The 23 Best Pixel Games on Steam

Image credit: TeamSuneat, NEOWIZ

I adore pixel games, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Pixel art has been experiencing something of a revival in recent years, with indie studios making games designed to look like they’re from the early days of video games while still being fully playable in modern times.

Steam’s library has always been substantial when it comes to pixel games, ranging from classic entries in the platforming genre like Cave Story and Undertale to more modern games like Super Meat Boy and Rogue Legacy. Some of these games are also fantastic, even surpassing their pixel-less counterparts in quality and fun factor.

Whether you like action, adventure, RPGs, platformers, fighting games, Metroidvanias, or shoot ’em ups, there’s bound to be a pixelated game that floats your boat on the biggest digital game storefront in the world.

So if you’re looking to get your hands on some of the best pixel games on Steam, look no further. I put together this article which features some of my favorite Steam pixel games.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a delightful trip back through arcade history. The game has twelve iconic Street Fighter titles in one package that consists of many versions of SFII, Street Fighter Alpha, and Street Fighter 3.

You get to experience all versions of Street Fighter II. A title that was once a high-budget, pixel art triple-A game. You also get all versions of Street Fighter Alpha, considered the first anime fighter by many. And you also get Street Fighter III, a game with gorgeous animations that hold up marvelously until this date.

Before going fully 3D, the franchise Capcom Games were synonymous with gorgeous pixel art and fantastic gameplay. The games were made by fans of the genre and people who genuinely cared about the game they were making.

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection

I’m not the most reliable source to talk about the Mega Man series because I genuinely love all the games of that franchise — even the bad ones. However, this is my list, so I’m adding Mega Man Games to it.

If you’re looking for a challenge, this is a superb pick. Mega Man Zero games have some of the best design choices that I have ever seen in 2D action platformers.

Zero’s primary weapon is the Z-Saber, making the combat fast-paced and up-close. You get more personal with the enemies, and you have to rely on good positioning. It also makes you feel more like you’re in the action. The level design is also much better since it’s made for a single character.

All Zero games are somewhat difficult and have some of the most fun bosses in the series. You also get to play as the coolest Mega Man character ever made.

There are also the ZX games. The first one is enjoyable to me because you can change your playstyle based on the armor you’re wearing. It feels like Megaman meets Kamen Rider in a good way.

Megaman X Legacy Collection

This is an amazing collection of Mega Man X games. After all, you get the best games of the series and the jump-and-shoot Mega Man gameplay we love so much.

Everything has been thought out very carefully from Megaman X to Megaman X4, and it shows in every level. Level design is nearly perfect when it comes to how stage challenges, abilities, and enemies were implemented.

I highly recommend playing them in order to get yourself caught up on what’s happening in the year 20XX. Also, by playing the games in order, you can see the evolution of gameplay and implementation of new ideas in order.

Some people have different opinions on which one is the best game of the first three. Still, most fans of the franchise agree that they’re all excellent and that the fourth one is an evolution. So you are getting four great games out of this collection.

Chrono Trigger

The revolutionary turn-based RPG that popularized time travel as a plot device, Chrono Trigger, didn’t just blaze trails; it left an all-consuming forest fire in its wake.

It’s one of my favorite JRPGs, and it’s a must-play for anyone who enjoys old-school RPGs. The story is fantastic and stays with you long after completing it. Also, if you need some nostalgia from your childhood or are looking for a great introduction to JRPGs, I highly recommend Chrono Trigger.

Time travel aside, though, Chrono Trigger is still an excellent game. The soundtrack is phenomenal, and many of its battles are among the most creative in gaming history. You can get sucked into wandering through dungeons for hours on end and fight boss.

This is essentially a SNES game, but it could easily compete with recent pixel art games since it would not be hard to consider it one of the best JRPGs on Steam.

Hyper Light Drifter

The combination of fast-paced combat and tricky dungeons is what makes Hyper Light Drifter such a great game.

In this game, Drifters are the ones who gather lost knowledge and technologies. You play as a Drifter who is haunted by an illness and adventures into the lands of Buried Time in order to find a cure.

The game manages to look beautiful despite its minimalist art style. It also makes the most out of it since there’s so much personality and environmental storytelling in this game that it’s pretty surprising.

Hyper Light Drifter is a fantastic Zelda-like game that deserves a spot in every gamer’s library. So if you like fast-paced combat, exploration, and cyberpunk visuals, there is no reason for you not to try this game.

Blasphemous

Blasphemous is reminiscent of 2D classics like Another World and even Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s a game where action-adventure gameplay meets cinematic scenes to create a stunning visual experience.

You play as the penitent one, fighting your way through hordes of unspeakable creatures while solving puzzles, finding secrets, and conversing with interesting NPCs. Combat in Blasphemous plays much like your standard adventure game, but it can sometimes get methodical like a souls game.

However, the bosses are something else. They are mechanically complex, fun, and a visual spectacle that pushes the limits of pixel art by delivering some truly well-designed and terrifying creatures.

Blasphemous is an unforgettable experience for all fans of adventure, action, and Metroidvania games. It’s also worth playing through if you’re interested in experiencing what some consider the best pixel art ever made.

BlazBlue Central Fiction

BlazBlue Central Fiction is a 2D fighting game made by the notorious Arc System Works studio, the one behind Guilty Gear and Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball FighterZ.

This game is an anime fighter, both in appearance and mechanically. It has air dashes, wacky characters, fast-paced combats, long combos, and a whole lot of depth that will take you a while to master.

However, suppose all you want is to have some quick fun by mashing buttons. In that case, there are more accessible characters and an auto-combo system.

I’m still learning a few things about BlazBlue, but I managed to have fun from day one, so if you’re into fighting games, this title shouldn’t be daunting. This is certainly one of the best fighting games on Steam right now.

Azure Striker Gunvolt

Azure Striker Gunvolt has an outstanding soundtrack and graphics that are basically tribute bands to old-school games. The game has an original world with a somewhat simple story hidden behind convoluted storytelling that you usually see in Japanese games.

The game clearly borrows a lot from Megaman. Still, it mostly feels like a spiritual successor to the Megaman Zero series.

You play as Gunvolt, a kid with powers who has to fight against mutants in order to protect humanity. At the end of each stage, you fight a boss and unlock new weapons and skills.

It isn’t the most original game. Azure Striker Gunvolt It’s a typical 2D action platformer, but with great original ideas that are very well executed. But it’s still worth playing due to its excellent overall design.

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX is a spin-off game in which you play as an alternative character called Copen. Instead of having superpowers, Copen uses high-tech armor, jetpacks, and gadgets to stand a chance against enemy hordes.

The game structure is somewhat familiar. Choose a stage, go till the end to fight the boss, and collect a new weapon. Although it might sound simple, this game is anything but that thanks to Copen’s gears that make him very unique to control.

When compared to Gunvolt, Copen is much more action-oriented. His character plays nothing like a traditional platformer’s character. It demands that you control his air dashes and constantly fly around to make the most out of his abilities. Doing so allows for faster-paced platforming and some challenging boss fights.

If you love indie games with unique gameplay elements, this game is easy to recommend. It also has one of the best Megaman X-like soundtracks.

Sonic Mania

In many ways, Sonic Mania feels like a relaunch of what made people fall in love with Sonic to begin with. The 16-bit visuals are lush and colorful. The gameplay feels like it’s made by people who genuinely understand what was fun about Sonic for once.

On top of all that, Sonic Mania is a well-polished, beautiful, fun game overall. This game is a gift to those who grew up with the blue hedgehog, and you can feel the love its team has for the characters behind every aspect of this title.

Unlike some games in which nostalgia dictates everything, there’s enough new here to make it feel modern while playing to its retro roots.

This game is a blast from the past, taking you back to a time when 2D gaming was king. If you are looking for retro fun, play as Sonic and embark on an epic adventure through different zones to stop Dr. Eggman’s latest plot for world domination.

Into the Breach

Into the Breach latest game is a thrilling turn-based strategy game set in a dystopian future. Players will face off against giant bug-like aliens that have invaded Earth and are ravaging humankind with powerful attacks.

These aliens, called Vek, can only be defeated if you cleverly manage your team of mechs. Each mech has its own unique abilities, so you’ll have to use all of them to find out what works best for you when it comes to your tactical approach to each stage.

This turn-based strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic future has been one of my favorite tactics games since I found out about it. It’s hard and fun without being too complex, and it offers endless replayability. Plus, it’s arguably one of the best mech games on Steam.

Enter the Gungeon

If you’re looking for a unique game with tight controls and a challenge, you should definitely try playing Enter the Gungeon.

This game is a bullet hell dungeon crawler. You play as a member of a funny and weird group that’s seeking to shoot, loot, and dodge roll their way through the dungeon. The goal is simple, to find the ultimate treasure that is hidden in this place: the gun that can kill the past. With that item, they can finally find personal absolution.

Enter The Gungeon features excellent pixel graphics and wickedly addictive gameplay that you can get lost in for hours. With an expansive arsenal of guns to find and power up, you’ll always have something new to try out as you delve deeper into this mysterious dungeon.

The game offers a lot of variety. There are tons of weapons and enemies that are super fun to overcome. It’s by far one of the best bullet hell games on Steam.

Castlevania Advance Collection

Count Dracula is back again, and a vampire hunter has to stop him in each of the four different times when he resurrects.

Castlevania Advance Collection brings beloved Gameboy Advance Castlevania games to your steam collection. So if you missed those games and you’re a fan of the series, this title is certainly worth it.

On top of three GBA games in the Advance Collection, you also get Castlevania: Dracula X. That’s the game in which you play as Richter Belmont, who is one of the most iconic vampire hunters among the most iconic vampire hunters from video games.

All the games are pixelated, and some have some of the most impressive backgrounds ever made in those game’s eras. Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow all feel like Castlevania games while being very different from one another.

I personally love how Circle of the Moon has fewer RPG elements while maintaining the feeling of adventure and progression of exploring Dracula’s Castle. Harmony of Dissonance is a bit more RPG-like, and it has one of the most complex maps in the franchise. Aria of Sorrow is a collect-them-all type of game with a huge plot twist.

All these games are worth playing independently, so a collection on Steam is a gift to Castlevania fans who didn’t have the handheld console.

Forager

Forager is an action-adventure game that was developed by Glitchnap and published by Team17. It’s a delightful mix of Zelda and Stardew Valley and perfect for fans of both.

There’s a surprisingly robust combat system, too, so you’ll have plenty to do when it comes to dungeon crawling and crafting.

Forager is one of the best Zelda-like games on Steam, but it doesn’t limit the way you want to play it. You don’t have to focus too much on combat if you don’t want to. You can also play this game pretty much as if it was A Link to the Past.

The game is really easy to pick up but hard to master; it will keep you glued to your screen for hours at a time. Forager is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a retro-looking indie adventure experience.

Katana Zero

Set in a futuristic neon-soaked city, Katana Zero puts you in control of a capable and deadly assassin who is capable of super human performance.

This ultra-fast brawler uses simple movement and attack controls to deliver lightning-fast Katana slashes. You can turn enemies into slices of meat if they are unfortunate enough to get caught in your path.

The art design is stylish and slick, drawing heavy inspiration from both modern-day Tokyo and classic cyberpunk works like Ghost in the Shell.

The game is challenging, but it only takes one run-through to see everything it has to offer. You can dash, jump, dodge, and reflect projectiles, so you always feel like a badass. There are many different ways to finish a stage, and you get to express yourself while figuring out a solution.

On top of all that, since you cannot take any hits, succeeding always means that you did something cool and stylish.

Blade Assault

Blade Assault is a 2D rogue-like platformer set in a desolate cyberpunk world. It has beautiful pixel art and a soundtrack reminiscent of Mega Man and Shadowrun games. I am a huge fan of this game’s art style and atmosphere in general.

Blade Assault was very well received by critics and gamers. The gameplay might demand some getting used to, but it is rewarding. 

The fast-paced action, the music, and even the color pallets of the game do make you feel like you are in a dystopian future. The combat mechanics make you feel powerful, like a futuristic superhero from a shonen anime.

If you are craving something new to play and want a futuristic game with challenging action combat, give Blade Assault a try.

Stardew Valley

This game is a farming simulation role-playing video game developed by Eric Barone and published by Chucklefish Games.

Stardew Valley is about a character who inherited a farm from their grandfather. From that point forward, you need to take care of the farm to ensure its prosperity and make a living there using your own skills.

The player also has to manage time between tasks effectively. There are even dungeon-crawling sections where you have to fight monsters and collect items.

Despite being very similar to Harvest Moon games, Stardew Valley manages to feel fresh for several reasons. There’s a much greater variety of things you can do, and everything is quite simple but fun.

Celeste

Celeste is an exciting platformer from indie studio Matt Makes Games that test players’ abilities in many different ways. Players take control of Madeline, a talented mountain climber who is trying to reach the top of a mountain.

The game looks stunning, and its story packs some emotional punches. It can get really dark when the characters start talking about their inner demons, but it has a heart-warming conclusion.

When it comes to the gameplay, Celeste is all about climbing. There are no enemies for you to jump on or slash through. Most of the game is about overcoming challenges and getting to a higher point.

Madeline is a blast to control. She has a dash, a high jump, and she can stick to vertical surfaces before getting tired, but each stage might throw a new mechanical challenge at you that requires you to adapt how you play the game. This prevents Celeste from ever feeling dull.

The game is not that complicated to finish, but the Mountain has an optional B-Side for those who want a challenge.

Dead Cells

This vibrant action platformer is an indie game that surprised me. Due to not being a fan of rogue-like games, I was not expecting to enjoy Dead Cells as much as I did. In fact, I doubted that it could even feel like a Metroidvania due to its genre.

However, Dead Cells managed to be both a great game and also feel close enough to the genre it was trying to mimic. The great visuals and crazy action are what really drew me in and kept me playing, but the exploration was quite a fun part of the game too.

You can unlock tons of abilities over time to make your character more powerful, but the game also rewards skills. Not taking hits and finishing fast can help you build up currency to become even more powerful.

There aren’t many 2D action platformers that are as exciting as Dead Cells. And if you have nothing against rogue-like games, you should definitely try it out.

River City Girls

If you’re looking for a fun beat’ em up, then you can’t go wrong with River City Girls. Play as one of two students, Kyoko or Misako, who must take down street gangs of troublemakers to get their boyfriends back.

River City Girls is short, sweet, fun, and very well animated. There’s something about beating down a bunch of annoying enemies with special moves that makes this game very enjoyable.

This is a game that feels old school sometimes and even a bit repetitive. However, it breaks the monotony by adding elements of more modern games, such as customization, combos, and its amazing soundtrack.

The game also has many cameos to the older River City games and many references to famous beat’ em up and fighting games. It might be worth trying out River City Girls if you like either genre or the older games of the franchise.

Steel Assault

Steel Assault is a difficult retro-cade platformer. The developers clearly put a lot of effort into making this game feel like it belongs to a lost era, even though it’s quite new.

It plays fast and has some entertaining arcade elements that make you want to replay levels over and over again. I found myself getting better at jumping around my enemies as I continued playing it and getting used to enemy positions, weapon range, and movement mechanics.

Steel Assault’s main gimmick is the zipline mechanic. This unique traversal resource can be hard to master at first. However, it’s essential once enemies become impossible to dodge with only moving and jumping. Although it might be annoying at first, dominating the zipline and using it creatively is part of the fun.

Ultimately, it’s another well-done pixel-style 2D platformer that does everything right for fans of these types of games.

Rivals of Aether

This is a 2D fighting game inspired by Super Smash Bros. It has many familiar elements from that franchise. Yet, Rivals of Aether has unique mechanics and art style, making it feel different and stand out among other games of the genre.

Rivals of Aether follows the classic easy to learn, hard to master mentality of most recent games. Characters have a basic ground attack, aerial attacks, and special moves.

The game is, in many ways, designed to look retro. Still, it has charismatic characters and a level of netplay and polish that only exists in modern games.

If you like Smash or other platform fighters, chances are you will enjoy playing Rivals of Aether.

Undertale

Undertale is a pixelated indie RPG that allows you to spare monsters. In fact, you don’t even have to ever use violence in this game, which is one of Undertale’s most remarkable characteristics.

You play as a human child who falls into a hole and wakes up in an alternate universe where monsters live.

Trapped in that world, you must talk with them to figure out how to escape from their world and return home. This all sounds pretty serious, but it’s not! The art style is 8-bit, making everything look like something from an NES game.

Undertale does have darker tones sometimes, and the plot might present some serious topics, but it is also a heartwarming game with a lot of humor, although it might depend on your choices throughout the game.

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