We’re getting picky with pixels; It’s time to check out the best pixel art games of 2022!
As a new video game developer working on a full game for the Game Boy (yes, a new game for the 33 year old console!), the most challenging part has been nailing the pixel art.
Yes, pixel art is small and simple. But do not let that fool you…
It takes a special talent to create tiny images with a limited amount of pixels and colors and still create beautiful art that is immediately recognizable.
I have spent the past two years researching pixel art and pixel artists endlessly… so I feel like I know a thing or two about the modern pixel art world.
But why stop at “a thing or two”? Let’s give you guys the 15 best pixel art games of 2022!
Seriously though… there are a ton of modern games that speak to the classic aesthetic that was born from necessity.
And many of us retro game fans are very excited by new games that look and feel like the games we fell in love with 20+ years ago.
Here are some amazing games that have captured that classic magical aesthetic:
15. Prodigal (2020)
As a perfect example of a classic throwback to the adventure genre on the Game Boy Color, Prodigal nails the visual style of some of our favorite games!
With its inspirations being Zelda and Pokemon, it is easy to see why this one might win us over.
But it is not just its inspirations that got us interested:
It is the incredible execution of pixel art, unique color palettes, and beautiful character designs that confirmed our suspicions that Prodigal is a game worth checking out.
If you love titles like Star Ocean: Blue Sphere or The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and have been craving a modern spin on that perfect formula… Prodigal just might be the game for you.
And we are very happy to include it on our list of best pixel art games.
14. Children of Morta (2019)
Dungeon-crawler, randomly-generated, rogue-likes… they are a dime a dozen nowadays.
I can probably name 100 off the top of my head. But I personally do not often find them enjoyable.
But there’s a reason the genre exploded in recent years… with classics like Diablo paving the way (check out my recent article 10 Best Games Like Diablo), it’s easy to see why we keep trying to recreate what we loved in those gaming experiences.
If you are gonna make a splash in the giant ocean of the dungeon-crawler genre, you had better come with something different. Something special.
And I can say from experience, that Children of Morta does that.
So where does Children of Morta shine? Well, it’s pixel art, of course!
Some of the most beautiful pixel art and animation in any recent game, and combining unique storytelling with its standard dungeon bits…
It is that story and pixel art to unlock that make it an experience worth exploring.
13. Backbone (2019)
Back bone is a really cool detective story told through the use of insane pixel art.
The game is only possible through modern game engines and high density screens, as the pixel art is much more detailed than what was even possible 20-30 years ago.
This work of art clearly took the love of classic pixel art and brought it into the new era in a well executed platforming and dialogue driven experience.
A really awesome gaming experience, and for any fan of pixel art, you absolutely must check this one out.
12. World of Horror (2019)
Not all pixel art is inspired by 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit gaming of the past.
How about some 1-bit gaming for ya? Sound fun?
Well sorry to disappoint you, but this one won’t be a lot of fun. It might give you nightmares though, so that’s cool, huh?
Combining elements of Japanese horror with Lovecraft inspired storytelling, all in a comic book meets point-and-click meets turn-based gaming experience.
It is one of those games that has a lot of things happening all at once, which can sometimes be a bad thing.
But in this case, we can say that it all contributes to the horror and confusion and immersion that is intended.
And of course, that art tho. So crispy (in its one bit style), so detailed, so disturbing. And we absolutely love it.
Not your traditional pixel art, but certainly art worth checking out nonetheless.
11. Toodee and Topdee (2021)
Toodee and Topdee is a really awesome game with an even more awesome concept:
Create a co-op experience with two lovable characters, one who is in a platforming world and one who is in a top-down world.
Toodee and Topdee allows players to swap dimensions at the press of a button to solve puzzles that will require Toodee (2d) and Topdee (top-down) to both make changes to the environment and progress through stages. Together.
It is a really clever mechanic, and all presented in very cute pixel art style.
A unique game that is not to be missed.
10. Noita (2020)
Besides being a really cool platforming game with exciting game play and a really great visual style, Noita is a special game for one specific reason:
Developer Nolla Games took one game mechanic and really pushed it to the limit: simulated pixels.
It is a difficult thing to describe technically, but basically what it breaks down to (breaks. ha) is that the environments are made of thousands and thousands of pixels that are destructible in a bunch of ways.
Whether you burn, melt, freeze, or just generally explode… the world is filled with exciting opportunities to change your environment and cause satisfying chaos.
It is where pixel art meets physics based simulator, resulting in a really enjoyable gaming experience.
Hard to ignore the creativity here, and we had to include it on our list of the best pixel art games of 2022.
9. Axiom Verge (2015)
Axiom Verge is a beautiful pixel art game that will surely remind you of everything gamers love about the Metroid franchise.
The game doesn’t shy away from its influences, but it also does so much more than what was possible in the 80s and 90s.
If you have 30 minutes to spare, we recommend you check out the Making Of Axiom Verge documentary for insight on what it’s like trying to achieve your dream as a game developer.
A beautiful game, with masterfully crafted pixel art, and heavily recommended for all reasons.
8. Enter the Gungeon (2016)
There are a ton of great retro inspired dungeon crawler / bullet-hell type games out there… but there is one clear king of retro ‘ungeon games: Enter the Gungeon.
A perfect looter, shooter, dungeon crawlin’, bullet hellin’ game, all in a perfect pixel art package that will remind you of games we all played in the 90s.
But with all of the modern effects to make the chaotic shooting feel that much more exciting and overwhelmingly cool.
If you’re a fan of bullets, loot, dungeons, retro awesomeness, and you somehow have not already snagged a copy of this game… do it now!
7. Hyper Light Drifter (2016)
Hyper Light Drifter is a heavily stylized pixel art exploration experience.
A game that focuses on aesthetic and exploration, and moves away from traditional dialogue-based storytelling…
Conversations are literally presented in the form of their own beautiful pixel art images.
The in-game environments and the cutscenes are equally as stunning, and will have you eager to progress to see what comes next.
It is a futuristic Zelda like world, where you are encouraged to find your own way through the interpretive storyline. And we are here for it!
6. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (2014)
Shovel Knight has become one of the most popular “new” retro games, and for good reason.
The game takes everything we love about retro platforming classics and brings it into the modern age.
When your references include Castlevania and Ducktales, and is presented in a beautifully crafted pixel art masterpiece… how can you go wrong?
Lucky for us gamers, “Treasure Trove” is a compilation of the full Shovel Knight saga (5 games) all in one convenient package.
No excuse to not be playing it!
5. Dwerve (2022)
If you have spent any time researching pixel art, than you likely have heard of Dwerve.
And all for one very good reason: One of its pixel artists, Peter Milko, is responsible for some of the best pixel art tutorials on Youtube.
Besides packing some of the best pixel art and animation in a recent game, Dwerve is also just a really interesting concept all together:
Combine rogue-like dungeon crawling with tower defense combat. It makes a lot of sense once you see it in practice.
A really cool twist to familiar elements we all love.
And, of course, the pixel art. Top of the line.
This one just came out last week, so please go show it some love! It is well deserved… dwerved… nevermind. Just play it, dude.
4. Inmost (2019)
Inmost is one of my favorite modern pixel art interpretations.
It’s doom and gloom, all presented in a classic pixel art style that surely will remind you of games from the late 80s and early 90s.
The art stays true to the retro style, while using a minimal amount of modern effects to give it something extra and takes it to the next level of atmosphere and immersion.
Inmost is truly a beautiful game, has some really great platforming, great animation, and is a perfect game to pick up if you want something that is inspired by retro.
3. Blasphemous (2019)
Blasphemous takes everything we love about Castlevania and Dark Souls and mash it together in a brutal and beautiful pixel art masterpiece.
Atmospheric and immersive, and its gloomy theme absolutely enveloping, Blasphemous will pull you in right from the start.
The pixel art is top of the line, and where the art really shines is in the incredible execution of its animation.
A great platforming experience for any fan of the genre, and will especially satisfy for fans of perfect pixel art.
An easy addition to any list of best pixel art games.
2. Octopath Traveler (2018)
Octopath Traveler is truly an amazing gaming experience. And one that I would say is very innovative in the modern retro game genre.
Developer Square Enix gives us a familiar top-down gaming experience in a classic pixel art style, but in an entirely new dimension. Literally.
Octopath Traveler (and subsequent titles like Project Triangle Strategy) combine the beloved pixel art style from classic JRPG titles of the late 80s and early 90s and somehow found a way to tastefully and beautifully make them 3d.
But not entirely 3d… we aren’t talking first person shooter 3d or Super Mario Galaxy 3d here…
The artists at Square Enix found a way to create a 3d world that has a lot of modern touches, while still feeling entirely retro and like you could be playing one of the 15 Best SNES RPGs from the 90s.
And with its unique storytelling theme of eight different characters, eight different possible paths through the game… the game also is perfect for replayability.
Octopath Traveler is truly a gaming classic that should not be missed.
So when we finally had the opportunity to include it on a RetroDodo list, you know we had to rank it pretty high.
Could have easily been number one, if it weren’t for one of my absolute favorite games of all time:
1. Eastward (2021)
I finally have the opportunity to share my immense love for the game Eastward.
I had initially seen preview content from Chinese game developer Pixpil in early 2020, and what I saw had me very excited.
Eastward is inspired by many of my favorite gaming franchises: Zelda, Secret of Mana, Mother. If that doesn’t already have you interested, we may not be on the same planet.
When the game finally saw its public release in September of 2021, to say that I was in love would be an understatement.
Pixpil crafted one of my favorite gaming experiences in recent years.
Combining great storytelling with a massive amount of character, and all crowned with some of the most beautiful pixel art I have ever seen. Ever.
There are literally hundreds of characters to discover in the game, each with their own cool design and dialogue.
Artist Tommo Zhou absolutely nailed the modern interpretation of classic pixel art.
With graphics that feel much like classic RPGs from the SNES era, while giving all of the tasteful modern touches that new game engines can offer, it is truly an immersive experience.
If you have followed me, my work, my instagram, my youtube.. then it should come as no surprise that I would give Eastward my number one spot when given a chance.
This game truly is a work of art. Something magical. An experience that all game lovers should have. And one that I wish I could play for the first time again.
Please, do yourself a favor… get this one.
Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.