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Top Picks for Pixel Art Enthusiasts: Must-Play Games! (August 2023)

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Pixel Art Must Play Games

The timeless charm of 8-bit and 16-bit pixel art continues to captivate players even in modern times. While some contemporary pixel art games evoke nostalgia with their retro style, others explore fresh and innovative aesthetics. These pixel games consistently demonstrate that photorealistic graphics are not a prerequisite for effectively conveying messages, stories, atmospheres, and emotions.

Though pixel art was a defining element of early video games, its influence remains strong in recent game creations. Below, we’ll explore some of the best modern pixel games that any enthusiast of this art style should experience.

Please note that this list will focus on newer games, omitting classic titles like Chrono Trigger, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Street Fighter, and most GBA games, which are undeniably masterpieces with their beautiful pixel art.

The list is updated every month!

Dave The Diver

Dave The Diver  fishing

Having made remarkable progress during its early access phase, Dave the Diver has evolved into a fully immersive experience that stands tall among the best games of 2023, a year filled with remarkable AAA and indie releases. Drawing inspiration from popular genres and projects, Dave the Diver ingeniously blends its elements to serve a delectable and distinctive gaming feast. The protagonist, Dave, must ensure his sushi restaurant stays stocked with an array of delectable fish, prompting him to embark on explorations in the waters of the Blue Hole to find new additions for his menu.

The game is divided into two engaging parts: restaurant management and deep-sea exploration. The former offers a surprisingly deep simulation with a rewarding sense of progression, while the latter promises a plethora of surprises and challenges. Each component possesses enough strength to stand alone, but together they forge a project of unparalleled quality, setting Dave the Diver apart as an exceptional and truly unique gaming experience.

Cassette Beasts

Cassette Beasts

Monster-collecting RPGs may seem hard to come by, primarily because one name dominates the subgenre: Pokemon. Game Freak’s long-standing franchise has not only delivered fantastic titles but also served as inspiration for other developers. Bytten, a notable company, has embraced this influence and created Cassette Beasts, one of the most refreshing and modern takes on the monster-taming formula. With its endearing and intricately detailed pixel art reminiscent of the Nintendo DS era, this RPG presents a well-realized open-world island setting, albeit viewed from an isometric angle.

Setting itself apart, Cassette Beasts establishes its unique identity through a mystery-laden plot where NPCs are gradually unraveling their situation. The turn-based combat system stands out from the crowd by incorporating a distinct twist while remaining accessible to players. The protagonist and their allies can transform into beasts they’ve recorded in their cassette players, and the human characters experience leveling up rather than the monsters (which have their own progression system). These mechanics are just a glimpse of the innovative ideas that Cassette Beasts brings to the table.

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Warhammer 40K has a rich history in video games, but it’s not widely recognized for its first-person shooter titles. Attempting to change that narrative, Boltgun offers a budget-friendly option that pays homage to classic ’90s shooters. While the game openly wears its inspirations, the risk of feeling overdone looms due to the abundance of Doom and Blood throwbacks in recent years. Despite not being the pinnacle of modern retro shooters, Boltgun remains an absolute joy to play.

In Boltgun, players step into the role of a Space Marine assigned to missions with a straightforward objective: “eliminate everything in sight with style.” Storytelling takes a backseat, and the game focuses on immersing players directly into intense action for extended periods. The seamless movement and empowering weaponry perfectly align with the protagonist’s capabilities. Although the narrative may be sparse, Boltgun compensates through its meticulously crafted environmental design.

Fraymakers

Fraymakers

For players who enjoy games such as Rivals of Aether, Brawlhalla, and Super Smash Bros., Fraymakers will feel like a welcoming home. This recently released game boasts a colorful and zany cast of characters, all beautifully crafted in a delightful pixelated style. The art is both vibrant and detailed, evoking a retro charm with its pixelated edges. At the moment, the roster may be small, featuring only six characters, but the developers have exciting plans to expand it further through the Early Access roadmap.

Fans of the game can anticipate encountering some familiar faces among the characters, including Octodad as a playable fighter, The Watcher from Slay the Spire, a Crewmate from Among Us as an assist character, Niko from One Shot as another assist character, and many more delightful surprises.

Triangle Strategy

Triangle Strategy

In 2022, Square Enix has introduced several new IPs, but Triangle Strategy stands out as one of the publisher’s most compelling releases of the year. This turn-based tactics game draws inspiration from beloved classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and weaves a mature narrative centered around a war sparked by a critical resource shortage. The game boasts a dense and thematically rich storyline, brimming with well-developed characters.

Gameplay-wise, Triangle Strategy skillfully combines elements from genre classics while carving its own unique style and identity. However, the real standout is the awe-inspiring pixel graphics employed in the game. Despite not having the same budget as some mainstream Square Enix RPGs, Triangle Strategy delivers highly detailed character models and stunning locations. Its pixel art sets a standard that few other releases can match.

Potion Permit

Potion Permit

While modern consoles abound with life simulation games, Potion Permit sets itself apart by centering around medicine rather than farming. Players assume the role of a chemist dispatched to a village that is initially unwelcoming to outsiders. To gain the trust of the villagers, players must put in extra effort, completing quests, crafting potions for various ailments, exploring outside the village for resources, and building friendships.

Potion Permit provides an enjoyable life simulation experience without posing significant challenges, which is fitting for the genre. Visually, the game’s pixel art style exudes warmth, intricate details, and liveliness. Each area on the map possesses a unique charm, and this attention to detail extends to the NPCs and adversaries, creating a vibrant and engaging world.

Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors  The Vandalier

While Vampire Survivors may not boast the most visually stunning pixel art in the market, it compensates brilliantly with its engaging gameplay and high replayability. Despite its simplistic appearance, the game captivates players as they choose their character and confront waves of enemies. These encounters offer rewarding loot, unlocking new items, and survivors for future playthroughs.

Remarkably, even amidst chaos and destruction on the screen, Vampire Survivors maintains a balanced challenge, rarely becoming frustratingly overwhelming. Each death only fuels the desire to restart and try again. Moreover, the combat system reveals deceptive depth, with each character demanding considerable time investment to truly master their unique abilities.

Octopath Traveler 2

Octopath Traveler 2

In 2018, Square Enix introduced Octopath Traveler, a delightful homage to classic turn-based JRPGs with a unique twist. The game revolves around eight protagonists, each embarking on their separate adventures. While they do join each other’s journeys as party members and interact, their stories remain independent and self-contained. Building upon this successful formula, Octopath Traveler 2 maintains the core essence but introduces some alterations. Once again, players are presented with eight playable characters, each serving as the main character of their own captivating storyline. This time, players have the freedom to choose which character to begin their journey with.

While the game’s structure may not appeal to everyone, Octopath Traveler undeniably delivers a polished gaming experience, both visually and mechanically. The turn-based combat retains its classic roots while integrating modern elements, striking a perfect balance. Moreover, the game’s stunning pixel art is nothing short of breathtaking, capturing the essence of nostalgic beauty while embracing contemporary standards.

Unpacking

Unpacking  Game Bedroom

Moving to a new place is rarely a relaxing or enjoyable experience, as anyone familiar with the process can attest. Even if the destination is an upgrade, the act of moving remains stressful, time-consuming, and frustrating. However, Unpacking manages to transform this headache into a therapeutic journey, offering a game with a subtle yet profound emotional core.

In each of the campaign’s eight levels, players engage in the meditative task of unpacking the protagonist’s boxes, setting up their new life. This seemingly simple activity gradually reveals deep insights into the character’s life, personality, struggles, and aspirations. Unpacking is an acquired taste, but it stands out as one of the finest pixel games of recent years, offering a unique and touching gaming experience.

Bonfire Peaks

Bonfire Peaks Game Campfire

Bonfire Peaks is a captivating puzzle game that takes players on a journey through a forest, where the goal is to guide the character in burning boxes of their belongings. Amidst the simultaneously beautiful and foreboding setting, players will encounter puzzles that increase in complexity as new mechanics are introduced, demanding flexible thinking to overcome them.

The game’s puzzles are far from obvious, and players may find themselves challenged to the point of considering them indecipherable if their train of thought veers down the wrong path. However, this element of challenge adds to the rewarding experience. Bonfire Peaks is an absolute must-play for fans of both puzzle games and pixel art, offering an engaging and captivating adventure that will test and thrill the minds of players.

Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter Game

Hyper Light Drifter is a visually captivating game, boasting a mesmerizing 16-bit art style and a vibrant color palette. The protagonist, known as the Drifter, battles a tormenting illness, and embarks on a quest to find a cure by exploring the enigmatic lands of Buried Time. What’s remarkable about this game is that it communicates its narrative without the use of words; instead, the pixel art and the beautifully crafted environment allow players to interpret the story in their own way.

Encouraging exploration, Hyper Light Drifter invites players to delve into its exquisitely designed world, brimming with secrets and multiple paths to uncover. The combat mechanics are easy to grasp initially, but mastering them takes time and skill. Engaging in heart-pounding battles against enemy hordes and challenging bosses delivers a gratifying sense of accomplishment. Hyper Light Drifter is a game that not only captivates visually but also immerses players in a deeply rewarding and immersive gaming experience.

Eastward

Eastward Game

Eastward, developed by Pixpil, is an impressive indie game that leads players on an immersive journey through a beautifully detailed world. The story revolves around John, a mute yet robust man, and Sam, a lively and enthusiastic young girl. Hailing from an underground community, they venture into the outside world only to discover that everything they once believed may not be entirely accurate. With a captivating narrative, excellent writing, stunning visuals, and memorable side characters, Eastward proves to be a hauntingly delightful experience.

The gameplay, while not revolutionary, serves its purpose well and complements the game’s pixel art style. Importantly, it does not overshadow the story, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the captivating tale. Eastward stands as a testament to the power of indie games, offering a mesmerizing and emotionally engaging adventure that will leave a lasting impact on players.

Unsighted

Unsighted Game

Unsighted is an action RPG that places significant emphasis on exploration, weaving a compelling narrative centered around war and androids. The story follows Alma, the protagonist, who awakens with no memories, a looming countdown to her demise, and a mission to retrieve five crucial items. With the stage set, players are free to leisurely explore Arcadia, a desolate city, at their own pace.

The game’s pixel art is a breathtaking sight to behold. Studio Pixel Punk masterfully utilizes the simplicity of the art style to create a haunting world that captivates players. Moreover, the combat mechanics offer an enjoyable experience, especially once players become familiar with the parry system, adding an extra layer of depth and satisfaction to the battles. Unsighted is a standout title that seamlessly blends immersive exploration, a gripping narrative, and engaging combat, making it a must-play for fans of action RPGs and pixel art alike.

Terraria

Terraria Game Jungle Biome

Despite being released in 2011, Terraria remains one of the most ambitious and exceptional indie pixel games of all time. As a sandbox adventure, Terraria empowers players to explore and interact with a vast and impressive world in their unique ways.

The game’s pixel art, though not the prettiest on the market, is still delightful, colorful, and benefits from the sheer variety offered within its expansive world. While there may be more visually stunning pixel games available, few can surpass the overall experience and brilliance of Re-Logic’s Terraria. Its enduring appeal and boundless creativity have solidified its place as a timeless classic among indie gaming gems.

A Space For The Unbound

A Space For The Unbound Game Cats

Set in Indonesia, A Space for the Unbound is a captivating indie title that follows a teenager navigating life in what appears to be an ordinary town. However, both the in-universe reality and the game itself hold surprising and mysterious elements. Initially billed as a slice-of-life experience, the game opens with a relaxed tone, but it gradually takes unexpected turns, delving into challenging themes such as depression.

Aesthetically, Mojiken Studio’s creation stands as an early contender for the most beautiful pixel art game of 2023. A Space for the Unbound impresses with its outstanding character designs and breathtaking landscapes. Throughout the story, there are numerous visually stunning moments that leave players in awe. The game’s immersive and emotionally engaging journey, coupled with its stunning pixel art, make it a standout title that should not be missed by fans of indie games and thought-provoking narratives.

Kingdom Two Crowns

Kingdom Two Crowns Game

Raw Fury’s Kingdom series has consistently delivered exceptional games, with New Lands likely being many people’s first introduction to the franchise. However, Two Crowns stands out as arguably the best installment in the series, though that might change with the anticipated release of Kingdom Eighties in 2023. The game breaks barriers by combining the 2D side-scrolling and strategy genres, proving that any trepidation about such a fusion is misplaced.

In Two Crowns, players step into the shoes of a ruler traversing a desolate land, endeavoring to rebuild and prosper from the ruins. This involves investing in infrastructure and the people to breathe life into the kingdom. Additionally, the game incorporates tower defense elements, as villages and buildings face nighttime attacks, prompting players to invest in protection to ensure their survival.

Furthermore, Two Crowns embraces cooperative play, enabling two rulers to explore different regions of the map and collaborate separately to create a better world together. Like all the Kingdom games, Two Crowns showcases exquisite pixel art, solidifying its place as one of the finest pixel art games from a technical standpoint. With its engaging gameplay, strategic depth, and stunning aesthetics, Two Crowns truly shines as an outstanding addition to the Kingdom series.

Moonlighter

Moonlighter Game

Moonlighter offers players a unique experience by effectively blending two distinct games into one. This roguelike RPG revolves around a shopkeeper named Will, who aspires to be a hero in the village of Rynoka. Through portals in his town that lead to different realms, Will gets a chance to showcase his bravery.

The game is divided into two interconnected parts. During the day, players take on the role of the protagonist managing their shop, interacting with villagers, fulfilling special requests, and crafting new items. They can set prices for their merchandise and engage with customers to maximize profits. However, when night falls, it’s time to venture into dungeons armed with weapons to battle enemies and collect valuable loot. The game seamlessly cycles between the shop management and the dungeon exploration.

Furthermore, other aspects of Rynoka prove beneficial as well. Players can use their earnings to visit local shops and upgrade their weapons to better suit their play style. Moonlighter’s captivating combination of shop management and thrilling dungeon exploration delivers an engaging and enjoyable gaming experience that keeps players hooked throughout their heroic and entrepreneurial journey.

Dead Cells

Dead Cells Game

Dead Cells has garnered significant popularity as a Metroidvania-style game, showcasing eye-catching animation that captivates players. Its super-addictive rogue-like structure provides a challenging experience with permadeath, where much of the progress is lost upon death. This fast-paced nature keeps players’ hearts pounding, fueled by the fear of permadeath and unrelenting adversaries, resulting in an incredibly thrilling gameplay experience.

The main objective is to carefully navigate and escape the castle while successfully completing each dungeon. However, Dead Cells is not entirely unforgiving, as players earn permanent upgrades that aid them on their arduous journey. The game’s nonlinear progression offers different paths to reach the destination, allowing players to tailor their approach according to their play style.

With its enticing blend of challenge, skill-based combat, and strategic decision-making, Dead Cells stands out as an exhilarating adventure that continually pushes players to improve and conquer the treacherous castle.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley  Game

Stardew Valley has rightfully earned its place as one of the most beloved pixel art games of all time. This enchanting RPG revolves around the goal of building a farm and restoring the picturesque Stardew Valley. Players are immersed in a delightful array of activities, from growing crops, tending to animals, cooking delectable meals, and indulging in the art of fishing (which proves profitable even in other titles like Red Dead Online). The pixel art style enhances the charm of living a wholesome farm life.

Moreover, the main character has the opportunity to interact with NPCs, fostering relationships and even starting a family, creating an enriching experience of living in a pixelated world. Completing bundles for currency or resources is an engaging endeavor, and the only concern is managing exhaustion, which affects earnings.

Furthermore, the game’s multiplayer feature allows players to enjoy the farm life together, collaborating to build a shared farm and pooling resources, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to this delightful pixelated world. Stardew Valley’s endearing charm, depth of gameplay, and the sense of community it fosters have made it a truly timeless gem in the world of pixel art games.

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