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Pixel-Art in video games, not just some squares.

Con-Z-epT

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Dec 3, 2019
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Hey GAF,

as much as i love cutting edge graphics and the strive for photorealistic depictions in the current gaming era i also have a heart for pixel-art games. I grew up in the 16 bit era and played anything i could get or my parents would buy me. Over the years i welcomed the technological progress in the gaming scene and the improvement it brought in terms of graphical advancements. But as i grew older i found myself going back to the pixelated goodness more frequently. I'm not even sure what draws me into this regularly. Maybe it reminds me of the simpler times when i was younger. Maybe it provides a good contrast to all the other games i play. I know that it just needs a cool screenshot or a good trailer for me, to dive into these games.

I want to use this thread to share my enthusiasm for video games that inherent pixel-art. To talk about old, new and upcoming games. To find hidden gems i have never seen before. Of course let's also dive into the gameplay aspect of these games than in the end, that is what keeps me playing. Maybe you are a pixel artist and want to tell us what goes into the making of the art style. I'm aware that some of these games might not be fully pixelated art in itself and that some of them, use different techniques which have nothing to do with pixel-art, to accomplish the look and feel of one. Feel free to point out where the difference lie and shed a light on the development processes if you'd like to share your knowledge. I'm sure not an expert when it comes to this.

Where do all these pixels come from and where will they lead us?

Here are some of my favorites from past years that look cool and are a blast to play.


Dead Cells
Developer Motion Twin is doing an outstanding job with Dead Cells. High octane gameplay with flashy visuals and the constant dread to die from one or two hits just to start all over again.
It is one of many games i bought just for the art style and kept playing for countless hours afterwards, because it is a blast to play, through its incredible responsiveness.
The animations in this game are so smooth that i always wonder how much time they put into it. The amount of free content that was added after launch is staggering and needs to be praised!
A brutally tough game and a wonderful visual accomplishment.




CrossCode
This one comes from Deck13 and Radical Fish Games. "Another one" that i bought immediately after i watched the trailer.
Awesome action RPG with deep and layered gameplay mechanics, mind bending puzzles and a carefully crafted art style that warped me back to forgotten times all while putting a fresh spin on everything.
As well as the main character of the game, Lea, i couldn't stop to play this game.




Valfaris
Stage Clear Studios and Steel Mantis brought me some of my best time with this piece of art. Incredible varied environments and weaponry.
A joy to look at through its excellent visuals from start to finish with super satisfying gameplay all around. A game that i play at least once a year.
It has a really cool risk and reward mechanic that makes you stronger when you leave checkpoints untouched. Totally metal!




Metal Slug Saga
An obvious choice. I haven't played all of them and i think there are 7 or 8 games as of now. These are a feast for the senses with so much going on on the screen that it feels overwhelming at times. There are also some cool twists in terms of gameplay here to find. Like the fact that you could get zombified in Metal Slug 3 for example. I wish that there would be an iteration that would be playable in full screen on a 4K TV with the art style. Without any borders i mean. Too many developers to count here so, shout out to everyone involved.




There are many more games i played over the years and i could go on forever but i want to give you pixel junkies some room to express.

I will leave some trailers for upcoming games that peaked my interest.




So GAF, what are your thoughts?
 
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SlimeGooGoo

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Pixel art was only good for CRTs






This is a million times superior and the natural evolution of 2D graphics.

 

22:22

Doesnt need recognition
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Thanks!

Hyper Light Drifter is in my wishlist since forever. Maybe i'll give it a go.

It's a pretty simple game which could use a tad of fluidity control wise but oh boy did I love it! The overall vibe created with the visuals and awesome awesome soundtrack was personally astounding, dreamlike if you will.
 

Holammer

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Whomever makes a positive mention of CrossCode, shall be my brother.
All pixel art demand a good ReShade for some CRT texture. I recommend adding Matsilagi/RSRetroArch & akgunter/crt-royale-reshade

Shaders used in this screenshot. Royale for the CRT effect, Frutbunn to set the resolution, scanlines and phosphorMAME for 2 frames of phosphor trail. Using Frutbunn's clumsy vignette solution here. Just use the regular off-the-shelf shader.




 
Apr 3, 2009
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Pixel art was only good for CRTs


This is a million times superior and the natural evolution of 2D graphics.
Um yikes sweaty. You do know it's possible to make pixel art without crts in mind right? Back in the day people were designing pixel art with crts in mind. Granted the wonderboy remake looks nice but competent pixelart spritework will look better and be more aesthetic any day. Do you even know about aesthetics son
 

Con-Z-epT

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Dec 3, 2019
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It's a pretty simple game which could use a tad of fluidity control wise but oh boy did I love it! The overall vibe created with the visuals and awesome awesome soundtrack was personally astounding, dreamlike if you will.
I'm really tempted now to buy it. Gonna wait a bit to what comes up in this thread but i promise i will play it by the end of the year.
 

22:22

Doesnt need recognition
Nov 19, 2020
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I'm really tempted now to buy it. Gonna wait a bit to what comes up in this thread but i promise i will play it by the end of the year.

Haha, I don't mean to oversell it.

Like I mentioned it's a simplistic and bare bones experience mechanic wise..

It could be that perhaps it was just what I was looking for in a game at the time of playing. Then again I felt that the relative simplicity of the gameplay, which was nonetheless rewarding, meshed well with the stillness, serene and dreamlike atmosphere brought forth from the art design which itself took a backseat to the soundtrack.

Shit... I'm selling it again lol!

Anyways, I'd say take a look at the playthrough I posted and wait for a sale perhaps.

🤣😅
 
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Con-Z-epT

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Haha, I don't mean to oversell it.

Like I mentioned it's a simplistic and bare bones experience mechanic wise..

It could be that perhaps it was just what I was looking for in a game at the time of playing. Then again I felt that the relative simplicity of the gameplay, which was nonetheless rewarding, meshed well with the stillness, serene and dreamlike atmosphere brought forth from the art design which itself took a backseat to the soundtrack.

Shit... I'm selling it again lol!

Anyways, I'd say take a look at the playthrough I posted and wait for a sale perhaps.

🤣😅
I heard just good things about it and you cemented that. Gonna buy it when there is a discount.
 
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SlimeGooGoo

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Jun 29, 2020
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It's subjective, but I think the old Advance Wars is much more asthetically pleasing than the new.



It is, but it's not due to the former being pixel art, but because it's 2D vs 3D.
The characters portraits look even better and more detailed on the latter.
 
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molasar

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Soon it will lead us to:

Lunark
Bushiden
Okinawa Rush
Demons of Asteborg
Moon Rider
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Axiom Verge 2
perhaps: Flashback 2

Metro Siege
 
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nkarafo

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Nov 30, 2012
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Pixel art was only good for CRTs






This is a million times superior and the natural evolution of 2D graphics.

You had me in the first part.

I agree about the CRT thing. Or at least a good CRT filter/shader.

I disagree about this new Wonder Boy game passign as good "pixel" art.
 
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Con-Z-epT

Gold Member
Dec 3, 2019
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Soon it will lead us to:

Lunark
Bushiden
Okinawa Rush
Demons of Asteborg
Moon Rider
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Axiom Verge 2
perhaps: Flashback 2
I'm still mad about the change in art style for Axiom Verge 2. Why? Just why?!
 

nkarafo

Member
Nov 30, 2012
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Whomever makes a positive mention of CrossCode, shall be my brother.
All pixel art demand a good ReShade for some CRT texture. I recommend adding Matsilagi/RSRetroArch & akgunter/crt-royale-reshade

Shaders used in this screenshot. Royale for the CRT effect, Frutbunn to set the resolution, scanlines and phosphorMAME for 2 frames of phosphor trail. Using Frutbunn's clumsy vignette solution here. Just use the regular off-the-shelf shader.





Too much bloom and too much haze/glow.

Not saying there shouldn't be any bloom/glow but that doesn't mean you should turn those to 11.
 

Oberstein

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May 7, 2019
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HD-2D is probably the best idea Square-Enix has had in recent years for the (pixel-part) JRPG. In fact, in 2019, Square Enix filed a trademark for the term "HD-2D".
Even though Indie games (or publisher-affiliated) are producing little gems like Eiyuden, I'm expecting a lot from Project Triangle and DQ III.
 

Bartski

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Jan 15, 2020
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Props for the thread! I'm a HUGE fan, fully aware of my 90s nostalgia bias and I dont give a shit, absolutely love lo-fi retro look when done right and one of the reasons I keep a close eye on the indie sphere.

Personal favorites of recent:

Blasphemous - King. Nuff said.




Hotline Miami 1 and 2 - Safe to say both timeless classics.




Narita Boy - amazing tongue-in-cheek story about a superhero in videogameland. Gorgeous visuals, satisfying combat system, surprising enemy variety.




Star Renegades - I'm in peace with being the only person on Neogaf who likes it. Challenging rogue-lite turn-based combat done right, hard as fuck perhaps bit too punishing for most.




Gods will be Watching - damn cool and slightly demented spin on the point and click adventure genre.




Katana Zero - killer neo-noir, action-platformer




Olija - playing it now. Gfx on the cheaper end but its really nice and clearly inspired by Another World and other classics.

 

Bartski

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FUTURE:


Replaced - game of the Microsoft E3 showcase for many.




Last Night - Still the best-looking fusion of 3d and 2d ever seen, years in the making:

2017:

2021:



Death Trash - Amazing deep systemic action RPG




The Last Faith - Bloodborne meets Castlevania. Might as well dethrone Blasphemous, day one.




Eldest Souls - souls-inspired boss rush game. Will kick your ass. Loved the demo, out 29.07




unMetal - MGS piss-take. Demo was hilarious, I'm in.




The Drifter - point and click. I guess. Nobody knows yet but looks dope.

 

Con-Z-epT

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Dec 3, 2019
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, but recently I've been very impressed by Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth.
Never heard of that. Thanks for sharing!

I just platinumed Alex Kidd in Miracle World a week ago.
I didn't age that well but the sound bothered me the most.
I couldn't play to long in "nostalgia" mode because of the jump sound. :messenger_tears_of_joy:

But i still love it!
 
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TheDreadLord

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You can pick a NES game and scale it 2-5x times and it will look glorious on a modern display. It simply looks good. Not sure if it is related to the art style or whatever but I feel that the same does not happen with 3d games (especially early 3d up to Dreamcast).
 

Con-Z-epT

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Huge thanks Bartski Bartski for the list. Solid choises!

Didn't know half of them.

What is up with The Last Faith? Thats like Bloodborne! :messenger_grinning_sweat:
I need this!
 
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SlimeGooGoo

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I disagree about this new Wonder Boy game passign as good "pixel" art.
Huh? I never said it was pixel art. I said it was an evolution of 2D graphics.

Most indies just do pixel art because:
1. It's cheaper and quicker
2. Less skill required for smaller pixel art (8x8, 16x16, 32x32), which is usually what they choose for their resolution
3. You can do some cheap 2~3 frame "snappy" animation and get away with it (i.e. NES and SNES type of animation)

Not saying you can't do amazing things with pixel art (e.g. Metal Slug and some PC-98 games), but high res pixel art requires skill and way too much effort, so most indies don't even try. And their excuse is usually "muh nostalgia retro graphix" to justify the low res pixel art.

Which leads to Wonder Boy Dragon's Trap.
High res sprites, hand drawn, more detailed animations, smoother shading, easier to animate (since it's similar to drawing in Photoshop, not pixel-by-pixel ).

This is the way to go. No need to limit artists because of pixel art, just go all out.
Ori and Cuphead are good examples of what talented artists (not indie hacks) can produce.
 

Con-Z-epT

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This is the way to go. No need to limit artists because of pixel art, just go all out.
Ori and Cuphead are good examples of what talented artists (not indie hacks) can produce.
I think there is a place for all those games. Especially because they are so diverse in their appearance.
I'm happy that we have so many games and that every developer can decide for their own which way to go.

To say "This is the way to go" when you mean we should progress away from pixel-art or to suggest that an artist is limiting himself with this kind of art style doesn't make a lot of sense to me as an enthusiast.
I get what you are trying to say but as long as there are people out there who love pixel-art games and developers who embrace the art style, you will see these kind of games on a regular basis.

It is because we all love this so much that we have not abandoned it yet!
 
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Holammer

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Rising hell - Ice Climber'ish vertical platformer in HELL.



Annalynn - early arcade style platformer inspired by pacman/mappy



Spirits Abyss - Spelunky style roguelite with a very C64'ish color palette and music. Had more fun with it than Spelunky 2, which was just pain to play.

 

SlimeGooGoo

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I get what you are trying to say but as long as there are people out there who love pixel-art games and developers who embrace the art style, you will see these kind of games on a regular basis.

It is because we all love this so much that we have not abandoned it yet!
I admit when it's well done it has a unique flavor to it. Unfortunately it's getting rare to find great pixel artists nowadays.

Yeah... if you like newgrounds games.
How are Flash games similar to Wonder Boy in any way? Wonder Boy Remaster resembles comic book art, just like the new Streets of Rage.
 
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