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.

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.


Backspace Bouken

A game by RNG Party Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2019.
Aside from actual typing tutors, there aren’t very many games that focus on typing as a core mechanic, with The Typing of the Dead series standing out as the most famous example. Where The Typing of the Dead and its ilk were revamped lightgun shooters, Backspace Bouken is a first person dungeon crawler done up in a DOS-era aesthetic and accompanied by a melodic electronic soundtrack.


The game is aware of its own absurdity as it focuses on a girl named Kana (“kana” being the Japanese word for the symbols that make up written words) who must ascend the legendary Tower of F8 to save her sisters. Armed with only a keyboard, she embarks on an incredible adventure (“bouken” is the Japanese word for adventure), encountering silly enemies who can only be defeated through speedy and accurate typing.


Death’s Gambit

A game by White Rabbit for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2018.
Death’s Gambit is a hardcore action-RPG set in a dark world, taking its inspirations from the Dark Souls series with its limited safe areas, tough enemies that respawn when you save, and overwhelmingly difficult bosses that can only be overcome by paying attention to their movements and dodging or blocking with the appropriate timing. Slashing away mindlessly only kills you faster… but death is only temporary.


When the game begins, a dragonlike humanoid is dragging a body toward a huge pyre that is already stacked with dead soldiers. But it turns out that this soldier, named Sorun, is still alive. Sorun makes a deal with Death, who has decided to take a chance on him (a gambit, if you will) to help rid the world of its defiant immortals. With this contract signed, Sorun will be resurrected when killed, sending him back to the most recent save point to continue his journey.


Armortale

A game by RPG2 Heaven for PC, originally released in 2019.
Armortale is a platformer set in a colorful fantasy world that has recently become overrun with monsters. One night, many decades ago, a dark tower appeared in the distance, from which monsters spilled forth, the worst of which were pair of shadowy baby foxes that took great pleasure in causing mischief and wreaking torment across the land. Fortunately, a brave hero rose up to banish these foxes and save the land from evil.


But now this evil has returned, this time around, the foxes have kidnapped the princess. A wise witch informs the king that there is another warrior who can save the day. A young man possesses the power to equip the four sets of armor that were passed down from this legendary hero, who was his great great great great great great grandfather. You take on the role of this young man who begins the game wandering around his village in only his underwear, until he receives a message from the witch to come and meet her.


Sparklite

A game by Red Blue Games for PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2019.
Sparklite is a top-down roguelike action-adventure set in the colorful fantasy world of Geodia. The game stars Ada – and her trusty robot companion – as she ventures through the land, fighting monsters, hunting treasures, and interacting with friendly NPC’s. The world is divided into five procedurally-arranged areas, each of which may be accessed from the grasslands in the center of the map. Exploring the five themed lands allows Ada to defeat the world’s five bosses, and break five seals in order to confront the evil Baron who is stripping the world of its precious sparklite in order to power his mechanized titans, leaving behind pollution in his wake.


When the game begins, Ada is piloting an airship through a storm, which comes under attack by enemies. She uses her wrench and hammer to attempt repairs on the ship as panels fall away, but it’s not enough… As the ship begins to fall, her robot companion stays behind, giving Ada time to reach an escape pod, which crashes into the grasslands below. When she emerges, she recovers her family’s keepsake necklace, which allows her to enter a strange-looking structure.


Xeno Crisis

A game by Bitmap Bureau for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and Neo Geo, originally released in 2019.
Xeno Crisis is a top-down arena shooter starring a male or female marine – or both in 2P co-op – who are ordered to infiltrate Outpost 88. The research station is orbiting Jupiter’s moon of Io, and the scientists on board have issued a distress call, apparently due to some kind of alien presence. Upon arriving at the space station, the marines encounter hordes of alien creatures coming from every corner, and so they do what they do best, and unleash copious sprays of machine gun fire into their ugly faces.


Gameplay takes place across seven themed areas, ranging from metallic space station corridors, to alien-infested biomechanical areas, and even forest and desert biomes. The layouts of these areas are procedurally arranged, but that doesn’t factor into gameplay overmuch, given that players generally move from one room to the next, occasionally collecting keycards and backtracking a couple of rooms in order to push forward. There is no map, but the simple level layouts make such a feature unnecessary.


Noita

A game by Nolla Games for PC, not yet released.
Noita is a roguelike actioner starring a wand-wielding wizard (“Noita” is a Finnish word meaning “witch”) who dives into a series of procedurally generated environments in what is essentially a raw gameplay experience without a narrative or any kind of permanent progression system. The thing that separates Noita from other genre entries is the fact that every pixel in the environment is simulated and behaves according to its assigned properties.


This results in a chaotic experience within a physics/chemistry sandbox where the player’s abilities are constantly changing, which impacts how he can affect the environment… occasionally spiraling into madness as the player inadvertently sets off chain reactions that destroy the world around him in spectacular fashion.