Pixel art is one of the most common visual styles around. It makes sense that there would be too many stand-out games that utilize it for one measly list. And so, we find ourselves here. Here’s five more pixel art games absolutely worth your time, money, and attention.
1. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Up until the incredibly recent Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was head and shoulders above every other entry. Rolling together some of the best from games like Zelda and Castlevania, Pirate’s Curse sees you exploring a series of sprawling hubs, trekking through dangerous dungeons, and utilizing the item you find inside to solve puzzles and defeat the boss. The writing is full of charm, the characters are fun and bubbly, the controls are spot-on, and the soundtrack is utterly phenomenal. On top of all that, it features some of WayForward’s best sprite work to date, and anyone who follows their work knows that’s a hell of a compliment.
2. Cadence of Hyrule
It blew the collective gaming community away when Cadence of Hyrule was announced. Nintendo teaming up with a tiny indie team, lending them Zelda no less, wasn’t exactly a safe prediction. After all the dust settled, what we were left with was a fantastic rhythm/action hybrid with glorious pixel art and top tier tunes.
While technically a rougelike, it’s far and away the most forgiving I’ve ever played. The experience can be tailored to your specific wants and needs, even giving the option to removing the central mechanic of everyone and everything moving to the beat. Don’t let the genre or indie tag scare you off- this is Zelda, and Zelda done right.
3. The Messenger
The Messenger is a delightfully clever game. Heavily inspired by Ninja Gaiden, the game sees you platforming through tricky linear stages and taking down tough bosses… until it doesn’t. A story twist and genre shift midway through result in a second half that feels in some ways like an entirely different game. Not to mention the game’s other main gimmick… looking like an entirely different game. Portals allow you to switch from an 8-bit aesthetic to a 16-bit one, opening up new options and paths in the process. No matter where in the game you are, the pixel art perfectly captures the era(s) that it’s going for, the music is catchy and exciting, and the controls are spot-on.
4. Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is a pixel art, roguelike twin-stick shooter. While it may sound like someone spun a wheel of gaming tropes and developed whatever they landed on, Gungeon is a truly phenomenal game. Runs are challenging and varied, the weapons at your disposal are innumerable and ridiculous, and firefights are tense and rewarding. The gameplay mixes the bullet-hell patterns of shmups with the twin-stick action of something more akin to The Binding of Isaac, and the result is an endlessly replayable, ludicrously challenging romp. Local co-op is just the hectic, barely comprehensible icing on the cake.
5. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley. Man, where do I even start?
How about this… you like Harvest Moon? How about a Harvest Moon game with more to do, mysteries to explore, and a translation that isn’t typo-riddled butt? Stardew is all that and more. Lovely pixel art, maybe the most soothing soundtrack I’ve ever heard, and hundreds of hours of relaxation await. The entire thing can even be played with friends via online co-op. Especially for the $15 dollar price tag, you can’t do much better than Stardew Valley.
- Bomb Chicken: A wonderfully animated, deviously clever puzzle-platformer.
- Nuclear Throne: Like Enter the Gungeon, but with shorter, even more hectic runs.
- Wargroove: An unofficial Advance Wars sequel with powerful creation tools.
- Golf Story: Heavily inspired by the GBC/GBA Mario Golf RPG’s. Absurdly charming.
- Downwell: You go down the well. As much fun as three bucks can buy you.
- Blaster Master Zero 1 and 2: Fantastic sequels to the original action/adventure.
- Bloodstained Curse of the Moon: Old Castlevania with modern conveniences.
That’s just a taste — nay, a mere sniff — of what pixel art games bring to the switch. If you’ve sworn off the style entirely, I highly recommend you reconsider. These are some of the best games I’ve played not just on Switch, but in general, and they’r more than deserving of your time and attention.