Kirby games are a good beginner platformer imo. I had a lot of fun with Triple Deluxe and Planet Robotbot, but I think you might be looking for something with a higher difficulty curve. I’m gonna reccomend them anyway, because when I get frustrated with games like Shovel Knight, I come back to Kirby to calm me down.
… I would strongly disagree that Wonderboy is a good training ground for anything but Wonderboy. The graphics may have been updated, but the game itself is identical to the original Master System release – which means that the platforming is clunky as hell, the levels are extremely unforgiving (like, pixel-perfect unforgiving), and there are a lot of cheap design mechanics that have not aged well at all.
It’s difficult to recommend “learning” platformers, because most modern indie platformers lean on brutal difficulty as a selling point. (The only platformer I’ve played in the last year or so that qualifies as easier would be Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – and you still have to be on your toes. Also, that game is an exception to the series rule, because the previous game was extremely brutal.) I’m also of the mindset that older Mario games are really their own thing unto themselves, because of the momentum mechanic (where you can skate off ledges if your speed is too high). I haven’t played the newer 2D Marios so I can’t comment on those.
If you’re looking for something really basic, I think FEZ would be good to just get used to the simple act of judging distance/height and jumping accordingly. It is a puzzle game at heart, but the puzzles necessary to get the first ending are all very straight-forward. You mention her playing Breath of the Wild, so I think she might also dig how freeform, exploration driven, and chill FEZ is.
So for me one of the key things about this issue with Hollow Knight is that it sounds like her difficulties aren’t as much with the platforming as it is the combat. Which is totally understandable because the combat in Hollow Knight is absolutely brutal! But because of that, I would think more about games that have elements of combat inside them while being 2D platformers.
Someone suggested Ori and that’s actually a really great pick, and is similarly gorgeous. Salt & Sanctuary is another Souls-like, but also might help because of the RPG systems, it allows you to level out some of the brick walls, but it’s also pretty tough. Guacamelee is also great if you can ignore the racism.
Because she likes puzzle games, I actually might suggest a game called Teslagrad that came out maybe 5 years ago, which is a really great puzzley Metroidvania with hand-drawn sprites and a cool polarity mechanic. I also think Zelda 2 might be a good pick? A little puzzley and has similar mechanics to Hollow Knight. There are a lot of great puzzle-platformers out there!
I’m not a huge platformer fan myself, but I’ve enjoyed some of the new Shantae games.
The Disney Afternoon Collection will give a good feel for the madness people who grew up alongside the genre had to suffer through.
And I’ll just concur that Shovel Knight is a brutally demanding game that was specifically crafted for people who already have a working familiarity with genre conventions. Not newcomer friendly, imo.
This only really becomes apparent on the high end challenge levels for the gems. The regular game is very manageable.
I’m playing the game right now and I’m about halfway through and I don’t agree. Sure it’s not killing you outright, but there’s a lot of cheap, bullshit leveldesign/enemy placement in this game.
Which is perfect training for Hollow Knight.
At first was going to recommend Shovel Knight here, but it’s also an extremely punishing game. Like, I doubt I’ll ever have the patience to beat it, and I’m a major sucker for platformers.
Saying Shovel Knight is probably too punishing (which, fair), and then going to Spelunky definitely brought me back to this comment. I feel like it’s easily just as punishing, and I’m having a really hard time thinking of platformers that aren’t pretty brutal. I don’t think the few Triple-A ones we have—Rayman, Mario—are as rough for new players, but indie platformers are just brutal.
I see what you’re saying for sure. I’m just thinking of Spelunky being a bit more freeform in what the player can do within the gamespace at any given moment, as opposed to the pogostick on a tightrope platforming that Shovel Knight is all about. Point being, difficulty (imho) comes from needing to do a very precise move at a very precise time, which is very much what the Knights of Shovel Hollow trade in.
I can totally see that! I think my feeling comes from the roguelike side of Spelunky and how punishing it can be for a mistake, even if it might not require the same type of precision.
The other thing that makes it a bit harder is @CheezyBob mentioned that his wife isn’t into pixel art or chiptunes, which means a good 90% of current indie platformers are no-gos. Otherwise I’d probably recommend Iconoclasts, which, while still pretty hard, is usually a bit more puzzle-focused than hair trigger reflexes-focused.
Yeah - I think probably the last few Rayman games are a good jumping on point for platformers, both in terms of how they scale difficulty, but also how a lot of the verbs they give you as a player map to verbs that show up in other games.
Some of the retro platformer collections (like the Disney Afternoon Collection) might also be a good place to start, as the platformers there informed many later titles, and those games also provides some quality of life improvements like the ability to Rewind, helping the player to learn some more advanced techniques.
After playing a bit of Rayman Legends this last week and refreshing my memory, I’d definitely recommend it for this goal. It isn’t overly punishing (no lives system) and starts out very friendly to the player, but definitely gets challenging as the game goes on, particularly if you’re going for completionist runs of levels.