Game of the Year Showcase

Every year (well, most years) we take a look back at all of the best 2D games on offer and choose our favorites in each category. In these retrospectives, we name our picks for the most innovative games, the best old-school throwbacks, the best use of brutal difficulty, and the best from each genre. In the end, we pick a winner for best game of the year. This is our Game of the Year Showcase. If you're looking for a great 2D video game, this list is a good start.

Owlboy, from D-Pad Studio, is a game about a student owl named Otus who wears a cloak that allows him to fly. The world in which he lives is made up of floating islands, which have come under attack by sky pirates. Otus sets out on a quest to stop them and save his village, but in order to do so, he needs some help. Otus is a very platforming hero – especially given the fact that he can fly freely – but he can't do much in the way of fighting. Along his journey, Otus meets several friends who can be carried around and act as gunners, each offering different abilities. The game plays out in a beautiful and detailed world and offers a surprisingly mature narrative.

Ori and the Blind Forest, from Moon Studios, is an action-adventure platformer set in an atmospheric world. A creature named Ori explores the world and gains new abilities that allow the player to reach new areas, while attempting to escape the claws of Kuro, the dark owl. The game puts platforming first with a capable character who is able to move quickly and reach great heights, jumping from walls, parachuting down through spike-lined caverns, and earning new abilities along the way that open up the world for exploration. Ori travels with a sentient ball of energy that acts as a guide and also a weapon, allowing players to attack nearby enemies without breaking stride.

Transistor, from Supergiant Games, tells the tale of Red, a singer who has lost her voice, as she journeys through an apparently virtual world where reality is being modified. The game mixes equal parts action and strategy (the game can be played either way, or as a mixture of both) as the player earns more than a dozen abilities that can be used on their own or combined as modifiers in the game's technical combat system that offers an astounding array of possibilities. On top of the robust action, the game has superb artwork, music, voice work, and writing, offering a compelling package.

Völgarr the Viking stars Völgarr, a great viking warrior who is brought back to life by Odin to defeat the evil that has spread across Midgard. The game is heavily influenced by the arcade game Rastan, even going so far as to replicate its opening area, and certainly when it comes to its difficulty level. The viking is equipped with a sword, a shield, and an infinite supply of wooden spears that may be used to impale enemies or stuck in walls and used as platforms. His movement is limited, and enemies are plentiful, forcing him to make the most of his skills to avoid falling in battle. Making it to the end of the game is challenging on its own, but also offers a true final ending for those who can make it through in one shot, taking on a new level and true final boss in the bargain.

Oniken is a retro-style game that mimics the titles of the 8-bit era, minus all of the flicker and slowdown. The game stars Zaku, an unstoppable ninja running through the post apocalyptic world of 20XX. His primary weapon is a sword that can be upgraded to increase its power, or this power can be traded for a few seconds of invincibility and super strength as Zaku enters berzerk mode. He also carries a limited supply of grenades for taking on bigger baddies and numerous robotic boss creatures... and there are more than 20 boss and miniboss creatures to fight along the way. Tough levels and limited lives enforce the game's old-school design sensibilities.

And there you have it. If you're looking for additional recommendations, be sure to check out our Steam Curator page with over 100 more great 2D game recommendations.