The best puzzle platformers take the mind-stimulating challenges of puzzle games and blend them with the fluid and engaging movement of platformers to create an entirely new experience.
They’re definitely among the most niche video game subgenres, with the majority of puzzle platformers coming out of smaller indie game studios.
In this list, we’ll be recommending the best puzzle platformers to play in 2021, including the best puzzle platformers on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
If we forgot to mention your favorite game, sound off in the comments and let us know.
Lastly, remember to check back in the future as we continue to update this list with new games!
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Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, macOS
The first game we’ll be recommending you check out if you haven’t already is Inside, a 2.5D puzzle platformer from the same team that made Limbo.
Like Playdead’s previous titles, Inside places a big emphasis on atmosphere, specifically creepy environments and characters.
In it, you play as a mysterious unnamed boy tasked with exploring a strange facility with multiple floors and areas that can only be reached by solving a series of platforming puzzles.
Each obstacle introduces a new mechanic that will force you to rethink your approach, sometimes on the fly, as there are a handful of chase sequences where enemies are chasing you.
Developer: Number None
Publisher: Number None
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, XSX, Switch, macOS, Linux
Braid was released in 2009 and played a pivotal role in shaping how modern indie platformers are structured, laying the groundwork for many of our favorite games today, including some on this list.
In it, you control a man named Tim as he attempts to rescue a princess from an evil monster using time manipulation.
The game was meant to be a critique of contemporary trends in video games but ended up being a solid puzzle platformer in its own right due to its unique visuals and engaging gameplay.
While its graphics have aged significantly since, the developer plans on releasing a Braid: Anniversary Edition with remastered artwork, animations, and music tailored for HD displays.
Arise: A Simple Story
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Most puzzle platformers are relaxing affairs that can be completed at your own leisure, while others require precise timing and movement.
Arise falls into the first category, offering as its title suggests, “a simple story” centered on an old man who gets another chance to relive his memories by going back in time.
Time ends up being a central mechanic to the game, as you’re able to scrub and freeze time in order to solve platforming-based puzzles.
Over time, puzzles become increasingly complex but never to the point of feeling too strenuous, allowing you to focus on immersing yourself in the story.
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, macOS, Linux
Definitely one of the more demanding puzzle platformers on this list, Celeste is a 2D indie game that’s received numerous awards and critical acclaim for its story and gameplay.
In it, you play as a young woman named Madeline who decides to climb a mountain as an escape from the monotony of her humdrum life.
To reach its peak, you’ll have to traverse a series of hand-crafted platforming levels that emphasize precise jumps and dashes as well as solve various puzzles.
For those who love a good challenge, Celeste features hidden collectibles scattered throughout levels along with remixed ‘B-Side’ stages that boost replayability.
Battle Chef Brigade
Developer: Trinket Studios
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch
Battle Chef Brigade combines the action of side-scrolling platformers with the strategy of tile-matching puzzle games to deliver a one of a kind puzzle platformer.
In it, you play as an aspiring chef named Mina, who enters a cooking competition to prove her worth and wow judges with delicious meals.
Gameplay is split between 2D platforming levels where you battle enemies for rare ingredients that get incorporated into your dish, and a tile-matching mini-game that determines the final product.
There’s a lot of flexibility and room to experiment with different flavor profiles; however, your main focus is creating a meal that will satisfy each judge’s unique palette.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, macOS, Linux
The Trine series of puzzle platforming games are among the best the genre has to offer, especially the original and its sequel Trine 2.
After that, the developers took a sort of weird turn and decided to make the game 3D, which didn’t go over well with fans.
Thankfully, they went back to the original 2.5D perspective for Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, resulting in a return to form for the series.
Designed to be played both solo and cooperatively, the series chronicles the many adventures of three magical heroes: Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, macOS, Linux
While the Tomb Raider games are typically labeled as action-adventure, they also entail a hefty amount of puzzle-solving and platforming, enough to warrant including the rebooted trilogy on this list.
Each game focuses on globe-trotting adventurer Lara Croft as she seeks out ancient mythical artifacts and civilizations before they fall into the clutches of evil.
The first entry in the new trilogy is the perfect place to start since it introduces Lara’s character and most of her toolkit, which ranges from makeshift pickaxes to rope-firing bow and arrows to firearms.
From the cinematic set-pieces to tight controls and visceral combat, 2013’s Tomb Raider and its subsequent sequels are some of the best 3D puzzle platformers around.
Platforms: PC, macOS, Linux
You can’t bring up 3D puzzle platformers without at least acknowledging the series that kicked off a new generation of first-person puzzle games, Portal.
Set within the Half-Life universe, both Portal and Portal 2 center on a woman named Chell as she’s forced to complete a series of tests at the behest of an evil AI called GLaDOS.
What makes these games so great is the functionality of the portal gun, which allows the wielder to create human-sized wormholes that act as a bridge between two flat surfaces.
While the original is good in its own right, Portal 2 improves upon the formula with additional puzzle elements and a new cooperative mode.
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Little Nightmares is a spooky puzzle platformer about a young girl who finds herself trapped at the bottom of a strange vessel traveling by sea.
In order to escape, you’re tasked with navigating dark and menacing passageways occupied by freakishly large giants that can kill you with a single hit.
Thankfully, there are plenty of places to hide throughout each level, allowing you to quietly sneak past enemies as you solve puzzles to progress further.
Although the game’s horror elements may be a bit much for some, Little Nightmares is worth a try if you can stomach the occasional jump scare and anxiety-inducing chase sequence.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Platforms: Switch, 3DS, Wii U
While there’s no shortage of fantastic Nintendo platformers on the Switch, most of them are fairly light on puzzle-solving with one exception, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
Originally released for the Wii U, Treasure Tracker was later ported to the Nintendo Switch and 3DS, with the newer version including several improvements and additional levels.
In it, you play as meek adventurer Captain Toad who, unlike Mario, cannot jump and is easily startled by most enemies.
To overcome Captain Toad’s limited mobility, the game emphasizes verticality in its level layouts that essentially function like giant Rubik’s cubes with moving pieces and hidden areas to unlock.
FAR: Lone Sails
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS, macOS
FAR: Lone Sails is a highly-underrated indie puzzle platformer that has you traversing the dried-out seabed of a once-glorious civilization.
In it, you play as the small unnamed captain of a massive steam-powered ship capable of traveling on both land and sea.
Your job is to keep the ship moving forward by managing each station inside while also stopping to collect fuel and solve puzzles throughout the game’s 2.5D world.
Other than the game’s bleak, post-apocalyptic setting, Lone Sails is a relaxing experience with a satisfying gameplay loop and puzzles that provide just the right amount of challenge.
Developer: Skookum Arts
Publisher: Skookum Arts
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, macOS, Linux
The last game we’ll be recommending here is The Pedestrian, another 2.5D indie puzzle platformer with a unique premise.
In it, you play as the pedestrian figure from traffic signs after being magically brought to life.
Each level is comprised of several signs that you can travel between by rearranging and linking various switches and triggers.
As you progress through each level, the 3D backgrounds where signs are located will change based on your actions, introducing new obstacles and secrets to uncover.
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