Pixel Graphics III Finale

So, here we are again. A little refresher for everyone who just joined this small article series about pixel graphics:

In Part 1 and Part 2 I talked about things that really irritate me in a number of current games that use a pixel art style to appear more retro.

Today in Part 3 I’d like to talk about a couple of other smaller things that bug me, examples of games that do it mostly right and thoughts about my own games I’ll eventually get around to creating. *ahem*

pixel garou
Wonderful pixel art on SNKs NeoGeo in Garou: Mark of the Wolves (1999)

Of course everything in these articles is my personal opinion and doesn’t extend to all games that use a pixel-art style.

Pixel Graphics for the lazy

I’m not criticizing small development teams with little or no budgets if they are honest and try their best. Not everyone can afford skilled artists or sometimes a single skilled artist, so the game probably won’t have any good graphics and that’s fine.

What is not fine is people using the pixel style as an excuse for low quality content and for not even trying. Bad graphics can’t be criticized if they’re low res because it’s supposedly “intended” to be that way. It’s “retro” and you don’t “get it”. Oh, I get it…I love me some pixel art but if you just fart around in MS-Paint, you don’t create pixel art, you’re creating pixel crap and you’re not exempt from criticism. If you don’t have the funds, manpower or skills to create good art, don’t go looking for excuses left and right. It doesn’t make you look professional.

Unfortunately this is a difficult area, as there are a lot of people who will cry “bad graphics” at anything below 1080p, even if it has gorgeous 2D pixel art. I’d argue that those people actually “don’t get it”, but to each their own I guess. So to someone who makes bad pixel art and can’t discern good from bad pixel art, all critics “don’t get it”.

What’s also funny is the fact, that there are a lot of games that don’t shy away from blatantly advertising “Look! Pixels! Retro!”. Right now there are over 100 titles on Steam alone with “pixel” or “retro” in the name.

Does it make sense

The problem is, that most gamers these days don’t even understand pixel art anymore. There’s not really any difference in quality in their minds. If it’s 2D and low res, it looks bad. Telling good pixel art from bad pixel art or god-forbid, good pixel art from bad 3D art is just impossible to explain.

Here’s a very good article from a pixel artist about the topic and while he talks not so fondly about one of my favorite games ever (Diablo), I agree with most of his points.

So from a financial perspective, the art style doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, because a lot of people just don’t care for pixel graphics. From an artists perspective, the issue is also two-fold. But you should read the article in the link. He talks more about if it makes sense to go for that art style these days.

Doing it right

I’m going to talk about a couple of games, that seem to do a pretty good job of creating good-looking and authentic pixel art. Of course I won’t be naming any old games from the 16Bit era or ports of those titles.

This is just a completely random selection, there are countless of beautiful games out there and if you have a particular game in mind, that you like, please let me know in the comments.


This is a screenshot from the game “Auro“, from the development team in the article above. It’s really wonderful pixel art and everything is really consistent and deliberate. But like the author said, a lot of people will think something’s wrong with their smart phone that makes everything so pixellated.


Stealer (or #5734L3R) is a not yet finished game with a really great art style. Simplistic but detailed and I really love the theme. Especially the first trailer has made me look forward to the title.

Dead Knight
Dead Knight

Dead Knight is also pretty early in development, but I simply love the atmosphere of the visuals. Especially the lighting effects are very nice. I’m not a huge fan of the stick-figure style, but the overall look is great.


Eitr is an upcoming game that’s being described by many as an isometric 2D “Souls”-style game (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls by From Software). While there seem to be a couple of modern techniques used and it seems to be leaning ever so slightly into the stick figure category, I like the locations and atmosphere. Especially the cut scenes and big sprites look quite good. Looking forward to this one.

My own Pixel-crap

By no means am I an expert on pixel graphics, I’m most likely not even halfway decent at it myself. I’d love to get back into drawing and pixel art etc. again, but basically I’ve put a hold on that hobby for quite a while now and I hope I’ll be able to change that in the near future.

For the next Unity tutorial game I’ll be doing my own assets, which will be low res pixel style. I won’t spend countless hours on making a perfect tileset and animations as I don’t have the time nor the skill, but I hope I can put something together that doesn’t look like complete garbage.

I’m also not sure right now about the pitfalls of using 2D in Unity so it’s quite likely that I’ll be making the exact mistakes I’m complaining about right now. But I’m trying my best.

Here’s a little test I set up from an early tileset. It won’t look like this in the Roguelike, because I originally created that tileset for a different project, but you get the idea.

This still uses -way- too many colors and I still haven’t decided about lighting.

What do you think about pixel graphics in these days? Let me know in the comments.

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