When the 16-bit era gave way to the polygonal 3D worlds presented in PlayStation and N64 games, there was a troubling moment when it seemed like 2D platformers were in danger of going extinct.
Thankfully, 2D platformers' population rebounded -- and then some. Triple-A developers like Nintendo and Ubisoft still make top-notch contributions to the genre, but independent developers are the real stars of modern 2D gaming. These particular indie platformers are a great way to cement your love for hopping and bopping, or you can use them to re-connect with the game style you loved as a kid.
(PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux)
Tom Happ's Axiom Verge turned out to be a very nice surprise when it hit the PlayStation 4 last spring. It was particularly welcomed by fans of the Metroid series, since Samus Aran's one-woman space opera hasn't had a 2D entry in years.
Not to suggest Axiom Verge is exclusively about exploring moody corridors for personal power-ups that let you delve deeper into the veins of its mysterious world. There's also a touch of Contra influence in the form of dozens of weapons you can collect and utilize against your futuristic foes.
In a world that's seemingly miles away from a 2D Metroid game announcement, Axiom Verge is definitely a 16-bit oasis of combat and exploration.
(PC, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DSi, Mac, Linux)
Cave Story is a mandatory inclusion on any list about independently-made action games. That's because Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya's cave-spelunking tale about a lonely robot named Quote hasn't depleted in any regard since it hit the PC over a decade ago. It still looks good, it still sounds amazing, and its controls are so tight, you can trust them with your children's lives. Most mind-blowing of all, Pixel programmed this paragon of independent gaming by himself over the course of five years.
Cave Story is available on multiple platforms, so you're sure to find a version that suits you. The original PC release (and its English patch) can still be downloaded for free, so no excuses.
(Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One)
Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games is gearing up to become another mandatory entry in all retrospectives about super-cool action games. Shovel Knight's quest to dig and bash his way across a beautifully-crafted 8-bit countryside has everything platforming fans want: Crisp graphics, squeaky-clean controls, imaginative foes, and a chiptune soundtrack that pumps you up.
Shovel Knight started life as a Nintendo 3DS and Wii U release, and it's since been ported to multiple platforms with awesome bonus content. Can Shovel Knight handle the antics of the Battletoads, or are they just too bodacious for him? Find out in the Xbox One release.
(PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One)
Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games is a platformer that spans generations. Whenever you die (and it's inevitable), you have to pick a warrior from a line of progeny to carry on your quest. Easy enough -- except your family tree is rife with quirks. You might get stuck with a near-sighted warrior, or one that's afflicted by vertigo and ergo walks on ceilings for whatever reason. But heredity can be a blessing as well as a curse, as some family traits cause you to move faster, or pick up more money and items. Some are even endowed with the blood of dragons.
Rogue Legacy is kept interesting by the fact it shifts the rooms and corridors in the monster-infested castle you must work through. After all, there are no identical life experiences.
(Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One)
Steamworld Dig is a much more vertically-oriented platformer than the other entries on this list, which means you're responsible for carving out your own footing most of the time. You play as a steam-powered robot, Rusty, who must dig, dig, and dig some more in order to unearth secrets left behind by his uncle years ago. There are also enemies to waste, as well as old civilizations to marvel at.
Digging downward in Steamworld Dig is a blast, but you still have to return to the surface from time to time. That means making sure you always have a dependable pathway that'll let you shimmy back up into the sunlight. If you're careless with your excavations, you may find yourself in the dark with no way home. Good thing steambots have self-destruct buttons…
(Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
505 Games' Terraria combines platforming, crafting, and sandbox gameplay. It plays a good deal like a two-dimensional Minecraft, which is welcome news for motion sickness sufferers, or people who generally find Minecraft's sprawling 3D environment a bit intimidating.
Besides being able to dig, collect, and build, Terraria also lets you battle bosses and recruit people to live and work in your neighborhood. It's a huge game, not to mention an engaging one, and it's seemingly available for every electronic device that isn't a sonic toothbrush.
Ori and the Blind Forest
(PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Gorgeous platformer Ori and the Blind Forest is the story of a forest spirit raised by a sasquatch. If that's not enough to draw you in, then its soft, emotional amalgamation of colors, music, and creative environmental design should be. It's a short experience, but an altogether unforgettable one.
(Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac, PS Vita, iOS, Android, OUYA)
Even if you're too young to remember brutal Commodore 64 platformers, any action fan of any age can enjoy Terry Cavanagh's deceptively simple-looking gravity-flipper, VVVVVV. All you need is an appreciation for creative level design, incredible chiptunes, and fun character banter.
Being a fan of punishment isn't detrimental to the VVVVVV experience either, though the game's generous checkpoints ensure that even beginners will feel welcome on Captain Viridian's crew.