Some things just go together. Cereal and milk. Cake and ice cream. Puzzle games and platformer titles. The third combo may not be as well known to non-gamer audiences, but that's all about to change. On any console, puzzle platformers offer a high degree of entertainment and satisfaction to players. The two genres match because they both offer a mixture of exploration and ingenuity. Jumping from one place to the next is fun, but figuring out where to jump is even better! Puzzler platform games find a complementary mashup of elements that are addicting, rewarding, and even make you proud of yourself. From indie-developed masterpieces to AAA releases, these are the 22 puzzle platform games you need to play now!
1 – Portal and Portal 2 (2007, 2011)
Portal and its sequel remain a benchmark for all other puzzle platform games. The simplicity of the gameplay, from teleporting to getting around each level in new, creative ways, never fails to be fun and exciting. The great atmosphere and storytelling add sweet icing on the already incredible cake!
2 – Braid (2008)
Even ignoring the pioneering aspects of Jonathan Blow's indie classic, Braid holds up as a haunting, thought-provoking video game. Players control the flow of time as a man trying to run to his one true love, but the twist ending revealing his true intentions never fails to make players ponder how other video games can use storytelling differently.
3 – Limbo (2010)
The simplicity of the black-and-white color palette in Limbo doesn't seem like it should be good enough to send shivers up the spine, but it does even on replay. Gamers play as a little boy exploring a forest full of monsters, animals, and natural obstacles in the environment. The game's physics hold up well over a decade later, and the game's popularity on mobile helped expand interest in the puzzle platformer genre.
4 – Gris (2018)
Always play Gris in quiet solitude. The protagonist is a girl who has a nameless purpose, and the jaw-dropping graphical style of the game does more than enough heavy lifting to fill in the gaps. Even without a straightforward story or a multitude of creative gameplay elements, Gris forces players to fully attach to its worldbuilding techniques until the end credits roll.
5 – It Takes Two (2021)
Multiplayer games are somewhat of a lost art in gaming. It Takes Two forces gamers to play a married couple trapped in dolls and to work together to win. Each person controls one character in the game, and the co-op puzzles require teamwork and interaction from both parties to finish the levels.
6 – Inside (2016)
Playdead refined all of the greatness in Limbo for the sequel, Inside. Players play as another nameless child who adventures through an abandoned industrial plant's morbid and dark environments. The horror aspects make the game more niche than its predecessor, but the puzzles and physics engine are top-tier.
7 – Wario Land: Shake It! (2008)
Wario Land ranks as one of the best puzzle platform game franchises out there, and Wario Land: Shake It! is the ultimate game in the series. The Wii Remote's motion controls allow for more interactive puzzle solving, such as shaking the remote to get Wario to jiggle enemies or pounding the ground to open up access to new environments in a level.
8 – Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004)
This series has so many games, but the Gameboy Advance Mario vs. Donkey Kong uses the most puzzle platform game elements. Mario uses levers, keys, and other items to get where he wants rather than just his athletic leaping, and players immediately learn how addicting the experience is.
9 – Little Nightmares (2018)
Little Nightmares finds the perfect balance between frightening and cheeky horror, making it a unique experience from the more solemn Inside. The game follows Six, a little girl with an adventurous spirit, and players use the same old tools (usually lots of jumping) to get through the darkness.
10 – Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (2014)
Toad is one of Nintendo's ultimate bit characters, and his game features a grand scale for puzzle platformer fans. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker has the player control Toad in self-contained, diorama-style boxes to roam around the playing surface, tinkering with enemies, switches, levers, and pipes to get to your goal.
11 – Toki Tori (2001)
Toki Tori is one of the most re-released puzzle platform games available on the market, originally released on the GameBoy Color and being ported with improved graphics to almost every Nintendo console after that. Gamers control an adorable yellow bird who uses different weaponry and items to get to all of the protagonist's eggs (he's a bird, after all). A soothing soundtrack also adds to the Zen-like energy of the game.
12 – Boxboy! + Boxgirl! (2019)
The BoxBoy! series is a Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch staple. We'll go with the fourth game here because of the sheer number of levels, the extra costumes and side quests, and the overall propensity for content. Players control BoxBoy, a character who can expand and contract his geometrically-inclined body to adventure through obstacle-filled stages. The number of boxes gamers can use in each level substitute for traditional jumping in other puzzle platformers.
13 – VVVVV (2010)
Like Braid, VVVVVV broke new ground in its category, both as a puzzle platform game and an indie title. One simple mechanic, flipping gravity, allows for a plethora of control options and puzzles for the player. This game has been released on almost every console imaginable in the last 13 years, so its accessibility is another plus.
14 – A Boy and His Blob (2009)
The Wii version of A Boy and His Blob tells a beautiful, poignant story of friendship between the two title characters, with rock-solid and creative gameplay elements accompanying it. The child uses his alien blob's seemingly infinite transformational abilities to travel through a lush, graphically rich natural world. Just throw a jellybean, and the blob can do almost anything!
15 – Toodee and Topdee (2022)
Toodee and Topdee plays with the idea of interdimensional puzzle solving. Move a block in the two-dimensional world to jump over a gap in the three-dimensional one. Robust color schemes and music make for a relaxing yet puzzling experience that also serves as an excellent intro to the genre for young gamers.
16 – Mark of The Ninja (2012)
Few puzzle platform games emphasize stealth, but not in Mark of the Ninja. Few games with this level of immersive sneaking and prowling, and with a seemingly infinite number of ninja moves and items in your repertoire, there's always a solution to a problem just around the corner.
17 – Thomas Was Alone (2012)
Thomas Was Alone inspired many puzzle platform games that have dominated the indie scene in the last decade. Simplicity, ingenuity, and crispness are defining traits of a game that sees you control an A.I. in the form of different geometric shapes. The narration and fun backstory incorporated into the gameplay make the title feel more personal.
18 – Fez (2012)
Fez never gets old, no matter how many times a gamer picks up a controller. The genius game design allows players to control a character through one side of a three-dimensional object, slowly working their way around each side of the same coin, so to speak. New consoles continue to publish the game years after release.
19 – DK: King of Swing (2005)
Turning Donkey Kong's universe into a puzzle game may seem peculiar, but it was just what the game doctors ordered back in 2005. DK: King of Swing takes careful thought and experimentation by the player to climb through the different segments of the jungle gamers have come to know and love in the ape's other adventures.
20 – Littlebigplanet (2008)
The PlayStation isn't known for puzzle platformers. LittleBigPlanet carries the genre's entire weight for Sony, introducing an iconic character, Sackboy, and a robust level-creator that allowed gamers to show off their skills in creating stages that perfectly used the main character's platforming abilities.
21 – Mighty Switch Force! (2011)
Mighty Switch Force! introduces a litany of lovable characters, such as the chaotic female police chief, and a fun storyline of punishing enemies for their crimes rather than obliterating them. The timed aspect of the game makes the puzzles much more stressful but fulfilling. Flipping blocks on and off makes players use their brains to determine the best way through the levels.
22 – Pushmo (2011)
Since no jumping is involved, we use the term puzzle-platformer when referring to this adorable Nintendo 3DS hit loosely. Still, trying to push, pull, and manipulate the giant blocks you climb all over in Pushmo as you get to the top of the level certainly feels platform-y.
Shawn Laib is a writer who has loved all things pop culture from a young age. Growing up playing classic Nintendo games and being introduced to a variety of movies and shows, he always enjoyed analyzing and getting to the bottom of the point of a story. As he went into high school, basketball and sports in general became a main focus. Shawn decided to put his skills in English class to good use and majored in the subject area at the University of Washington, graduating with a B.A. in 2020. He began his freelance writing career after college with sites like SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote.com. He now remains a fixture with publications like The Manual and Wealth of Geeks.