What are Modern Pixel Art Games: A Selected List of the Best
Terms such as retro game or pixel art are often misunderstood and confused as being the same. Retro games are not just arcade games with pixel graphics, although they do form a big part of the whole list. Any old game can be called a retro game, provided that the developers have stopped selling copies. The term can also be applied to old games if the original hardware that they were developed for is no longer available. Therefore, Pacman (1980) is just as much a retro game as Super Mario World (1990).
What is a Retro Pixel “Art” Game?
Retro pixel art was not as much about art as it was about a lack of technology! Retro games from the pixel era were games created with charming, pixelated graphics. A huge majority of famous retro games from the arcade era fall into this category. While those games remain endearing, nostalgic, and unique even today, the term pixel art is a new word and can only be applied to new games. To know more details about the history of arcade games, retro games or pixel art revival, visit this page on BitCade.
What is Modern Pixel Art?
Back in the late 70s and the early 80s, games like Galaxian and Defender had pixelated graphics because Namco and Williams Electronics did not have the technology to do much more than that. It’s a testament to their respective developers’ brilliance that such amazing arcade games were created with so little. Nevertheless, using blocky pixels was an obligation for them, rather than being an artistic choice.
When modern games are developed with pixelated graphics, it’s a matter of artistic choice, rather than an obligation. With games such as Resident Evil: Village and Far Cry 6 being available today, it would be suffice to say that choosing pixelated graphics style is truly a matter of conscious choice. It’s a conscious choice to not just pay homage to nostalgic retro masterpieces, but also to recreate the immersive experience which remains exclusive to retro arcade games even today.
Unfortunately, very few games have managed to merge modern gaming mechanics seamlessly with retro games or pixel art. Nevertheless, there are modern pixel art titles which have not only managed to recreate the arcade gaming experience, but they have also improved things in many ways. Up next, we are going to look at a very selective list of modern pixel art games which fit our lofty expectations!
Shovel Knight (2014)
The original Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, as well as all follow up expansions that Yacht Club Games have released are each worth paying full price for. Shovel Knight was one of the first and still remains one of the best examples of how to develop a modern pixel-art game. If you like action-platformers, retro games or pixel art, there is no way you can afford to miss this masterpiece.
It is shocking to see that so many arcade gamers have missed out on Huntdown by Easy Trigger Games. If you like classic arcade hits such as Cyber-Lip, Contra, Super Contra, Robocop, and other Metroidvania games, you will love Huntdown. Do not trust the publisher reviews, read the player reviews instead or just try it out for yourself.
It does not only use the pixelated graphics as an artistic choice, but the game also quite literally embodies the spirit of the 80s in hilarious and outstanding bosses, dialogue, and gameplay. Putting stereotypes through the gauntlet, Huntdown may very well be the greatest cyberpunk arcade shooter in pixel art ever created!
Blasphemous by The Games Kitchen is one of those rare pixel art games which does not only use the pixel graphics, but also integrates a few cleverly selected shortcomings of old arcade games for true immersion. This is not an easy Metroidvania game and if it reminds you a bit about the Dark Souls series, know that it’s intentional.
Blasphemous has a lore that’s as disturbing and deep as the title suggests, but that’s a good thing! The Games Kitchen has somehow managed to keep things original and true to its retro inspirations, despite resembling a 2D Dark Souls games in many ways. It would be appropriate to state that if you ever wanted to play a 2D Dark Souls game in a retro theme, this is the game you need!
For those wondering, Dead Cells was not included on this list because the roguelite action genre which it represents is not something that one can easily associate with arcade-style retro games. Nevertheless, Dead Cells is certainly one of the best pixelated, action-roguelite games released yet.