Side-scrolling games are easy to pick up but often difficult to master. Many will enter these games thinking it can’t be that difficult to simply go right.

However, the best side-scrolling games are those that do not limit themselves by the 2D space in which their game resides.

Unique mechanics, tough platforming challenges, and plenty of memorable moments make a successful side scroller.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best side-scrolling games you can play on Steam.

12. Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series

Genre:Action, Adventure, Casual
Developers:Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date:July 7, 2022
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Shared/Split Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:15 hours

Klonoa was originally a 3D (2.5D) side-scrolling action series originally released by Namco in 1997.

Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series is a remastered title that includes the original two games KLONOA: Door to Phantomile and KLONOA 2: Lunatea’s Veil.

Both of these games are cult classics, and it goes to show just how amazing they are that they still remain relevant more than 25 years later.

Fans have been crying out for a remaster of this great series, and the developers clearly took their wishes into consideration.

The story follows Klonoa and his friend Huepow. Both these two embark on a journey to save the dream world of Phantomile from an evil spirit intent on plunging the world into an endless nightmare.

For what appears to be, on the surface, a fairly standard and arguably light-hearted plot, things get very intense as you near the end of the game.

The ending itself is incredibly bittersweet, and we encourage anyone who has to experience it to do so for themselves.

The gameplay here is also super tight as you run, jump, and take out enemies as Klonoa.

Definitely be sure to check out this modernized remaster of an old-school cult classic.

11. Mega Man 11

mega man 11
Genre:2D platformer, Action, Adventure
Developers:CAPCOM CO., LTD.
Release Date:October 2, 2018
Find at:Steam
Average Playtime:5 hours

Mega Man is one of the pioneers of the side-scrolling platformer genre. Ever since the first game in the franchise, it is clear that the developers behind this particular IP poured their hearts and souls into making the gameplay as fluid as possible.

Mega Man games are incredibly free, usually allowing you to take on any boss in any order you choose.

Additionally, each boss’ level will have environments and enemies themed around their particular ability.

After a spate of successful games on several early generation consoles, Mega Man continued to be a success with the astounding Mega Man X collection of games.

These games, to some, even managed to surpass the original Blue Bomber’s adventures.

However, Mega Man 11 sees a return to the original gameplay style, but with some of the quality of life features and design choices of later generation Mega Man games.

Mega Man 11 provides more of what fans of Mega Man know and love. Several Robot Masters that you need to take down are here in full force, each of which gives you a unique powerup upon being defeated.

Hand-drawn environments replace the pixel style and make the game feel much more alive.

Furthermore, the new Double Gear system lets you boost your speed and power for a short duration, giving the game a new sense of identity when compared to the other games in this long-running series.

Mega Man 11 also includes tons of additional content such as time trials, leaderboards, and unlockable concept art.

Mega Man veterans will feel right at home with this latest entry. And, for those who have never played a single game in the entire franchise, this is a great place to start!

10. Sonic Origins

Genre:Action, Adventure, 2D Platformer
Developers:Sonic Team
Release Date:June 23, 2022
Find at:Steam
Average Playtime:10 hours

Sonic Origins is the remaster of the original Sonic Trilogy. Sonic hasn’t had the smoothest transition into 3D over the years, with only two games in recent memory (Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania) providing fans with what they desired.

So, if you are sick and tired of gimmicky Sonic games and want to relive the golden age of Sonic in his prime, now you can do so via Steam.

Sonic Origins comes packaged with the original three Sonic games and Sonic CD.

Players will be able to speed through all of the original levels as the blue blur and Knuckles, thanks to the included expansion.

The first Sonic game receives mixed reviews. The developers hadn’t really hit their stride yet and a lot of monotonous waiting and slow sections plague this first entry.

However, from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 onwards, everything manages to fall into place.

The gameplay is fast and highly reactive, with each level feeling uniquely designed.

If there were a single complaint to be made about Sonic Origins, it would be the unfortunate situation regarding the game’s music.

Unfortunately, due to copyright claims, the original Sonic soundtrack could not be used for select levels.

This is a massive disappointment as Sonic music has always been amazing. Even in games where the gameplay is in question, you can always rely on a great song or two in any Sonic game.

The replacement music in Sonic Origins fails to evoke the same sense of nostalgia as the original tunes and is far less catchy and memorable.

Still, if you can overlook this aspect, Sonic Origins is one of the best side-scrolling games on Steam.

9. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Genre:Metroidvania, 2D Platformer, Adventure
Developers:Moon Studios GmbH
Release Date:March 11, 2020
Find at:Steam
Average Playtime:11 hours

In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, you play as the little spirit Ori. After a young owlet named Ku is put in harm’s way, Ori must embark on a perilous journey to bring his family back together, restore a broken world, and unlock Ori’s true destiny.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the highly anticipated sequel to the also critically acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest.

Both of these games have been praised and have received countless awards for both their unique art direction and beautiful soundtracks.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a serene adventure game that takes you through a sprawling world. Fans of immersion who love to be transported to different universes will feel right at home playing through some of the most captivating levels in all of gaming.

This isn’t to discredit the gameplay of Ori and the Will of the Wisps by any means. The gameplay is solid and easy to pick up and play by just about anyone.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an experience that we highly recommend fans of side-scrolling games check out.

8. Rayman Legends

Rayman L 2
Genre:Action, Adventure, 2D Platformer
Developers:Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montpellier, Pastagames
Release Date:September 3, 2013
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Shared Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:10 hours

Rayman has had an interesting journey over the years. What started out as a side-scrolling platformer game soon transitioned into a 3D platformer.

From here, Rayman dabbled in party games alongside the Raving Rabbids but soon returned to his origins as a 2D side scroller.

Rayman Legends blends a perfect cocktail between tough but fair platforming challenges and incredibly catchy and upbeat music.

What’s truly amazing about Rayman Legends is how the game can time certain jumps or enemy attacks to the beat of the unique soundtrack.

Players will jump to the beat of a drum, punch to the bass, or slide down a rope to a killer guitar riff.

This sounds like a gimmick at first, but in certain sections, listening out to the beat can help make the platforming that much easier.

Rayman Legends is also playable in Four-Player Co-Op, allowing you and three other friends to take on each challenge as a team.

Rayman Legends has always been a 2D platformer at heart, and it’s nice to see the popular character back where he belongs.

7. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Genre:2D Platformer, Adventure
Developers:Yacht Club Games
Release Date:June 26, 2014
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Shared/Split Screen PvP, Shared/Split Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:6 hours

Shovel Knight is a beautiful pixel-style platformer game that managed to breathe fresh life into what may have otherwise been a dying genre.

Shovel Knight put indie games on the map, and it’s thanks to its less graphically intense art style but solid gameplay that proved indie games can be just as successful as AAA titles.

Shovel Knight Treasure Trove includes the full Shovel Knight saga. In total, four additional games come with this package which allows you to take control of Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight.

Each of these characters has its own unique abilities and mechanics, which spice up gameplay enough to keep things from becoming too stale.

We couldn’t talk about Shovel Knight without talking about its 8-bit art style. The art of Shovel Knight is truly timeless and goes to show that you do not need million dollar art investment in order to create a truly memorable game.

Shovel Knight’s assets are all amazing, but none of this would matter if the gameplay weren’t also incredible. Luckily, Shovel Knight has some of the tightest platforming gameplay of any game, indie or otherwise.

There are so many movement and combat actions to pull off in Shovel Knight, whether you are taking on a difficult platforming challenge or taking down a tricky boss.

Without Shovel Knight, we may not have nearly as many sidescrolling platformers as we do today. The game inspired a generation of indie developers.

Shovel Knight is easily one of the best side scroller games on Steam.

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

shredder 1
Genre:Beat ’em Up, Action
Developers:Dotemu, Gamera Games
Release Date:June 16, 2022
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Online Co-op, Shared Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:2 hours

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is one of the best arcade beat-em-up games of all time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge seeks to recapture the magic of this bygone era by throwing players into chaotic, action-packed combat.

Shredder’s Revenge features gorgeous pixel art, tons of uniquely designed enemies, and bombastic music that really pumps you up and gets you excited to take on the evil Foot Clan.

Each turtle in Shredder’s Revenge has their own skill and moves. They can also pull off their own unique combos.

This makes the game that much more replayable as no two runs ever feel the same.

While this game can be enjoyed solo, it is much more fun playing alongside a group of friends.

Teaming up with a group of others allows you to each take on different enemies and invites plenty of laughs as you fight each other for the various power-ups scattered about the screen.

5. Castle Crashers

Genre:Action, Adventure, Arcade
Developers:The Behemoth
Release Date:September 26, 2012
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Online PvP, Online Co-op, Shared Screen PvP, Shared Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:7 hours

Castle Crashers is the modern equivalent of old-school sidescrolling co-op action.

In Castle Crashers, you will have to continue pushing to the right of the screen while taking out all the enemies that stand in your way.

Developed by Behemoth games (the same developers behind Alien Hominid), Castle Crashers is best enjoyed with a bunch of friends all competing with one another for the top score and different weapons.

Games like Streets of Rage and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time set the standard when it comes to these kinds of sidescrolling action titles.

Castle Crashers builds on this foundation expertly in order to provide players with a truly groundbreaking and thoroughly enjoyable experience from beginning to end.

There are over 25 characters to unlock and over 40 weapons to test out over both the base game and the several DLC.

Additionally, the arcade gameplay is not reserved for just hacking and slashing. There is a unique combo system and a magic system, both of which can have skill points allocated towards them in order to become more powerful.

Furthermore, those looking for a little bit of PVP can take to the arena to battle other players across the world, either in free-for-all or team matches.

When it comes to arcade beat-em-up gameplay, none do it better than Castle Crashers.

4. Sonic Mania

Genre:Action, Adventure, Casual
Developers:Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
Release Date:August 29, 2017
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Shared Screen PvP, Shared Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:5 hours

Sonic has had a rough ride over the years. It seems that, for every game like Sonic Generations, we receive fifty games like Sonic Boom, Sonic Unleashed, or Sonic Lost World.

Fans had been crying out for a return to form, but the developers at Sonic Team appeared more interested in pushing gimmicks.

Luckily, Sonic Mania is a game developed by Sonic fans for Sonic fans. Old-school levels are completely reimagined by this dedicated group of Sonic enthusiasts.

We have to give the devs at Sonic Team some credit for bringing on these major Sonic fans to develop their own game, but we can’t help but find it amusing that, what is essentially a fan game, is the best Sonic game of the past ten years.

Sonic Mania combines fast-paced 2D Sonic action that we all know and love but gives everything a fresh coat of paint.

The music has also been updated to feel more modern while still maintaining the same catchiness and charm of the original Sonic trilogy.

Hopefully, the huge positive praise Sonic Mania received will inspire the team at Sonic Team to listen to their fanbase more so in the future.

3. Cuphead

Genre:2D Platformer, Action, Adventure
Developers:Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc.
Release Date:September 29, 2017
Find at:Steam
Multiplayer:Shared Screen Co-op
Average Playtime:10 hours

There isn’t much to say about Cuphead that hasn’t been said already. The game is truly a masterpiece and one of the most unique platformers ever made.

Let’s start out with the first thing players will notice when playing Cuphead for the first time. The art style.

Cuphead’s art style is all hand-drawn, with each frame of animation being a unique drawing.

We can only imagine the time it took to construct the entire game, but the result is a beautifully timeless art style reminiscent of old-school Disney cartoons.

The gameplay of Cuphead is also incredibly tight and easy to control. Players can choose from a variety of different weapons with which they can take into battle against powerful bosses or sidescrolling sections.

While the run and gun parts of Cuphead are fun in their own way, the game shines when it comes time to take on a boss. Each boss has a unique design and interesting mechanics that switch up gameplay.

It isn’t too surprising that with gameplay as perfected as Cuphead’s, the game has a massive speedrunning community.

Recently, Cuphead released its final DLC, The Delicious Last Course. This DLC introduced a plethora of new bosses, including a super tough secret boss as well.

We also saw the introduction of a new playable character in Ms. Chalice. Ms. Chalice switches up the gameplay a lot from both Cuphead and Mugman, and her extra starting health is great for newer players struggling to beat some of the more challenging content.

All in all, Cuphead is a game that will go down in history for its great music, great gameplay, and great art style.

2. Celeste

Genre:2D Platformer, Adventure
Developers:Extremely OK Games, Ltd.
Release Date:Jan 25, 2018
Find at:Steam
Average Playtime:8 hours

Celeste is an incredibly unique platforming game with a far deeper and more thought-provoking plot than most platformers choose to adopt.

In this game, you will take control of a young girl names Madeline. You will need to climb to the top of Celeste Mountain, all the while confronting your inner demons.

As mentioned, a huge draw for Celeste is its unique story. The game can get very deep at times, and having such a powerful narrative behind the action truly gives weight to every action you take as the player.

This isn’t to say that story is the only thing going for Celeste by any means. Celeste has some of the tightest platforming action of any game in recent memory.

The controls of Celeste are deceptively simple. On the surface, you can only jump, dash and climb.

However, as the platforming challenges continue to increase in difficulty, it becomes important to master each of these basic mechanics in order to ensure constant progression.

You will likely die a lot on your journey to Celeste Mountain’s peak, but the super-fast respawn times make each death less of an annoyance.

Make sure to check it out if you love a little bit of story along with your action.

1. Hollow Knight

Genre:Metroidvania, Action, Adventure, 2D Platformer
Developers:Team Cherry
Release Date:February 24, 2017
Find at:Steam
Average Playtime:26 hours

In Hollow Knight, players will take control of the Knight and partake in an explorative quest across the plagues kingdom of Hallownest.

Hollow Knight’s main draw is its vast world sprawling with things to do. Like other Metroidvania games, you will spend the majority of your time running between rooms, backtracking to already visited locations, and taking out any enemies that stand in your way.

For this reason, these secluded hallways and locations must have plenty of things to do.

Hollow Knight does not disappoint in this regard as, around every corner, you are sure to come across a powerful boss to defeat or some kind of rare item to collect.

This isn’t to say that the gameplay is the only reason Hollow Knight is so successful by any means.

Hollow Knight has found widespread acclaim for having some of the best art and music design in recent memory.

Particularly, Hollow Knight’s music has been nominated and has won several video game soundtrack awards.

The sequel to the original Hollow Knight game, Hollow Knight: Silksong, is currently in development.

If Hollow Knight: Silksong is half as good as its predecessor, we are in for quite a treat. We highly recommend checking out Hollow Knight if you haven’t done so already.