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.

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.


Out of Fix

A game by PÔLE 3D for PC, originally released in 2020.
Out of Fix is a bite-sized precision/puzzle platformer that takes place aboard a spaceship that has crashed in the desert of an unknown world. You take on the role of a maintenance robot who becomes active many years after the impact, venturing out to find pieces to repair the ship. However, the hull has been breached, and some of the local fauna have made the ship their home. Fortunately, the robot can use these creatures to help him bypass the many spike traps… way more spike traps than you usually find on a galactic star cruiser (just sayin’).


The robot has a 2x variable jump and is able to dash in eight directions, allowing him to cross gaps and reach high platforms. He can also perform a short melee attack, and at any point, he can warp back to the opening of the current room, acting as a quick reset should the player mess up.


Katana ZERO

A game by Askiisoft for PC, Mac, PS4, and Switch, originally released in 2019.
Katana ZERO is a melee-based actioner with a unique twist in terms of presentation. The main character is a katana-wielding martial artist who is referred to only as The Dragon, and he receives contracts to infiltrate various facilities, wiping out the opposition – or occasionally avoiding them – while taking out many key figures in a grand conspiracy, the details of which are purposely kept from him. As The Dragon works his way through his list of kills, he slowly begins to unravel this mystery, much to the chagrin of his employer.


While this sounds like a fairly standard setup for an action game, what sets it apart from other genre entries is the anti-hero’s ability to perceive time differently than most people, as evidenced by the fact that missions are referred to as planning sessions. From the player’s standpoint, these missions play out as typical action sequences, but getting killed returns the player to the beginning of the level with the protagonist stating “No… That won’t work”, indicating that he has looked into the future to see how his possible strategy (the player’s actions) may succeed or fail.


Rocketron

A game by Astro Port for PC, originally released in Japan in 2017, and released in the US in 2020.
Rocketron is set in the same universe as the developer’s previous mech-based actioners, Gigantic Army and Steel Strider. As in those games, you take on the role of a peacekeeping organization (and delivery service) called Argo Express. But rather than playing as a person piloting a lumbering mech suit through linear action levels, you instead take on the role of a cybernetic humanoid with the unlikely name of B.L.A.M. as he explores an interconnected metroidvania environment.


The year is 2049 and The Congregation of Gogoh has designs to take over a cyberhuman planet called Metnal 28. As a cyberhuman himself, B.L.A.M. has been enhanced to excel in combat and he is sent down to the planet to put a stop to Gogoh’s nefarious plans. As in previous games, things get off to a bombastic start, with the Argo Express delivery truck getting dropped into combat while the dropship clears the landing zone of enemy machines. The truck then drives forward at high speed, smashing through more bots before ejecting B.L.A.M. into the air for a running start, immediately blasting baddies with his rifle (which is apparently called a Rocket Musket).


Shovel Knight: King of Cards

A game expansion for Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games, originally released in 2019.
In 2019, Yacht Club Games released their final DLC expansion for Shovel Knight, entitled King of Cards. The game stars King Knight as its lead character, who appeared as one of the bosses in the original game, as a knight who foolishly pretended at being a king. In this prequel, a popular new card game called Joustus is taking the world by storm, resulting in a kingdom-spanning tournament. Three kings have been selected as judges of the tournament, and anyone who is able to defeat these judges will be awarded a great treasure and be dubbed King of Cards… which is of great appeal to a knight who has dreams of being a king.


Like many action games feature card playing as a core aspect of gameplay, doing so is entirely optional, although playing cards helps you to earn medals that unlock powerups and other items that may be used during the action segments. That said, medals are also spread throughout the action-based levels, usually placed in out-of-the-way or hidden areas. Even the Joustus judges are defeated in traditional combat, and these play out as boss encounters.


Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

A game expansion for Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games, originally released in 2017.
In 2017, Yacht Club Games released a DLC expansion for Shovel Knight, entitled Specter of Torment. The game stars Specter Knight as its lead character – who appeared as one of the bosses in the original game – in a prequel that details the establishment of the Order of No Quarter (the eight knights faced by Shovel Knight). Specter Knight is tasked by the Enchantress to round up eight knights, which act as the game’s boss encounters, consisting of the bosses faced in the original game. Along the way, the player takes on several flashback levels that provide additional insight into Specter Knight’s character back when he was a mortal man. The game also provides some additional background on several of the major characters from the main game, including the Enchantress herself.


Specter Knight controls very differently than Shovel Knight or Plague Knight, who had his own standalone adventure in Plague of Shadows. His main environmental navigation tool is the ability to run straight up vertical surfaces, which he can do for a short while before falling back down. Players must frequently run up walls to grab ledges, jump back and forth between platforms, and perform aerial acrobatics to make it from one side of the room to the other… although certain walls cannot be climbed.


Akumanor Escape DX

A game by Michirin for PC and browser, originally released in 2019.
Akumanor Escape DX is a follow-up to Akumanor Escape, a black and white Game Boy-style title created as part of GBJAM 7, which required games to be limited to four colors and a resolution of 160x144 pixels, per the limitations of the Game Boy. The original game only includes two stages (the second is about half the length of the first) and no boss encounters, but it introduces the core mechanics, enemies, and level design concepts used in the DX version.


Akumanor Escape DX is a more fleshed-out experience, consisting of three lengthy stages with several levels in each, and a boss encounter at the end of each area, although it’s still intended to be completed in a single sitting. This version of the game is presented with Game Boy Color specifications, adding a limited color palette, reducing the number of onscreen sprites, and doing a bit of programmatic trickery to render parallax scrolling. It also introduces new enemy types, themed areas, obstacles, sound effects, and new authentic chiptune music tracks.


8 Bit Horse Picks of the Decade (2010’s)

8 Bit Horse just celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary, and as it turns out, those 10 years almost perfectly coincided with the decade known as the 2010’s… so it only seemed fair that we do what all of the other gaming sites are doing, which is to name our Picks of the Decade! (echo… echo…)
OK, so there have been hundreds of great games released over the last decade – honestly, it’s an embarrassment of riches – so this is not a Top 10 Best Games list. Instead, this is a list of the 10 games that made the biggest impression on me personally (in this case, me = AJ Johnson, Managing Editor, 8 Bit Horse) and that I felt delivered the most lasting and memorable gameplay experiences. These are games that I enjoyed at the time I played them, and that I have regularly thought back on in the years since.