also one of the most exciting. Technically, it’s a sequel to Super Mario World, but in practice, the game is totally distinct. I love the creative spirit that motivated such an irregular sequel to Mario’s fourth-generation blockbuster.
Aside from the obnoxious bawling of Baby Mario, Yoshi’s Island is just about perfect. The egg-throwing mechanic worked so well that it’s remained largely unchanged since 1995, and the crayon-like aesthetic still holds up.
This really is a game out of time—if Yoshi’s Island was released today, it’d be just as good.
Kirby Super Star – Nintendo Switch Online
Although the DS remake is obviously superior, any version of Kirby Super Star is peak platforming. This is easily one of my all-time favorite games, and it’s a potent look into what makes Kirby great. Its structure is irregular, effectively acting as a series of mini-adventures placed side by side.
As such, it’s all about creating a continuous stream of creative moments, showing the flexibility of the Kirby franchise. Before later entries began to hammer home the same few design tenets over and over, Super Star asserted the breadth of the series. It’s still the most creatively varied Kirby title. For a quick afternoon buffet of bite-sized platforming campaigns, Super Star is unmissable.
It’s the most iconic Kirby game for a reason.
Donkey Kong Country – Nintendo Switch Online
Even today, DKC’s technical achievements are downright stunning. Rare was able to render DK and friends in such incredible detail that I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that this is a SNES game. On the basis of that fidelity alone, DKC is a must-play platformer on Switch.
Yet, it’s so much more than that. The game is an interesting middle ground between Mario’s precise platforming and Sonic’s momentum-based movement. DKC’s feel is unique, and it still holds up today.
While Tropical Freeze is the bigger game, the series’ roots are just as great, full of timeless level themes and characters. Seriously, this OST is excellent.
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble – Nintendo Switch Online
I couldn’t help it—I had to put one more Donkey Kong game on this list. It’s deserved though, as DKC3’s world map is so wonderful. It’s full of secrets and it forces you to actually explore its overworld environment to find new stages. In fact, it’s perhaps more cohesive and organically designed than even Tropical Freeze.
Kiddy Kong sometimes gives DKC3 a bad rap, but that’s simply unfair. This is a total refinement of the series’ best elements. While it lacks the scope of Tropical Freeze or the simple elegance of DKC1, its world map and decadent levels are totally unmissable.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
While Sonic 1 has some serious pain points, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a more than formidable rival for Nintendo’s fourth-gen platformers. I personally prefer Sonic 2 to Super Mario World, due in large part to how incredible the game’s scope is.
Even today, the level design of Sonic 2 is so impressive. It’s sprawling, continually funneling you from route to route across its inventive Zone motifs. The presentation does a lot of the heavy lifting, but the mechanics are solid too. The sense of improvisation as you jump from platform to platform is unparalleled in its frantic feel.
If you’ve ever questioned how Sega could stand up to Nintendo, then you need to revisit Sonic 2.
Super Mario 64 – Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass
I couldn’t possibly assemble a list of the best Switch platformers without including Super Mario 64. It’s remarkable just how well this game has held up, especially since it’s largely responsible for establishing the blueprint for 3D platformers as we understand it now.
The game is clunkier than modern 3D Mario adventures, sure, but it nonetheless provides so many wonderful moments. Finding the slide stages within Peach’s Castle.
Hearing the kicking theme for Bob-Omb Battlefield. Chucking Bowser into some kind of land mine—this game is iconic. If you enjoy the genre, you simply must play Mario 64.
Banjo-Kazooie – Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass
You should probably play Banjo-Kazooie, too. Now, this is one game on the list that I don’t actually enjoy. I think that the character voices and art direction are incredibly grating—but that’s peak subjectivity. It’s undeniable that Banjo-Kazooie is in contention as the best platformer on Switch.
The game is a brilliantly dense, thoughtfully assembled collect-a-thon. Few games nail this gameplay format better, and those that do (like Super Mario Odyssey) owe their success to Banjo.
Rare truly was Nintendo’s most valuable partner during the fifth-gen, and the company remains deeply influential.
Sonic Mania Plus
I love Sonic Mania. This game is 2D Sonic dialed up to eleven and polished to a shine. While that’s one big cliche sandwich, it’s nonetheless apt.
Sonic Mania is hard to do justice. It’s the ultimate refinement of this gameplay formula, while also being a loving celebration of Sonic’s past.
You’d be hard-pressed to enjoy Sonic’s core gameplay and somehow dislike Mania. Even some of my Sonic-ambivalent friends love this game. Its pixel art and animation are second to none, and the momentum-based platforming just shines. Between this and the upcoming Origins collection, 2D Sonic fans have an embarrassment of riches on Switch.
This is a beautiful game. I don’t just mean visually, either—Celeste’s narrative is wonderful. The title is a meditation on mental health that reflects on the topic in a resonant manner.
Its storyline alone sets Celeste apart. Most platformers on Switch wouldn’t dare touch such material.
However, Celeste succeeds beyond this point, offering demanding yet empowering platforming challenges. This game is hard. Yet, it’s designed in a manner that encourages you to be better, to keep trying like Madeline, the game’s protagonist, does.
I’ve yet to beat Celeste. But, given how well it plays and how I relate to the subject matter, I need to.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Let’s be categorical: Shovel Knight is outrageously good. It’s one of the defining indie games, a Kickstarter success that spawned an incredible experience that just kept giving. The Treasure Trove collection with all its DLC campaigns is just an everlasting gobstopper of platforming goodness.
The mechanics are just so precise and the level design is just so exacting. Shovel Knight is classically difficult but it’s fair—paying homage to its era but making it approachable for modern audiences.
This is a defining platformer that has a reverence for the 8 and 16-bit icons, but an eye for the future. I can’t wait to see what Yacht Club Games does next.
Well… what Yacht Club Games did after Shovel Knight was publish an experience better than their marquee title. I think Cyber Shadow is nearly perfect. It’s a clear tribute to titles like Ninja Gaiden, but it’s also a reimagining of them. Much of the praise that can be applied to Shovel Knight applies here.
However, I just think Cyber Shadow is even more refined. The presentation hits harder, the level design is grander, and the drip-feed of powerups nicely scales up the gameplay intensity. I don’t know how Mechanical Head Studios could possibly improve on this foundation.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania
I’m once again playing fast and loose with the parameters of “platformers on Switch.” But, what is Banana Mania if not an atypical platformer? The game is all about skillfully navigating obstacle courses by harnessing your movement options, after all. It even has an unlockable jump!
Regardless of its classification, Banana Mania is simply a wonderful game. Not only is it stuffed with remade content from the first three Monkey Ball titles… it also naturally has the quality of those releases. As such, this package is full of masterfully-honed platforming stages that beg for time-chasing replays.
Monkey Ball is one of the industry’s timeless experiences, and Banana Mania is a charming, robust compilation. If you want a platformer that moves a bit differently, this one’s for you.
I wish I had the patience for Cuphead. As a huge fan of 30s and 40s animation, I’m absolutely smitten by this title’s aesthetic. That’s not new praise, but it’s worth reiterating. Few games are as painstakingly rendered as Cuphead.
However, it’s also painstakingly demanding. Cuphead is hard, but it’s deeply rewarding. The experience is all fighting for every foothold on your trek to its conclusion.
If you can fight through the challenge, you’ll find a title as elegant mechanically as it is beautiful visually. I just can’t stop the game from kicking my ass!
Of all the platformers on Switch, De Blob might be the best entry point into the genre for younger players. This is a brilliantly simple adventure. It’s all about speeding around a desaturated city and renewing it with color. As you do, the landscape springs to life, creating a harmonious and funky environment.
Frankly, there’s not much to De Blob mechanically, but that makes it a perfect introductory point. Not every game needs to be layered to be successful. I truly enjoyed the title when it was released originally on Wii, and it even appealed to my non-gaming family members.
The title understands its niche and provides a polished adventure in return.
Rayman Legends Definitive Edition
Ubisoft needs to greenlight another Rayman game already. Legends is a top-notch experience that’s both a visual marvel and a mechanical one. Each facet of its design is so inspired, merging explorative platforming stages with a wonderful hand-drawn aesthetic. This blend makes even the simple stages exciting.
However, it makes the set-piece moments truly pop. The musical-themed levels are a particular highlight and heightened moments of platforming fun that rocket to the top of the genre.
This is an all-time great. Legends even has compelling side modes, like Kung Foot. It’s a slapstick soccer mode that justifies the price of admission alone. Kung Foot rules, trust me.
Mega Man Legacy Collection 1
Capcom was platforming royalty on NES. While the company’s reputation is now sterling for other reasons, back in the day it was all about 2D adventuring, particularly Mega Man. Ducktales is great too, but Capcom hasn’t brought that to Nintendo’s hybrid… but I digress. The point is, even in 2022, the classic Mega Mans are among the best platformers on Switch.
The gameplay loop of defeating Robot Masters by using their weakness weapons remains timeless. Learning how to route a Mega Man game is a rewarding process, particularly with top-tier music pulsing in the background. Action platformers don’t get better than this.
While there are a ton of Mega Man collections on Switch all full of excellent games, the first collection compiles the 6 NES titles. These are the real deal. Start here, then check out the SNES games!
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
While N64 players were eating well with many of the greatest 3D platformers ever made, PS1 players weren’t exactly picking up scraps. They had a truly exemplary crop of adventures too. Luckily, these are finally finding their way to Switch.
The Spyro games are included in that class and are charming, laid-back trips throughout dragon-themed locales. I’ve only played the first, but I enjoyed it quite a bit—particularly because the Reignited treatment is top-tier. The games look and sound excellent, offering plenty of polished collect-a-thon fun.
These are beloved 90s games from a now-retired mascot. Give them a try!
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Although the first Yooka-Laylee failed to make a great impression, its sequel was a crowd-pleaser. While its predecessor paid homage to Banjo-Kazooie, Impossible Lair looked to Donkey Kong Country.
It’s a 2D platformer and a great one to boot, operating on a level similar to Tropical Freeze.
However, what makes this title truly special is its overworld, which plays almost like a top-down Zelda adventure. This fusion of ideas may seem odd initially, but Playtonic truly pulled it off. It’s hard to emulate DKC’s style, but this is a genuinely great attempt. Of the throwback platformers on Switch, few are as inspired as this.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
I have a complicated relationship with Crash Bandicoot. I do not like Crash Bandicoot. To that point, I do not think Crash Bandicoot’s level design is good, even in Crash 2. I only like Crash 3, I have to admit. However, I likewise have to admit that my vendetta against the series is largely personal.
I can’t deny Crash Bandicoot’s legendary status. Nor can I deny how incredibly rich and well-executed this remake collection is. It’s a loving package that set the bar for compilations that followed.
Plus, it was so successful that we finally got a proper Crash 4. Even though these games don’t click with me, I must recognize that I’m in the slim minority.
Wrap Up: A Wonderfully Rich Ecosystem
Although it pains me to praise Crash Bandicoot, I’m pleased to put it on this list. The Switch has become the home of so many diverse series. The mascots of past and present are united inside one ecosystem, all ready to be enjoyed and put into conversation together. As a fan of gaming history, that’s wonderful.
The Switch is something of a greatest hits machine and a great one at that. It allows for so many distinct, important franchises to be accessed in one place by new generations of fans. That’s huge. After all, the best platformers on Switch are largely the best platformers of all-time with rare exceptions.
Owning this system unlocks an incomprehensibly large library. We’ve barely scratched the surface of this single genre.
So, enjoy these games as something of a crash course through platformer history, and then expand your horizons further with the dozens of excellent games that didn’t quite make the cut.