I grew up in the height of the 16 bit gaming era, cutting my teeth on platformer classics like Sonic 3, Super Mario World and Super Metroid. I covered a mighty many pixely terrains in my day from the lava rock cliffs of Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions to the Head of the T-Rex in Joe & Mac. There was always something “right” to me about the pixel art esthetic. I hated to see the style take a back seat to the 3d driven games that began to dominate the console game landscape as the ’00’s approached. With the exception of a few handheld releases and the odd repackaged collection of classics, a pixel art based platformer was a rare find on the release schedules of the first decade on the new millennium but thankfully with the rise of quality indie developers in recent years, the pixel art platformer of our gaming youth have triumphantly returned.
With so many free roaming story driven epics like Bethesda’s Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt being the focus of so many of our gaming hours, as a culture I think we are longing for some of the simplicity of our past. Look don’t get me wrong, I’ll flirt with Piper in Fallout all day long but its nice to know that the “NES hard” mentality has returned to the screen. After playing almost every pixel game to hit the console market in the last few years, I’ve really come to appreciate the fusion of the classic look with a modern feel. While on the surface most of these releases look much just like the golden era release we know and love, these modern pixel art adventures all come with a very contemporary twist. Game like Mercenary Kings has is customizable weapons and abilities, Super Time Force has its time control mechanic and Fez has its 3d space tilting concept.
See below is a list of my top 5 Next-Gen pixel art games that are so sexy, they will make you “NES hard”.
1. Mercenary Kings
Art by pixel art king, Paul Robertson. This game was developed by the guys who brought you the most righteous owe’d to arcade beat-em-ups “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”.
2. TowerFall Ascension
This one screen game is packed with enough sprite on sprite crime to please even the most elite COD player.
3. Super Time Force Ultra
STF’s time bending mechanic is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, well, except for that time I accidentally ingested those magic mushrooms before that midnight screening of Back to the future.
4. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge
Any game that wants to combine sexy dances as part of the gameplay mechanics, I’ll give a try. This one happens to actually be great. As is its also ported from portable sequel, “Shantae & the Pirates Curse”.
The “twist” being an awesome perspective shifting gameplay mechanic that makes you wish “Super Paper Mario” was as slick and as graphically well realized as Fez is in even its weakest moments.