In the realm of video games, few genres have stood the test of time quite like the side-scrolling platformer. From its humble beginnings in the early days of gaming, the genre has evolved and flourished, giving rise to some of the most iconic and beloved titles in gaming history.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder does a great job of taking things to the next level. If you finished that and want other games this do well too, check out our list below.
14 top games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder
14 – Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)
We are cheating a bit by putting Super Mario Maker 2 on this list, but there’s a good reason. This was the game that was made before Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and the team wanted so badly to beat this game. Many thought they couldn’t surpass this game in the 2D space, but they did.
They worked so hard that now it feels like a different game because of how many new ideas have come to Wonder. If you like Super Mario Bros. Wonder but haven’t tried Super Mario Maker 2, you are really missing out.
You can make your own levels as well as try out those made by others. Some player levels challenge Nintendo’s own development capabilities. Super Mario Maker 2 is definitely one of the best Mario games ever made, but we put it here so you wouldn’t get mad that it got unfair favoritism.
13 – Freedom Planet (2014)
Freedom Planet is a 2D side-scrolling action platformer that is a lot like classic Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario today. Freedom Planet features a fast-paced and fluid movement system that forces players to pay attention as they go through the world. You have to carefully time your jumps and attacks to get past obstacles and enemies.
There’s also a charming kind of cute story and a cast of memorable characters. The game’s world is full of secrets to discover, and players will encounter many challenges along the way.
12 – Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)
Ori and the Blind Forest is a captivating 2D side-scrolling action-platformer that offers a stunning visual experience and a heartwarming story. Ori and the Blind Forest captivates players with its emotionally resonant narrative, stunning visuals, and beautiful soundtrack. This game gets slept on a lot, but it’s a lot better than it gets credit for.
Just like Super Mario Bros. Wonder, it excels as a side-scrolling platformer by providing precise controls and a gradual learning curve. With engaging level design and hidden secrets, both games create a sense of wonder and exploration. The touching story, character development, and environmental puzzles make Ori an unforgettable side-scrolling experience.
11 – Unravel (2016)
Unravel is a compelling side-scroller that limits how far the player can go from checkpoint to checkpoint by its use of yarn. Its charm lies in its exquisite blend of captivating visuals, a heartfelt narrative, and ingenious puzzle-platformer gameplay. Players guide Yarny, a tiny character made of thread, through a beautifully rendered world that mirrors the wonders of nature.
The game not only showcases stunning graphics but also offers challenging puzzles that require players to creatively utilize Yarny’s abilities. The story itself is both sad and heart-felt and is told through the environment instead of being acted out. You’ll definitely love this one.
10 – Little Big Planet (2008)
Little Big Planet is still the best in the series. The game paved the way for players to make their own platforming games before Mario did. It excels due to its charming, user-generated content and cooperative gameplay. The game’s adorable protagonist, Sackboy, is cute and fun to control.
The single-player has a dynamic-level design that is easy to learn but difficult to master. It’s inspired by the best of classic platformers and has puzzle-solving with skill-based challenges. It also has user-generated content that took the tools given and made incredible levels. It’s one of my favorite games ever, and I’m eagerly awaiting Little Big Planet 4’s announcement.
9 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was pretty much what put SEGA over Nintendo all those years ago. This was the game that introduced Super Sonic, Tails, and multiple new power-ups. It had 3D aspects in its minigames and had a theme that not many who played could forget.
Having Sonic on here feels like blasphemy, but Sonic is really the only competition to Mario. This was peak SEGA, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder may be better, but the games play so similarly in some ways. It’s definitely still one of the best side-scrolling games around.
8 – Sonic Generations (2011)
Sonic Generations celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It may seem unfair to have two Sonic games right next to each other, but this one took things to a whole new level.
The game features a unique mechanic that allows players to switch between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, each with their own unique playstyle. Classic Sonic plays like the Sonic games from the Genesis era, with a focus on speed and momentum. Modern Sonic plays like the Sonic games from the Dreamcast era and onward, with a focus on acrobatic moves and combat.
It’s a great side-scroller in its own right, and honestly, I think it took Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and made it better.
Related: 16 Best Pokemon spin-offs, ranked
6 – Rayman Origins (2011)
Most people recognize Rayman as the game where the Raving Rabbids came from. However, the Rayman series was a great side-scrolling, and Rayman Origins shows why. Rayman Origins features a variety of colorful and imaginative levels that are filled with secrets for players to find.
Its hand-drawn graphics and charming characters set it apart. The gameplay is equally impressive, with tight controls, creative level design, and a blend of platforming challenges that echo the best of the genre.
It strikes a perfect balance between accessibility for casual gamers and enough challenge for veterans of the platforming genre. It also came with a multiplayer mode that was a ton of fun to play with friends. Its sequel, Rayman Legends is also great.
5 – Cuphead (2017)
Cuphead may seem like it’s more Mickey than Mario, but it is a sidescroller that does a lot of new things, like Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Cuphead just happens to pay more homage to the golden age of animation than it does to the classics that made sidescrollers great.
This game is one of the harder ones to play on this list. Despite its whimsical look, it does not go easy on anyone. I went to school for animation, and I legit cannot see why people prefer onion skin paper or digital, but this was made as classically as possible. So if you are a big fan of retro and the classic era, this is the game for you.
4 – Super Meat Boy (2010)
Super Meat Boy was a flash game that became a full game in its own right. This was before indie games could be distributed easily; you had to get someone from Steam to greenlight your game before it could go on the platform.
It’s a game where you jump around as a meat boy, and you try and save his girlfriend. It’s a great and fun experience, especially because the meat sliding around adds to the challenge.
This development made it to a movie viewable on YouTube, Indie Game: The Movie, and it tells you a lot about what it was like to be an independent developer back in the day. Totally worth watching if you’ve never seen it.
3 – Hollow Knight (2017)
If you’ve never heard of Hollow Knight, you are really missing out. It’s a remarkable side-scrolling game due to its captivating blend of rich, hand-drawn art, deep lore, and challenging gameplay. I played it before I knew roguelites existed, and I really got beat down by it, but it was still enjoyable.
It shares the same timeless appeal as Super Mario Bros., offering an expansive, interconnected world filled with secrets and surprises. The game’s meticulous level design encourages exploration, and its intricate combat system rewards skill and strategy. I normally don’t like this kind of melancholic atmospheric storytelling, but I did like figuring out the story for Hollow Knight.
2 – Shovel Knight (2014)
It’s easy not to want to start Shovel Knight since it looks like it was made forty years ago. However, that’s just an homage to the days of 8-bit gaming. The truth is that Shovel Knight is a modern classic in the world of side-scrolling platformers. Its brilliance lies in its homage to classic titles like Super Mario Bros., delivering tight controls, incredible level design, and a charming 8-bit aesthetic.
It’s like it takes your nostalgia but brings in fresh gameplay mechanics, as players wield a versatile shovel for combat and exploration. The game has a challenging difficulty curve but you get used to it. It’s got memorable boss battles and a catchy chiptune soundtrack that echoes the glory days of retro gaming.
1 – Celeste (2018)
I did not have any interest in Celeste before a friend told me that it was his yearly go-to. It feels like it was made for people who struggle with mental health because it deals with it in such a good-hearted way.
It definitely has challenging platforming gameplay with offers tight controls and clever level design. However, the big sticking point is how it tells the story through its obstacles and environment. Celeste balances accessibility with depth, welcoming both casual and hardcore gamers. I’m not a huge fan of pixel art, but there are plenty of gamers who are. You will love this art style if you’re one of those gamers.
Through its storytelling and gameplay Celeste will hit you right where you didn’t know it hurts, and show you it’s okay.
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