Best Pixel Art Games 2021

Love pixel art games? So do we! So much so, we created a list of the best pixel art games to play right now.

Retro-inspired pixel art has been making a comeback, with some video games using it to capture the feeling of old-school platformers, adventure games, strategy RPGs, and the like.

Many of these games surpass their 8 and 16-bit predecessors in regards to level size, game mechanics, detailed lighting systems, and flashy particle effects.

In this list, we’ll highlight the best pixel art games to play in 2021, specifically modern video games that use pixel-based art to achieve the desired look.

We’ll be updating this list in the future with new titles, so make sure to check back and let us know if we missed any of your favorite pixel art games!

Related:Best Platformer Games 2021Best Games for Low Spec PCsBest Indie Nintendo Switch Games 2021

Table of ContentsShow

What a better a game to start with than the one-man passion project, Stardew Valley, developed by Eric Barone, aka ConcernedApe.

Inspired by the beloved Harvest Moon games, the game is presented as a 2D farming sim with some light RPG mechanics and vibrant pixel art graphics.

In it, you create your own character and set out to bring your grandfather’s old farm back to life by gathering seeds, planting crops, and selling them for a profit.

Eventually, the game opens up and lets you explore other areas such as ranching, wine-making, baking, and more.

Black Skylands is a pixel art sandbox game that casts you as Captain of a skyship exploring a top-down open-world comprised of floating islands high up in the clouds.

Gameplay revolves around building up your vessel and arming yourself before setting out to battle factions of pirates and monsters to claim territories for yourself.

Along the way, you encounter various resources and crafting materials that allow you to upgrade your weapons, gear, and skyship.

Skylands’ sandbox world also boasts an assortment of random events such as aerial combat encounters and village distress calls, as well as a base-building component.

Blending twin-stick shooting, tower defense gameplay, and pixel art, Rogue Star Rescue offers a fresh take on roguelike bullet hell shooters.

You play as a hero blasting their way through different planets while rescuing teammates and laying out traps for your defensive strategy.

Like many roguelikes, the story is nonlinear, allowing you to focus on mastering Rogue Star’s many intricacies and outcomes by taking on challenges across the galaxy.

It’s definitely the kind of game you can sink about 50 hours in and keep discovering new things; more so if you take on the co-op campaign with 1-4 players.

Huntdown is a fantastic side-scrolling arcade shooter with over-the-top action and comedic undertones complemented by satisfying game mechanics.

In it, you play as a bounty hunter tasked with liberating their futuristic city from a criminal underworld of thugs who have overpowered the police.

The game sees you traversing 20 gritty, neon-soaked levels inspired by 80s cityscapes as you track down gang leaders to collect the bounty on their heads.

Levels and characters are depicted in 16-bit pixel art graphics complete with hand-drawn animations, fluid 60 FPS performance, and a synth-heavy soundtrack.

If you’ve ever considered evading taxes, well, we suggest you stop doing that and instead help Turnip Boy dismantle the establishment.

This adorable and quirky pixel art game has you playing as a trouble-making turnip on a mission to overthrow the government after being evicted for not paying property taxes.

In order to make up for his debt, he’ll have to complete odd jobs for Mayor Onion by solving puzzles, harvesting crops, and battling beasts throughout the forest.

However, nothing is set in stone, with the game featuring extensive in-game lore and multiple endings based on how effective you are at committing tax evasion.

Blade Assault is a modern pixel art game set in a desolate sci-fi world where a resistance force battles against an evil militaristic power.

Playing as one of the rebel soldiers, you’ll explore three regions brimming with corruption and deliver swift justice using violence as your weapon.

The game employs a roguelike structure that evolves between runs, with your character able to modify and upgrade weapons throughout 2D platforming levels.

Depending on which “Cores” you select, your character will acquire new skills and maneuvers such as dashing, firing projectiles, and delivering huge AoE attacks.

Part tactical RPG and tower defense game, The Last Spell is another roguelike pixel art game that sees you defending the last pillar of humanity with an army of heroes.

Gameplay is divided into day and night cycles, with days spent rebuilding and placing defenses in your city, and nights spent waging war with hellish monsters.

Survival requires a careful blend of magic and brute force as you devise unique strategies to squash out different enemy types by exploiting their weaknesses.

Your heroes can be leveled up to enhance their abilities and unlock more powerful weapons that will inch you closer and closer to reclaiming the world.

It’s not often we get a pixel art rhythm game that combines RPG mechanics with great story-telling and a hard-hitting soundtrack.

Set in a strange world where everything is not quite what it seems, Everhood sees you controlling a wooden doll whose arm has been stolen by a blue gnome.

As you set off on a quest to retrieve your arm by completing a series of musical battles, you’ll encounter a diverse bunch of characters and unexpected twists and turns.

The entire journey will take you about 5-6 hours to complete but there’s also a custom battle editor where you can spend hours crafting your own scenarios.

Rhythm Doctor is another unique pixel art rhythm game that starts off with a rather intriguing premise.

You play as a doctor treating sick patients by defibrillating in time to their heartbeats, requiring you to learn each patient’s distinct rhythm while defeating boss viruses.

During the rhythm mini-game, the screen may become flooded with trippy visual and audio effects that force you to keep track and visualize the beat in your head.

Like Everhood, it offers a robust level editor and an addictive soundtrack comprised of heart-pumping, soul-soothing music.

We absolutely adore pixel art games that lean into the aesthetic of the classics that inspired their look and Mighty Goose is one of the best recent examples of this.

Presented as an old-school run and gun side-scroller, it casts you as its titular hero Mighty Goose, one of the best bounty hunters in all the galaxy.

At its core, the game plays like a 2D arcade shooter that’s constantly throwing crazy weapons, mechs, upgrades, and secrets your way.

As you roam the galaxy looking to defeat the evil Void King, you’ll get to experience an amazing soundtrack comprised of crunchy synth-rock and funky jazz-fusion melodies.

Strangeland is a surreal pixel art adventure game from the makers of Primordia that sees you exploring a nightmarish carnival filled with otherworldly attractions and characters.

You play as a mysterious man who awakes in this twisted amusement park to the sounds of a woman crying out before leaping to her death.

This prompts your character to set off in search of answers while encountering a cast of morbid characters and carnival attractions.

The game explores many heavy themes and contains dark imagery that may be overwhelming for some, but features some of the best pixel art designs we’ve seen.

Hyper Light Drifter is a stunning pixel art action-adventure RPG in which you play as a hero called the Drifter.

At the start of the game, the hero is shown suffering from a deadly illness, prompting him to venture into the mysterious lands of Buried Time in hopes of finding a cure.

What ensues is a grand-scale, atmospheric journey through menacing environments filled with branching paths and secrets to uncover.

You won’t find a single line of dialogue in the entire game, as it relies on telling its story solely through visuals.

When discussing ‘must play’ pixel art games,  Celeste is one that definitely comes to mind.

The universally acclaimed 2D action-platformer manages to strike the perfect balance between gameplay and story, although some may find its default difficulty a bit overwhelming.

In it, you play as a girl looking to escape the struggles of everyday life by climbing a mysterious mountain.

Players advance the story by completing a series of hand-crafted platforming levels that revolve around precise jumping and dashing.

Octopath Traveler is a turn-based RPG from Square Enix that takes pixel art to new heights with its unique ‘HD-2D’ aesthetic.

Complementing the game’s distinct look is a lengthy 60-hour campaign spread across eight playable characters that come from wildly different walks of life.

Combat is played out using traditional turn-based battle mechanics in which characters use special class-based abilities and talents.

Battles are where Octopath Traveler’s pixel art truly comes to life, showing off the game’s dynamic shadows, lighting, and particle effects.

Dead Cells is a pixel art game that focuses on combat and exploration as you traverse procedurally generated dungeons.

Each run sees you gathering materials to craft better gear as you hunt down formidable bosses and minions throughout a sprawling 2D labyrinth.

Upon dying, players are returned to the starting area with slightly more resources than their previous run, eliciting a risk vs. reward approach to progressing further.

Interestingly, the game is technically rendered in 3D but uses a 2D perspective to trick you into thinking you’re playing a side-scrolling pixel-based platformer.

Star Renegades is a turn-based strategy RPG that sees you commanding a squad of futuristic heroes as they travel to different dimensions and try to prevent the Imperium Army from destroying the world.

Like Dead Cells, the game employs a roguelike structure where each run offers unique challenges and outcomes.

Combat emphasizes interrupting and countering foes using a timeline-based battle system.

The game has a lot going on both visually and mechanics-wise, blending elements of JRPGs, real-time tactics, and more into a vibrant pixel art package.

In Papers, Please, you play as an immigrant inspector on the border of Arstotzka, a nation experiencing high levels of political tension with its neighboring countries.

As the story progresses, things get a lot more challenging as the application requirements to enter Arstotzka become increasingly demanding.

Things also start to bleed over into your character’s personal life, with both your family and livelihood at risk of being stripped away.

This is all delivered in pixel art graphics that rely on a limited color palette that reflects the game’s tone and mood.

Carrion is a 2D reverse-horror action-platformer that sees you controlling a monster on a warpath to kill its captors and escape containment.

The game features a ton of cool monster-based abilities that complement its metroidvania design and are fun to explore.

This includes being able to grow or shrink in size in order to squeeze through the narrowest air ducts government funding can buy.

The monster can also grab and fling both objects and humans using their powerful tendril-like arms and slip through cracks to unlock new areas.

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Samuel Stewart
Samuel Stewart

Samuel is GamingScan's editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a dedicated gamer and programmer. He enjoys helping others discover the joys of gaming. Samuel closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep the visitors in the flow.

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