Top 10 Hardest Platformer Video Games

Top 10 Hardest Platformer Video Games
VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
Many platformers are simple, but you won't find any of those here. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're looking at games that make running, jumping, and climbing from Point A to Point B a significant challenge. However, we won't be including any Metroidvanias. Our countdown of the hardest platformer video games includes “Celeste” (2018), “Mega Man 9” (2008), “Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time” (2020), “Ninja Gaiden” (1989), and more!

Script written by Johnny Reynolds

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Platformer Video Games. For this list, we’ll be looking at games that make running, jumping, and climbing from Point A to Point B a significant challenge. We’re excluding Metroidvanias as they’re too open-ended to be considered traditional platformers. Which of these games did you find to be the most difficult? Is there a brutal experience we left off? Share your thoughts in the comments!

#10: “Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time” (2020)

Most of the toughest platformers around are of the 2D variety. But “Crash Bandicoot 4” stands tall. And by that, we mean it beats you into submission. Developer Toys for Bob did a fantastic job at transitioning Crash’s style into the modern era. The original games are already fairly challenging. But here, players have to factor in special masks that change gameplay mechanics during certain sections of levels. Many later stages have these abilities activate at the drop of a hat, sometimes in quick succession. Along with purposely tricky level design, “Crash 4” gives you a lot to juggle. And Godspeed to all players trying for 100%.

#9: “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy” (2017)

This indie darling proves you don’t need a lot of financial backing to make a great platformer. Or one that makes you want to put your fist through the wall. Simplistic in its premise and enraging in its execution, “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy” tasks players with climbing a mountain with only a cauldron and a rock-climbing hammer. The physics-based mechanics were rightfully praised, placing emphasis on your character’s positioning. But that structure is partially why it’s also crushingly difficult. One false move can send you careening down the cliffside, destroying your patience since there aren’t any checkpoints. With the possibility of losing huge chunks of progress, “Getting Over It” is easier said than done.

#8: “Spelunky 2” (2020)

Although “Spelunky 2” features different paths, levels aren’t interconnected like Metroidvanias. But there are certain elements that make it uniquely tough among other platformers. Players delve into deadly caverns in search of their missing parents, with a whole lot of treasure, traps, and enemies to find along the way. However, what makes it hard is its procedural generation. You’ll never know what obstacles, foes, or rewards are lying in wait, or how frustratingly placed they’ll be. This aspect of mystery is complemented by the fact that you only have one life; once it’s gone, you’ll either start from the very beginning or in a checkpoint tunnel. It takes a lot of skill, and a bit of luck, to make it out the other side.

#7: “Ninja Gaiden” (1989)

The NES has a reputation for housing some of the toughest games ever created, many of which are platformers. “Ninja Gaiden” sets players out on a quest of vengeance for their late father, a goal that is absurdly hard to reach. Seasoned platformer players can get the hang of the first few levels okay, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Every stage is littered with enemies with spawn points at the most inopportune moments. Some wait by the platforms you jump to while others divebomb you from offscreen as soon as you get close to the edge. As if that wasn’t bad enough, enemies respawn if you move even a hair away from them. It’s an onslaught.

#6: “Super Meat Boy” (2010)

“Super Meat Boy” is one of the most successful indie games of all time. Which tells us a lot of you really love to be punished. With his girlfriend kidnapped by a dastardly mad scientist, the aptly named hero throws himself headfirst into some of the most dangerous levels in platforming history. The focus on speed and precise timing will undeniably force your hand-eye coordination to get better lest you die trying, not that you won’t be doing plenty of that anyway. With the likes of sawblades, laser beams, missiles, good ol’ fashioned pits, and much more, you’ll go from meat cube to paste quickly and often.

#5: “Mega Man 9” (2008)

When Capcom brought mainline “Mega Man” back after a long hiatus, the studio retained not only the look and gameplay of the original series, but the immense challenge. The formula is familiar to many; defeat each robot boss, using each one’s ability as a foil for the next. However, reaching each of them is a masterclass in frustration. Just like the old days, hordes of mechanical minions will spray damage every chance they get. They’re naturally placed at just the right spots to drive you mad. Navigating levels is no walk in the park either, having tough-to-land jumps peppered throughout. Capcom wanted to bring the pain, and it very clearly did.

#4: “I Wanna Be the Guy” (2007)

For a brief time in the late 2000s, the internet saw several ridiculously challenging flash platformers that drew the fascination of many. “I Wanna Be the Guy” delights by featuring characters and elements from many classic games. Or, it would delight if it wasn’t too busy destroying its players. The game punishes you just for playing; traps and hazards come from the most unexpected places, especially those where logic would tell you you’re safe. That is precisely why so many sought it out. Not only is it a test in platforming skill, but also in memorization of where its many, many dangers lie. And trust us, you will be tested.

#3: “Celeste” (2018)

With a focus on mental health, Madeline’s climb up Celeste Mountain is one of the most heartfelt experiences we’ve ever had with a video game. But there’s no denying it makes you work hard to earn it. Designed around a signature dash mechanic, with new gameplay features introduced each level, players must make it through increasingly dangerous gauntlets. “Celeste” features incredibly demanding obstacles in its base game, but there are also reimagined versions of each level that are at least twice as hard. Then there’s “Farewell,” a free post-launch chapter that’s one of the most unforgiving levels ever crafted, in a platformer or otherwise. The demanding design perfectly pairs with Madeline’s struggles, making for quite the stressful playthrough.

#2: “Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels” (1993)

“The Lost Levels” concerns one of the more famous bits of Mario’s history. Nintendo deemed the real “Super Mario Bros. 2” too hard for Western players, and so reskinned a Japan-only title for something more manageable. When the game was finally released as part of a collection on the SNES, we all learned that Nintendo was absolutely right. “The Lost Levels” resembles its predecessor, just with the difficulty amped way up. Everything from platform and enemy placement to unexpected hazards will make you question your skill. One of the most annoying new features are gusts of wind that severely affect the Mario Bros.’ jumping. Many Mario games have tough levels, but this is in a completely different category.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Rayman” (1995)

This Deceptive Platformer Featured a Major Difficulty Spike

“VVVVVV” (2010)

Controlling the Gravity With Loads of Traps Around

“Donkey Kong Country Returns” (2010)

Brought DKC Back in Glorious, Brutal Fashion

#1: “Ghosts ‘n Goblins” (1985)

Not counting this game’s sequels, there is not a single platformer that makes you work this hard to reach its ending. Capcom’s “Ghosts ‘n Goblins” follows Arthur on his mission to rescue a princess from monstrous forces. The knight goes down in two hits, which will undoubtedly happen many times due to how many enemies this game throws at you. Groups can spawn at a time, making it their life’s purpose to put you in the ground. Different versions offer different amounts of lives, but none of them give you nearly enough. Chances are good you’ll be stuck redoing the first level over and over again. Oh, and you have to beat the game twice to get the true ending. Good luck with that.