Platformers to Play to Get Better at Platformers


My wife, while not what most would call a “gamer” does occasionally get into a game. She mostly likes adventure games, she loved Myst and its sequels and has played through all The Room games on her iPad (Several other adventure games I am less familiar with as well). She has strayed outside of adventure games as well though, she’s played through Portal, Portal 2 and most of Breath of the Wild. She also sometimes plays Heroes of the Storm with me (versus AIs only).

Anyhoo, having said all that, she’s gotten interested in Hollow Knight watching me play it. She likes the aesthetic, but the game is a good bit too hard for her. She’s stuck on one of the very early boss fights and is getting discouraged as I’ve told her that later ones are much harder.

I was raised on Mario, Metroid, Castlevania, Sonic and Megaman. Patformers come relatively naturally to me, but she never played games when she was young and so does not have the knack for them and Hollow Knight I think is a bit of a jump into the deep end. She played through Steamworld Dig 1 and 2, so she can learn, but I’m wondering if people have recommendations for games she might play that are not quite as punishing as Hollow Knight to build up her platforming skills. I would be most interested in hearing from people who came into games later in life and were able to get good at and even enjoy harder platformers. It’s a perspective that I don’t have but would be fascinated to hear about.


How about Ori and the Blind Forest? It’s gorgeous and has gradually increasing difficulty and mastery requirements (mostly).


Celeste seems like it might be ideal given its flexible difficulty settings, lack of random enemies and how easy it is to drop in and out of.


Despite being around them my whole life, I’m trash at 2D platformers (especially action-platformers like Megaman) and frequently avoid them or don’t enjoy them as naturally as some other players do.

That being said, Celeste is one of my favorite games from this year, simply because it feels great and has a stellar difficulty curve. It also has a pleasant outlook on dying, which actually helped me even though I accrued actual-thousands of deaths by the end


Interesting to see Celeste recommended. In my mind it’s a bit harder than Hollow Knight. It’s more about precise platforming than it is combat and enemy avoidance. The point about the adjustable difficulty is a good one though.

Ori I will for sure have her try. The aesthetic of that game is fantastic and may well draw her in and IMO it isn’t quite has rough as Hollow Knight.


Shovel Knight!

I was never a huge platformer fan growing up (and was thus not super great at them mechanically), but about three years ago I picked up Shovel Knight on a whim and it was about the best teacher for the genre I think I could have had. It starts out with probably the best tutorial level of any platformer and the difficulty ramps up in a way that’s reasonable but still appreciably challenging for a newcomer to the genre. Plus its basic mechanics are immediately applicable to most other platformers, since the focus is on learning how and when to jump and then how to control and move yourself while jumping. Plus the art and music is really cheery and welcoming. It pretty singlehandedly opened me up to a genre of game that’s far and away been my favorite to play right ever since.


Heh, Shovel Knight is a good idea, but she is not a fan of pixel aesthetics or chiptune music. I’ll still have her try it but I’m not sure she’d be as into it as you or myself.

I’m really appreciating the suggestions everyone! Keep 'em coming! <3


Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap is probably a solid training ground for Hollow Knight. It’s not nearly as difficult, but has very similar mechanics as Wonderboy is armed with a sword and a few side abilities. On top of that the recent remake of the game enables you to play as Wondergirl instead, and the art is endearing.


Keep in mind that the “boss” encounters in Ori are notorious for how much they ramp the difficulty. Worth knowing so she doesn’t get frustrated and possibly misconstrues an extraordinary challenge as her personal failure.

I’ll suggest Even the Ocean (link to Riendeau’s article on the game). It’s puzzle-focused platforming, so generally more lenient in that regard. It’s quite lovely.

Dust: An Elysian Tail might be worthwhile. It’s been a while, to say the least, but it was one of the forerunners for the indie explosion of metroidvanias. Flashy action-platforming for relatively undemanding input requirements (is what my memory tells me).

It’s a very different beast, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention INSIDE. Aside from being genuinely amazing, I think the more methodical style of platforming might lend itself to bolstering a foundational skill set. It’s also possible I’m talking out of my ass, but that’s a small price to pay if more people play INSIDE.

Mark of the Ninja could be a good choice. As a stealth game, crafting strategy to tackle the encounters instead of predominantly relying on reflexive input should be helpful in building a comfort with the fundamentals of platforming.

Sounded better in my head, honestly.


OK I get y’all want to recommend cool indie games but uh…

…y’all know my boy Super Mario? I was raised on Mario and now when it comes to jumping I am pretty good.

Super Mario World is great, but New Super Mario Bros Wii U is very underrated if that is an option for you. Sure the art style is pretty derivative of past Mario games, but that is only a problem if you are well versed in Mario.

Honestly, my guy Mario? He’s a great guy.


Hmm, maybe Rayman Legends then? It’s a beautiful game and I thought its difficulty curve was pretty forgiving for the most part, since a lot of the serious difficulty is optional challenges for collectibles and the like. And those music levels are life-alteringly brilliant.

Edit: Origins is good as well, but Legends pretty much includes the greatest hits of Origins already.


Rayman Legends is a good one, and I was coming back to put in a rec for Mark of the Ninja, too. It’s just a great game, too.


Also came here to say Celeste. On top of being a fantastic game that does a great job of ramping up the difficulty in a fair way, It has an assist mode where you can (at any time) toggle different things like infinite stamina/dashes and the like to make it accessible to platforming newcomers or just those that don’t play games a whole lot. I can’t think of any other platformer off the top of my head that goes to the same lengths to make sure everyone has a good time with it. On top of all that, it’s checkpoint system is pretty generous, which I think might be the single most important thing for someone trying to get the hang of platforming without losing a bunch of progress due to frequent deaths.


I mean, I totally disagree with this, but that’s all personal experience. (I basically like everything about Shovel Knight - including the boss fights - except the actual gameplay outside of boss fights. I like the aesthetic, I like the music, I enjoy the enthusiasm of the devs… but I found Shovel Knight far too hard, even in the “tutorial level”, and stopped playing it because I couldn’t progress in the second set of three levels you get locked at.)


To add to that, the co-op features of the latest New Super Mario games are a great way to “teach” platforming to someone if they can’t grok the mechanics on their own. Sometimes it helps to see somebody make a tough jump before you attempt it yourself.


Rayman Legends also has co-op where if you die you just get trapped in a bubble, and another player can pop you out of it. It’s not a particularly unforgiving game to begin with, and that makes screw-ups even less punishing.


I’m gonna join in and say a good mario game is the place to start. Someone already mentioned New Super Mario Bros. U and I have to agree with them on that. It’s the best of the New SMB Games by far, with a good steady difficulty curve and bonus challenges if your wife wants to test her skills as she improves.

If you don’t have a Wii U (fair enough) my second recommendation is Rayman Legends or Rayman Origins. Super fun cartoony game with a decent recovery method if someone gets hit during coop. I’ve played this with people who barely game at all and they had a good time.

Good luck!


Yeah, the new Rayman games are actually a great suggestion as well. Good as a co-op game and it moves pretty uniquely. Probably the best non-indie 2D platformers in recent memory!


Guacamelee! is a game that is similar to Hollow Knight, but not as brutal. That or Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. I would be interested to know what did work.

As other have already written, the first game that came to mind was Celeste. It is challenging, but the dash helps it be deceptively forgiving. Improvement is easy to see. There is no clock, no penalty for death, and if you do die, the game waits for you to move before anything that can kill you again happens, specifically, boss fight.


It might not be worth it for the hassle of downloading a ROM, emulator, etc, but Tiny Toons Adventures for the NES is one of the best simple platformers ever. It’s simple but becomes challenging in a satisfying rate. It’s very inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 but since it’s aimed at kids, I assume, they toned down a lot of the difficulty