Welcome to 8 Bit Horse

8 Bit Horse is a website dedicated exclusively to 2D video games for all systems, old and new.

2D RADAR

2D RADAR is our list of promising 2D games currently under development.

Lessons in 2D Game Design

We delve into the design lessons learned from classic 2D video games.

Game of the Year Showcase

A collection of our favorite games from past years.

A Celebration of 2D

Our list of notable 2D video games.

Yoku's Island Express

A game by Villa Gorilla for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2018.
Pinball has a long and storied history, going from barely-interactive distractions to electrified coin-operated equipment with flippers, gameplay objectives, and scorekeeping systems that allowed players to employ strategy. In many ways, pinball machines stand as early precursors to arcade machines, and at the very least, the two forms of entertainment were cozy neighbors during the arcade heyday. Pinball machines continue to be developed to this day, as do video games that attempt to emulate classic tables, or create impossible constructions limited only by the imagination.


But somewhere in the middle of all this are genre crossover video games that use pinball mechanics as a basis for their core gameplay. There have only been a handful of such games over the years, but they are always notable, if for no other reason than their sheer oddity. One early example is Pinball Quest, a role-playing game where the player uses flippers to knock a spheroid character across the environment and into enemies. Another such game is Odama, which sees the player operating flippers and using a microphone to issue commands to an army as they lay siege across battlefields across feudal Japan.


Children of Morta

A game by Dead Mage for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2019.
Children of Morta is a roguelike dungeon crawler set in a world where a great corruption has begun to spread. At the base of Mount Morta lives the Bergson family, and they may be the only ones who can prevent this darkness from taking hold. The family lives together in a large house, and each member of the family possesses a unique skill that can be used to fight back the encroaching hordes of undead, hulking ogres, and corrupted beasts.


In the opening cutscene, a colorful landscape is suddenly shaken by a powerful explosion from Mount Morta. The mountain peak shatters and emits some kind of purple fog that spreads across the surrounding area, blackening the nearby foothills and forest… but it turns out that this was just a dream, envisioned by an old seer. The Bergson patriarch, John, takes a sword and shield and departs the safety of his home to investigate the possible return of darkness to the land.


Biolab Wars

A game by Kolibri Game Studio for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2019.
Biolab Wars is a run-and-gun shooter set in 1985 and inspired by similar actioners from the NES era. The game stars a team of mercenaries who have been hired to stop an alien invasion. The team includes the musclebound Finn, a former bodybuilder and television repair man who enjoys cooking outdoors; the tough and deadly Becca; and Teddy, a purple dog in a mech suit who was experimented upon by the very aliens that he has been tasked to destroy.


The game offers bright colors, nonsensical shenanigans, and a beep-boop soundtrack that games of the mid-80’s were known for, but with a higher graphical fidelity. Still, the gameplay keeps true to the basics, with the ability to run, jump, shoot to the left or right, go prone Contra-style, climb hand-over-hand across narrow beams, and toss grenades. Gameplay takes place across seven themed areas, each of which is divided into three sections and a boss fight.


Space Cortex

A game by BRAINOS for PC, originally released in 2019.
Space Cortex is an open world actioner set on a deep space research station. An artificial superintelligence has gone awry and threatens the station, and possibly all of humanity… not to mention those juicy R&D profits. You take on the role of a jetpack-wearing operative – or a pair of them in 2P co-op – as you infiltrate the station, clear out the hostiles, and make your way to the AI core and destroy it, thereby opening the station up for destruction by an antimatter beam, ideally after you have safely departed.


The only way on or off the station is by way of a docking bay, so you park your ship in the bay and make your way through the five major regions of the space station. At the center of the station is a security area that requires five keycards to unlock, which are acquired by defeating bosses in each of the five regions, after which the player enters the central core for the final showdown.


Electronic Super Joy 2

A game by Michael Todd Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2019.
Electronic Super Joy 2 follows up on the stylish platforming of Electronic Super Joy and its mini-sequel, Electronic Super Joy: Groove City. Like its predecessors, the game offers tough precision platforming, a world made up of stark blacks and flashy neon, a pumping soundtrack, and a wry sense of humor. An opening splash screen warns that the game may cause seizures or motion sickness, along with “Swearing! Pixelated blood & Murder! Orgasms! Slime, Farts, and Tentacles! Blasphemy & The Devil!” This places the game squarely in line with the spirit of its predecessors, which featured a sexy pope who loved strip clubs, revenge for a lost butt, and a case of stolen laser nipples.


Unlike Groove City, this is a full-fledged sequel, offering more than 50 intense levels, a variety of powerups, four extended boss battles, and even some Doom-esque FPS levels. Your mission this time is to steal the Devil’s Golden Butt, which is said to grant wishes.


Grelox

A game by Sunteam for PC, originally released in 2019.
Grelox stars the titular character on a mission to save the planet of Aeon from a nefarious crime lord named Lady Mandrill. Mandrill's minions have been burrowing below the surface of the planet in search of some powerful ancient device. Grelox is a gun-for-hire with a passion for justice, so she sets down on the planet and dives into the tunnels, fighting enemies, unlocking passageways, and hunting for keycards to shut down each of Lady Mandrill’s subterranean lairs.


When the game begins, Grelox is standing outside her ship and she is able to enter either of two openings, which lead to the levels below. Completing both of these levels unlocks the next pair, and so on, across six levels that are divided into unique themes, ranging from high-tech to cavernous to organic. The seventh and final level is a straightforward action sequence through a grotesque Abadoxian environment packed with enemies.


Eagle Island

A game by Pixelnicks for PC, Mac, Linux, and Switch, originally released in 2019.
Eagle Island stars a boy named Quill who is an ornithologist exploring islands in search of rare bird specimens to study. He is accompanied by his two owl companions, Koji and Ichiro, as they fly alongside his boat. Suddenly, the trio are overcome by a storm, battered by hail and surrounded by lightning. Somehow – and apparently not as a result of lightning – Quill’s boat bursts into flames. He feels something grab him around his chest and lift his body upward, causing him to black out. He awakens on an island none the worse for wear, and still accompanied by the two owls, one of which is abducted shortly thereafter.


The game is divided into two modes of play: a persistent interconnected overworld and several randomly arranged roguelike dungeons. Any progress made in the overworld is retained throughout the game, whereas getting killed in a dungeon resets the player's progress within it. The overworld is fairly small, and not much time is actually spent here, as the core challenge is completing each of the dungeons. Dungeons are accessed via doorways in the overworld, and completing them awards the player with permanent powerups or new abilities which may be used in future dungeons and in the overworld.


Blazing Chrome

A game by Joymasher for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2019.
Blazing Chrome is a run-and-gun shooter inspired by the Contra series – Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps in particular – offering explosive over-the-top action, huge bosses, and 2P local cooperative play… bringing back memories of the halcyon days where Konami actually made video games. In the well-trodden year of 21XX, machines rule the planet, leaving behind crumbling cityscapes and a fiery red sky in their wake. Humans are on the verge of annihilation, and only you can fight back the onslaught to give humanity one last chance.


You take on the role of Marva, a human resistance soldier, and/or Doyle, a reprogrammed robot with a bright red mohawk for that extra dose of 90’s flavor. The duo volunteer for a suicide mission deep in enemy territory. The soldiers can equip up to four different weapons to mash their robotic overlords to bits, which mirrors the weapon systems used in Contra 3 and Contra Hard Corps. Along the way, they deliver destruction on foot, from the backs of hoverbikes, or within one of several empty mech suits that allow them to unleash additional firepower.


Hades

A game by Supergiant Games for PC, not yet released.
Hades is a roguelike actioner where you take on the role of Zagreus, the prince of the underworld and son of Lord Hades. Zagreus is attempting to escape the underworld, despite his father’s insistence that such an act is impossible. Still, Zagreus does not relent in his attempts and takes joy in defying his father and witnessing his displeasure. Each time he is killed, he returns once more to the House of Hades, rising up from a pool of blood and standing in a line of souls awaiting their meeting with the god of the dead.


Along the way, Zagreus makes many friends, all of whom are pivotal figures in the Greek pantheon. Some of these folks, like Achilles and Nix, hang about the House of Hades, while others like Sisyphus and Charon wander the underworld, and still others communicate with Zagreus from upon Mount Olympus, offering gifts to aid him in combat. By furthering conversations with these individuals – and offering them gifts – Zagreus slowly begins to learn more about the world around him, and about his own origins.


Guacamelee 2

A game by DrinkBox Studios for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch originally released in 2018.
Guacamelee 2 is the follow-up to the original Guacamelee, and once again stars Juan Aguacate in a colorful Mexican-themed beat ‘em up metroidvania filled with zany characters. The large interconnected world slowly opens as Juan uncovers new wrestling moves, which double as combat techniques and environmental navigation tools. As before, Juan has the power to transform into a chicken to enter small passageways morph ball-style, and he learns a number of chicken-specific techniques that allow him to take on enemies and reach new areas.


The game begins by revisiting the finale of the first game, although the dialogue is somewhat different. Here, Juan faces off against the evil Calaca to rescue Lupita. You fight Calaca in his skeleton form and again in his demonic form, but the battle is quite easy, since this is now the introduction to the game rather than its final boss encounter. The original game had two endings, one where Juan is too late and Lupita is dead, and another where Juan’s mask cracks to pieces and he looks down to find her alive. The latter ending is the canonical beginning to Guacamelee 2.


Steel Sword Story

A game by 8bits Fanatics for PC, originally released in 2019.
Steel Sword Story is a sidescrolling actioner featuring sword-based combat and set in a medieval fantasy world. You take on the role of a former knight named Azul Palan Baru who has been banished from the kingdom after being falsely accused by the traitorous Prime Minister, Rufus. With nothing left to lose, Azul returns to defeat Rufus and restore the kingdom, using his old steel sword to serve up a nice cold plate of revenge.


The developer, 8bits Fanatics, is known for its chunky sidescrolling actioners, although they tend toward zanier premises, such as the spike-heavy worlds of 1001 Spikes, or the zombie head-juggling of The Tempura of the Dead. By comparison, Steel Sword Story is considerably more straightforward, with battles against creatures and bosses across four themed areas. The game is somewhat less colorful than the developer's previous efforts, and the game is not terribly well optimized, which may be due to the Pixel Game Maker MV tool on which it was built... and someone went a little overboard on the light bloom effect.


Killer Chambers

A game by Village Bench for PC and Linux, originally released in 2019.
We don’t talk about it much these days, but memorization was once a key aspect to completing many of the most renowned action games. It wasn’t enough to just master the mechanics and react quickly; a significant factor for success was foreknowledge of enemy placement and boss attack patterns. With few checkpoints – or none at all – and limited continues, failure meant repeating large chunks of the game, and this repetition aided in memorization.


Killer Chambers revives this mentality, requiring near-perfect execution in each level, with failure sending the player back to try it again. The game takes place in a series of tiny rooms where arrows and other projectiles shoot out from the walls, requiring the player dodge them. The limited confines leave little room to maneuver and even less room for error, with a single misstep resulting in the player character exploding in a spray of blood that coats the surrounding area.