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Best Platforming Games of 2021

best platforming games 2021
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Best Platforming Games of 2021

We’re in the midst of awards season here at Twinfinite, which is our time to look back at and reflect on all of our favorite games from the previous year. Throughout 2021, there were several platforming games released that showcased the best of what the genre has to offer. Twinfinite’s staff voted, and the results are in: here are the best platforming games of 2021 that stood out from the rest.

Best Platforming Games of 2021

Honorable Mention: Metroid Dread

metroid dread

Staff Writer Rebecca Stone: Nearly every game in the Metroid franchise showcases well-polished controls and brilliant level design, and Metroid Dread is no different. This latest entry in the series expands on many of the gameplay features that make Metroid a model in platforming excellence.

Metroid Dread introduces a new mechanic to the series that helps you navigate the hostile planet: sliding. This allows Samus to seamlessly move through small gaps under walls without stopping and helps the gameplay feel smooth. The melee counter mechanic from Samus Returns is back as well, which allows Samus to stun enemies before shooting them. Every movement feels swift and satisfying.

There is a wide array of abilities and power-ups in addition to sliding and countering that contribute to Metroid Dread’s platforming excellence, such as space jump and grapple beam. These gameplay elements enhance the experience of navigating the world in rich ways that allow the player to feel growth and improvement while playing. Players go from feeling small and helpless in the beginning of the game to grand and powerful by the end.

Best Platforming Games of 2021

Second Runner-Up: It Takes Two

Features Editor Andrew McMahon: If you’ve played It Takes Two, you’d know that many different genres are melded into the game. In one level, Cody and May have abilities that let them shoot guns that are made by squirrels, and the game feels like a shooter. In another chapter, each character has medieval RPG abilities they must use to fight through a castle. The one constant that is always present gameplay-wise is platforming, and man, it is fun.

Regardless of the abilities or unique level design that takes place in It Takes Two, May and Cody always have to traverse these landscapes using platforming skills. This includes various different movements like wall jumping, double jumping, dashing, and rail grinding.

While that may sound simple on paper, the way Hazelight Studio incorporates these platforming elements into each level are brilliant. Platforming in each level feels distinct, as some focus on making your way across or up while others require the combination and timing of May and Cody’s skills to progress.

It Takes Two is one of the most verbose platforming adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, as each area creates its own memorable experience you won’t forget any time soon.

Best Platforming Games of 2021

First Runner-Up: Rachet & Clank: Rift Apart

ratchet and clank rift apart

Senior Editor Alex Gibson: Excitement over the launch of Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was in large part due to its superb-looking performance. And while it certainly did deliver a graphically beautiful gaming experience, it is the gameplay itself that will live the longest in our memories. It wasn’t just one of 2021’s big highlights but one of the platforming genre’s all-time high watermarks.    

Typical of Insomniac Games, Rift Apart’s platforming was robust, tactile, and a complete joy to control. It’s one of those games that puts a smile on your face every time you pick up the DualSense and start moving around; particularly so, with the added layer of immersion brought about by haptic feedback technology. Speaking of layers, the innovative dimension-shifting mechanic, which has been cleverly weaved into the experience, represents an industry-leading design that deserves a special mention. 

Somehow, Rift Apart exceeds all other games in the franchise before it, edging us yet closer to age-old “it’s like playing a Pixar movie!” quip that I seem to repeat every time I write about Ratchet & Clank. Certainly, I can’t wait to see which direction Insomniac takes the series in next, but for now, it’s about celebrating a platformer that is today a must-play for fans of the genre.

Best Platforming Games of 2021

Winner: Psychonauts 2

psychonauts 2

Editor-in-Chief Ed McGlone: In hindsight, it was silly for anyone to have ever doubted Double Fine, the shepherds of the original Psychonauts game. But to be fair to those of us that did, it had been a long time since the first game, over 15 years! Still, amazingly, Double Fine knocked it out of the park with Psychonauts 2 and delivered the finest platforming experience of 2021.

Psychonauts 2 doesn’t miss a single beat. It picks up in every way from the first game. Raz has a stable of skills, the story continues straight off of the first game, and he enters an academy filled with ways for him to grow his powers more.

Psychonauts brilliantly mixes big hub worlds that are open for you to explore on your own time, filled with secrets that you find if you upgrade your skills a certain way, with more tightly controlled (but extra zany) levels that will put your platforming and combat skills to the test.

Psychonauts 2 mostly takes place inside the minds of others, so there’s no limiting principle when it comes to how creative and wacky the levels can get. Double Fine took full advantage of that and created some of the most memorable experiences of 2021. Anyone that’s a fan of 3D platformers would be remiss if they skipped out on Psychonauts 2. It’s the perfect example of a retro classic being brought to the modern-day almost entirely intact and improved.

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