Limbo is a game that I played way back in the day, but it left a lasting impression on my mind. It’s a game that my friend in college showed me one evening, and I was immediately hooked by the visual style.
Limbo had no lengthy cinematic cutscenes and it was essentially a 2D platformer. But with a weird nightmarish world that is almost completely devoid of light.
Recently, I was looking for games like Limbo. Not traditional puzzle platformers, but games that rely on the light-dark dynamic with a slight horror theme.
I made a list of 15 games like Limbo that you should definitely check out if you’re a fan of puzzle platformers. Without further ado, let’s begin.
1. Alberto and Otto
If you take a close look at this game, it seems very similar to Limbo. Another black and white 2D puzzle platformer with environmental hazards and horrifying monsters who want to rip your guts out. However, the color palette is switched around so now you’ve got white terrain.
And while Limbo was more about avoiding confrontation, this game provides you with tools to take on enemies directly. You have superpowers and gunplay; these provide you with various options to clear levels. There are two characters who work in tandem- Albert and Otto.
Both have their unique powers; Albert can shoot and leap while Otto the bunny can fit into small spaces. Otto can also activate power switches scattered across the environment.
Made by a studio based out of Istanbul, Monochroma was crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Thanks to its backers, we got one of the most interesting platformers of 2016.
In Limbo, you’re playing alone and taking the boy across a purgatory filled with nightmarish creatures. But in Monochroma, there are 2 characters.
You play as an older brother, carrying your powerless sibling on your back as you make your way across a dystopian post-war 1950’s landscape. There is no cinematic to explain the story.
Instead, the narrative is explained to you via gameplay. You get an understanding of what happened in this foreign monochromatic land as you solve puzzles.
Made by the same team that gave us Limbo, Inside improves upon every concept introduced by its predecessor. It too is an atmospheric horror platformer with a black and white color scheme.
But instead of being strictly 2D, Inside is 2.5D which means certain elements within the environment are 3D. On top of that, the visuals are much more detailed and you have a greater variety in level design.
You play as a kid who’s trapped inside a dreary, almost nightmarish world with traps and monsters scattered across each level. You don’t have any dialogue or text explaining what’s going on. There are no cutscenes either because every piece of narrative is explained via gameplay. Each puzzle is handcrafted and you can’t brute force your way through them.
4. Never Alone
It’s not just a game, but your window into the world of Native Alaskan tribes. Never Alone doesn’t have a particularly deep plot, but its gameplay is interspersed with small video interviews. These interviews feature Inupiaq elders, who give you clues as you progress through each level.
You play as a little native girl, trying to find the source of a blizzard. Gameplay is standard platforming stuff, but the controls feel stiff and unresponsive.
5. The Swapper
The Swapper is as much a game as it’s an exploration of the human psyche. With its brilliantly designed puzzles, this game continuously encourages you to push the limits of your creativity.
Visual storytelling is the main draw of this platformer as it doesn’t rely on lengthy cutscenes or text bubbles. Instead, you are supposed to explore and find answers all by yourself inside an abandoned space station.
You get a gun at the start of the game that lets you shoot out a clone of yourself, and you can also transfer your consciousness into it. This makes for endless possibilities as you sacrifice several bodies while making your way through traps that would otherwise kill you.
On top of these cloning mechanics, you also have to consider gravity, inertia, etc. while traversing obstacles.
6. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Hey, ever wondered what it would be like to control two brothers in co-op… except you’re playing both at the same time? Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons requires a controller, and that’s for good reason. You use one analog stick for each brother, so your hands are going to be quite busy.
Sometimes you require both characters to move in perfect tandem to solve puzzles. Other times, you’re up against bosses that require you to divert your attention between two different characters. And tying all of this together is an excellent story set in a fairy tale world.
7. Planet Alpha
In this game, you’re trapped on a bizarre alien planet filled with mystical flora and fauna. There are gigantic dinosaur-like creatures on the land and fishes the size of blue whales prowling the oceans.
There are platforming mechanics like jumping, ducking, running, etc. in this incredibly beautiful side scroller. The world of Planet Alpha is extremely colorful and vibrant, a stark contrast to Limbo’s black and white levels.
You also have a special ability- manipulating day/ night cycles whenever you wish. Certain mechanics are activated based on whether it’s day or night. Like plants whose leaves unfurl during the daytime, providing you with new platforms to jump on. Clumps of fungi grow out during the night to provide you with places where you can hide.
A young girl is going through some painful experiences in her life. Her dress is capable of granting her powers, controlled by her emotions. As she experiences new emotions by unlocking new parts of her story and learning more about herself, the dress will evolve with her.
So you navigate the world of GRIS using your dress to clear obstacles. Your dress lets you glide, break the terrain, dive, and do much more.
9. Little Nightmares
On the surface, this is simply another puzzle platformer. But as you dig deeper, you find out it’s much more like a sinister and extremely dark version of Hide and Seek. You are trapped in a secret ocean facility simply known as The Maw, filled with all sorts of nightmarish creatures.
Instant death is extremely common if you step into the wrong place. There are all sorts of ghoulish creatures out to get you, and you play a tiny character wearing a raincoat with no real offensive capabilities. All you have is stealth and intelligent platforming tricks. Oh, and there’s puzzle-solving too.
10. Another World
This one’s a blast from the past, the original was developed in 1991 for the Amiga computer system. An HD remaster has been released over 2 decades later, and it features modern animations with more detailed backgrounds.
But the core game remains the same: an action-adventure puzzle platformer set within a sci-fi universe. You play as Lester the physicist. Having been transported into an alien world via a space-time portal, you must find your way back home by solving intricately crafted puzzles.
11. Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty
Back in 1997, a game called Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was released for the PS1 which told the tale of an alien called Abe. He was forced to work in a meat processing plant that gradually eradicates entire populations of aliens by turning them into food. And his race was next on the line, which is why he had to escape from the facility and save as many fellow Mudokons as possible (Abe is part of the Mudokon race).
New ‘n’ Tasty is a remake built on a modern game engine with completely redesigned graphics that still carry the spirit of the original.
12. Year Walk
It is a story of one nameless person trying to recapture their lost lover within the setting of a Swedish folklore tale. In this ancient tale, people venture deep into the forests to get a glimpse of the future.
But within these forests lie frightening creatures and deadly traps. Year Walk is a simple platformer game with puzzles. But its atmosphere and soundtrack elevate an otherwise basic experience into something that you’ll remember for years.
13. Selma And The Wisp
Selma is a child trapped in a dark, eerie world that’s completely devoid of friends or hope. You play as a wisp, a ball of light acting as a shining beacon for this child. Guiding her through the darkness and saving her from the harsh environment is your objective.
You control both the girl and the wisp at the same time, they can move independently of each other. The game utilizes a mix of low-poly models and extremely smooth animation to create this weird effect of reading through a children’s storybook that has lots of pictures in it.
There is no high score to beat, no lives to lose. And if you go into Journey expecting a typical gaming experience, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, think of this as interactive visual storytelling.
By going on a journey you learn about the character and his world. You might also meet other journeymen along the way. Jumping and gliding your way across beautiful hand-crafted landscapes while a Grammy-nominated musical score plays in the background is the best way to describe this game.
A steampunk 2D platformer in which you play as an inventor called M. Arkwright. There are various levels in this game that contain all sorts of platforms, switches, levers, geared mechanisms, etc. that you must activate to get into the next stage.
You’ve got these creatures called Fluros littered around the place, they are sort of like the antagonists but not really. Fluros are mischievous instead of dangerous and can even be helpful in certain situations.
Fluros can be spawned by using liquid spray guns, and these little critters will activate any levers or switches that you can’t access personally.
What did you think of my list? All the games listed here carry some aspect of Limbo in their design, whether it be the aesthetic or the gameplay. For instance, Monochroma has a greyish-black color palette that’s reminiscent of Limbo.
Inside introduces a 2.5D environment with more complex obstacles and higher detail visuals. I guarantee you’ll have a good time playing any of the games listed here. Most of them can be found on offer for a couple of dollars on Steam or GOG.