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  • Writer's pictureAndy Chapman

Pixel Art in Gaming: Why Retro Never Dies

In the modern world of AAA gaming, breakthroughs in technology have created some of the most dynamic and awe-inspiring visuals ever seen within the industry, titles such as Horizon: Forbidden West, The Last Of Us 2, Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Assassin’s Creed series push the boundaries of spectacle within gaming, as well as the scope of mechanics within the gameplay. These names earn the level of a blockbuster not just in sales but by what they bring to the table.

Blasphemous (2019)

But amazing graphics alone do not make a great game. There are entire sections of developers that continue to look to the past and still make great games. I am talking about Pixel Art.

In the early days of gaming, devs were limited with what the technology allowed. Pixel art was the norm because that is what was possible. As the years passed, technology improved, 3D graphics expanded and became more and more realistic. The scope of what’s possible grew, so why do people return to pixel art games?

Carrion (2020)

The first answer most would say is nostalgia. But this is not the only reason. Gaming isn’t just for the young anymore. The gaming industry has been around for a long time now. Most of the original players who began as kids are now well into middle age. Does your love of gaming subside with age? No, I’m in my late 30’s and enjoy it as much as ever. Nostalgia for the type of games you played when you were young will always be a factor. But it certainly isn’t the only one, as new players discover modern pixel games and enjoy them as much as any older gamer. One of my all-time favourite games, Quake, was recently remastered and with the continuing popularity of games like Minecraft now feels more like a new indie gem than a dated AAA shooter.

Quake (2021 remaster)

The truth is a good game is not about how great the graphics are but about how good the game is to play. Modern pixel art games like Blasphemous, Carrion, and the more recent Vampire Survivors, have taken the retro style and created fun-to-play original games that use simple graphics as an artistic choice. These games and many like them bring the player into their worlds as effectively as big-budget games do, which is why these games persist.

Minecraft (2011)

Simple graphics mean quicker turnaround time for smaller developers who don’t have the budgets like big studios do. Using pixel art is an effective means to realise their vision. It means people can create their games with a higher level of freedom, paying more attention to artistic and gameplay qualities than primarily the graphics.

As big-budget studios push the boundaries of what is possible in a game, pixel art continues strongly, producing fun experiences that capture the attention of gamers worldwide. And while AAA games now often come under criticism for buggy, unfinished products on release, pixel art games offer a simple and engaging alternative that will always have a place in the gamers’ library.

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