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A Comprehensive Guide to 2D Platform Games: Exploring the World of Classic Gaming

Welcome to a Comprehensive Guide to 2D Platform Games: Exploring the World of Classic Gaming. If you’re a fan of video games, then you’re probably familiar with 2D platformers. These games are some of the most iconic and beloved in the industry, featuring simple graphics and addictive gameplay that has kept players hooked for decades. But what exactly are 2D games called? In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of 2D platformers, from classic side-scrollers to modern indie games, and learn what makes them so special. So grab your controller and let’s dive into the world of classic gaming!

What are 2D Games Called?

2D Games Explained

2D games are also known as side-scrolling games or platformers. They are characterized by their two-dimensional graphics and gameplay that involves the player character moving left or right across the screen. In 2D games, the action takes place on a fixed plane, and the player’s movements are limited to the x and y axes.

One of the key differences between 2D and 3D games is the level of complexity in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics. 2D games typically have simpler graphics and fewer moving parts than 3D games, which can make them easier to develop and play. However, this also means that 2D games may not be as visually impressive or immersive as 3D games.

Despite the rise of 3D games, 2D games continue to be an important part of the gaming industry. They offer a unique and challenging gameplay experience that is often not found in 3D games. Additionally, 2D games are often more accessible to players who may not have the hardware or processing power to run more complex 3D games.

Overall, 2D games offer a fun and challenging experience for players of all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or just starting out, there’s sure to be a 2D game out there that will keep you entertained for hours on end.

Common Names for 2D Games

  • Platformers
  • Side-scrollers
  • Jump-and-run games
  • Plattformspiele (German)
  • Juegos de plataformas (Spanish)

Platformers are perhaps the most well-known name for 2D games. These games typically involve a character running, jumping, and navigating a series of obstacles, enemies, and hazards in a side-scrolling environment. The player must control the character’s movements to overcome these challenges and reach the end of each level or stage. Platformers are known for their precise timing, memorization, and mastery of the controls required to navigate complex levels.

Side-scrollers is another common name for 2D games. As the name suggests, these games involve a continuous side-scrolling view of the game world, with the player character moving from left to right, or vice versa. Side-scrollers often have a linear progression, with the player advancing through levels by defeating enemies, solving puzzles, or collecting items. Some examples of side-scrollers include classic arcade games like Sonic the Hedgehog and CastleVania.

Jump-and-run games is another name for 2D games that emphasizes the importance of jumping and running mechanics in gameplay. These games often feature a character that can jump and run, and the player must use these abilities to navigate through levels, avoid obstacles, and defeat enemies. Examples of jump-and-run games include Super Mario Bros. and Rayman.

In addition to these common names, 2D games may also be referred to as Plattformspiele in German or Juegos de plataformas in Spanish. These translations literally mean “platform games” and are used to describe games that involve characters jumping between platforms or platforms of different heights.

Overall, 2D games are known by many names, each highlighting different aspects of gameplay and emphasizing the skills required to play them.

The Evolution of 2D Platform Games

Key takeaway: 2D platform games, also known as side-scrolling games or platformers, are an important part of the gaming industry. They offer a unique and challenging gameplay experience that is often not found in 3D games. Classic gameplay mechanics such as platforming, jumping, and running are still prevalent in modern 2D platformers. Some of the best 2D platform games of all time include Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania, Rayman Legends, and Ori and the Blind Forest. The future of 2D platform games looks bright, with indie developers bringing fresh ideas and unique perspectives to the genre, and VR technology offering new opportunities for game designers to create unique and engaging experiences.

Early 2D Platformers

  • Super Mario Bros. (1985)
    • The game that started it all, Super Mario Bros. introduced the world to the lovable plumber, Mario, and his sidekick, Luigi.
    • Players control Mario as he navigates through a series of themed levels, jumping on top of enemies to defeat them and collecting power-ups to gain new abilities.
    • The game also introduced the concept of a “coin” economy, where players could collect coins to buy power-ups and other items.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
    • Released by Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog was designed to compete with Nintendo’s Mario franchise.
    • The game featured a speedy blue hedgehog named Sonic, who could run at incredible speeds and perform a variety of jumps and spins.
    • Players controlled Sonic as he raced through levels, collecting rings and defeating enemies.
    • The game also introduced the concept of “loop-de-loops” and other environmental obstacles that added a new level of complexity to the gameplay.
  • Castlevania (1986)
    • Castlevania was one of the first “Metroidvania”-style games, featuring a large, interconnected world for players to explore.
    • Players controlled Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter, as he fought his way through Dracula’s castle.
    • The game featured a unique combat system, where players had to time their button presses to execute special moves and defeat enemies.
    • The game also introduced the concept of “upgrades” to Simon’s weapons and abilities, which allowed players to access new areas and defeat tougher enemies.

Modern 2D Platformers

  • Rayman Legends (2013)
    • A critically acclaimed platformer developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and released for multiple platforms.
    • Features an array of innovative gameplay mechanics, vibrant graphics, and an enchanting soundtrack.
    • In Rayman Legends, players control Rayman and his friends as they navigate through various levels, overcoming obstacles and defeating enemies using a combination of jumping, running, and combat abilities.
    • The game is known for its smooth and responsive controls, creative level design, and the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer modes.
  • Shovel Knight (2014)
    • A retro-style platformer developed by Yacht Club Games, which has gained widespread recognition for its engaging gameplay and authentic 8-bit aesthetics.
    • Players assume the role of the titular character, Shovel Knight, as he explores a sprawling world filled with challenging enemies, traps, and puzzles.
    • The game’s combat system revolves around Shovel Knight’s unique shovel-based attacks and the ability to platform across various environments, such as water, lava, and snow.
    • Shovel Knight has received praise for its challenging gameplay, memorable soundtrack, and tribute to classic platformers of the past.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)
    • A visually stunning 2D platformer developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios.
    • Ori and the Blind Forest follows the titular character, Ori, as she navigates through a mystical forest, solving puzzles and battling enemies.
    • The game is known for its beautiful hand-drawn graphics, challenging gameplay, and intricate level design.
    • Players can control Ori’s movements using a variety of abilities, including platforming, combat, and environmental manipulation, to progress through the game’s numerous levels.
    • Ori and the Blind Forest has garnered critical acclaim for its engaging story, immersive world, and high-quality presentation.

The Appeal of 2D Platform Games

Classic Gameplay Mechanics

The classic gameplay mechanics of 2D platform games have been a staple of the gaming industry for decades. These mechanics have evolved over time, but the core principles remain the same. The following are some of the key classic gameplay mechanics that make 2D platform games so enjoyable:


Platforming is a key mechanic in 2D platform games. Players must navigate their character through various obstacles, such as jumps, gaps, and enemies, in order to progress through the game. This often requires precise timing and spacing to ensure that the character lands safely on the next platform. Successful platforming can be incredibly satisfying, and is often the basis for many of the game’s challenges.


Jumping is another fundamental mechanic in 2D platform games. Players must time their jumps carefully in order to clear gaps, avoid enemies, and reach hidden areas. Some games feature a double jump or other special jumps, which add an extra layer of complexity to the mechanic. Mastering the art of jumping is crucial to success in many 2D platform games.


Running is a less common mechanic in 2D platform games, but can be found in some titles. Running allows players to move more quickly across the screen, which can be useful for navigating large levels or escaping from danger. Some games also allow players to perform a special move while running, such as a dash or slide. Running can be a useful tool for experienced players, but can also make the game more challenging for beginners.


Fighting is a key mechanic in some 2D platform games, particularly those that feature combat as a major gameplay element. Players must use a variety of attacks and defenses to defeat enemies and bosses. Some games feature simple button-mashing combat, while others require more strategic thinking and timing. Fighting can be a challenging but rewarding mechanic for players who enjoy a more active gameplay experience.

Simple yet Challenging

2D platform games have remained popular for decades due to their unique combination of simplicity and challenge. These games are easy to learn but difficult to master, making them appealing to both casual and experienced gamers alike.

One of the key reasons for the enduring appeal of 2D platform games is their skill-based gameplay. Unlike many modern games that rely on random elements or complex mechanics, 2D platformers require players to develop and showcase their skills in order to progress. Players must master techniques such as jumping, running, and timing in order to navigate the game’s levels and overcome obstacles.

Furthermore, 2D platform games typically have short, bite-sized levels that can be played in quick bursts. This makes them ideal for players who have limited time to devote to gaming or who prefer to play in short sessions. Additionally, the simplicity of the gameplay allows players to focus on the mechanics of the game, rather than complex storylines or character development.

Overall, the simplicity and challenge of 2D platform games make them an enduringly popular genre, with a loyal fan base that spans generations. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or a newcomer to the world of classic gaming, there’s no denying the appeal of these timeless games.

The Best 2D Platform Games of All Time

Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Super Mario Bros. is a classic 2D platform game that was released in 1985 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was developed by Nintendo and is considered one of the most iconic and influential video games of all time.


Super Mario Bros. is set in the Mushroom Kingdom, where the player takes control of the main character, Mario, as he embarks on a quest to save Princess Peach from the clutches of the evil Bowser. The game features a side-scrolling perspective and requires the player to navigate through various levels, jumping over obstacles, avoiding enemies, and collecting power-ups.


The gameplay of Super Mario Bros. is simple yet challenging. The player controls Mario, who can run, jump, and perform various other actions such as a double jump and a spin attack. The objective of each level is to reach the end while collecting as many coins and power-ups as possible.

The game also features a two-player mode, where players can take control of either Mario or Luigi and compete against each other to reach the end of the level first.

Impact on the gaming industry

Super Mario Bros. had a significant impact on the gaming industry. It popularized the 2D platformer genre and set the standard for future games in the genre. The game’s success led to the creation of numerous sequels, spin-offs, and merchandise, making Mario one of the most recognizable video game characters in history.

In addition, Super Mario Bros. was one of the first video games to be widely successful in mainstream culture, paving the way for video games to become a form of entertainment for a wider audience.

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

Sonic the Hedgehog, released in 1991, is a classic 2D platform game developed by Sega and created by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima. The game features the blue hedgehog, Sonic, as the main character, who is on a mission to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik from capturing innocent animals and turning them into robots. The game’s success led to the creation of an entire franchise, spawning numerous sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations across various media.

In Sonic the Hedgehog, players control Sonic as he runs through various levels, collecting rings and defeating enemies. The game is divided into six zones, each with its unique environment and challenges. Players must navigate through the levels, avoiding obstacles and defeating enemies, while collecting rings to increase their score. The game also features special stages called “Special Rings,” which can be accessed by collecting 50 rings and completing a bonus stage. These special stages offer higher scores and rewards.

The game’s mechanics are based on Sonic’s speed and agility. Players can perform various moves, such as jumping, rolling, and spindashing, which allows Sonic to break through certain obstacles and enemies. Sonic’s speed also allows him to perform a unique gameplay mechanic called the “Sonic Boost,” which enables him to break through certain obstacles and enemies.

Sonic the Hedgehog had a significant impact on the gaming industry and popular culture. The game’s innovative gameplay mechanics, graphics, and soundtrack helped establish the 2D platformer genre and set the standard for future games in the genre. The game’s success also helped Sega compete with Nintendo, establishing the company as a major player in the gaming industry.

Sonic the Hedgehog also became a cultural icon, with the character appearing in various media, including comics, cartoons, and movies. The game’s success spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs, further expanding the franchise’s reach and popularity.

The game’s influence can also be seen in the development of future platformers, with many games incorporating similar mechanics and elements, such as high-speed gameplay, collectibles, and unique abilities. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Masato Nakamura, also became iconic, with the game’s theme song, “Green Hill Zone,” being particularly memorable.

Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog’s impact on the gaming industry and popular culture cannot be overstated. The game’s innovative gameplay mechanics, memorable characters, and iconic soundtrack have made it a timeless classic and a staple of the 2D platformer genre.

Castlevania (1986)

Castlevania, released in 1986, is a classic 2D platform game developed and published by Konami. It was originally released for the Famicom and NES platforms and has since been ported to various other platforms. The game was designed by Koji Igarashi and features music composed by Yuji Takahashi.

The game follows the story of Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter, as he navigates through Dracula’s castle to defeat the titular character. The game is divided into six levels, with each level ending in a boss battle. Simon can jump, climb, and whip enemies, with the whip being the primary weapon used to defeat enemies and bosses.

The game also features a unique system where the player’s character slowly loses health unless they continuously collect hearts, adding an extra layer of challenge to the game. The game’s controls are tight and responsive, making it a joy to play.

Castlevania is often credited with popularizing the 2D platform game genre and setting the standard for future games in the genre. The game’s unique setting, tight controls, and challenging gameplay made it a standout title in the early days of the Famicom and NES. The game’s success led to numerous sequels and spin-offs, cementing its place as a classic in the gaming industry.

Rayman Legends (2013)

Rayman Legends, released in 2013, is considered one of the best 2D platform games of all time. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft, this game is the fifth installment in the Rayman series. The game features a variety of levels, including platforming, puzzles, and mini-games, and is known for its beautiful art style and catchy soundtrack.

One of the standout features of Rayman Legends is its cooperative multiplayer mode, which allows two players to play together through the game’s levels. This feature adds a new dimension to the gameplay, as players can work together to overcome challenges and explore the game’s world.

In terms of gameplay, Rayman Legends is known for its tight controls and smooth animations, making it easy for players to navigate through the game’s levels. The game also features a variety of power-ups and abilities that players can use to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies.

Rayman Legends had a significant impact on the gaming industry, as it helped to revive the 2D platformer genre and set a new standard for the genre. The game received widespread critical acclaim and was a commercial success, leading to the development of several sequels and spin-offs.

Overall, Rayman Legends is a must-play game for fans of the 2D platformer genre, and it continues to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages today.

Shovel Knight (2014)

Shovel Knight is a 2D platform game developed by Yacht Club Games. It was released in 2014 for various platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and multiple consoles. The game is set in a fictional medieval world and follows the story of the eponymous character, Shovel Knight, as he explores various areas and battles enemies using his shovel as a weapon.

Shovel Knight is a classic 2D platform game that requires players to navigate through various levels, jumping over obstacles, dodging enemies, and defeating bosses. The game features retro-style graphics and gameplay mechanics that pay homage to classic platformers of the past. The player controls Shovel Knight, who can jump, run, and attack using his shovel. The game also features a cooperative multiplayer mode, allowing two players to play together.

Shovel Knight was praised for its nostalgic and charming gameplay, retro-style graphics, and catchy soundtrack. The game was a commercial success and received numerous awards, including five D.I.C.E. Awards and three British Academy Games Awards. Shovel Knight has also been credited with reviving interest in 2D platformers and inspiring a new wave of indie games that draw inspiration from classic gaming.

Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)

  • Overview
    • Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D platform game developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. It was released in 2015 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. The game is known for its beautiful visuals, challenging gameplay, and emotional storytelling.
  • Gameplay
    • In Ori and the Blind Forest, players control the character Ori as they navigate through a series of levels, solving puzzles and defeating enemies. The game features a unique dual-dash mechanic, which allows Ori to move quickly and precisely. The game also includes a variety of abilities that can be unlocked, such as the ability to jump higher or double-jump.
    • The game’s levels are designed to be challenging, with tight timing and precise movements required to succeed. The game also features a difficulty mode called “hard mode,” which increases the challenge of the game even further.
  • Impact on the gaming industry
    • Ori and the Blind Forest received widespread critical acclaim upon its release, with many praising its beautiful visuals and challenging gameplay. The game has been credited with revitalizing the 2D platformer genre and inspiring a new wave of indie games. The game’s success also led to the development of a sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which was released in 2019.

The Future of 2D Platform Games

Indie Developers

The rise of indie developers in the gaming industry has led to a surge in new 2D platformers. These developers bring fresh ideas and unique perspectives to the genre, breathing new life into the classic gaming world. Here are some examples of successful indie 2D platformers:

New 2D Platformers from Indie Studios

  • “Celeste”: An award-winning game that combines challenging platforming mechanics with a deeply personal story about mental health.
  • “Hollow Knight”: A charming, hand-drawn adventure that captures the hearts of players with its cute characters and engaging world.
  • “Hotline Miami”: A fast-paced, top-down shooter that tests players’ reflexes and encourages multiple playthroughs to uncover all its secrets.

Examples of Successful Indie 2D Platformers

  • “Super Meat Boy”: A lightning-fast platformer that tests players’ skills with its tight controls and insane levels of difficulty.
  • “Shovel Knight”: A retro-inspired game that pays homage to classic NES platformers while offering modern gameplay mechanics and a lovingly crafted world.
  • “Ori and the Blind Forest”: A visually stunning game that blends Metroidvania-style exploration with demanding platforming challenges.

These indie developers have proven that there is still a place for 2D platformers in the modern gaming landscape. By pushing the boundaries of the genre and introducing new mechanics, they continue to make 2D platformers relevant and exciting for players of all ages.

Virtual Reality and 2D Platformers

As technology continues to advance, virtual reality (VR) has the potential to significantly impact the gaming industry, including 2D platformers. By immersing players in a fully realized digital world, VR offers new opportunities for game designers to create unique and engaging experiences. In this section, we will explore how VR is changing the gaming industry and how 2D platformers are adapting to this new technology.

How VR is changing the gaming industry

VR has the potential to revolutionize the way we play games by creating a more immersive and interactive experience. With VR, players can enter fully realized digital worlds that they can explore and interact with in new ways. This technology is already being used in a variety of genres, from first-person shooters to racing games, and is beginning to make its way into the world of 2D platformers.

2D platformers in VR

One of the challenges of adapting 2D platformers to VR is that the genre is based on a two-dimensional playing field. However, some game designers are experimenting with new ways to create a sense of depth and movement in a 2D world. For example, some games are using parallax scrolling to create the illusion of a 3D world, while others are using motion controls to allow players to move their characters in 3D space.

Opportunities and challenges for 2D platformers in VR

While VR offers new opportunities for 2D platformers, it also presents some challenges. For example, VR hardware can be expensive and may limit the number of players who can access these games. Additionally, designing for VR requires a different set of skills and knowledge than designing for traditional 2D platforms. As a result, game designers must carefully consider the opportunities and challenges of VR when deciding whether to adapt their 2D platformers for this new technology.

2D Platformers in the Mobile Gaming Market

The mobile gaming market has experienced significant growth in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. With the rise of smartphones and tablets, mobile gaming has become a popular pastime for millions of people around the world. This growth has created new opportunities for 2D platformers, which are now being played on mobile devices by a wide audience.

One of the main advantages of mobile gaming is the convenience it offers. Players can now enjoy their favorite 2D platformers anytime, anywhere, without the need for a console or a computer. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for game developers, who can now create games that are optimized for mobile devices.

2D platformers on mobile devices offer a unique gaming experience that is different from playing on a console or a computer. The touchscreen interface allows for more intuitive controls, and the smaller screen size requires developers to be more creative with their level designs. This has led to a whole new generation of 2D platformers that are specifically designed for mobile devices.

However, there are also challenges that come with developing 2D platformers for mobile devices. The smaller screen size can make it difficult to fit all the necessary elements into the game, and the touchscreen interface can be less precise than a controller or a keyboard. Developers must also consider the limitations of mobile devices when it comes to processing power and storage space.

Despite these challenges, the mobile gaming market presents a significant opportunity for 2D platformers. With the right design and development, these games can reach a whole new audience of players who are looking for a convenient and engaging gaming experience. As the mobile gaming market continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how 2D platformers evolve and adapt to this new environment.

2D Platformers in the Retro Gaming Scene

The revival of retro gaming has led to a resurgence in the popularity of 2D platformers. These classic games, which were popular in the 80s and 90s, are now being rediscovered by a new generation of gamers. This has led to a renewed interest in the genre, with new games being developed that draw inspiration from the classics.

One of the reasons for the continued popularity of 2D platformers is their simplicity. These games are easy to pick up and play, making them accessible to gamers of all ages and skill levels. They also tend to be less complex than modern games, which can be overwhelming for some players.

Another reason for the resurgence of 2D platformers is the nostalgia factor. Many gamers who grew up playing these games are now in their 20s and 30s, and they are looking for ways to relive their childhood. Retro gaming provides a way for them to do this, and 2D platformers are a big part of that.

In addition to the nostalgia factor, there is also a sense of community around retro gaming. Gamers who share a love for classic games often come together online to discuss their favorite titles and share tips and strategies. This has helped to create a sense of camaraderie around retro gaming, which has only served to further boost the popularity of 2D platformers.

As the popularity of retro gaming continues to grow, it is likely that we will see even more 2D platformers being developed. These games offer a unique gaming experience that is unlike anything else, and they are sure to continue to be a staple of the retro gaming scene for years to come.


1. What are 2D games?

2D games are video games that are designed to be played on a two-dimensional plane. This means that the game environment and characters move and interact within a two-dimensional space, rather than a three-dimensional one.

2. What are 2D platform games?

2D platform games are a subgenre of 2D games that involve the player character navigating a series of obstacles and enemies to reach the end of a level or complete a specific objective. These games often feature jumping, running, and other physical abilities, and require precise timing and coordination to succeed.

3. What are some examples of 2D platform games?

There are many classic examples of 2D platform games, including Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Donkey Kong. More recent examples include games like Rayman Legends, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Celeste.

4. What makes 2D platform games unique?

2D platform games are unique because they often have a sense of nostalgia and retro appeal that is not found in other types of games. They also require a high level of skill and precision, as players must navigate complex environments and overcome obstacles to progress.

5. What are some of the challenges of playing 2D platform games?

One of the main challenges of playing 2D platform games is the precision required to navigate the game world. Players must be able to time jumps and movements accurately in order to avoid obstacles and defeat enemies. Additionally, some 2D platform games can be quite difficult, requiring players to master a variety of skills and techniques in order to progress.

6. What are some tips for playing 2D platform games?

One tip for playing 2D platform games is to take your time and plan out your movements carefully. It’s also important to learn the patterns of enemies and obstacles, as well as the mechanics of the game, in order to progress more smoothly. Additionally, it can be helpful to take advantage of checkpoints and save points, as these can help you avoid losing progress if you die or make a mistake.

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