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

The 2D RADAR Watchlist 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.

Ultracore

A game by Digital Illusions and Strictly Limited Games for Genesis, PS4, Vita, and Switch, originally released for Genesis in 2019, with the updated version released in 2020.
Ultracore is a eurostyle shooter with a storied history. The game was originally developed by Digital Illusions (today known as DICE) for release on the Amiga, Sega Genesis, and Sega CD systems under the title of Hardcore, but its release was cancelled in 1994 by the game’s publisher, Psygnosis. Development was about 99% complete at the time of the cancellation, but with Sony’s Playstation just around the corner, the studio decided to focus on games for the new platform, cancelling dozens of unfinished Sega Genesis projects in a single day. (NB: Psygnosis was purchased by Sony in 1993.)



Plokoth

A game by Jan Gihr, Sam Rassy, Juli Kralik, and Jonas Ellermann for PC, originally released in 2020.
Plokoth is a precision platformer starring Plo who is on a mission to save his girlfriend, Oth, from a terrible disease that has overcome her. As she lies weakened within a hollow that is surrounded by overgrown tree roots, she falls into a coma. Her spirit then rises up out of her body, taking the form of a white orb, and this orb becomes Plo’s companion as he ventures into the forest (called Plokoth) to find the core of the disease and destroy it.


The game takes place across three themed areas, beginning in the green forest where Plo and Oth live, before descending into a darker region, and finally to a place filled with gnarled roots and dead trees. The action transitions seamlessly from one area to the next, with no level transitions. The game features a strong focus on art and offers beautiful landscapes, as well as a couple of hand-animated cutscenes.


Resolutiion

A game by Monolith of Minds for PC, Mac, Linux, and Switch, originally released in 2020.
Many indie games take their inspirations from AAA genre representatives like Super Metroid or Dark Souls, but sometimes indie developers take their inspirations from other indies, with many precision platformers using design cues from Super Meat Boy, and may action-adventure games taking their lead from Cave Story. And now we have a game that takes a page out of the design of Hyper Light Drifter (a Hyperlight-like?) with its visually complex pixellated game world, bright neon colors (albeit more subdued), and a mixture of stylish hacky-slashy action and secondary projectile weapons.


In Resolutiion, you take on the role of a person named Valor, an assassin who has been awakened by an artificial intelligence known as Alibii, and she becomes Valor’s companion on his journey. Valor is missing vital chunks of his memory, and this absence appears to be intentional as Alibii describes these missing memories as being painful, although this also calls Alibii’s motives into question since Valor has little choice but to blindly follow her lead.


Shantae and the Seven Sirens

A game by WayForward for PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and iOS, with the first episode originally released on Apple Arcade in 2019, and the full version originally released on other platforms in 2020.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the fifth in a series of colorful platformers reaching back to the original self-titled game on the Game Boy Color in 2002. After an eight year hiatus, the series returned with Shantae: Risky's Revenge, followed by Shantae and the Pirate's Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. All of these games star Shantae, a plucky purple-haired half-genie whose parents disappeared when she was a baby.


Shantae is always willing to jump in and help people in need, which she accomplishes primarily through her ability to transform into various animals with different abilities (although she loses these powers temporarily, as explored in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse). The selection of animal transformations changes from game to game, although some animals have carried over into future installments. For instance, transforming into a monkey has traditionally allowed Shantae to climb walls, and despite the monkey appearing in the opening cutscene and Shantae mentioning her monkey transformation during an early conversation, all of her animal transformations in this outing are entirely new.


Huntdown

A game by Easy Trigger Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2020.
Huntdown is a sidescrolling shooter where you take on the role of a bounty hunter who has been hired to wipe out all of the city’s most notorious criminals and their henchmen. The game is essentially a celebration of everything you ever loved about over-the-top 1980’s action movies starring hardboiled heroes who are woefully outmatched but still somehow manage to win the day, racking up huge body counts and spouting endless cheesy one-liners as they dispatch colorful criminals.


It’s the 21st century and war has caused nations to fall, leading to the rise in all-powerful megacorporations and street gangs. Offering their services to the highest bidder, a trio of bounty hunters set out to take down the worst of the worst, and players can go it alone or team up in 2P co-op. The three playable characters include a grizzled ex-cop and cyborg named John Sawyer, a human woman named Anna Conda who is a former commando, and an android named Mow Man who is running on black market software.


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 chamber 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 hordes of monsters, witch doctors, Nazi soldiers, 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. Translating this to gameplay, your badassery is proven by stringing together lengthy kill combos 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 the agents of those in power by brutally murdering them with 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 that 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 to 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 the flames 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. Terra Lander was originally released for PC, iOS, and Android in 2015, with the Remastered version released for PC in 2019. Terra Lander II was originally released for PC in 2020.
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 your 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 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 (usually 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.