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.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX

A game by Jankenteam for PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox S/X, originally released in 2021.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a remake of the original Alex Kidd in Miracle World, which was first released on the Sega Master System in 1986. The game is a platformer starring the eponymous Alex Kidd, a boy with monkey-like features, as he explores Miracle World and battles enemies. The popularity of the original game led to numerous sequels, with Alex Kidd taking his adventures into new worlds, across different genres, and even into crossover territory with Alex Kidd in Shinobi World. Until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd was Sega’s most recognizable and popular character, acting as something of a mascot for the company.
Even though he is just a boy, Alex is an expert in the martial art known as shellcore, which has made him powerful enough to smash rocks with his fists. One day, Alex learns that the city of Radaxian is in danger, and so he descends from his home and training grounds on Mount Eternal to rescue the son of the Radaxian ruler, as well as the son’s fiancée. To do this, Alex must face off against the minions of Janken the Great, each of whom has a hand for a head that is holding the gesture of a fist (rock), open hand (paper), or two fingers extended (scissors). And yes, boss battles are won by playing games of rock-paper-scissors, which is known in Japan as Janken.


Fallingstar

A game by Harley Wilson for PC, originally released in 2021.
Fallingstar is a Breakout-style game where you take on the role of an angel who has been cast out of heaven. An introductory sequence sees you standing at the gates of heaven as the hand of god opens and removes your grace, causing you to plummet downward towards the world of man… but there’s still a chance at redemption. As the angel falls, he summons a moving platform – in the form of a Breakout-style paddle – which is able to bounce him upward, allowing him to fight back against the angels.
If he is able to kill enough angels and steal their grace, he can ascend to heaven and fight god for his throne. If not, he will continue to fall until he reaches hell. By facing off against the multi-eyed ruler of hell, the angel has one last chance to save himself by winning the battle and being crowned the new king of hell himself. But if he fails, he will be damned for all eternity.


Mighty Goose

A game by Blastmode for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS5, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2021.
Mighty Goose is a run-and-gun shooter that takes its inspirations from classic arcade games, especially the Metal Slug series, and it's playable via 1P or 2P co-op. You take on the role of the eponymous Mighty Goose, one of the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunters, as he embarks on a mission to defeat the maniacal conqueror known as the Void King. Mighty Goose pilots a giant goose-shaped ship as he travels between planets and installations, all the while accompanied by his radio operator, Chonk, who fills him in on mission intel.
But Chonk isn’t your only support… throughout the game, you encounter various anthropomorphized animals in need of rescue – some of whom are hidden – but once you get them back to your ship, you can call on any one of them to accompany you on your next mission. Each animal companion has different capabilities and will attack enemies with melee weapons or projectiles, and some have secondary support skills, such as a pig named Weaponmaster Vark who occasionally drops machine gun ammo so you can rain hell on your enemies.


Heidelberg 1693

A game by Andrade Games for PC, originally released in 2021.
Heidelberg 1693 is a sidescrolling actioner that takes place in 17th century Germany, during the period of the Nine Years’ War, which lasted from 1688-1697. But this is not a retelling of historical events; rather, supernatural elements are at play. The world has been overrun by gruesome creatures led by a master of dark magic known as the Moon King. You take on the role of a French musketeer who must travel to Germany and fight his through these dark forces using all of the weapons available to him, with a rapier and musket being his primary means of attack.
The game begins in the mountains of Odenwald and continues on to Eiterbach, Schönau, and Heiligenberg monastery, before crossing the Neckar river by way of the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) to pass into the city of Heidelberg, and eventually reaching Heidelberg Castle for the final confrontation. Some of the game’s bosses are inspired by historical figures from the same period, such as Johann Wilhelm of France, who unfortunately finds himself transformed into a womanly tree creature. The Moon King also resurrects Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, to stand as one of his generals. And the Moon King himself is acting in defiance of the Sun King, Louis XIV.


Arcane Golf

A game by FromLefcourt for PC, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2018.
Arcane Golf is a physics-based miniature golf game set in a medieval fantasy world. The game features 200 single-screen courses divided across four themed areas – Dank Dungeon, Water Temple, Forest Ruins, and Arcane Lair – each with unique level elements and obstacles. Lessons learned in earlier casual levels are slowly built upon to create more complex spatial puzzle challenges later in the game where expert play and quick reflexes are required.
The player is greeted by a mysterious dry-witted wizard who offers advice on completing levels. This character appears frequently in the early going to tutorialize basic gameplay mechanics, and he pops up as new elements are introduced, making less frequent appearances as the game goes on.


Gunlord / Gunlord X

A game by NG:Dev.Team for Neo Geo AES and MVS, Dreamcast, PS4, and Switch, originally released in 2012, with the X version released in 2019.
Gunlord is a sidescrolling shooter that is heavily influenced by the designs of the Turrican series, particularly the Amiga versions of Turrican and Turrican II: The Final Fight. The original game was developed for Neo Geo hardware and later ported to Dreamcast. Years later, the studio revisited the game with an enhanced edition entitled Gunlord X, which includes larger levels with more secrets, rebalanced difficulty, four new bosses, a new auto-scrolling jetpack stage, enhanced graphical effects, new music tracks, a widescreen presentation, twin stick controls (optional), a level select, an auto save feature, and a speedrun mode that unlocks once the player completes the game. (ed note: All screenshots are from the Gunlord X version of the game.)
The game kicks off with a pre-title cutscene showing the Gordian Gaiden (the eponymous Gunlord) shackled to a chair and sitting before a tribunal that – rather than accusing him of a crime – states: “You are captured!” In the game’s original release, the dialogue contained the somewhat more believable “You are guilty!” Gordian insists that he must rescue his wife, at which point he is reminded that he has no gun. He breaks out of his shackles and presses a button on his armor that teleports a gun into his hands, shouting: “You are cute. I am the Gunlord! Have a nice day!” as he murders everyone in the room and escapes. In the original release, this dialogue read: “Bitches! Die in Hell!” followed by a scene of one of Gordian’s captors being ripped apart by gunfire and his brains exploding out of the top of his head. This scene is severely toned down for the Gunlord X release, with the people diving out of the way of gunfire instead of being killed.


Speed Limit

A game by Gamechuck for PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2021.
Speed Limit is an all-action-all-the-time arcade-style experience that seamlessly crosses multiple genres from one level to the next with no breaks in between. It is a love letter to over-the-top action games and the halcyon days of the arcade where players intermingled and experienced multiple gameplay types at the drop of a quarter… only here, all of those genres are packed into a single experience.
The game is comprised of several action vignettes across 11 short levels, with gameplay changing every two levels. It starts out as an on-foot sidescrolling shooter before transitioning into an overhead driving game that swaps between horizontal and vertical perspectives, and then into a faux-3D over-the-shoulder motorcycle driving game, after which it transitions into an isometric helicopter shooter, and then to an into-the-screen jet fighter sequence, before reaching a finale that ties the whole thing together.


Cathedral

A game by Decemberborn Interactive for PC, Mac, Switch, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2019.
Cathedral is a retro-style metroidvania inspired by the classics of the 8- and 16-bit era. The player takes on the role of an unnamed knight who is suddenly transported from another world in a flash of lightning. With no knowledge of who he is or what he is meant to do, he begins exploring a sprawling cathedral filled with enemies and traps. Early in his adventure, the knight meets a mysterious spirit named Soul who guides him on a quest to collect five elemental orbs and bring them to a mysterious door.
The game takes place across a large environment and several themed regions, with the player facing enemies and solving environmental puzzles along the way… and facing off against the guardians that protect each of the orbs. As you fight and collect treasure, you are able to buy better armor and perks, allowing you to survive tougher encounters, and you learn new abilities that allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas, per genre conventions.


Summer Catchers

A game by FaceIT for PC, Mac, Switch, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2019.
Summer Catchers is a lighthearted endless runner-esque road trip game featuring a girl named Chu on a journey to find summer. She grew up in the north where it snows all the time and realizes that she has never seen a beach nor experienced summertime, and so she sets out to find it. As she travels the world, she encounters a colorful cast of characters who help to guide her in the right direction – after she helps them with tasks of their own – and she makes many friends along the way.
Chu’s journey takes her across eight themed areas, from the snowy tundra to windswept plains to lava-filled tunnels to the sandy dunes of a desert. She discovers that there is much more to the world than she ever expected as she meets mysterious creatures and sees strange things off in the distance, and she even faces off against giant bosses, all while puttering along in her handmade vehicle.


Adventure Bit

A game by Seep for PC, originally released in 2021.
Adventure Bit is a retro-style single-screen platformer modeled after the games of the MSX console in visual, audio, and gameplay styles. In particular, the male protagonist, Harry, has a lot in common with the hero of the classic MSX game La-Mulana, given that he wears a green outfit and wields a bullwhip. Of course, the design of both characters was also heavily influenced by the iconic Indiana Jones (and Harry could be short for Harrison). The game also features a female protagonist named Lana (another possible reference to La-Mulana) with the same skillset, and the game may be played alone or with a friend in 2P local co-op.
The player is tasked with exploring an ancient Aztec temple and the surrounding jungle while fighting enemies and collecting treasures along the way, with the most valuable treasures coming in the form of crystal skulls (another reference to the adventures of Dr. Jones). The game is deceptively simple, offering only a Novice mode to start, and 12 easy levels (plus three treasure rooms) before the player reaches the end of the game… but it’s not over.


Turrican Flashback

A game compilation by Factor 5 for Switch and PS4, originally released in 2021.
The original Turrican was created primarily by German developer Manfred Trenz and released by Rainbow Arts on the Commodore 64 in 1990, and then ported to numerous other systems. Notably, some ports of the game were handled by The Code Monkeys and others were handled by Factor 5, the studio that would go on to develop future entries in the franchise. A graphically-enhanced Amiga port from Factor 5 arrived in 1991 with the addition of a soundtrack by Chris Huelsbeck (the original C64 release had sound effects but no music). The game was a great technology showcase for the 8-bit Commodore 64 and the 16-bit Amiga, providing visuals, animations, music, and fast-paced combat beyond what most action-platforming titles were delivering on those systems at the time.
The success of the original game allowed for a sequel in the following year, entitled Turrican II: The Final Fight, released on the Commodore 64 by Manfred Trenz by way of Rainbow Arts, and also ported to other systems. (The Factor 5 port of the Amiga version was actually the first to market). Home console versions of this game were adapted by The Code Monkeys and rebranded as Universal Soldier, an action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lungdren, with sprites swapped out to represent characters, locations, and military themes from the film, and shmup stages were cut and replaced with on-foot shooting stages.


Galaga

A game by Namco for the arcade, originally released in 1981.
In 1978, Space Invaders took the world by storm, popularizing shmup mechanics with its simple yet effective design. The game features rows of alien invaders marching back and forth along the top of the screen and slowly descending on the player's position. Enemies drop bombs and the player fires shots of his own, with only a row of barriers along the bottom of the screen to protect him, but these are worn down with each hit they take, even with friendly fire. As the player destroys his foes, they begin speeding their descent (a result of the original arcade processor being able to more quickly animate smaller numbers of sprites), becoming more menacing as the level wears on.
The popularity of this game led to other developers trying their hand at similar gameplay styles, but few were as popular as Namco's Galaxian, which was released in 1979, predating their most seminal arcade title, Pac-Man, by a matter of months.

Galaxian features multi-colored insect-based enemies (with true color, rather than overlays) that move back and forth along the top of the screen, but rather than simply dropping lower and lower, these enemies break off from their formation to dive bomb the player's ship.

In Galaxian, the player is able to attack dive-bombing enemies or focus his fire on the larger formation, but he can only have one bullet onscreen at a time. As a result, firing on the dive-bombing enemies presents a greater risk but also allows the player to fire more quickly if he hits his target. Once enough enemies are destroyed, they no longer return to the formation but rather continuously dive-bomb the player, and later levels allow more enemies to dive bomb simultaneously and fire more shots while doing so.

In Galaga, Namco refined this formula, making improvements in every aspect of gameplay. For starters, enemy waves fly across the screen in a line before taking their places in the formation, giving the player the opportunity to clear some of the enemies before they form up, but also giving the enemies a chance to drop bombs and send some of their ships down to dive bomb the player. Instead of simply marching back and forth, alien formations eventually pause and begin expanding and contracting. Once enough enemies have been destroyed, they begin to dive bomb they player continuously, with more ships doing this at once in later levels.

The game features three main enemy types, each with its own set of behaviors. The red enemy is fast and can drop straight down the screen. The yellow one can fly in circles, sometimes dropping below the player ship’s position at the bottom of the screen, and then circling back up to hit it from below. And finally, the most impressive baddie of all of them all… an enemy that takes two hits to destroy and can capture the player's ship.

This large ship dive bombs the player along with other enemies, but it sometimes halts and extends a tractor beam downward that can capture the player's ship when it comes in contact. The player has a bit of time to fire at the enemy ship before the tractor beam reaches him, or he can dodge out of the way, but if his ship is captured, the enemy moves back into formation with the player's ship in tow.

If the player manages to kill this enemy when it dive bombs again, he then recaptures his ship, allowing him to control two ships simultaneously for double the firepower. However, this endeavor has its risks, as the player may potentially destroy his own ship when trying to recapture it, and playing with two ships at a time makes the player a larger target for enemies, potentially causing him to lose additional lives. This mechanic adds a layer of strategy that had not previously been seen in games of this type.

A challenge stage appears every few levels where enemy waves enter the screen, fly though a pattern without dropping any bombs, and leave without entering a formation. Bonus points are awarded based on the number of ships destroyed during these stages, and destroying all 40 ships awards an additional bonus. Destroying every enemy relies somewhat on the player's knowledge of where enemies will emerge and what patterns they will perform. Having two ships makes it easier to achieve a perfect score in these stages, and the player is granted extra lives at certain score thresholds.

The player’s ship is faster and more maneuverable than its Galaxian counterpart, and 2 bullets can be onscreen at a time, allowing for a faster firing rate. As a result, a skilled player can stave off death as enemies become incredibly aggressive in later levels, increasing their speed, firing more shots, and descending in larger numbers. The game also offers some surprises in the form of enemies that can transform and spawn additional foes that speed ahead or trail behind them.

Namco continued to iterate on this formula with titles like Bosconian and Gaplus (later re-released as Galaga 3) before returning to the ever-popular Galaga foundation with the release of Galaga '88 and Galaga Arrangement, along with ports and emulations of Galaga for a variety of platforms, and the occasional new Galaga-themed effort such as the 3D rail shooter Galaga: Destination Earth and the fast-paced pattern-based Galaga Legions.


2D CRED
Galaga was developed by Namco, the developer behind a number of formative arcade titles from the late 1970's and early 1980's, including Pac-Man, Rally-X, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Xevious, and Mappy, as well as their subsequent sequels and spin-offs. The studio has gone on to re-release these games - along with various updates and new takes on their franchises - across numerous systems, while also developing entirely new popular series, including Ridge Racer, Ace Combat, Tekken, Klonoa, and Katamari Damacy. Bandai purchased Namco in 2005 and formed Bandai Namco Entertainment, which primarily focuses on releasing games that fall within Namco's established franchises.