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.

Squirm

A game by Alex Carpenter for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2018.
Squirm is a lo-fi platformer with light metroidvania elements. You take on the role of a fellow with a rat for a friend. One day, after awakening from a nap, you notice that your rat friend has disappeared, and an odd-looking Samaritan informs you that he has gone to see the “big dude”, and asks why you haven’t done the same. And so you set off on your adventure into the dangerous world of Squimlia, which is filled with unusual enemies and lots of spikes, along with a number of oddball – and occasionally foul-mouthed – NPC’s who add a bit of flavor to the experience.


The game consists mostly of interconnected single-screen environments, and the player is killed instantly when touching any dangerous obstacle or enemy. However, upon death, he is respawned to the room’s entrance, and all of his progress remains intact… killed enemies remain killed, and destructible objects are still destroyed (although a quick reset option lets the player restore the room to its original state if needed). This makes death frequent, but the penalty for dying is quite low.


Speed Brawl

A game by Double Stallion Games for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2018.
Speed Brawl is set in London in an alternate 1888 where the British Empire emerged victorious in a war against insect invaders from the moon, and Queen Victoria led efforts to rebuild the city. With the help of Hugo Wells, the Selenites were defeated and their queen killed, and so Wells himself assumed control over the army of insects. Under his command, the drone-like creatures were enslaved and ordered into labor, which ushered in an great industrial revolution, allowing the middle class more time to pursue activities of leisure. To meet this need and placate the masses, a gladiatorial sport was introduced where the strongest warriors would fight against insect enemies in arenas, with victory allowing them to move up the ranks into more difficult tournaments. This sport came to be known as Speed Brawl.


As you may have guessed, Speed Brawl is a brawler with a heavy focus on speed. Players enter a sidescrolling arena with a pair of fighters and must bash insectoid enemies into oblivion as quickly as possible, with par times for each course. Simply surviving from one end of the level to the other isn’t enough; players need to move efficiently and make strategic use of their more powerful abilities. Each event awards gold, silver, or bronze medals based solely on speed, and getting higher medals unlocks better gear to enhance the player’s strength, defense, special attacks, and secondary abilities.


Gunmetal Arcadia

A game by Minor Key Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
Gunmetal Arcadia is the follow-up to Gunmetal Arcadia Zero. The original game was a straightforward action-platformer with gameplay reminiscent of the sidescrolling action sequences found in Zelda II. Gunmetal Arcadia, on the other hand, has a roguelike structure that sees players sent back to the start of the game upon death, with procedurally arranged environments and random loot drops altering the course of each run. Both games share the same aesthetics, with four tilesets representing each of the four geographical areas, chunky 8-bit low-color visuals, and an authentic-sounding chiptune soundtrack. The game also has an optional CRT-style display mode.


Gunmetal Arcadia once again stars Vireo, a member of a race called Tech Elves. There are two factions of Tech Elves at odds with one another, with the Gunmetal Vanguard focusing on brute strength and the Seekers of Arcadia focusing on agility. Players may choose to align themselves with either faction, which allows them to receive discounts at the affiliated shops (with the trade-off being higher prices at opposing shops), or they may choose to remain independent, which grants players with a currency bonus at the start of the next run.


Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San

A game by Christophe Galati for PC and Switch, originally released in 2018.
Long ago, wise and peaceful octopuses were Earth’s dominant species, but that ended with the rise of humanity, who hunted the cephalopods for food. Eventually one octopus rose up and formed an army to rid the world of humankind. In Save me Mr Tako: Tasukete Tako-San you take on the role of a plucky octopus named Tako-san (Mr. Tako). Tako-san’s brother (Bako) is a hero of the octopus army, and Tako-san is pulled into the war against the humans, but during his first battle, the army overtakes a human vessel and casts their princess into the water… and Tako-san casts off his armor and dives in to save her, putting him at odds with his own kind.


The game is designed to look like a Game Boy title, with several classic references – including a few nods to the Kirby series in particular – with the game’s cutesy animations, a star that pops out when you land from a high jump, and a character who dons a sleeping cap and dozes off during his idle animation. Players can also stop and press DOWN to scroll the screen downward and get a better view of their surroundings, as was done in a number of classic Game Boy titles due to the limited screen resolution.


Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

A game by Inti Creates and ArtPlay for PC, PS4, Vita, Switch, 3DS, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
There’s no arguing that Castlevania has left a lasting mark on the gaming landscape. The series introduced players to a gothic landscape filled with classic monsters, the regularly-resurrected Dracula as its main villain, and a lineage of whip-wielding heroes with stiff jumps to push back evil for another 100 years (assuming Drac could ever stay down for that long). The series continued to break its own rules by introducing light RPG elements in its second outing, followed by a prequel that offered multiple playable characters, and then a revisitation of the original story of Simon Belmont that introduced new gameplay mechanics… and that’s all before the series went on to establish the basics of the now-well-trodden metroidvania subgenre.


While there are innumerable games that have pulled their influences from the metroidvania era of Castlevania, far fewer have drawn inspirations from the early games in the series. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is one such game, delivering an experience that is so close to the early Castlevania games – Castlevania III in particular – that a few sprite swaps would make it impossible to separate it from the real thing; it looks and plays like a modern update to the classic series.


Furwind

A game by Boomfire Games for PC, originally released in 2018.
Furwind is a colorful platformer starring a fox, who carries the unlikely name of Furwind, as he embarks on a journey to save the people of Moontail village from a villain known as Darhûn. Moontail was once under the protection of four ancient beings, but one day Darhûn, the strongest of the ancients, decided to rise up and overthrow the others… but in the end, he was defeated and locked away. A thousand years have passed since that time, and a Darhûn-worshipping cult has decided to free him from his imprisonment and loose him on the world.


Furwind, serving as the chosen hero of the land, rises up to put a stop to all of this, venturing out into the surrounding forest, defeating monsters, rescuing imprisoned villagers, and reawakening the spirits of the other three ancients to gain new abilities. Along the way, he earns money to purchase upgrades and slowly opens up new sections of the forest to explore.


Strange Flesh (NSFW)

A game by Greatest Bear Studios for PC and Mac, originally released in 2017.
Sex in video games has been around almost as long as the medium itself, with the first examples appearing in the early 1980’s. There have been more than a few sex-focused titles released in the ensuing decades, although they have generally been of lower quality than their mainstream counterparts. Perhaps the best known games oriented around sex are those from the Leisure Suit Larry series, which has seen numerous iterations on home computers, and even some on consoles, but none of these games are terribly explicit.


In general, mainstream publishers have shied away from games with mature sexual content as the core gameplay focus, but recently distribution services like Steam have begun to allow more explicit content, despite years of prohibiting such games on the platform in an uncensored format. Still, the most explicit games tend to appear outside of primary distribution channels, often being offered directly from developers’ websites or via adult websites, and often available for free. Many of these are browser-based games that don’t require players to download and run programs on their machines.


Jolt: Fully Charged

A game by Darkera Studios for PC, originally released in 2018.
Jolt: Fully Charged is a colorful platformer created in the style of 16-bit classics, with nods to Sonic the Hedgehog in particular. Players take on the role of Jolt, a robot created by the Mega Drive Core as a protective measure against the game’s villain, Professor Ohm. Jolt runs and jumps through several themed areas, using his unique Bolt Dash and advanced shield system to navigate the environment and defeat enemy robots. In the game’s story mode, Jolt teams up with a robot named Cycle, who speaks on behalf of her silent companion and has unique abilities of her own.


Professor Tantalus Ohm is an expert in robotics and cybernetics, and inventor of the Mega Drive Core, which he eventually uses – along with an army of robots – to seize power and rule over humanity. Since rising to power, the professor has been working on a new device called the Calamity Contraption, which is a threat to all organic life. A resistance movement has formed, led by young woman named Joule, but her goals sometimes put her at odds with Jolt and Cycle, and she occasionally finds herself facing off against the robotic duo on her path to destroy all automatons.


To Leave

A game by Freaky Creations for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2018.
To Leave is something of a free-flying obstacle-dodging actioner in which the lead character rides a flying door through a psychedelic fantasy world in a drug-induced dream that contains metaphorical elements from his real life. Now, that might sound like some kind of whimsical and carefree adventure, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the protagonist is a guy named Harm, a manic-depressive fellow who has experienced more than his share of tragedy of late, which has spurred him toward injurious action.


Harm steps through a magical doorway each day and passes into another world so that he may complete The Plan. He has detailed The Plan in scrawled journal entries between bouts of nausea within the confines of his dank and decrepit room, in hopes that someone will read and understand his thoughts after he has passed on. Harm is not well… he is not well at all.


Log Jammers

A game by Mega Cat Studios for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One, not yet released.
Log Jammers is a modern take on the alternative sports game Windjammers (known in Japan as Flying Power Disc), which appeared in the arcades and Neo Geo in the mid 90’s. The somewhat suggestive title references the fact that opponents face each other on a body of water while logrolling. That is, they run on top of a spinning log. Fortunately, players are not required to employ any tactics to keep from falling off of the log, as the game focuses strictly on the flying disc action… er, flying hatchet action.


For the sake of comparison, let’s start with a look at Windjammers. Windjammers features six playable characters with varying stats to indicate their speed and strength, and there are six unique arenas. Games play out in an enclosed arena with a center divider and goals along the left and right sides of the screen. Players can toss their flying disc in a straight line, ricochet it off the walls, or add a bit of English to curve its path. Hitting the goal in the center (yellow section) awards three points, while hitting it on the outside edges (red sections) awards five points, and if the player fails to reach the flying disc before it touches the ground, their opponent is awarded two points.


Steel Strider

A game by Astro Port for PC and Linux, originally released in Japan in 2013, and released in the US in 2015.
Steel Strider is a sidescrolling mech combat game that serves as a follow-up to the developer’s prior mech actioner, Gigantic Army, once again focusing on the conflict between Terrans and Ramulons. As in the previous game, the player controls a lumbering mech through a number of industrialized environments – with a somewhat muddy color palette – blasting robotic foes with a wide array of weaponry. New to this game is independent aim control, allowing players to use a mouse or dual analogue controller to aim in any direction while moving, which gives the game a faster pace than its predecessor.


The game’s description places the action in “the second half of the twentieth century” – which would be between the 1950’s and the 1990’s – so this is likely meant be in the 21st century, given all the spaceships and mechs and whatnot. At any rate, a war has been waging across the entire galaxy, but it is nearly over. However, organized crime continues to flourish, and small skirmishes occasionally break out, but the local peacekeepers are ill-equipped to deal with these issues. Instead, a secret organization responds to distress signals, travelling undercover as a delivery service called Argo Express. In actuality, they transport a Gemini-class MCR, which stands for Manned Combat Robot (not My Chemical Romance), piloted by an operative who neutralizes galactic threats with extreme prejudice.


Mighty Gunvolt Burst / Gal*Gunvolt Burst

A game by Inti Creates for Switch, 3DS, and PS4, originally released in 2017, with the Gal*Gunvolt Burst version released in 2018.
Inti Creates followed up their retro-style Mighty Gunvolt with Mighty Gunvolt Burst / Gal*Gunvolt Burst, which once again features Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt and Beck from Mighty No. 9. There are several additional downloadable characters as well, including Ekoro and Kurona from Gal*Gun (Ekoro also appears in the original Mighty Gunvolt as a standard character, and is a standard character in the Gal*Gunvolt Burst version), Call and RAY from Mighty No. 9, and Joule and Copen from the Azure Striker Gunvolt series. Each character has his or her own playstyle, movement abilities, and weapons, although the levels themselves remain unchanged aside from a few story elements.


The game is not a canonical part of any of the aforementioned series, but rather takes place in a VR setting and acts as a retro throwback actioner heavily inspired by the Mega Man series. It’s a somewhat more substantial outing than its bite-sized predecessor, weighing in around two or three hours on a first attempt. Beck, Gunvolt, or whichever character you’ve downloaded, have been sucked into a VR world and must defeat the eight robot masters… er, rather the eight robotic Mighty Numbers, in order to escape the simulation.