The best platformers on PS4 - essential buyer’s guide

From rock-hard romps to laid-back adventures, our rundown of unmissable side-scrollers has something for everyone 

Guacamelee! 2

Developer: Drinkbox Studios
The pitch: Tongue-in-cheek platformer/brawler mash-up
Difficulty: 3/5

Drinkbox Studios’ cheerful luchador romp was a surprise hit on PS3, and its follow-up did not disappoint, dishing up a perfect blend of exploration, brawling, precision platforming and knockabout comedy. And it lets you transform into a superpowered chicken. What’s not to like? 

 
 

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Developer: ArtPlay
The pitch: Former Castlevania designer Koji Igarashi returns
Difficulty: 4/5

The fiendish mind behind classic Castlevania titles including Symphony of the Night finally returns to the RPG/platformer genre which he helped create – and he’s not lost his touch. Bloodstained ticks all the boxes: supernatural setting, back-and-forth exploration, spectacular boss battles, crunchy combat and deep character customisation. 

 
 

Dead Cells

Developer: Motion Twin
The pitch: Punishing roguelike with a glint in its eye
Difficulty: 5/5

This no-nonsense 2018 smash hit demands resilience, a calm head and lightning-fast reflexes, but rich rewards lie in wait. With no two runs ever the same, French developer Motion Twin’s finely tuned action adventure is endlessly replayable.

Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry
The pitch: Exquisite exploration adventure in the Metroid mould
Difficulty: 4/5

A labour of love crafted by a tiny team, Hollow Knight was heralded as a new genre classic upon release in 2018. And for good reason. Its beguiling, melancholy world of warrior bugs is a delight to unpick, while its breathless boss fights and platforming challenges offer a real workout for the thumbs.

 
 

Unravel

Developer: Coldwood Interactive
The pitch: An adventure that tugs at the heartstrings
Difficulty: 3/5

This charming adventure from a talented Swedish team puts you in the shoes of diminutive hero Yarny, whose body is made up entirely of string. As you explore the world, you’ll need to use said yarn to solve puzzles by lassoing objects, forming bridges, swinging from platform to platform and so on. Its excellent sequel adds cooperative play.

 
 

Celeste

Developer: Matt Makes Games
The pitch: Precision platforming with a big heart
Difficulty: 4/5

Don’t be deceived by the primitive aesthetic; Celeste is a thoroughly modern experience. Creator Matt Thorson marries a moving story with expertly-crafted platforming challenges, gently layering mechanics and amping up the difficulty until you’re pulling off extraordinary feats of manual dexterity. 

Sonic Mania

Developer: Sega
The pitch: A platforming icon returns to his roots
Difficulty: 3/5

In which Sega goes back to basics, delivering a proudly retrograde Sonic experience which sees the blue burr dashing from point A to point B as fast as possible - while grabbing those gold rings on route, of course. It’s a simple formula, refined to perfection by a young, passionate team of Sonic superfans.

 
 

Inside

Developer: Playdead
The pitch: A deliciously twisted tale of the unexpected
Difficulty: 3/5

Playdead’s ghoulish debut, Limbo, was one of the most memorable experiences of the PS3 era, and its spiritual successor is every bit the worthy follow-up. To give anything away about its extraordinary set-up would be doing you a disservice – just set aside a rainy afternoon and dive in.

 
 

Shovel Knight

Developer: Yacht Club Games
The pitch: Retro-fabulous run ‘n’ jump action
Difficulty: 3/5

Tailormade to tweak the nostalgia nodes of anyone who fondly remembers platforming classics of the 8-bit era, Shovel Knight is a masterclass in old-school game design. Yacht Club’s debut release has charm in spades and is absolutely packed with content – the Treasure Trove edition bundles together five expansions alongside the base game.

Steamworld Dig 2

Developer: Image & Form
The pitch: Delightful subterranean romp
Difficulty: 3/5

Most platformers are all about verticality, tasking you with leaping between platforms to reach otherwise unscalable heights. Not so the two Steamworld Dig games. Pick up your shovel and start digging in search of loot, monsters and adventure, chiselling out your own platforms as you descend into the earth. A charming twist on the genre.

 
 

The Messenger

Developer: Sabotage Studio
The pitch: Vintage aesthetics with a 21st-century sheen
Difficulty: 4/5

From Shinobi to Ninja Gaiden, the humble ninja has been a platforming staple since the dawn of digital entertainment. The Messenger stealth-drops from the ceiling to steal their crown for a new generation, offering a series of fiendish gauntlets to navigate, and a cavalcade of smart gimmicks to delight the player. 

 
 

Little Nightmares

Developer: Tarsier Studios
The pitch: A dark fairytale from a talented team
Difficulty: 3/5

A memorable Tim Burton-esque adventure that delicately tiptoes the line between cute and creepy. You play as a young girl trapped in a dark, dangerous vessel called the Maw. To escape, you’ll need to evade its gruesome inhabitants while solving all manner of fiendish environmental puzzles. 

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Developer: Lizardcube
The pitch: An ‘80s classic gets a stylish makeover
Difficulty: 4/5

Whether you recall the 1989 original or not, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is pure catnip for fans of traditional platforming action. The original’s visuals get a pretty-as-a-picture hand-drawn makeover, but the character-swapping gameplay is just as fiendish as you remember it.

 
 

Mega Man 11

Developer: Capcom
The pitch: The blue bomber is back
Difficulty: 5/5

Eight levels to navigate, eight bosses to beat, eight unique abilities to unlock - the same as it ever was. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and that rings true here, in the 11th outing for Capcom’s platfoming icon. A handful of new mechanics add a contemporary flavour to proceedings, but otherwise this is an expertly-crafted old-school romp.

 
 

Salt & Sanctuary

Developer: Ska Studios
The pitch: A fiendish 2D tribute to Dark Souls
Difficulty: 5/5

Salt & Sanctuary wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, expertly transposing Dark Souls' moreish ‘die and retry’ formula into left-to-right 2D, complete with oblique lore, grisly enemy design and – let’s not beat around the bush – fearsome difficulty. If you’re up for the challenge though, this is a smart, engaging spin on its source material.

LittleBigPlanet 3

Developer: Sumo Digital
The pitch: Build your own perfect platformer
Difficulty: 3/5

The third instalment of the DIY platformer distils everything that’s great about the series’ “play, create, share” mantra. Not only does it offer a larger-than-life campaign to play through, but it also lets you jump into the game’s creation tools and craft your very own experiences from scratch – then share them with a huge community of other players.

 
 

N++

Developer: Metanet Software
The pitch: Minimalist action for the nimble-thumbed
Difficulty: 4/5

Don’t be deceived by its primitive visuals – N++ is one of the most absorbing platformers on PS4. Packing in literally thousands of unique ‘micro’ levels, it’s a lightning-fast test of the reflexes that will have you muttering “just one more go” after every slip-up.