For a while, side-scrolling games were cast out of the limelight in the world of video games. This is because side-scrolling games were the norm when the hardware required to push them wasn’t great. Once it was possible to have 3D games, side-scrollers were considered a thing of the past.

That phase did not last long. Soon, developers and players began to realize that both 2D and 3D side-scroller games have a lot of features that differentiate them from 3D games. This was evidenced by the constant popularity of franchises such as Super Mario and Sonic.

In the modern day, we have access to both contemporary side-scrollers experimenting with new ideas and games that are based on the classical formula. Once you add in the remasters and the reboots of the previously successful games, we have access to a lot of side-scrollers that are actually quite good.

Here, we have sifted through the side-scrollers currently available and created a list of the 20 best side-scrolling games for Xbox Series X / S.


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GenreDifficult, Cartoon, Co-op, 2D, Platformer
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
DeveloperStudio MDHR Entertainment Inc.
Release DateSeptember 29, 2017
Multiplayer?Yes, split screen

Cuphead is a modern game, but it is almost completely based on classical side-scrollers. It has an amazing campaign where you go from one boss to the other and try to defeat all of them. It was also on our list of the best single-player campaign games for Xbox.

Cuphead has received many accolades for both its gameplay and its difficulty. Some of the boss fights are extremely difficult to win against and will require multiple attempts.

The story is quite simple: You need to pay your debt back to the devil, and that requires you to defeat a lot of enemies. The artwork and the themes are all based on cartoons from the 1930s, leading to a truly unique experience that is not replicated by any other game.

While there is no multiplayer, all of the campaign can be played in co-op mode with one other player.


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GenreMultiplayer, Racing, Indie, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperDoubleDutch Games
Release DateApril 20, 2016

Side-scrollers have traditionally been known as single-player games. This is mainly due to the factors we mentioned in the introduction. Namely, side-scrollers were most popular during the olden days of gaming, and multiplayer wasn’t a huge thing back then.

Speedrunners goes against that ethos by offering a four-player multiplayer experience. Speedrunners has you playing as a superhero in a town full of them. As such, the superheroes actually need to compete against each other to get to the crime.

This leads to often hilarious situations as all of the characters are trying to slow each other down. Think of Speedrunners as a part platformer and part multiplayer combat. With both local and online multiplayer for up to four players, Speedrunners is a great game for playing with friends.

Dead Cells

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GenreAdventure, Roguelike, Metroidvania, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperMotion Twin
Release DateAugust 7, 2018

Dead Cells is a game that was on our list of the best action-adventure games for Xbox. The developers classify the game as a mix between Castlevania and Roguelikes. Although there isn’t a lot of storytelling that goes on in the game, the narrative does play an important part here.

Your goal is to discover what is happening on an island where an experiment has gone wrong. To do this, you will need to fight off endless enemies. There is permadeath in the game, but the fighting is luckily not so difficult as to make the game extremely challenging.

The game does its best to give players as many options as possible. This applies to both the paths that you can take within the game and the weapons at your disposal.

There are no checkpoints in the game, meaning that you need to defeat the final boss in one go or start from the beginning. The amount of skill that you need to have and build up as you play the game is immense, but it is all worth it once you get the hang of it.

The only negative aspect of the game is the lack of a co-op mode. Considering how fun the game is, it would be amazing if players could play it with a friend.


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GenreOpen World, Sandbox, Survival, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
Release DateMay 17, 2011

As a game that is built on the notions of survival (much like Minecraft), it is quite astounding that Terraria manages to be as fun as it is in a side-scrolling environment.

The purpose of the game is to explore various areas and survive. With over 400 enemies and 5000 items for you to pick up, there is enough content here for hundreds of hours. At its core, the game is a sandbox, allowing you to do whatever you want. As such, you can build, fight, or explore.

What’s more, it is possible to play the game with up to eight players in multiplayer mode. While Terraria does not have the same survival elements as a game like DayZ does, working together to build a city or find valuable items has been executed to perfection.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

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GenreBeautiful, Metroidvania, Action
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
DeveloperMoon Studios GmbH
Release DateMarch 11, 2020

Pretty much all of the games in the Ori series are loved almost unanimously. This is completely understandable once you look at the amount of work and thought that goes into each entry.

The action-platformer seems a bit tame from the aforementioned description, but what makes the game perfect is the hand-painted art style, the original music, and the general flow of the game. It is easy to become engrossed in the adventure and watch the time fly by as you slowly make the journey towards the end of the story.

Hollow Knight

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GenreMetroidvania, Souls-like, Platformer, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperTeam Cherry
Release DateFebruary 25, 2017

The next game on our list of the best side-scrolling games for Xbox is Hollow Knight. It is another game that has been acclaimed by almost everyone who has played it. Based on the modern concepts of the genre, you get to go through the game on your own terms.

Everything from the path you take to the skills and abilities you level up is on you. As such, you can carve your character according to your strengths. There are a total of 40 bosses that you need to beat in the game, and the content packs bring along a wealth of additional content.

Despite its single-player nature, Hollow Knight has a lot of content for someone who prefers to play games alone. Its quiet and calm nature despite the amount of combat involved makes it a perfect game for relaxing after a long day at work.


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Genre2.5D, Story Rich, Puzzle Platformer
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
Release DateJuly 8, 2016

The last few games on our list (apart from one exception) tend to go light on the story. We want to change that with INSIDE. Created by the same team that was behind LIMBO, Inside follows the story of a young boy.

Just like LIMBO, you wake up and have no idea what to do next. Only by going through the levels will you begin to discover what is going on. Just to be clear, there is a deep and dark tale that is interwoven into the gameplay.

The entire atmosphere of the game can only be described as creepy. However, this is not a horror game, and there are no jumpscares or anything of a similar sort. In fact, INSIDE is quite a relaxing game if you tend to enjoy the darker side of human beings.

Soulcalibur VI

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GenreFighting, Action, Arcade
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
DeveloperBANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc., Dimps Corporation
Release DateOctober 19, 2018

Let’s move on to the other side (no pun intended) of side-scrolling games with Soulcalibur VI. Soulcalibur is a fighting game series much like Tekken. The game has its own characters, its own lore, and its own style.

With the sixth edition of the game, the developers have revamped the combat system to make it more modern. There are a lot of new mechanics such as Reversal Edge that allows you to simultaneously block and counterattack.

There is also a new story mode, coupled with various game modes. Locally, the game can be played between two players, with the online mode going all the way up to eight.

Katana Zero

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GenrePixel, Action, Indie
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
Release DateApril 18, 2019

The main thing we love about Katana Zero is the instant-death combat. All it takes is one strike to finish off the enemy. This leads to high-intensity action that is rarely seen in side-scrolling games on Xbox.

The game borrows heavily from the earlier days of gaming, and it is evident in the extremely basic art direction. However, this is complemented by cinematic sequences that keep the narrative as the fundamental focus of the game.

While the ending cannot be changed, the way you get to it can. There are multiple ways through which players can complete each level. This adds a little bit of replayability to the game, as you can go back and experiment with individual levels to see what works and what doesn’t.

Touhou Luna Nights

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GenreMetroidvania, Bullet Hell, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperTeam Ladybug, WSS playground, Vaka Game Magazine
Release DateFebruary 26, 2019

Touhou Luna Nights is quite similar to a lot of the other games on this list. It is called a Metroidvania title by its developers. What that means is that the game is equal parts action and equal parts exploration.

The story plays an important role in the game, but what really sets the game apart from its competitors is its rich world full of exciting characters. The most exciting character is the one that you get to control.

As you move through the story, you discover more and more about your own character and the head vampire who has sent you to a strange world. The story unfolds in a slow and deliberate manner, but the gameplay is good enough that the slow pace of the game is not a problem.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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GenreMetroidvania, RPG, Action
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
Release DateJune 18, 2019

The next title on our list of the best Xbox side-scrolling game is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This is another Metroidvania title. However, it brings a lot more of the RPG elements to the game compared to others on this list.

You get to play the role of Miriam, a girl who is turning into crystal due to a curse by an Alchemist. As you try to escape the castle, you are fighting both for your survival and for that of the world.

Once again, the story unfolds in a slow manner with the gameplay forming the backbone of the game. The character development that you have access to adds a new layer of complexity to the game (in a good way).

The developers claim that Ritual of the Night combines all the best parts of the Metroidvania genre into a single game. While we won’t say that it is the best game in the genre, it does do a great job of bringing everything that players of the genre know to a single package.

Guacamelee! 2

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GenreMetroidvania, Adventure, Action
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperDrinkBox Studios
Release DateAugust 22, 2018
Multiplayer?Yes, split screen

Guacamelee! 2 is a side-scroller that does not take itself too seriously. While there is a coherent story with themes consistent with that of other titles in the genre, the combat is as funky as it can get. As the name suggests, you need to melee through your enemies, slamming and suplexing your way to the end.

The reason we really like Guacamelee as a franchise is its focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game. Not only can you play through the story, but you and your friends can also join the battle together. Most games in the genre are typically single-player only, giving Guacamelee! 2 an inherent advantage for co-op lovers.

Apart from the wrestling moves, there are also a lot of seriously difficult platforming elements in the game. Some of the levels require a lot of practice and skills to get right. To be honest, we are quite surprised that Guacamelee! 2 does not have a huge speedrunning community.

Rogue Legacy

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GenreRoguevania, Platformer, Indie
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperCellar Door Games
Release DateJune 28, 2013

Although there has been a sequel in the series since the release of Rogue Legacy, we just think the first game has a better handle on the concept of what the game was supposed to be.

You enter a procedurally generated castle that you have to clear without dying. However, you are reincarnated whenever you die with an offspring that is stronger than yours in some ways and weaker in others.

With 10 different classes and a ton of different enemy types, Rogue Legacy is not a game that will become boring for anyone who is a fan of the genre anytime soon.


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GenreFree-to-play, Multiplayer, Fighting
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperBlue Mammoth Games
Release DateOctober 17, 2017

Brawlhalla was one of the first games that took the Smash formula and tried to make it more accessible. It does a fine job of that, allowing new players to quickly become accustomed to the game. However, there is still a very high skill ceiling and it will take players a long time to master it.

The best part of the game is that it’s free. In the free version of the game, players get to choose from a small number of characters. The roster that is available rotates on a weekly basis. If the players want to consistently play with one character, then they will need to shell out some cash.

Considering the fact that the game has cross-play between Xbox, PS, PC, and mobile devices, there are always players for you to play against. With multiple game modes and no pay-to-win, it is a great free game to try and master.

Sonic Mania

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Genre2D, Platformer, Retro, Action
Where to Buy?Xbox Store or Amazon
DeveloperChristian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
Release DateAugust 30, 2017
Multiplayer?Yes, split screen

Sonic games have not really been made for the Xbox a lot, but Sonic Mania changes all that. The game has the art style and all the features of the classic Sonic games played on older consoles. However, this is a brand new Sonic adventure, meaning that those who have played the older games will find something new here.

It is possible to take on another player in competition mode, just like it has been in the older games. It is also possible for players to play the game together in a two-player co-op. Many of the older zones are back, but they have been changed to keep things fresh.

There is really no reason for us to go on here. Almost everyone knows what classic Sonic games were and this is exactly that.

Shovel Knight

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GenrePlatformer, Pixel, Retro, Indie
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperYacht Club Games
Release DateJune 27, 2014
Multiplayer?Yes, split screen

For the next game on our list of the best side-scrolling games for Xbox Series X and S, we are staying with the classics. Shovel Knight takes inspiration from 8-bit games that were popular back in the day.

There are multiple campaigns (some of which require the Treasure Trove version of the game), all with fantastic characters and memorable stories. The campaigns are all standalone. This means that you can sort of play four games within one package.

There is also a four-player battle mode for online play. On top of that, the campaign can be played in co-op mode with one other player. As long as you opt for the Treasure Trove version, there is a ton of content here, and it is highly doubtful that the game will become boring at any point.

Mayhem Brawler

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GenreAction, Indie, Beat ’em up, 2D
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperHero Concept
Release DateAugust 19, 2021
Multiplayer?Yes, split screen

The 90s were a great time for experimentation. In the video game industry, one of the genres that rose to popularity was Beat ’em up. These games usually had you play through a level where you had to smash and brawl your way to the end.

On your way, you would have to face a swarm of enemies, all of whom will be out to get you. Usually, there would be a final boss at the end that would be fairly hard to beat. Well, Mayhem Brawler brings all of that to the modern day.

In the game, you can easily find a lot of elements that harken back to the old days, but the game has a distinctly modern feel. You play as a cop who is allowed to use excessive force to bring all the bad guys to justice. What follows is a journey that can only be described by the title: Mayhem.

It is possible to play the game with up to three other players in co-op mode. The difficulty in the mode is scaled up since there are more of you to fight them, leading to a fun experience that requires a lot of teamwork.

Cyber Shadow

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GenreNinja, Retro, Pixel, 2D, Platformer
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperAarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker
Release DateJanuary 26, 2021

To be honest, there is nothing that separates Cyber Shadow from the rest of the pack. However, if you are looking for a nostalgic game that plays exactly like those older titles on the NES and SNES, Cyber Shadow is as close as you can get.

The plot has you play the role of Shadow. After an evil doctor has taken over the world, it is up to you to ensure the survival of your clan. As you get on the path to defeating the doctor, you will discover that there are hidden secrets in your clan’s past.

Cyber Shadow is equally about defeating the doctor and discovering all the ancient powers that your clan once had. There is no one to help you but a robot by the name of L-Gion. L-Gion will guide you on your quest, but it is ultimately up to you to get to the doctor and defeat him.


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GenreCasual, Adventure, Action, Story Rich
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperAtmos Games, Serenity Forge
Release DateMay 20, 2020

One thing that immediately stands out about Neversong is its art style. With brownish hues and orange lights, the game is fantastic to look at despite it being a side-scroller that does not use particularly detailed textures.

Set in a fantasy land known as the Neverwood, you play the role of Peet. After you wake up from a coma, everything seems different. Not only is your girlfriend missing, but almost everyone and everything around you is weird.

Thus begins your tale to discover exactly what happened to you before you were in a coma. Remembering almost nothing, you will need to guide Peet as he tries to make sense of everything that the grownups are doing and all of the strange things happening around him.

The Pedestrian

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GenrePuzzle, Platformer, Logic
Where to Buy?Xbox Store
DeveloperSkookum Arts
Release DateJanuary 30, 2020

The Pedestrian is the last game on our list of the best side-scrolling games for Xbox Series X / S. It is also perhaps the most unique game on this list. The first thing to know about it is that while it is a side-scroller, it is set in a 2.5D environment that only allows you to interact with it in a 2D manner.

As the name would suggest, you are a pedestrian. You can venture from street to street, but you cannot enter any of them. As you move horizontally through the city, you need to solve an intricate set of puzzles to advance through each level.

There isn’t a lot of story here. However, those who like puzzle games will find The Pedestrian to be one of the most detailed and thrilling titles out there.