Pixel games have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and are a testament to the fact that AAA budgets do not necessarily make a great game.
Developers focusing on gameplay and storytelling can make just as great a game despite using only pixels.
This isn’t to say that pixel art is inferior to high-end graphics by any means. Pixel art is timeless and will long outlast any next-generation game as time makes their graphics outdated.
So, without further ado, let’s check out the ten best pixel games on Switch.
10. Katana ZERO
Katana Zero is a pixelized action platformer that features high-octane and relentless action all wrapped up in a brutally merciless instant-death package.
Players will need to hack and slash their way through several levels and enemies on a quest to unravel the main character’s past.
Katana Zero opts for a unique and incredibly stylish neo-noir cyberpunk style.
The graphics are absolutely beautiful and really make the game come alive despite the limitations that come with the pixel aesthetic.
Combat is fast-paced and highly reactive. Players can dodge incoming attacks, reflect gunfire back at foes, and use the environment to their advantage by laying traps.
Every level in Katana ZERO is uniquely designed with several different methods of completion. The game encourages you to replay each stage in order to find the most optimal solution for eliminating enemies.
Katana ZERO wants you to play the game your own way, and it’s clear to see how this freedom of expression has led to Katana ZERO gaining such a huge speedrun following.
The story here isn’t anything that will change the face of gaming narratives as we know them, but the fact that cinematic sequences are woven into the gameplay is a nice touch.
Katana ZERO is all about never slowing down, and even when you have to receive some exposition, it will never interrupt the gameplay for too long.
Katana ZERO is a great game, and we highly recommend anyone who has yet to play it to check it out as soon as possible.
9. Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is the definition of a true roguelike.
Enter the Gungeon is a pixel-style bullet hell dungeon crawler. The main premise of the game follows a group of misfits attempting to reach the Gungeon’s ultimate treasure.
This treasure is a fabled fun said to hold the ability to kill the past. In order to attain this item, this band of misfits will shoot, loot, dodge roll, and table-flip their way to victory.
Players will select their character before challenging a series of increasingly difficult floors packed with enemies and tough bosses.
You will need to gather loot, barter with merchants, and discover hidden secrets in order to ensure you survive until the very end.
The guns you can find in Enter the Gungeon are incredibly unique, and all come with their own unique tactics and ammunition. Whether you enjoy firing laser beams, missiles, or bees, there is certainly a weapon in this game for you.
Definitely be sure to check out Enter the Gungeon for a super unique Roguelike experience.
8. Sonic Origins
The original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy contains three of the most influential titles in gaming history.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog game launched the entire franchise and revolutionized the platforming genre. Sonic became a household name, but many fans point to several of the glaring issues with this first game.
There is a lot of waiting in this game, which doesn’t really gel with Sonic’s whole motto of going fast.
Luckily, the two subsequent games managed to fix this immensely. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sped up gameplay and removed a lot of cheap deaths found in the first game.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles did more of the same while also introducing different playstyles with the addition of Knuckles.
Sonic Origins allows you to relive Sonic’s glory days devoid of convoluted storylines about time travel or tired gimmicks involving werehogs.
The only downside to playing Sonic Origins as opposed to the original titles is that several songs have been removed from this version due to copyright issues.
The new songs are far less catchy and memorable when compared to the original songs, unfortunately.
That being said, if you can get over this small issue, Sonic Origins is the definitive way to experience the original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy.
Omori is an incredibly unique game inspired by old-school classics such as Earthbound and Mother 3.
In this game, you will take control of a “hikikomori” named Sunny. A hikikomori is a Japanese term for an individual who does not like to go outside for any number of reasons.
Usually, hikikomoris suffer from extreme social anxiety, which makes them unable to leave their house.
Playing as Sunny, you will need to explore his dream world persona known as Omori. From here, you will need to make your way through both this fantasy world and the physical plane in order to combat Sunny’s deepest fears and darkest secrets.
Omori is a surreal psychological horror incorporating the same crazy and often disturbing imagery found in the original Mother games and, more recently, Undertale.
The art style here shifts between a traditional top-down pixel style which has become the standard for games inspired by the Mother series.
However, key scenes, enemy battles, and select important items are all illustrated in gloriously hand-drawn detail.
The most enjoyable part of playing these kinds of games is interacting with the characters. Witty dialogue and questionable scenarios are par for the course in Omori and a lot of time can be spent just chatting with the locals.
Additionally, the game features a unique branching path system based on the choices you make in the game. Your decisions will lead to one of several completely distinct outcomes that can be positive or negative.
Omori is a great pixel game with a strong message behind it as well. If you are a fan of the Mother series and are looking for a modern interpretation of the genre, Omori is a great game to try out.
6. Triangle Strategy
Triangle Strategy is the follow-up title to the critically acclaimed Octopath Traveler. Octopath Traveler saw players taking control of eight unique characters, each with their own stories to tell.
Triangle Strategy takes a similar approach and has you controlling three major kingdoms. Your decisions will decide the fate of both the future of these kingdoms and the kingdoms’ inhabitants.
Triangle Strategy’s gameplay moves away from the traditional turn-based gameplay found in Octopath Traveler and other JRPGs.
Instead, the game chooses to use a strategic tile-based style of combat similar to games like Fire Emblem.
Triangle Strategy doesn’t hit quite the same highs as its predecessor but still manages to blend old-school retro graphics with modern gameplay and storytelling advances.
Those who love to control large armies of units and strategically calculate each decision for optimal plays will feel right at home playing Triangle Strategy.
5. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Shovel Knight is a pixel game that proved to the world that high-end graphics do not make a game automatically good.
Shovel Knight also played a huge hand in keeping retro games and old-school platformers alive by providing audiences with some of the toughest platforming challenges they had experienced in years.
Shovel Knight is an amazing indie game and showed people that a AAA budget isn’t required to create the next big hit. Indie games can be just as successful as big-budget titles if given enough care and attention.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is a package deal containing every single Shovel Knight game. There are four additional games that come with this bundle.
These additional games allow you to play as several new characters, including Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight.
Each new character switches up the gameplay with new abilities and different movement options. You will need to master each character’s mechanics if you are to conquer the full Shovel Knight saga.
There are tons of movement and combat options to try out in Shovel Knight, along with some of the tightest platforming challenges of any platformer.
The gameplay is challenging but fair, and most deaths can be traced back to something you as a player did wrong as opposed to an unfair glitch in the software.
Shovel Knight’s pixel art style is truly timeless and will surely continue to be well-received long after the most recent AAA action title’s graphics become outdated.
Shovel Knight is partly responsible for the resurgence of retro-style side-scrolling platformer games.
If you love the pixel art genre of games, you should thank Shovel Knight for being as great as it is.
There isn’t much to say about Undertale that hasn’t been said already. The title is a surreal and fantastical experience inspired by the Mother series (particularly, Earthbound and Mother 3).
In this game, you will find yourself having been transported to a strange new world. Here, you will need to embark on a journey in order to save this location while also finding a way back home.
Undertale’s gameplay features both a top-down pixelized exploration portion which then shifts into a POV turn-based battle system during combat.
Additionally, certain battles will incorporate bullet hell scenarios in which you must pilot a small heart while avoiding an onslaught of incoming obstacles.
Undertale’s gameplay is very fun and can get super challenging the further into the game you progress.
Furthermore, the game also features a branching path system, where decisions you make in the game will directly influence the type of ending you receive.
For example, players can choose to spare or kill enemies in the game, and your choice, either way, will result in a different finale.
Some of the toughest bosses in the game are hidden behind these secret endings, so the game more than encourages repeat playthroughs.
We couldn’t talk about Undertale without talking about, arguably, the most appealing and unique aspect of the game. This would be its writing and characters.
The Mother series of games had always featured strange and disturbing enemies. Giygas and Porky are two examples of incredibly unsettling enemies that feel out of place in what appears to be a game for children.
Undertale includes the same kind of enemies that drastically shift the game’s tone from a lighthearted adventure into a psychological thriller.
Contrastly, both games feature an array of hilarious enemies as well. Where the Mother series had standouts like the Negative Man, Undertale has a huge cast of entertaining characters for you to fall in love with.
Undertale is less of a traditional video game and more of an experience. The game can really only be understood and appreciated for what it is, having played through it.
Deltarune is already shaping up to be an amazing subsequent release from the ingenious mind of Toby Fox, and we cannot wait to see more of what his team has to offer.
3. Sonic Mania
Love him or hate him, Sonic is responsible for some of the biggest revolutions in all of gaming (both positively and negatively).
Games like Sonic ’06 and Sonic Boom set the standard for how not to release a game. These were both buggy messes filled with gimmicks that no one had asked for.
However, for every game like Sonic Boom handed to us, we received a game like Sonic Generations to keep things balanced. Sonic Team clearly had it in them to make a great Sonic game but simply refused to do so.
Thankfully, a group of Sonic enthusiasts took it upon themselves to create their own Sonic game and managed to make of the best 2D Sonic games since the likes of Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush.
Sonic Mania reimagines classic stages from old-school Sonic games and gives them a fresh coat of paint. Every level in Sonic Mania feels brand-new despite most of the concept ideas coming from past Sonic titles.
The gameplay is what Sonic fans have been asking for all this time. Fast-paced, highly reactive, and chaotic fun as you zoom through stages at supersonic speed.
No gimmicks, no convoluted storylines, just pure unadulterated Blue Blur goodness.
The game is so amazing that Sonic Team themselves decided to take on the developers to finalize the title for commercial release.
Hopefully, Sonic Mania shows the devs at Sonic Team that Sonic fans know what they want and know what makes a good Sonic game.
Sonic Mania was a step in the right direction, and we can only hope that Sonic continues to be a success going forward.
2. Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is an homage to the pixelized turn-based JRPGs of a bygone era. The game features eight unique stories led by eight unique protagonists, all of whom have a different story to tell.
Each of these stories stands on its own, but as you play through the entire game, you will notice that each tale starts to intersect with the other characters.
While some of these stories can be fairly predictable, certain stories, in particular, will leave you with your jaw hanging open.
The gameplay here features traditional turn-based combat, as seen in almost all other JRPGs. Inspired by titles such as the Romancing Saga series, Octopath Traveler and Bravely Default seek to breathe fresh life into this older genre.
If you love tactical turn-based combat, magic systems, and fantasy aesthetics, Octopath Traveler does not disappoint.
The pixel style is also something that should not be overlooked. The art design used for Octopath Traveler manages to create retro pixel art expertly but somehow keeps the game feeling very modern.
Octopath Traveler is a must-play for any fans of traditional JRPGs or those with a love for retro art styles.
Celeste is an incredibly unique and thought-provoking platformer game with a story far deeper than most of its competitors.
In Celeste, players will control a young girl named Madeline on a quest to reach the top of Celeste Mountain. The catch is that, on this journey, you will need to confront and destroy Madeline’s inner demons.
Celeste is a game that prides itself not only on its ingenious gameplay but on the backstory of its characters as well.
No longer are you jumping and gliding across a stage to get a high score, but to actively uncover more of the ongoing story as well.
The gameplay in Celeste is deceptively simple but brutally tough to master. From the outset of the game, there are only three actions available to you. These are the ability to jump, dash, and climb.
It sounds pretty simple, but as you progress through tougher and tougher levels, it becomes necessary to execute your limited arsenal of movement options to perfection or suffer the consequences.
Luckily, the fast respawn time makes it so that, no matter how many times you die, you’re only half a second away from giving that touch platforming challenge another shot.
Celeste blends a perfect cocktail of accessible yet challenging gameplay with a story that makes you think.
The art style as well is gorgeous to look at, and each action’s special effects make the game feel that much more alive.
It is easily one of the best pixel games ever made and one of the best platformers of recent memory.