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.

Picks of the Decade

Our picks of the most memorable games from the previous decade.

A Celebration of 2D

Our list of notable 2D video games.

Pilots of Darsalon

A game by Dr. Kucho Games for PC and Mac, originally released in 2020.
Pilots of Darsalon is a gravity-based spaceship game inspired by the classics of the genre: Lunar Lander, Gravitar, Thrust, and Solar Jetman. Per genre conventions, you control a spaceship with limited fuel resources, and you must descend beneath the surface of a planet that is filled with enemy turrets. You fly through 15 levels, moving carefully to avoid crashing into the walls while balancing the need to move quickly and efficiently to avoid running out of fuel.


The game offers a total of five difficulty settings, most of which poke fun at the player for wishing to have an easier experience, which is somewhat appropriate given that this particular subgenre offers notoriously difficult gameplay that punishes even small mistakes. The default difficulty setting is Level 4, which gives an experience that is in line with the difficulty of other genre entries. As a joke, the lowest difficulty setting is called “Narrative”, and selecting it cuts to a Commodore 64-style screen that cheekily types out that you have killed all of the enemies, delivered your cargo, and won the game.


BIOMASS

A game by BRAINOS for PC and Android, originally released in 2020.
BIOMASS is a short metroidvania with a unique take on equipment and remaining lives. The game was made as part of a game jam where the theme was "The more you use an action, the worse it will perform." As a result, the player’s weapon, armor, and even the device that created him will wear out with each use. The game takes place aboard a space station that has been overrun by the eponymous biomass, which has apparently escaped the laboratory where it was being studied.
The game begins with a clone being grown in a lab, after which it emerges from the cloning device and slumps onto the floor. A message displays reading “Cloning sequence complete. Bioprinter status: 93%” (the percentages vary somewhat for each reprinting), which hints at the fallibility of the device, adding some immediate tension to the experience. There are two doors in the room, but the upper door is stuck, and so you proceed to the right.


Fury Unleashed

A game by Awesome Games Studio for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2020.
Fury Unleashed is a roguelike run-and-gun shooter that takes place across the procedurally generated pages of several comic books. You play as the star of the titular comic book series, and you may select a male or female character to start, with numerous additional visual styles to be unlocked, including several of the non-human variety. The hero – or heroes in local 2P co-op – gets up to all kinds of mayhem in these books, blasting dozens monsters, witch doctors, Nazi soldiers and war machines, alien beasts, and loads of slime-spewing bosses and minibosses.


The meta-narrative focuses on John Kowalsky, creator of the Fury Unleashed comics, as he begins to lose confidence in his own work, as evidenced by several social media posts and emails that are uncovered throughout the game. However, by leading your comic book hero to victory, you help the series creator regain confidence in his creativity, which results in more enemy drops and health bonuses for you. In terms of gameplay, this is done by stringing together lengthy kill combos (i.e., unleashing your fury) and completing challenges such as wiping out a certain number of enemies with melee attacks.


SteamDolls - Order of Chaos

A game by The Shady Gentlemen for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, not yet released.
SteamDolls - Order of Chaos is a dark and gritty metroidvania set in a steampunk universe. You take on the role of a masked anarchist called “The Whisper” as he skulks through city streets, sewers, factories and the like, taking down agents of those in power by brutally murdering them with the blades attached to his wrists. Unfortunately, The Whisper seems to be suffering from visions of some sort, which are often severely divorced from reality. (Ed note: this preview is based on a concept demo which is meant to showcase the game’s atmosphere and various features; it is not meant to represent the final product.)


The game takes place after the Great Collapse, set in a world where society has returned to some semblance of order… only too turn everything to shit once again. A corrupt authoritarian government now rules by controlling the world’s primary power source, quite possibly – as the protagonist believes – through the aid of sorcery. The Whisper has taken it upon himself to reveal the truth of this world, and hopefully ignite he fire of revolution.


Snake Core

A game by Orangepixel for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2020.
Snake Core is a modern take on the classic Snake formula where players control a lengthy string of soldiers rather than a slithering reptile. The game is set in the same universe and era as the developer’s Gunslugs series, taking place after the Gunslugs have defeated an evil army and defended Earth from alien attack. During this time – and using a bit of alien technology – scientists develop a device called the Omega Gate, which is capable of transporting people and objects over great distances. The Gunslugs train a new military outfit called the Snake Core, which then uses the Omega Gate to teleport to hostile alien worlds and bring the fight to them.


Like Snake, you’re really only controlling the head, while the rest of the body follows along the same route. Crossing over your own path or running into a wall spells instant death, but it’s a bit silly here, since you’re not controlling a single creature but rather a line of (presumably) independently-thinking soldiers. So when the lead soldier walks into a wall and dies, so too do the rest of the soldiers in the line, laughably exploding into blood and skulls as they are mysteriously shredded by bumping into a solid object.


Terra Lander / Terra Lander II - Rockslide Rescue / Terra Lander Remastered

Games by DM Media for PC (the first game was also released on iOS and Android), originally released in 2015 and 2020 respectively, with the Remastered version of the original released in 2019.
Terra Lander is a short series of gravity-based spaceship games where you must manage fuel resources while navigating planetoids, avoiding projectiles, destroying enemy cannons, and safely landing the ship before fuel – or the timer – runs out. In the second game, the player must also rescue humanoids trapped below the surface, and use a tractor beam to deal with rockslides. Borrowing mechanics and aesthetics from the classics of the genre – including Lunar Lander, Gravitar, Thrust, and Oids – these games are presented in a vector graphics style.


Unlike most genre entries, the player does not control the rotation of the ship, which removes one of the finer nuances of environmental navigation. Instead, the ship sits upright at all times and the player is free to thrust in any direction. In the first game, exhaust is emitted from each side of the ship as the player navigates, but in the second game, the engine thrust effect only appears from below.



Shadow Gangs

A game by JKM Corp for PC, originally released in 2020.
Shinobi is a fondly-remembered series of ninja action games that got their start in the arcades in 1987, courtesy of Sega. The series remained popular into the early 90’s thanks to numerous console ports of the two original arcade games (Shinobi and Shadow Dancer), as well as several follow-ups across Sega’s platforms of the day.


The series is known for its sidescrolling action starring a ninja (primarily Joe Musashi) who throws shuriken as his primary weapon, but who can also use martial arts to combat enemies when they come in close, with some of the games granting the character a ninjatō for up-close kills. The series is also known for its multi-plane environments where the ninja can jump onto higher ledges, rooftops, or objects in the background. The protagonist is often tasked with rescuing hostages throughout short branching environments, with level completion restricted until all of them have been freed.


Bomb Chicken

A game by Nitrome for PC, Mac, Switch, and PS4, originally released in 2018.
Bomb Chicken is a bombastic bomb-based puzzle platformer starring a chubby chicken who lays bombs instead of eggs. The world’s biggest fast food chain, BFC, has the world clamoring for its products by way of an alluring blue special sauce that spices up the chicken with mysterious yet addictive properties. The sauce is apparently produced in a Mesoamerican temple deep in the jungle, and it’s so important to the BFC empire that they have made the temple their headquarters.


But there is ancient writing on the walls of the temple that speaks of a terrible curse that could befall any who disturb this powerful sauce… and it seems that day is nigh. After a freak accident, an average everyday normal mother clucker is transformed into a bomb-laying beast of retribution, threatening to bring BFC to its greasy knees. (Thank goodness for video games; otherwise that sentence could never exist.)


Kemono Heroes

A game by Mad Gear Games for Switch, originally released in 2020.
Kemono Heroes is a sidescrolling actioner for up to four players that mixes melee and projectile-based combat. Tsukigami, the Moon God, has opened its eye and sent a wave of energy through the forest, petrifying everyone within. Fortunately, there are four ninja masters – who all happen to be fluffy forest creatures – that spring into action to save the people, fighting through enemies and evil spirits, climbing Mt. Fuji, and eventually facing off against the Moon God himself.


The game is heavily steeped in Japanese folklore, and little is explained for Western audiences, so your understanding of the goings-on will be dependent upon your fluency in all things Japanese. Those who are versed in Japanese belief systems and mythologies, or purveyors of manga, anime, or other Japanese works may recognize several elements. Others may not understand what a kasa-obake is, for instance, but will be able to recognize a spirit possessing and umbrella and bringing it to life.


Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth

A game by Team Ladybug for PC, originally released in 2020.
Record of Lodoss War began its life as a series of fantasy novels, but since that time, it has received multiple iterations in manga, anime, and video games, each offering their take on the world and its characters. Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a metroidvania in the style of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and it stars Deedlit, a high elf who is gifted in elemental magic and is a skilled swordsman. Many of Deedlit’s designs and animations are directly inspired by those of Alucard from Symphony of the Night.


Deedlit awakens to find herself in a familiar but unknown place, and so she sets out to find out what has happened, where she is, and what she must do. And so she traverses an open world environment, battling enemies, fighting bosses, and engaging with other characters, not all of whom are friendly. Per genre conventions, Deedlit slowly gains new abilities that allow her to revisit previous areas and find new routes forward.


Deedlit has a 1.5x variable jump and a backstep that allows her to quickly move out of the way of enemy attacks. She begins the game with a longsword, which she can use to attack enemies while standing, ducking, or jumping. There is no combo, but she is able to swing the sword rapidly, taking out most enemies with ease. She can also aim her attacks in eight directions, with downward attacks and downward angles only possible while jumping.


Throughout the game, Deedlit acquires new weapons, with some recovered from defeated enemies, others found around the environment, and still others available for purchase from a shopkeeper (more on this in a bit). Every weapon has a speed and attack strength rating (and some offer multi-hit combos), so weapons like clubs may allow for heavier strikes, but Deedlit swings them more slowly. Spears allow for quick attacks at a longer range, but they do less damage per strike. The player may swap between these weapons at any time from the pause menu.


Deedlit also gains access to bows and arrows early into her adventure. Arrows may be fired infinitely, with each shot draining a bit of the magic meter, which refills slowly over time. Like melee weapons, bows come in a number of varieties with differing stats, and while arrows are weaker than melee weapons, they can be used to deal with enemies from afar or to wear down bosses from a safe distance. Arrows can be fired straight ahead, or at upward or downward angles, and they bounce off of steel surfaces, setting up puzzle-like sequences where the player must bounce arrows around corners into order to cut weighted ropes and open doorways.


Deedlit learns a few different magic-based attacks, which also drain the magic meter, but much of the action focuses on a pair of elemental-based spirits. Early on, Deedlit gains access to a wind-based elemental spirit that allows her to hover in the air. This hover effect is infinite and can be used to cross gaps, avoid enemies and traps, and occasionally reach higher platforms, although the wind only pushes her up to a specified height. This magic also extends the reach of her melee weapons somewhat by creating small whirlwinds at the end of each strike, and arrows also take on elemental affinities.


Later, Deedlit gains access to a fire-based elemental spirit. When this spirit is equipped, Deedlit's weapons can destroy gunpowder barrels that block her route, and killing enemies causes them to erupt in flames. Similarly, Deedlit’s attack range is extended somewhat with a flame at the end of each strike, and her arrows also take on the flame effect.


Only one of these elemental spirits may be used at a time, and there is some strategy involved in swapping between them. First off, some enemies are immune or resistant to certain elemental effects. For instance, fire-breathing lizards are immune to flame-based sword strikes, whereas mummies and other undead creatures take more damage from these strikes but are resistant or immune to wind-based attacks.


Similarly, some enemies and bosses fire color-coded projectiles, with blue representing wind and orange representing fire. By swapping to the corresponding color, the player is able to negate damage from these attacks, and the same works for blue and orange level hazards. This spirit swapping ability allows for boss attacks that fill the screen with projectiles, requiring the player to make some quick Ikaruga-style swaps to avoid danger.


Of equal importance is that flame and wind attacks may be leveled up, with levels ranging from 1-3. When you kill enemies or break certain objects, they drop cubes – each enemy kill results in a set of dice appearing in the lower right corner of the screen – and these may be collected to level up whichever spirit is not equipped at the time. Levelling up allows the player to perform more powerful attacks and can also be used to restore some health. However, players must be careful, as each hit they take reduces the equipped spirit by one level. As a result, players must be mindful of when to swap spirits for the best effect, and must occasionally unequip a spirit in order to level it up.


Killing enemies also allows the player to gain experience points, with each level gained granting a slight increase in attack power and defense. Most enemies drop gold as well, which can be spent in a shop once the player discovers the shopkeeper. The shop offers health, magic, and spirit restoratives, as well as a doll that takes a bit of damage in your place. In addition, the shopkeeper sells a variety of swords and bows with differing speed and strength stats. The shopkeeper will also buy your unwanted equipment.


The player is not required to make any purchases in order to make progress, as he will stumble upon better weapons through the normal course of play… but the player can also gain an advantage by purchasing more powerful weapons earlier in the game, provided he has the money. Enemies respawn when reentering rooms, so it’s possible to farm for gold and experience points. That said, the overall difficulty level is fairly low outside of boss encounters.


Bosses can be pretty tough the first time you encounter them, but skilled players may still defeat them on a first attempt. Once you learn boss’ patterns and when to swap between wind and fire spirits, these battles become easier.


Save points are abundant, and these restore your health as well. In addition, warp points appear throughout the game world, allowing fast travel between any that the player has discovered. Thoroughly exploring the environment occasionally results in the discovery of false/destructible walls that lead to hidden rooms, wherein the player may discover new spells or other upgrades. Explorative players may also discover permanent HP and MP upgrades.


Most progression is organic, with new areas opening as new abilities are gained, such as a ground slide ability that lets you enter small openings, and the aforementioned gunpowder barrels that may be destroyed with flaming sword attacks. Unfortunately, others areas are blocked off by a simple lock-and-key structure, with some doorways becoming unlocked once the player finds the switch to deactivate them, while other doors (with different symbols) remain locked. A metroidvania map helps players determine which areas remain to be explored.


As mentioned, the game is very much inspired by the aesthetics of the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania series, and it wears these inspirations on its sleeve by way of numerous graphical details, animations, and music that mimic this series. The studio previously developed Touhou Luna Nights, a metroidvania (also based on a long-running series of other artistic works) with similar aesthetics. Players experienced with games in the metroidvania genre will be at home here, although the difficulty is somewhat lower than typical entries in the Castlevania series.



2D CRED
Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth was developed by Team Ladybug in conjunction with Why So Serious? (owned by Kadokawa Corporation, creators of the Pixel Game Maker MV tool). Team Ladybug previously developed KonoSuba God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! Revival of Beldia, Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue, and Touhou Luna Nights. The game was built using the Mogura Engine 2, an update to the Mogura Engine, developed by Krobon.



The game was published by Playism / Active Gaming Media, which also published Kero Blaster, Pink Hour, Pink Heaven, Gunhound EX, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, Hakoniwa Explorer Plus, Touhou Luna Nights, La Mulana 2, and some versions of La-Mulana.


Wunderling

A game by Retroid for PC and Switch, originally released in 2020.
Wunderling is a puzzle-platformer where you play as the titular villain, who is attempting to kill the hero. In this case, the hero is an anthropomorphic carrot known simply as Carrot Man (and he's a bit of a jerk). Wunderling is a goomba-like creature who simply patrols to the left and right until one day, he gets stomped by Carrot Man who uses the resulting bounce to reach the top of a Super Mario Bros.-inspired flagpole. Fortunately for our anti-hero, this is not the end…


The evil sorceress Kohlrabi revives her fallen underling and grants him the power of jumping, in hopes that he can chase down Carrot Man and put an end to him. Kohlrabi is somewhat of a diva, and she travels with a cameraman at all times… well, a cameracow anyway. The duo broadcast her exploits in full-on propaganda mode as Kohlrabi attempts to use her powers to become ruler of the Vegetable Kingdom.


The Sun and the Moon

A game by Daniel Linssen for PC, Mac, PS4, Vita, and Xbox One, originally released in 2014.
The Sun and the Moon is an abstract puzzle platformer with a simple premise that is permuted upon in every conceivable way across the game’s 150 levels. The game began its life as an entry in the Ludum Dare 29 game jam, and was the winner of that competition. The game lives almost solely on its mechanics, offering no overarching narrative, a minimal color scheme, and a limited array of visuals that quickly communicate level elements to the player, making most areas very easy to parse.


The player controls a small orb that is able to perform high leaps from platform to platform. The primary dangers lie in coming into contact with spikes or falling off the bottom of the screen, either of which will kill the player instantly. That said, the player is given infinite attempts – as well as a quick restart button should he mess up or find himself in an unwinnable situation – and levels are able to be completed in mere seconds, even on a first attempt.