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The best platform games ever (that aren't Mario)

16. Sound Shapes (PS3, PS4, PSV)

A lot of indie platformers play around with various gimmicky mechanics, but rarely make them feel as cohesive as Sound Shapes. At its heart is a simple (but not simplistic) 'stick to grey surfaces and avoid red ones' idea, which gets difficult very quickly. But this is coupled with a superb musical element.

As you play a level, you add notes to the music, building the soundtrack and avoiding various threats that all bounce along with the beat. It's mesmerising and utterly, utterly brilliant. The fact that it works with actual music tracks too imported via DLC makes this even more delightful. This is so much more than the sum of its parts. Like music, really.

15. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

There is an argument for one of the original SNES versions of Donkey Kong Country, but those games' controls lack the precision of the Returns series, which were given Retro Studios' usual classy treatment. This Wii U game has quality written all over it (erm in invisible ink). And no, it doesn't count as a Mario game.

Not only is the platforming gameplay as enjoyable as ever, it all sounds absolutely phenomenal, thanks to another sensational score by David Wise, who worked on the original Donkey Kong Country. I actually know someone who listens to music from the game on a loop, it's that good. Not me, I hasten to add. But maybe you will.

14. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PSone)

The 32-bit scene was comparatively light on side-scrolling platformers, most likely because they were seen as a 'last-gen' genre now that 3D worlds had arrived. Klonoa blended the best of both sides, offering precise, smooth, colourful gameplay with 3D visuals.

It's still a 2D platformer, of course. And one that moves absolutely beautifully, despite the now prehistoric tech specs of the humble PSone. Flowing, precise and smooth, Klonoa is sheer class. It's a relatively rare game to get hold of in disc form these days, but you can buy it on the PSN to play on PS3, PSP or Vita. So do that.

13. Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time (PS3)

There are several entries in the Ratchet & Clank series that could easily fit on this list, including the PS2 original (and the new R&C remake on PS4 will probably be best of all). But this PS3 game is everything the series stands for, and at its most imaginative, too.

There's the 3D platforming and melee combat we've come to know and love, plus a load of customisable and upgradeable weapons, and some time-warping puzzle-solving to boot. All of this is wrapped up in super-slick production values and topped off with a funny and entertaining script. Can't get much better than that, really. This is exemplary platforming by one of the master development teams of the genre, Insomniac.

12. Bionic Commando: Rearmed (Xbox 360, PS3, PC))

Bionic Commando already had a legion of fans hanging onto the glory days of the '80s arcade scene. But this XBLA remake is a revelation for anyone who loved the game the first time around. Everything's better. From the graphics to the controls and the freedom of movement, Bionic Commando: Rearmed is the perfect example of an HD upgrade done right.

The game is mostly the same as it always was, only with a better ending and a few new features thrown in for good measure. And the arm itself makes for a rather unique-feeling platformer, as you swing around, blowing up walls to find secrets and generally feeling like a bionic version of Spider-Man. With a gun. What's not to like?

11. Cave Story 3D (3DS)

It's amazing to think that Cave Story is actually already over a decade old. But this 3D remake of the original platformer/shooter hybrid is undoubtedly the best way to play it. This is the definitive version of the game.

But why is it so good? It's the amalgamation of screen after screen full of smoothly-moving (and exploding) sprites, tight controls, a clever upgrade system and good old fun. Yes, it's one of those increasingly rare things a game that is fun just to control. Add in one of the most subtle, yet brilliant, branching route systems ever seen and you've got a classic on your hands. Well more like 'in them'.

10. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)

3D platformers were everywhere in the late-1990s, but even with the mighty Super Mario 64 already owning the platform (sorry, I mentioned Mario), Rare managed to create something truly special on N64 in the shape of Banjo-Kazooie. The two-character set-up works beautifully, with Banjo and Kazooie complementing each others' movesets and playable both as a team and individually.

The textures may look primitive today, but there's still a lot of charm to the game's colourful world, and the Xbox 360 HD re-release is perfectly acceptable, if a little simplistic in terms of geometry. That still can't dull the game's humour, open design and depth of exploration. Oh, and it turns out that Kazooie is a girl. Amazing how few people realise that.

9. Earthworm Jim (pretty much every games machine you could mention)

Dave Perry must have learned a lot from developing Cool Spot, because by the time Earthworm Jim came around, everything was working. Jim works as a character because his shape can morph into anything. He can use himself as a skipping rope. Mario can't do that. The 8-direction shooting lends a Gunstar Heroes vibe to proceedings as you monkey-swing and bounce around the levels, giving this entry genre-straddling elements, while remaining most certainly a platform game at heart.

But for all the technical accomplishment and game design (excluding that water level but even that was fixed in the HD remake, so get that), it's the game's humour that makes it stick in most people's minds. You could call it low-brow, but that just resonated with bogey-hungry '90s kids everywhere. While it does feel very ''90s' today, it's still brilliantly playable and you should get it.

8. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis/Mega Drive)

It was the game to get for Christmas in 1992. Taking the super-smooth movement of the original game and ramping up the level variety, scale, speed and spectacle, Sonic Team created a timeless platform adventure. And, unlike the original game, the second level is just as good as the first. As is the third, for that matter. Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant and Aquatic Ruin form a holy trinity of gaming playgrounds.

While both the drop-in/drop-out co-op and split-screen 2-player mode have clear flaws, that doesn't mean you can't have fun with a friend. Competing for rings in the pseudo-3D special stage is still loads of fun, but it's the game's longevity that's kept it on this list. People still speedrun it. The new iOS conversion is technically more advanced than the original, while remaining outwardly authentic. However you play Sonic 2, on whatever platform you choose, you will have fun. Fact.

7. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS, SAT, XBLA)

The Castlevania template had already been established long before the 32-bit era arrived. And before Konami turned the series into a 3D adventure, there was time to release the pinnacle of the series' 2D evolution. Symphony of the Night combines pixel-perfect 2D platform combat with 3D background elements to incredible effect. The fact that the 3D is now pretty shaky and roughly-textured somehow makes it all the more wonderful. This has become an icon of retro gaming.

It's aged beautifully in terms of gameplay, too, serving up a huge, lavish adventure, rich with stat-boosting items and new weapons to uncover not to mention one of the best hidden endings ever. After the PlayStation version, the game also appeared on Sega Saturn, offering extra content including a new playable character. But other elements were weaker, so it's a tough call to say which is best. Both, basically.

Justin Towell
Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.