From Pong, to Super Mario World, to Secrets of Mana, pixel art has existed since the very beginning of video games. To many gamers, the look and feel of pixel art holds a sense of nostalgia that reminds us of the games from our childhood. And despite the rapid growth of technology in our society, pixel art still remains an innovative form of video game graphics. In the indie community especially, this art form is a viable way for new developers to ease into the industry. Now that the year is over, I have compiled a list of the 5 best pixel art in indie games of 2016.


#5: Mandagon


Created by the developers Blind Sky Studios, Mandagon is a 2D platformer inspired by Tibetan theology and philosophy. Despite being a free game, there is special care and consideration that went into the history and details behind the game’s beautiful pixel art. The game is filled with Tibetan architecture and scenery, and the mountainous backgrounds are reminiscent of the country’s geographical location. The environments also resonate heavy emotions throughout them, since the project initiated after one of the developers suffered a death in the family.

Check out Mandagon at its Steam page:


#4: Duelyst


Duelyst is a free online tactical deck-building game made by Counterplay Games Inc.. The game incorporates digitally painted backgrounds with pixel art sprites on the grid-based battlefield. Each of the six factions that you can play as has its own vibrant style and theme in the sprite-work, and each sprite has unique and fluid animations. Here is a video of one of the artists creating a sprite for the Songhai faction. 

Check out Duelyst at its Steam page:


#3 Crosscode


Crosscode is an early access title from the developers Radical Fish Games. It is an action-RPG with platforming and puzzle elements with animated environments and beautiful scenery. The attention to detail is striking and unsurprising when considering their company motto, “We are a young studio and crazy about details. So we tend to polish our stuff, be it animations, controls, physics or that one pixel in the interface that just didn’t seem right.” 

Check out Crosscode at its Steam page:


#2 Hyper Light Drifter


Hyper Light Drifter, by developers Heart Machine, gained a lot of praise upon its release. The colourful, futuristic environments and visuals are integral to understanding the story which contains no text or dialogue. The pixel-work is seamlessly fluid throughout the game’s fast combat and controls. In an interview for Gamasutra, the lead developer Alex Preston indulged his design influences, “A lot of it comes from older anime that I watched growing up as a kid. Miyazaki, and giant robots fighting each other. More still comes from tons of different illustrators that I love. Concept artists. And from games themselves, of course. There’s a huge influence from the Final Fantasy series, most of the big Nintendo titles, Legend of Zelda.” 

Check our Hyper Light Drifter at its Steam page:


#1 Owlboy


The #1 spot goes to Owlboy, the 9-year long project by D-Pad Studio. After such a long development cycle, it is easy to see why this game has some of the most beautiful visuals and pixel art ever created. Each environment you delve into is breathtakingly detailed, and each character design is full of imaginative charm. From their blog, the developers state that their goal was to push the limits of the medium with hi-bit graphics to combat the belief that pixel art is an outdated style. 

Check out Owlboy at its Steam page:


Did your favourite pixel art game of 2016 not make the cut? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!