Beautiful Pixel Art Games
Note: Since this post is about great-looking pixel art games it contains a lot of screenshots. Therefore, the webpage will have a higher file weight than usual.
This isn't something I've done before but recently I've actually been spending more time playing games.
Three games in a row that I've played have absolutely stunning pixel art, and good gameplay, so I thought I'd share!
Note that this isn't supposed to be a top 10 list type of thing nor are these new releases. This is just what I've played lately and I rarely get around to playing new releases promptly.
Another note is that I took all these screenshots in one sitting. Therefore all the shots are in close proximity of one another so don't display a full range of worlds or whatnot.
So here are three beautiful pixel art games that I've been playing:
As I said, not a new release - this one is actually a 2015 release, wow!
Let me tell you though the screenshots do not do it justice! I saw the screenshots and of course thought the pixel art was good. But once you get immersed in the game and see how everything comes to life, the clouds and sky constantly changing with the day and night cycle, the reflection of everything bouncing off the water - wow, it is a real masterpiece!
Kingdom is essentially a tower defense game, at least the strategy of it.
The mechanics though are nothing like a tower defense game but more like a side-scrolling adventure game.
You play as the king or queen and start with nothing but a bag of coins. You start a campfire, enlist a few bums (as I like to call them) by giving them a coin each, buy a couple tools, and you are on your way to starting your kingdom!
As the king/queen you need to protect your kingdom, but you don't actually engage in any combat yourself. You are quite defenseless on your own. In fact, the only action you take in the game is dropping a coin. Basically, spending your coins.
So what do you do?
Well, you get some builders to clear some forest so you can expand outward...
Build walls, towers, and other structures...
Because the forest at night is not a safe place...
And you must defend your Kingdom!
Okay, that was all a bit cryptic but the joy of this game, for me, was figuring it out as I went. They give you like 2 or 3 text instructions at the beginning to get you going but from then on out everything is pretty intuitive. There are definitely parts that aren't obvious - like "what does this do?" - but it is usually a fun sense of "let me try this and see what happens!"
I love the dichotomy of being such a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere during the day and the tense nervousness of waiting at night. Even when you feel pretty secure in your defenses you just never know what might come out of the darkness...
Here is Kingdom: Classic on Steam. I believe this one is actually free!
They have released new versions and DLC as well, which I think I have them all linked here:
- New Lands
- Two Crowns
This one is a throwback!
Actually, I believe we have a bit of Retrofuturism going on here, which I always love! As we have flying cars and advanced weapons but will retro styles and tech.
But I actually meant the playstyle and overall vibe. Not only do you notice the pixel art reminiscent of an old style, the styles depicted in the game are similar to futuristic 80s or 90s movies like Terminator, but also the play style gives a classic arcade game feel to it. It makes me think of playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game in the arcade. Not that it is really similar; that was my favorite arcade game as a kid and HUNTDOWN gives me strong nostalgia feelings!
All of the screens, interfaces, and menus are really artistically done in the same style. The above screenshot is the level select screen when you get in your car.
Which directly ties in as you arrive at each level in your car and jump out!
Each level you attempt to collect a bounty on a boss. Starting with a well-done but brief cut-scene or dialogue at the beginning. This adds a bit to the story and shows who you are after!
From then on out you are running-and-gunning Contra style!
Typically I don't normally like this kind of game but I think there are a few mechanics that make it more to my liking.
In the screenshot above you can see the protagonist ducking for cover and in the screenshot below you can see (by holding up on the controller) you can drop back into certain doorways or alleys to cover from fire.
There is also a slide and a dash which help you avoid gunfire, as opposed to only jumping like in some games.
For me, I think I need some of these moments to break from the action - take a breath, check how much health and ammo I have left, or just take some cover if there is a bullet frenzy a the moment!
A few other things I'll mention this game does really well...
The balance of weapons is great.
You have your default weapon with infinite ammo and can pick up one other weapon at a time.
The balance I speak of is that you can use the picked-up weapon without guilt as most of the time once you spend your ammo another weapon will likely show up!
Though, sometimes I do want to hold onto something, like a rocket launcher, and in that case use the default weapon, which isn't bad at all! In some other games I've played I have felt like certain parts or bosses are impossible to beat if you run out of ammo and only have your default pistol.
At first, I wished you could hold 3 weapons at a time, to make it easier to save one, but the simplicity of only having two and having one button to swap flows well in the gameplay.
Throughout the levels, you have plenty of things going on to mix things up. Normally I feel like these types of games get repetitive but this one doesn't feel that way.
The screenshot above, though it is the boss you will eventually fight, has parts of the level where he is shooting at you from a chopper as you progress.
Basically, this game has a bunch of mechanics or things going on that other games would reserve as a "boss fight."
The enemies are also kept fresh. Above is some kind of hoverboarding enemy that I came across for the first time. It has a swooping attack pattern that is unique from other enemies encountered already.
No more are the days of fighting the same old foot soldiers millions of times over. I think I only saw this hoverboarding enemy like 3 times in the level - just a lot of variety!
Then of course the boss battles!
Each level basically ends in a boss battle. The levels aren't too long either, so it seems like a significant part of the game is actually played in boss fights.
The balance is good here, too. Challenging but none have felt almost impossible, yet.
In other games my typical complaint is sometimes there are attacks from bosses that are nearly impossible to avoid damage from. For example, if the attack comes with no warning, or not enough warning to make it to cover or whatever safety is at the time.
In HUNTDOWN, I do usually die several times during boss fights, but I eventually pick up on the patterns and nothing seems unstoppable. When I finally beat them I feel accomplished, as opposed to, in other games, lucky.
And for those that like replayability or challenges, above is the completion screen.
There are 3 categories to get the stars, so-to-speak, on each level: number of kills, finding "stashes" which are hidden briefcases, and not dying.
I have never not died on a level, ha, and I'm playing the Normal difficulty. So plenty of challenges for people looking for that!
This has the vibes of a classic retro video game but they only took the good parts from that! The controls, mechanics, art - everything really - is really elevated in a new way!
Even the voice acting is great! Like from a cheesy 80s movie and lines during gameplay make me laugh at times...and I usually hate voice acting!
This is also a great game to play in small bursts of 30 minutes to an hour at a time!
Here is HUNTDOWN on Steam.
The last one is Star Regenagades and, oh my, this one is absolutely a visual masterpiece.
Note that they use a blend of pixel art and non-pixel art, as you can see from the title screen above. The pixel art alone is fantastic but the (non-pixel art) special effects that are used on top of the pixel art actually flow cohesively and make it even more stunning. So despite not always liking the blending of pixel and non-pixel art, this one is bagel approved for sure!
This game reminds me of Final Fantasy 7 so much!
If you didn't play FF7 when you were young and it first came out that might not mean anything to you, but the visual stunningness mixed with the new RPG battle system. Also, strategically customize your party.
Above and below are what battles look like.
The unique battle mechanic is based on the timing of the attacks. Each round, the opponents' attacks are placed on the timeline first. Your heroes have different options, like a light attack that goes early or a heavy attack that goes later.
So it isn't always just picking the same attacks over and over again. Hitting an opponent before they hit you is an important factor as the person who hits first gets a "crit" (critical), which not only will do more damage but can have other effects as well.
Some attacks can push an opponent's attacks backward on the timeline.
So you can kind of chain your attacks strategically. For example, one hero does a light/quick attack that pushes the opponent's attack back on the timeline. Another hero does a heavy attack, which now happens before the opponent's attack due to the pushback, and does much more damage since it crits.
You can also push an enemy's attack all the way off the timeline. This is called a "break" which means they don't get any action this round. A great strategy to go for to avoid damage, but sometimes the attacks that do this don't cause as much damage.
At the start of the game your heroes are chosen for you, due to the story, but later on, you can choose your party:
Just when I thought I started to tire of the game I got here, and also unlocked new characters, which motivated me to try new combinations of heroes and different strategies.
This is what the overworld looks like:
It is kind of an interesting system where you have 3 moves on the map. Then you camp and rest. Then on the 3rd day, the boss arrives and you face off with them!
There is some dialogue from time to time:
You will find treasure chests where you can choose one item from the three:
*Kind of when you think of the realistic aspect but much appreciated as not all items will be relevant to the strategy you are going for.
Once you collect enough DNA (long story) you can choose which here to level up:
But this game really shines in the special effects:
Which as you can see from above, screenshots don't capture well.
The two shots below, being a split second apart, capture it marginally better:
But really, you are just going to have to play it yourself!
Honestly, they do throw a ton at you when you start the game. The plot and overworld mechanics are a bit hard to follow at first. They give you text to explain all the battle mechanics. But once you work through those and get a few battles under your belt you are good to go for the duration of the game!
Like I said, visually stunning and reminds me of how stunned I was back at Final Fantasy 7 back in the day. If you are a fan of RPGs, definitely give this one a go!
Here is the link for Star Renegades on Steam.
These games good; look nice.