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A Closer Look at Today’s Pixel Art Games: Retro Fabulous Fun for Everyone
Anyone that’s ever considered themselves a gamer or a video game lover is no doubt familiar with pixel art games. After all, their trademark look is absolutely unmistakable, not to mention completely endearing in its own way. Pixel art games are colorful. They’re simple. They’re also compelling. If you grew up playing the classics on your Atari console or Nintendo, then the chances are excellent that pixel art brings back a lot of fond childhood memories as well.
However, what people may or may not realize is that pixel art games are far from a thing of the past. Not only are they alive and well in the gaming industry today, but the entire pixel art style is actually becoming trendy again. In fact, some of today’s most popular pixel art games are even giving alternatives featuring the latest developments in gaming graphics a run for their money. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting new trend in game design and everything it brings to the table for modern day people. You’ll soon see that not only is pixel art not dead, but it’s just getting started.
The Lay of the Land in Gaming Today
A lot has changed about the way video games operate since people first played Pong, Asteroids, and Space Invaders decades ago. Back then, very simple forms of pixel art were an absolute necessity. Hardware was relatively low-powered, especially in comparison to some of what’s available in the current day and age. Simple game play principles and bare bones graphics made it possible for gaming to become the sensation it has been ever since the early 80’s.
However, as technological advancements continued to be made we saw the artwork involved in our favorite new game releases moving forward by leaps and bounds as well. Impressive 3D graphics hit the scene eventually and each new incarnation of favorite game series boasted vast improvements in the amount of detail that would typically be part of the mix.
Before long, generational shifts in gaming consoles brought with them high expectations for graphics capability. The order of the day quickly became high levels of detail and sometimes astonishing realism, especially in regards to offerings from the giants like Microsoft and Sony. Although gameplay was still important, it wasn’t long before they were taking a back seat to graphics altogether when it came to the grand scheme of things.
However, these days, we’re seeing a very definite shift for sure. The priorities of gamers and developers alike are starting to revert back to what they once were for a number of different reasons. While lush, eye-popping graphics in popular video games certainly haven’t gone anywhere, we’re also seeing pixel art becoming popular again. But why are we seeing this happening? What is the current appeal of simpler pixel art games in a day and age when consoles and operating systems are at an all-time high as far as what they can do? Read on as we examine the answers to these questions and other like them.
Why Pixel Art Is Making a Comeback
Even here in the digital age, nostalgia certainly has its place. After all, how many times have you logged onto Facebook or Twitter to hear people waxing nostalgic about their childhood days, the days when kids dreamed of getting a bike for Christmas instead of an iPhone, a laptop, or a Playstation 4? How many people still miss the experience of collecting records and tapes even though mp3 files are actually a much more convenient and technologically advanced option? Most importantly, why do they feel this way?
While it’s true that people remain as nostalgic about the video games they played as a kid as they do about anything else, nostalgia isn’t really the reason we’re seeing pixel art chosen as the going look for some of today’s most fascinating new games. The resurgence of pixel art games has so much more to do with the basic principles that made video games a staple in the first place.
One of the largest reasons we’re seeing pixel art becoming so huge right now is that it embodies a look that is unequivocally linked to the concept of the video game itself. When you think of the quintessential video game, you most likely picture something that was rendered using pixel art. That said, games designed using pixel art are able to make an instant connection with users.
It’s also a very valid art form in and of itself. Pixel art can be manipulated and individualized in as many different ways as any more three-dimensional alternative can be. Many of today’s top designers are finding that the pixel art aesthetic is perfect for what they want to express and for the visuals they want their games to have. Users are rediscovering the beauty, the simplicity, and the “fun factor” that pixel art brings to the table as well.
Unique and Imaginative Gaming Experience
Many diehard gamers that swear by the pixel art gaming experience feel the way they do because sometimes less is more. In many pixel art games, especially those that are most simplistic when it comes to graphics, it’s the very simplicity itself that allows for the fullest gaming experience.
Pixel art leaves something to the imagination because of the way it doesn’t spell everything out for the viewer. Players’ minds fill in the blanks as far as what is and isn’t represented on their own. This can make for a very fulfilling and immersive gaming experience. Of course, it can be a nostalgic one as well, since using one’s imagination in this way will be reminiscent of the way you gamed when you were still a child.
Pixel art gives the viewer an opportunity to see and experience more than is actually there visually speaking. There is even some evidence to suggest that the more detailed a given character in a video game becomes, the harder it becomes to identify with them as easily.
Pixel art is also incredibly versatile as a style. There are few limits to what a designer can do when it comes to the medium. It can be applied to full-scale 3D games as easily as it can standard 2D options. It’s a perfect fit for a complete range of genres and subject matters as well. It can easily be made to feel dark and forbidding as it can bright, blocky, and cheerful.
In a way, pixel art is the most natural choice when a designer is looking to create games that are driven by pure emotion, heart, and imagination. It’s also being embraced as one of the most attractive ways for a game designer to sidestep the constant race to turn up the volume on the wow factor attached to graphics.
A Timeless Quality
When a certain style becomes positively synonymous with the very concept of gaming in the way that pixel art has, there’s a certain timelessness attributed to games that make good use of this style. These days, games like Space Invaders, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Donkey Kong are not considered outmoded. They’re classics that embody a simplicity of design that is now considered quintessential and iconic.
That said, modern games that feature pixel art will stand up to the test of time more readily than some of their more elaborate cousins will. The blocky, all-encompassing style of pixel art is now considered ageless. Much like fashion basics that will always be in style, pixels will always measure up. They don’t operate from the position of trying to create an illusion for the player to project into, so it’s simply not possible for that illusion to crumble.
As technology and gaming consoles continue to become more powerful and versatile, the possibilities out there for pixel art games are limitless. Many of today’s artists are finding new, interesting, and incredible ways to innovate and express through pixels. Who knows that future generations might come up with!
It’s clear to players, marketers, and designers alike that pixel art is here to stay and it could go literally anywhere in the years and decades to come. Modern gamers and old school players alike are definitely excited about what that might entail.
In other words, pixel art games are far from limited, obsolete, or outmoded. If anything, the medium and style they represent has far more potential than anything else.
Pixel Art and the Rise of Mobile Gaming
It’s also worth noting all the ways the rise of mobile technology and the simplicity of pixel art go hand in hand. These days, people do roughly 80% of their web surfing via their mobile phones or tablets. As SmartPhone technology continues to advance and become more sophisticated, this is only becoming more the case.
As individuals continue to embrace the current rise of mobile technology, they’re also changing the way that they game and use other forms of entertainment such as magazines, music, movies, and television. The days that found literally everyone gaming via standalone consoles, desktop computers, or even laptops are long gone. People want to be able to take their games with them on a mobile basis in the same way they do their books, their social networking interfaces, their music, and their videos.
Pixel art games are absolutely perfect for entertaining, addictive games that people can enjoy on the go to the same extent they enjoy them at home. Let’s take a closer look at why and how.
Great Use of Space
The more we find people accessing their favorite games via smaller screen like those found on the average SmartPhone, the more important it becomes for developers to choose design methods that make the most of smaller screens. When space is at a steep premium, literally every pixel counts.
Traditional pixel art interfaces allow designers to jam as much heart, spirit, and detail into a small visual field as possible. Characters remain lively, entertaining, and real. Gameplay stays colorful and engaging. Plus, pixel art is a positively perfect fit for interfaces like Flash.
Easy to Download
Mobile devices actually have more in common with old school gaming consoles than people might otherwise think. Although the average SmartPhone is many times faster, more sophisticated, and more powerful than the Atari, Sega, or Nintendo console you couldn’t live without as a kid, there are still plenty of limitations to consider.
One of the most critical of these is download size and speed. Graphics-heavy games have high download sizes that simply don’t gel with data costs attached to app downloads for mobile phones. Pixel art games, on the other hand, are relatively compact in this regard. This makes them the best option out there today when it comes to games meant for mobile play. It’s easy, fast, and affordable to download them on the go and play them any time.
The fact that you’re playing a game on your mobile device isn’t going to decrease what you expect to get out of the gaming experience on the whole. You still want adventure. You still need a compelling storyline and detailed characters that hold your interest and help you become invested in the game.
Pixel art is the currently the available option that offers the highest possible payoff for the labor and data that goes into making it. Pixel art allows gaming developers to craft thoughtful details that don’t require a high degree of labor or work to create. More work goes into the actual characters, weapons, and other key elements that make games truly come alive for the people that play them.
Perfect for Simple Gameplay
Although many people still love simple, easily accessible gameplay dynamics when they’re gaming on their consoles and PCs, such things become even more critical when you’re gaming on a mobile device. Mobile gamers like simple games that are also challenging and addictive. This makes them easy to pick up, put down, and pick back up again at one’s leisure.
Pixel art is perfectly suited for this type of game today in the same way it was way back when video games first made their debut. Many developers will absolutely tell you that their primary objective is to tell the story at the heart of gameplay in a way that translates well for the player. Pixels are positively perfect for that.
At the end of the day, you’re going to hear a lot of talk about pixel art that describes it as “retro”. However, it’s important to realize that there’s really nothing truly retro about pixel art games, as nostalgic as they may be. In many ways, pixel art is the most timeless, efficient design style for a wide variety of games and if anything, the rise of mobile technology only proves how very relevant it still is.
What to Look for in Modern Pixel Art Games
As we’ve touched on above, there are no limits in today’s gaming world to what pixel art can accomplish. It’s versatile, it’s engaging, and it’s intriguing. It’s also inexpensive to produce and to download while still delivering a gaming experience that today’s gamers can’t help but fall in love with.
Best of all, an awful lot of today’s best pixel art games are not only fully accessible via your favorite mobile devices, but they’re free to try… and free to become addicted to. The popular pixel art game Smacky Cars is an amazing example of everything pixel art games are at their very best. Let’s take a closer look at what Smacky Cars and other stellar pixel art games popular today bring to the table for serious and casual gamers alike.
Simple But Thrilling
If you’re a former Atari or Nintendo kid, then you don’t need to be reminded of how positively addictive your very first games really were. In fact, they’re probably responsible for your current strong love for video games in general, right?
Have you ever asked yourself what those games brought to the table that was so compelling? They were balanced in a way many modern games just aren’t. They were thrilling and compelling, while also being simple. They were so addicting because of the way they sucked you right in with simple dynamics and uncomplicated designs.
Modern pixel art games like Smacky Cars are compelling in the same way you appreciated as a kid. Intentionally retro pixel graphics put you the player right in the driver’s seat when it comes to the thrill of dodging speeding cars. However, the game’s simplicity hardly means that it’s not challenging. Diehard Smacky Cars fans not only adore the graphics, but really respond to the simple controls that make this game easy to get into.
As we touched on above, a truly great pixel art game really needs to be fully accessible via all of today’s most popular mobile devices. After all, people don’t just enjoy playing on their own devices. They also want to pass truly addictive games on to friends that may well be loyal to a completely different platform. They want to be able to access the games they play across multiple devices, too. (The average person not only plays games via a mobile phone these days, but probably also a tablet or additional devices.)
Smacky Cars, Flappy Bird, and many of today’s top pixel art games are fully available for download via Apple’s app store. They’re also available from Google Play, making them playable for those that prefer the Android platform.
Retro and Modern All at Once
Although pixel art is anything but strictly old school, modern game developers are really missing out if they don’t take advantage of the retro appeal pixel art comes attached to. Smacky Cars is definitely a modern game that is perfectly suited for on demand, modern play. However, it also nods strongly in the direction of classic games like Pole Position.
If you were ever a Pole Position fan in your youth, then you also know that while the game was extremely easy to play, it was quite the challenge to actually win. Hardcore players are remembering everything they loved about retro-fabulous racing games like Pole Position by playing against their friends for coveted top spots on the Smacky Cars leaderboards.
Do you remember how thrilling it was to finally beat your best friend’s high score? Do you recall how absolutely exhilarating it was when you finally topped your own score after month upon month of trying? Smacky Cars will bring back that feeling and then some.
Appropriate for Everyone
Last but definitely not least, a good pixel art game should be right for everyone. Many of today’s more sophisticated games are so complicated and adult-oriented that they actually require ratings in much the same way movies do. Pixel art games like Smacky Cars are throwbacks to a day when games were created to appeal to people of all ages.
Not only can you and your adult friends get into Smacky Cars and other similar pixel art games, but so can your teenagers and young children. It’s the kind of thing your technology challenged parents and grandparents are sure to like as well. In other words, these are games people can truly get excited about playing as a family again.
The amazing level of positive feedback Smacky Cars and similar games are getting from gaming enthusiasts really speaks for itself. People love the simple experience of playing a fun, colorful game that doesn’t come attached to a massive learning curve the way so many games do anymore. They love being able to share the experience easily as well.
That said, if you haven’t given today’s fun, fast-paced, modern pixel art games a chance, it’s high time you did. Pixel art is definitely here to stay and this is only expected to become more the case as time continues to roll on. Experience it for yourself and join the revolution today! You’re sure to be glad you did.