The phrase “Nintendo-hard” might be something you haven’t used in a while, not since the days of Mega Man’s original NES outings or Castlevania’s earlier, brutal installments. But Celeste, from MattMakesGames, resurrected this phrase and added new meaning when it launched earlier this year.
It’s a retro-style, pixel-art platformer following a young girl (named Madeline, not Celeste) as she climbs the imposing mountain (which is called Celeste) and tries to face her dark side in the process. It’s a compelling story for sure, but the real attraction here is the gameplay. Celeste features hundreds of rooms to work your way through, each with its own theme, requiring a mix of raw platforming, Madeline’s power-ups, and taking advantage of the environment.
It’s incredibly difficult at times, make no mistake, but the difficulty stems from clever level design more than artificial gimmicks, and the satisfaction you get upon completing a particularly challenging puzzle can’t be measured. For the truly daring, the game also features additional challenges, such as extra puzzles and collectibles forcing an extra layer of strategy out of you beyond just clearing the room.
Because of the challenge, this one is probably best for the 10-12 range, unless you know your younger child can handle (or would benefit from) the perseverance and critical thinking required.