Seeing the bigger pixel

Looking back on Tamagotchi, with their tiny screens and huge pixels, it’s really kind of endearing how attached to them we once were. Even though those little digital critters looked far from the real thing, we loved and cared for them all the same.

Perhaps, the reason is in the pixels themselves.

That clunky 2D look was the building block for many classics that we grew up gaming with: think arcade hits PAC-MAN and Space Invaders; home console staples Super Mario Bros and Dragon Quest; handheld games Pokémon and Double Dragon. What was once a technological limitation during the early decades of gaming has since become an embraced, nostalgia-filled aesthetic.

Now on the App Store, we’re featuring a slew of games that are part of the pixel art revival. Developers are taking the genre to the next level by incorporating vivid designs, rich layers and modern game mechanics. Far from just ‘retro’, these iPhone and iPad games celebrate the past while embracing the future. Let’s take a closer look at some of these titles.

Everything is possible

During the action/RPG heyday of NES and arcade games, you’d be hard pressed to find anything close to a true simulation-based title.

On the iOS platform, however, the genre took off, and gamers could run farms and restaurants right on their devices. But at a time when high-res graphics were all the rage, Japanese developer Kairosoft took a bold leap by taking a stylistic step backward – sim games with a retro look. The devs are hardcore pixel art fans, and made sure to feature it throughout their huge catalogue. Run a hot springs, a high street, a cafeteria – you’ll definitely manage to find something you like.

    Dream Town Story



    Dream House Days



    High Sea Saga



Click and bait

As simulations gained in popularity, another trend emerged in the last decade – the hidden object genre. These were sort of a mix between point-and-clickers and Wheres Wally? search puzzles: the idea was to locate objects hidden in a highly detailed background.

This set the stage for Death Coming, an advanced pixel art game that aesthetically carries the Kairosoft torch. Gameplay not only challenges to find hidden objects, but also introduces a timing element – players have to trigger traps at the right moments to cause deadly ‘accidents’. The result is a fresh take on the pixel art genre that keeps things fun and light with some ghoulish overkill.

    Death Coming

    Help the Reaper harvest souls


Pixels that pop

Pixel art designs offer limitless possibilities, and FEZ Pocket Edition is a fantastic example. The game adds an extra dimension to this classic chunky style, with awesome results. Gomez, our hero, is 2D and so is his world.

But you, the player, bring new perspective to his journey. By rotating views horizontally, hidden paths are suddenly revealed to Gomez, allowing him to continue adventuring. Besides its meticulous pixel style, the game surprises with optical illusions and 3D design that really jumps from the screen.

    FEZ Pocket Edition