Best 2D Games of the Last Generation

Written by Chad

January 27, 2015

best 2d games last generation

The likes of Mario, Link and Ryu all started in 2D graphics, yet most of the gamers have forgotten the legacy of 2D games. The classic 2D graphics were dominant during the 8-bit and 16-bit era during the late 80’s to the mid 90’s. But with the arrival of the PlayStation, 3D polygonal graphics are starting to overshadow the 2D sprite graphics. But thanks to High Definition gaming and the creative effort of indie game developers, 2D games are getting a comeback, with more detailed sprites, creative art direction and much fluid animations. We take a look at some of the great 2D games that are worth playing from the previous generation of consoles. Take note we are only featuring games that appeared in the previous generation of consoles

dragon's crown screenshot

Dragon’s Crown

One of the best Beat ’em Up games for the PlayStation 3 and Vita and also a great game to play with friends both local and online. Inspired by Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of Mystaria and Sega’s Golden Axe arcade games then mixing with RPG elements of dungeon crawling, Dragon’s Crown features 6 different characters classes and travel through dangerous dungeons and labyrinths. The art direction of George Kamitani adds that exaggerating feel to the characters (steroid powered manly men, check! Oversized errr–thighs, check!) thanks to the hand-drawn artwork and fluid animation, the characters have more personality. Let’s also not forget that Dragon’s Crown was developed by Vanillaware; who were known to create games with incredible 2D visuals.


scott pilgrim screenshot

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a graphic novel created by Bryan O’Malley that became a game (and also a live-action movie) where Scott must fight his girlfriend’s seven evil ex-boyfriends. The game features the classic arcade beat-em-up gameplay similar to the old favorites like X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time and River City Ransom, with up to four players can wreck havoc on screen, which is a fun party game if you have friends hanging out at your place. But the best highlight in the game is the retro 16-bit graphics, giving you a nostalgic feel of your favorite games from the mid-90’s, the pixel art created by Paul Robertson (who also made the character design for Mercenary Kings; which is also developed by the same team from SPVTW: TG) adds more personality to the game, not to mention a lot of gaming Easter eggs to discover when playing this. Oh and let’s not forget about Anamanaguchi’s awesome chiptune soundtrack.


child of light screenshot

Child of Light

This side-scrolling turn-based RPG (whew, that was a mouthful) provides a great visual feast thanks to the power of UbiArt Framework technology. It manages to create a beautiful and imaginative world for the game, even the water-colored artwork has fine brush strokes; from the characters up to the environment which makes it feel that you are inside a story book. It is an example of a game utilizing the current generation console’s hardware to provide the best 2D visuals. Though the game may be short for an RPG, it still provided an interesting combat gameplay system where you are required to strategize and timed your attacks to counter your enemy’s actions. It has JRPG elements made by westerners and they did it right.


persona 4 arena screenshot

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

We had a hard time picking between Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and the BlazBlue series, well since both were developed by Arc System Works. But in the end, we have to pick with Ultimax. It’s a game based on a game that is also turned into an anime series, what made this to our list is the very detailed 2D sprites and fluid animation, it’s like you are watching the anime adaptation of the original game. You get to pick from the main cast of the Persona 4 series as well as some other characters from the Persona 3 series, though some of the P3 cast will have some slight changes on their appearance to coincide to the timeline (P4 is 3-4 years after the events in P3). Aside from the 2D visuals, it has really simple fighting game mechanics, even newbies will enjoy playing this game as it’s pretty easy to learn from the start and to get used to the system.


guacamelee screenshot


How to make an awesome game? Mix a Metroidvania system with Lucha Libre characters. The colorful world of Guacamelee was even more visualized with its cel-shaded graphics, fluid animation, crazy combat and tons of internet meme references. The game may not be comprised of 2D sprites, but the use of cel-shaded graphics in a side-scroll perspective helped made the game more convincing as a 2D sidescrolling game and enjoyable to play. And didn’t we mentioned that playing as a luchador was pretty awesome?

skullgirls screenshot


Skullgirls Encore

The second great fighting game on this list, and with a more interesting story. Illustrator Alex Ahad had some early sketches of the characters when he was in high school, his interest in making a fighting game sparked during his college years. Then he met Game Designer Mike Zaimont, who’s a fighting game enthusiast and at that time Mike was designing his own fighting game engine. Two eventually worked together and merged their ideas to create Skullgirls. For the gameplay, it combines tag team and single character fight mechanics in a single match without affecting the handicap of the mode chosen, which is great feature for fighting game fans. As for its 2D graphics, the developers put a lot of their effort in the animation for each character as all of the animations are hand-drawn; giving a much fluid movement while still retaining its incredible artwork, from their color up to the shading of each frame.


muramasa rebirth screenshot

Muramasa Rebirth

Another Vanillaware game included on the list, and the HD remaster of the game for a portable console made it more stunning.  The fast-paced gameplay and incredible art blends well to this game, combat controls are pretty easy to use, most of the attacks are in a single button with some variety of attacks with a use of a directional input, each weapon has their own unique abilities giving more twist to your fighting style. Boss battles are the best moments in the game as you have to time their attack patterns George Kamitani’s art design mixes well with the Ancient Japan setting of Muramasa, especially with the boss designs that have some hint of Japanese Mythology.


mark of the ninja screenshot

Mark of the Ninja

This stealth-action sidescrolling game from the makers of Shank and Shank 2 is a must-play if you are a fan of ninja/stealth games. Though it may be similar with Shank’s comic book art-style and great animation, Mark of The Ninja stands out on its own with its game mechanics and level design. If Shank was more on brutal action, Mark of The Ninja is more on cunning, the game gives you options on how to eliminate your enemies silently and without being detected, each level was perfectly design to give alternatives on how your approach you stealth kills, it encourages you to plan your attack instead of blindly assault your targets head on.

And there you have it, our top picks of the best 2D games for the current gen. One thing to remember here is that having a great art direction in a game makes it more appealing play, as it blends well to both visuals and gameplay experience. Until next time…

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