Different video games have different art styles. One art style used in games is pixel art, which is reminiscent of old games.
Before the likes of HD graphics in games, older consoles such as the Super Nintendo Entertainment system had an abundance of pixel art games due to the system’s relatively weak processing power compared to current consoles.
As a result, pixel art has always been popular amongst gamers and holds a very fond place in many of their hearts due to nostalgic appeal. Many of their childhood games use pixel art graphics, bringing back fond memories.
Recently, the pixel art style has seen a renaissance within games. Certain games such as Shovel Knight and even the Pokémon games as of recent times have used Pixel art graphics. Many games use this kind of art style.
This article will outline the 13 best pixel art games, highlighting why some of the latest games are also the best in terms of pixel art graphics.
Best Pixel Art Games: Our Top Pick👌👌
- Shovel Knight
- The Pokémon Series
- Enter The Gungeon
- Cyber Shadow
- Octopath Traveller
- The Messenger
- Sonic Mania
Fez is an interesting 2D puzzle platformer that uses its pixel art design to improve game environments and puzzles. The game involves classic Mario-style platforming combined with often challenging 2D puzzles.
Some of these challenges offer considerable difficulty and add a great deal of depth to the game. Likewise, the game also features an excellent level design alongside beautiful background vistas such as rainforests.
The game, as mentioned, features puzzles and a lot of secrets to uncover; it does this by mixing 2D gameplay with 3D, making it the perfect environment for puzzle-solving, with the mechanics even contributing to its gameplay.
Fez was released in 2012 for the PS4 and PC and was well received by critics with a score of 88 and a decent user score.
2. Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is one of the most popular pixel art games and one of the more famous indie games in general.
Shovel Knight first released on the Nintendo 3DS and later the Nintendo Switch and follows a brave Knight who goes on a journey to save his Kingdom from evil.
The game consists of 2D platforming side-scrolling gameplay across multiple levels. The game takes inspiration from the likes of Mega Man, featuring several bosses spread out across the world’s 2D environment.
Shovel Knight is a brilliant game with perfectly executed gameplay, great combat, and music. The game has an 8bit and 16-bit soundtrack, and it is outstanding, making you feel like you are part of the action.
Likewise, it also gives you all the nostalgic feels you expect from a game of this calibre, taking you back to simpler times.
Furthermore, Shovel Knight is one of the best pixel art games, having terrific pixel art graphics that are top-notch, especially on the Nintendo 3DS, which encompasses 3D graphics and retro pixel art gameplay.
Overall, Shovel Knight is a fantastic game and reviewed well on Metacritic with scores in the 90’s from critics. Later the game got DLC installments, releasing on other consoles such as the PlayStation 4.
3. The Pokémon Series
Although the Pokémon series in recent years focuses more on 3D graphics and open-world gameplay, other titles released previously in the series featured pixel art graphics.
The games have featured pixel art graphics from the first Pokémon Red and Green up until Pokémon Black and White 2. Throughout each Pokémon generation, the games have improved in terms of pixel art quality.
Pokémon Red and Green was the first game in the series to use pixel art graphics, with the art style becoming iconic to the series. Gold and Silver, other game boy games and games later released on the Nintendo DS, improved these graphics adding greater graphical fidelity.
It is a shame that the series has started to move away from pixel art with more powerful consoles and increased demand for Pokémon games with HD graphics.
Nevertheless, with the release of the Diamond and Pearl remakes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the series may be going back to its pixel art style roots with chibi graphics. Thus, the franchise is starting to appeal to its pixel art roots.
The main series of Pokémon games were not the only ones to have pixel art with spin-off titles such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and even some of the Pokémon ranger games having pixel graphics. Thus, pixel art is deep in Pokémons DNA.
Tower fall is a 2D pixel art party game that features up to a four-player coop. The game involves a multiplayer showdown between up to four players using bows and arrows.
The game pits you against your competitors, with the last person standing as the winner. At your disposal, you have a vast range of arrows and items available to take out players.
The game features multiple maps, various playable characters, and fantastic music. The game also has great pixel art graphics, with the game having a 2D pixel art style that shines.
Tower fall is a great party game to play with friends and a fantastic way to annoy and antagonize your buddies. Towerfall is a relatively older game but is still a great pixel art game and one of the best pixel art games on the market.
You can play Towerfall on many platforms, such as the PlayStation 4. The game also features a single-player campaign that improves the game if you want to play independently.
When released in 2013, the game reviewed well, scoring a strong 87 from critics. Towerfall was later released on other consoles such as the Nintendo Switch.
5. Enter The Gungeon
Enter The Gungeon is one of the best pixel art games. The game is a hacker/slasher game that involves you making your way down a dungeon to find a gun that can destroy everything in the past.
The game is a roguelike, much like the famed hades, and has you hack and slash your way through enemies and bosses to reach the bottom of the Gungeon.
After the game’s release, Enter The Gungeon later got a sequel in the form of Exit the Gungeon, which again had players take control of the characters to help them escape the Gungeon. Both games are great and worth a pickup.
If you are a fan of roguelike hack and slash games or fans of games such as Hades. Enter the Gungeon is a great series to get stuck into and one of the best pixel art games out there.
The game featured great music and even better graphics with beautiful pixel art gameplay that makes it shine due to its polished look.
Although Enter the Gungeon or the Gungeon franchise is not a household name, the games are great additions to the roguelike genre. When released, the game scored an 89, and a user score in the 8s.
6. Cyber Shadow
Cyber Shadow is a side-scrolling platformer that takes players to the world of the Ninja. The game’s main protagonist wakes to find one day that everything he loved, including his Ninja clan, has been wiped out by evil robot-like creatures.
The game’s story takes players on a journey of epic proportions, with you trying to discover what happened and how to save humanity. The game is fairly new and is a great platformer similar to the old platforming games.
The game plays exactly how a game of the genre should, with the game being particularly difficult to master due to tricky control schemes and fast-paced action.
Thus, the game is very difficult and not for the faint-hearted, some levels are near impossible to complete, but this is what makes the game so great.
It is not afraid to be hard or push you to your limits. The consequence? A hard but rewarding game that makes you proud to have beaten it after the credits roll.
Similarly, the game is one of the best pixel art games. Although pixel art is not as prominent as other games, its artwork is still great, with the game’s artwork adapting to its fast-paced environment.
In many ways, the game is similar to Metroid and offers a considerable challenge, much like its inspiration; when released in 2022, the game scored in the low 80’s with critics loving the game.
When you think of the best pixel art games, few can compete with Terraria. Originally released in 2011, the game found a huge following due to being a reasonable 2D alternative to Minecraft’s 3D.
The game-like Minecraft is a 2D survival open-world game that has you build craft and survive your way through the world of Terraria.
The sky is the limit with Terraria’s crafting, with hundreds of unique options to craft and build. Similarly, the game features various dynamic landscapes alongside epic vistas.
Terraria is a great game and just as good as Minecraft. You can also play Terraria with friends giving you the ability to work with teammates in surviving the dangerous world of Terraria.
Although Terraria is not as popular as Minecraft, the game is just as good and features greater levels of survival and customization.
Similarly, the game looks great with an outstanding musical score and great pixel art graphics. The pixel art style of Terraria is full of nostalgia and makes the game stand out.
Similarly, the gameplay isn’t the easiest, with the game being very tricky at points due to enemies and challenging NPC’s. When the game was released in 2011, Terraria received a score in the low 80’s on Metacritic and a user score near the 8’s.
If you love survival games like Minecraft, this game is the game for you, with excellent survival gameplay alongside crisp graphics. Give Terraria a shot. It is more than worth your time.
Minecraft is one of the most popular pixel art games and survival games in general. Minecraft has to be on this list as one of the best pixel art games.
Minecraft took the world by storm when it was released all those years ago. The blocky survival nature of the game captured the hearts and minds of gamers across the globe due to its simple calming but often complex and elaborate gameplay.
At the time, there was simply nothing like it. The game had you use blocks to craft and survive in a world filled with enemies such as creepers and skeletons.
Minecraft opened up a whole new world of gameplay and helped make gaming popular on Youtube through lets plays. Thus, Minecraft is not just a gaming phenom but a cultural phenomenon.
Minecraft is also one of the best-selling games ever, selling millions of copies worldwide, reaching a huge global audience.
The game was first released on PC and later released on console, including the Nintendo Switch, with each version having unique skins and craftable items.
Similarly, the game also got a mobile port with Minecraft Pocket Edition, which consists of much of the same contents as its PC and console equivalents.
Likewise, the game has been adapted into different mediums and other games such as Minecraft Dungeons, a top-down roguelike action game that focuses on dungeon crawling.
Although not as popular and critically acclaimed as the Minecraft-based game, it is still a great Minecraft game and one of the best roguelike games.
Conclusively, Minecraft is one of the all-time great games and perhaps the best survival game of all time.
9. Octopath Traveller
The award for the weirdest video game name goes to the Octopath Traveller. Octopath Traveller is a roleplaying action-adventure game that takes players across eight different characters’ journeys.
Each character has a unique story allowing you to develop each character and build up their strength which you can use out of battle. The game is amazing in that it uses turn-based action gameplay and looks uniquely different from any other game.
Octopath Traveller has a distinct art style, mixing pixel art graphics with a 3D style background. It is a truly breathtaking game and one of the best-looking games currently on the Nintendo Switch.
Octopath Traveller features finely tuned turn-based gameplay and a brilliant musical score. Developers Square Enix tried to push themselves with Octopath Traveller, making for an excellent roleplaying game.
Overall, Octopath Traveller is a great game and, from a graphical standpoint, is one of the best pixel art games. It will be interesting to see whether the game’s visual fidelity will get copied with other games, in the series or outside of the series.
Octopath Traveller was reviewed very well when it was released in 2018, with an average critic score of 83 and a high user score.
If you like quirky games or simply want to try out something new, this game is the game for you. It is a brilliant little game and one of the best pixel art roleplaying games to date.
Celeste is one of the most critically acclaimed games ever. Celeste is a platformer action game that follows Madeline as she seeks to reach the top of Celeste mountain.
As she climbs, she is faced with her demons and many different unique trials and challenges. The game has a fantastic story, over 700 challenges, and even an increased difficulty mode.
Similarly, the game has great audio with a uniquely crafted soundtrack—all coming together to create a challenging but beautiful game. Likewise, alongside these features, the game also has simple and easy controls, and instant respawns.
From top to bottom, the game is an absolute delight to play. Celeste blends the perfect mix of challenging gameplay and nostalgic retro appeal in a challenging package that doesn’t make you pull your hair out.
Instead, Celeste is a relaxing game that is a masterclass in how to develop a platforming game. Thus, it is not surprising Celeste reviewed very well on Metacritic, with a score in the low 90s from critics and a high user score.
11. The Messenger
The Messenger is one of the best 2D platforming games ever. The Messenger is a unique side-scrolling action game that follows the journey of a ninja who must save the world from demons; to do so, they must deliver a message to save the world from disaster.
The game is one of the best platforming games on the market today, taking players across different unique environments, defeating countless enemies along the way.
The story of The Messenger is outstanding and one of the best in 2D platforming. Likewise, the music is mesmerizing, with a fantastic game score that makes you feel like you are actually saving the world.
Similarly, the game has great pixel art graphics and is stunning to look at. From a graphical point of view, The Messenger is one of the best pixel art games due to the sheer quality of pixel art. It is truly a beautiful game.
On the flip side, The Messenger is also brutally difficult and one of the hardest platforming games in gaming. The Messenger does not hold anything back and throws you straight into the deep end with fast-paced gameplay and razor-sharp platforming mechanics.
As a result, from a gameplay perspective, The Messenger is also one of the greatest platforming games. All in all, The Messenger was loved by critics, with scores ranging in the ’80s.
12. Sonic Mania
The Sonic franchise is one of the most popular video game series of all time. Throughout the years, the series has shifted away from its 2D sidescrolling roots towards 3D.
With the release of many titles, such as Sonic Forces being in full 3D. However, in 2017, SEGA released Sonic Mania, an original 2D sidescrolling Sonic game, similar to the first games in the series.
Sonic Mania celebrates past and future Sonic games, taking the series back to where it all began. The game features brand new sidescrolling 2D levels, new bosses, and familiar faces.
Sonic Mania keeps the same retro style feel of the original games and takes it up a notch with beautiful classic pixel art and crisp gameplay running at sixty frames per second.
Sonic Mania is the swan song to the original Sonic games and is by and large just as good as them. The game looks stunning and is one of the best pixel art games. Sonic Mania is a great game all around, with critic scores around the high 80’s to low 90’s.
Not only making it one of the best platformers but one of the best Sonic games of all time. Once again proving that Sega has not lost its touch when it comes down to platforming.
Overall, this article has highlighted the 12 best pixel art games. As shown in the article, the art style is present within classic games and much newer games, which indicates that pixel art is timeless and can improve the visual quality of games.
In a world where the video game industry is so concerned with updated graphics and high-end framerates, many forget that games started with their pixel art roots and are now—seeing a renaissance.
This article has also shown that many pixel art games are some of the best games of all time, meaning that even now, the nostalgia and genuine beauty of pixel art taps into our feelings of nostalgia.
Thus, we should embrace pixel art in our games; it is a unique art style and the best in the medium. Conclusively, pixel art makes most gamers feel at home, it is a comforting art style that adds a sense of familiarity to games.
It is likely in the future we get games that utilize pixel art in a whole new way, much like Octopath Traveller, due to the development of more powerful consoles and hardware.