Platform fighting games are a weird and wonderful thing. While many of us associate them with Super Smash Bros and may even think of the 1999 N64 game as the origin of the genre, there’s actually more to it. So here we explain the nature of platform fighting games, and give you a bunch of our favorites to dive on into and jump around in.
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What Is A Platform Fighting Game?
A platform fighter is a sub-genre of fighting game, usually taking place on a single screen that resembles a 2D platformer stage or arena. Many platform fighting games, like Smash Bros and Brawlhalla, involve trying to knock your opponent off the screen, but there are variants of this formula where you (and usually up to 3 other players) are simply trying to take each other out in an arena filled with obstacles.
Due to the systems being so different, platform fighting games usually aren’t as combo-centric and don’t tend to involve as many complex inputs as a traditional fighting game.
Platform fighters are often viewed as a more casual alternative to traditional fighters, but make no mistake – technical play is very real in these games, especially in competitive play.
1. Super Smash Flash 2
PC players who don’t quite think that a Nintendo Switch is worth buying just to play the latest Smash Bros may have to settle for the next best thing, but when the next best thing is this good (and absolutely free), who are they to complain?
Super Smash Flash 2 is a pixel-based Flash version of Super Smash Bros, with its own rather excellent art style and gameplay flow. Obviously, Flash is now deprecated on most browsers, so the game is now downloadable instead (and is still in development).
It has dozens of beloved characters, replicates the official game’s move sets, and looks absolutely great in a 16-bit style that the main games never had. It even has an online community too, and the best way to get involved is by joining the McLeod Gaming Discord (dedicated to all the games made by that developer).
On a sidenote, McLeod Gaming has successfully kickstarted its very own platforming fighting game, Fraymakers, which should come out on Steam in August 2022.
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
The best-selling platform fighter of all time now has tons of well-balanced characters joining the usual Nintendo roster. Characters like Ryu from Street Fighter and Terry from Fatal Fury make an appearance as DLC, as does campy fighting queen Bayonetta and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. The roster size and polish of Smash Bros. Ultimate compared to its competition is incomparable.
In addition to a huge roster, you also have a very wide selection of music and stages. This game has 103 stages and a dozen songs per stage, making it the most varied platform fighter on the market.
However, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate arguably has the worst online play. You’d think with that big budget and all that content, they’d make their game work well online, but not so here. You can alleviate online issues by ensuring the people you’re playing with are using ethernet cables, but this doesn’t save you from experiencing one-bar Wi-Fi players in ranked.
As a little bonus for PC players, check out Super Smash Flash
Platforms: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
A little bit different from the other entries on this list, TowerFall is a beloved indie game that doesn’t follow the Smash Bros template, but still involves taking on your friends in a dangerous platform-filled arena.
This 2D platform fighter involves shooting your friends with arrows, with plenty of twists. The arena wraps around between left and right and top and bottom, so you can take people out by shooting off an edge of the screen. Your arrows are limited, so you need to pick them up once you run out (or steal them off enemies), and in classic platformer fashion, you can even kill your enemies by jumping on them.
TowerFall shines through its extremely simple control scheme which doesn’t require you to memorise any combos, but still has a vast learning curve as you master the dodge move and learn to exploit the arenas to your advantage.
4. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
This recently released platform brawler from Nickelodeon has a bold ambition: to prise players away from Smash Bros and pull them into the cartoon worlds of the famous kids’ TV channel. Featuring 20 characters from 13 Nickelodeon series, you can expect to see the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, CatDog, Reptar from Rugrats and the legendary Ren & Stimpy.
Does it succeed in its ambition? Not quite, but it’s still a fun and competent alternative that has a lot more depth than you might expect. The art style of the characters is really nice too, even if some of the backgrounds are a little lacking in substance.
This is the first game in the Nickelodeon Super Brawl series that’s designed as a full-on console game, and some of that inexperience is tangible. But it’s a really solid first effort, and the fact it’s multi-platform makes it a viable Smash Bros alternative.
5. Rivals of Aether: Definitive Edition
Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series consoles
Rivals of Aether is one of the first popular non-Smash platform fighters, and with the recent Definitive Edition update, you don’t need to worry about buying the two guest characters anymore. Add robust Steam Workshop support for custom characters and stages, and you can get a surprisingly packed platform fighting experience here.
Rivals of Aether sets itself apart in gameplay in a few key ways from Smash Bros. Since it’s a 2D game, for one, all hitbox calculations are done on a two-dimensional plane. Additionally, the mechanics of ledge-grabbing and shielding are gone entirely, replaced with a universal wall-jump and parry.
Unlike Smash, Rivals includes detailed tutorials for advanced platform fighter movement mechanics – like wavedashing, which was only in Melee for Smash players. It’s an openly competitively-oriented experience, and if you enjoy that in a game, Rivals has a decently active scene to immerse yourself in.
6. Rushdown Revolt
At the time of writing, Rushdown Revolt is actually in an Alpha, but it’s still in astonishingly good shape. Originally, Rushdown Revolt was a different game entirely, called “Icons: Combat Arena” – a game which, while great, fell under the weight of its own extremely greedy F2P business model. Since that team disbanded, a few people bought the assets and property and released Icons: Legacy Edition on Steam, which removed lag from offline play and unlocked all content developed at the time.
Rushdown Revolt has since gone in a completely different direction, in an even faster and more technically-rich direction. Rushdown Revolt is among the most combo-heavy and speedy platform fighters there is. Unlike the Smash series, it also has a superb implementation of rollback netcode, which allows for games with less lag played at farther distances.
7. Slap City
Platforms: PC, Switch release planned
Slap City is a more relaxed, silly, small-scale take on the Smash Bros. formula. While it only has 8 characters, it maximizes the playstyle variety and content on offer for those characters. Every character has their own unique platforming campaign, for instance. While Smash Ultimate does have custom routes and a rare few custom bosses for characters’ Classic Mode runs, this is a good bit more in-depth than that, and especially more in-depth than Wii U or Brawl’s idea of per-character content.
Platforms: Android, iOS, Switch, PC, PS4 consoles, PS5 consoles, Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series consoles
Last but not least is Brawlhalla, the only free-to-play game on this list at the time of writing. This is one of the only platform fighters with a roster that even comes close to competing with Smash’s and features a number of crossovers from across the gaming industry, including the TMNT and Rayman. It even uses rollback netcode, which yes, means it still has significantly better online than Smash Bros. Ultimate.
It’s hard to recommend against this one. It doesn’t really stick out mechanically, but it does offer a ton of different characters at a level of variety that only Nintendo seems to be able to meet or exceed. That and it’s free and cross-platform compatible with, like, everything. If any of that sounds interesting to you, you should try it.
The above are some of the best platform fighting games for 2022. You might also want to keep a lookout for the best games on Nintendo Switch Online. Or how about our rundown of old-school games most deserving of a modern remake?
Image credit: Toxic_Hunt3r on SteamGridDB