The PC probably is not the average gamer’s first choice when it comes to platforming, but this is only because other genres overshadow the robust selection of platformers that are available for computers. In fact, some recent platform games started on PC or are best when played on the PC.
All you need to do is grab a controller (I recommend the Xbox 360 controller) and then stock up on games. There are many out there, and some of the best ever released are available at affordable prices. Let’s take a gander at the ten best under ten bucks.
Released in 2008, Braid was at the fore of the recent platformer resurgence. The game was also at the center of many games-as-art debates due to its awesome graphical style and clever storytelling.
Underneath its beautiful exterior is a fundamentally good platformer. Braid is not fast-paced game, but it controls well. The game also includes a liberal dose of puzzles, many of which rely on the use of a time-warping mechanics.
Other games have played with time, most notably the recent Prince Of Persia games, but Braid makes a good case for being the best among them because it introduces multiple unique ways to alter time. It’s a clever, difficult but also accessible title and a good choice anyone bored with more traditional action-oriented platformers.
Capsized follows the adventures of a dude who has crash-landed on a hostile alien world. He must make his escape with a wide variety of weapons, some of which have interesting special abilities. His alien opponents are also well armed, making the escape more difficult.
This is an excellent game for people who prefer shooty-platformers. It has a good weapon selection, excellent graphics, large somewhat open-ended levels and uses a health bar instead of insta-death. The aliens put up a good fight and require a combination of strategic thinking and quick reflexes to defeat.
Cave Story+ ($9.99)
Cave Story was released as a freeware game back in 2004. It has, since then, been released multiple times on different platforms including the PC. The new version, which makes some upgrades to the graphics and the music, is called Cave Story+.
This game really has it all. Excellent art style, awesome combat, cool level design, a decent story – you’ll find all of that here. It’s incredible that this was a one-man project which, to this day, can be downloaded for free.
I recommend going with Cave Story+, however. The HD graphics are well worth a few bucks. The original game looks bad when stretched across a modern 1080p monitor.
Cave Story+ is $9.99 from Steam.
Originally released for the Xbox 360, Limbo made waves with its dark style and clever combination of platforming and puzzles. This game’s deliberate, sometimes plodding pace stands in contrast to the fast, manic action found in many other games in this genre.
Limbo doesn’t tell you much about its story, but the graphical style fosters a sense of foreboding and what you little you do see is incentive enough to play. Be warned – this is one of the least kid-friendly titles. There’s not much gore but deaths are brutal and pray on the player’s imagination.
Mirror’s Edge ($10)
Mirror’s Edge, developed by DICE of Battlefield fame, remains one of the most innovative platformers ever released. It takes place entirely through the first-person perspective and focuses on careful timing and the use of momentum. There’s also some first-person melee combat and a bit of shooter action.
This game is one of the easiest and most difficult on this list. Most puzzles aren’t difficult to solve, but executing the solution can be a pain. Some gamers report the first-person perspective is confusing or even causes motion sickness. These issues kept Mirror’s Edge from perfection, but it’s a unique take on the genre that every fan should play at least once.
Released in 2005 as a free Flash game, N quickly became both popular and influential. It was one of the few good PC platformers released early in that decade and it was also one of the few Flash platformers with controls that weren’t terrible. The fast-paced gameplay seems to have inspired a number of other titles, including Super Meat Boy.
N is a simple game that’s all about collecting little dots while navigating obstacles and dodging a number of hostile forces such as turrets and robots. The early levels are easy but the difficulty curve is steep. It’s 100% free to this day and will run on virtually any PC, Mac or Linux system.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee ($5.99)
The Oddworld games are a franchise from the late 1990s that started on the PlayStation. Unlike many other platformers of that era, Oddworld relied on a 2D field of play and focused on puzzles. It also had no user interface, a trait common in early platformers that was starting to become less common during the late 90s.
Oddworld remains a unique game to this day. That’s partially because of its gritty, goopy yet friendly art style. But it’s also due to the gameplay, which is cram packed with puzzles that can only be solved by creative use of various special abilities. There are several games in the franchise, but I suggest starting with the first – Abe’s Oddysee.
There have been several new games in the Prince of Persia series over the last decade. Sands Of Time is easily the best. The game relies on a combination of classic 3D platform challenges with a time reversal mechanic that is used to solve puzzles and access areas that would otherwise be impossible to reach.
Some combat can be in found in this game, as well, but it’s rarely the focus. Sands Of Time is mostly about making tricky jumps, avoiding obstacles and carefully balancing on precarious ledges. It’s a very technical game that’s sure to tickle the fancy of hardcore fans.
A lot of gamers were surprised by Trine when it was released in 2009. The fantasy setting tricked people into thinking it was some sort of side-scrolling RPG. It instead turned out to be an excellent puzzle-platformer.
The game focuses on its physics engine, which is often an integral part solving puzzles, and its characters. Players can play a knight, and thief and a wizard, each with unique abilities. Trine also includes the best co-op mode of any game on this list.
The sequel to the game is now available. It’s too expensive to make this list but worth your time if you enjoy Trine.
Bionic Command Rearmed ($9.99)
The original Bionic Command was a solid late-80s platform that many gamers played, enjoyed and then promptly forgot. To refresh our members, a remake was introduced in 2008. It surprised everyone by blowing away the original game and most other platformers on the market at the time.
BCR is a direct remake, which means that it uses most of the same levels as the original. They’ve been modernized and improved, however, to spice up gameplay and challenge modern gamers while keeping old-school game annoyances to a minimum. The game’s gimmick is the Bionic Arm, which can be used to swing around levels or grab opponents and power-ups. It works great because the game’s control are excellent.
Besides a nice campaign there’s also co-op and multi-player, plus a slew of challenge levels.
There are a lot of platformers for the PC, and even this list of 10 is sure to list some that people love. Off the top of my head I can think of titles like VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy (which, at $15, is a bit more than our budget). Other great platformers include Rayman: Origins, Trine 2 and many, many others.
What’s your favorite platformer for the PC? Is it one listed here, or a different title? Let us know in the comments.