There are games that are timeless and always give you a warm feeling of familiarity. Even though the SNES era is long gone, one thing has endured: pixel graphics as an aesthetic stylistic device.
Games like Stardew Valley and Terraria are among its most famous representatives, which you surely know and have played. Today, we want to show you the 10 coolest pixel games on PC that you should have in your collection.
Table of Contents
Octopath Traveler I & II
Yes, okay, we know that these are two games and therefore 11 in total, but we just couldn’t decide on 10, so we did a little trick. We’re sure no one will hold that against us.
So, we’ll start with Octopath Traveler, which was released in 2018 and was initially only available for Nintendo consoles but found its way to PC a year later. The RPG won many fans not only for its stylish visuals but also for its innovative gameplay. But let’s look at the pixel graphics for a moment. Because here we can see that an old-school look can be both retro and modern at the same time.
Octopath Traveler may look like it came straight out of the Super Nintendo, but the graphics are refined with light and shadow effects, lens flares, and a subtle hint of 3D. The cute and detailed character models are the icing on the cake.
The core of the game, however, is clearly the battle system. The turn-based battles are not only extremely smooth, but they also challenge your intellect. Due to the complexity, no two encounters are the same and your strategies and tactics will be put to the test again and again.
As beautiful as the first part was, and as much fun as we had playing it, it definitely had its flaws. So credit to Square Enix – they listened to the fans’ criticism and avoided exactly those things in the sequel, Octopath Traveler II, that didn’t run so smoothly in the predecessor.
The name of the game was also its biggest weakness. You literally walked an Octo-path and learned the story of the eight companions. This meant that the actual game didn’t really pick up until more than 20 hours into the game, and everything that had happened before was more or less just the overture. Before you got to know the origin story of all the companions, many people lost interest in the game.
Fortunately, the second part was streamlined in this regard and is much more fun. Both parts have earned their place in our hearts. But if we had to choose, it would be part 2.
Imagine combining Stardew Valley with fantasy elements and boss fights. That’s what Sun Haven is. Visually, the two games are very similar (which is meant as a compliment), and the gameplay is all about farming. In detail, however, the small but subtle differences become apparent. The game is set in the Middle Ages and includes dragons and magic.
In addition, you explore not one, but three towns. As with the spiritual model, the developers have implemented deep role-playing mechanics that allow for satisfying character progression and are enormously motivating.
You can easily spend several dozen hours in the game without getting bored, and the customization options of the seven available avatars also provide variety.
Sun Haven is rounded out by a clever combat system in which you’ll fight monsters using magical abilities as well as a bow and arrows.
A list called “The 10 coolest pixel games for PC” that doesn’t mention Dwarf Fortress is automatically incomplete. We’re still waiting for the day when it will finally be mentioned in the Guinness World Records as the game with probably the longest Early Access period.
It’s been in development since 2006 and only had an official Steam release in December 2022, and that’s only because the developers ran out of money. Dwarf Fortress was intended to be freeware from the very beginning and designed for enthusiasts.
But what is it all about? Dwarf Fortress can be summed up in one word: simulation. This has never been true for any other game as much as for the pixel adventure of the Adams brothers.
At the beginning of a game, a new world is created from scratch, generating soil, landscapes, animals, and a background story. Everything is individual and so enormously complex that beginners quickly throw in the towel.
But sticking with it is worth it. Dwarf Fortress may seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it and know what’s important, you can lose yourself in it.
There is no concrete goal in the game, but you create your own resolutions. You’ll be surprised how everything in the game interacts with each other and what consequences your decisions have. The world follows its own comprehensible and coherent laws, and it’s fun to discover them.
This game, and another on our list that we’ll get to later, can safely be called hardcore. Don’t be fooled by the cute pixel graphics in Celeste. Behind the cute facade is a tough, merciless platform game that requires skill and tactics.
But once you’ve internalized the mechanics and accepted the challenge, a game of the highest quality awaits you. It’s not for nothing that it received a 10 on release and is considered a milestone. In terms of mechanics, you don’t really do anything but jump, dash, and sprint. However, the feeling that the controls give you can’t be put into words. You have to experience it.
The gameplay is embedded in a touching story of self-discovery, which is excellently told and leaves no dry eye in the end.
In Punch Club, you take on the role of a boxer whose father was brutally murdered and who now seeks revenge. The game doesn’t fit into a specific genre but combines different elements. On the one hand, it’s a tycoon and management game, on the other hand, it’s a role-playing and action game.
Through battles, you’ll assert yourself in the world, make decisions that have consequences, train to become stronger, and move through a complex story that isn’t without surprises. Your goal is clear: find the killer, stop them, and bring them to justice. The story is told in parallel storylines.
While the story can’t be compared to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, playing the game still makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a Balboa adventure. The nostalgic look and 80’s references do the rest.
Dave the Diver
A mix of nautical adventure and restaurant simulation? If you’re frowning right now, we get that. But if you play Dave the Diver yourself, you’ll see how well the two elements fit together. In the indie game, you explore the vast blue ocean during the day and serve delicious sushi to human land-dwellers at night.
The ingredients for the sushi come, of course, from the fish you find and kill in the sea. This ensures that your creations are always fresh and delicious. Besides the animals, there are also secrets and artifacts to discover, and the pixel world can become very dangerous. Dave the Diver combines role-playing mechanics with casual gameplay, making it perfect if you’re looking for a game to play in between.
You can play for a few minutes at a time and make progress, or “dive” for several hours at a time. Unlike other games where short sessions are almost impossible, you can divide up your nautical adventure as you please.
As mentioned earlier, our list includes two merciless hardcore games. Besides Celeste, the second one is Dead Cells. It’s a Metroidvania at its core, where you shred your way through a sprawling castle with danger lurking around every corner. There are no checkpoints or save points. Dead Cells is a rogue-lite that lets you start over again and again.
With each new run, you get better, internalize the mechanics a bit more, and thus get further than before. Just like in a Souls game, you’ll learn the timing of your attacks and those of your enemies.
In Dead Cells, not only does your character become more powerful, but so do you. And it feels incredibly satisfying. While the first few on-screen deaths can be a little frustrating, victory tastes all the sweeter when you overcome challenges that seemed insurmountable at first.
Arietta of Spirits
In Arietta of Spirits, you embark on an epic adventure where the story is the main focus. The RPG-Maker look is reminiscent of SNES classics, and this is by design. While playing, you’ll be reminded of Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and other classics.
The story is very character-driven, with many emotional moments and unpredictable twists. Battles are easy to master and, unlike Dead Cells or Celeste, are fairly simple to learn and fight.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Arietta of Spirits is undemanding. But you don’t have to be afraid of potential screen death around every corner. If you’re looking for an interesting story with a nice retro look and accessible gameplay, this is the game for you.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn
The most modern graphics in our list can undoubtedly be found in Tactics Ogre: Reborn. In this tactical role-playing game from Square Enix, you’ll have to take height differences into account and fight battles in the best Final Fantasy Tactics style. If that sounds familiar, that’s no surprise. Reborn is a remake of an SNES classic that first saw the light of day in 1995.
Strictly speaking, the game isn’t based on the Final Fantasy spin-off, it was even the template for it, and has the same development team in parts. Like the original, the story in Tactics Ogre: Reborn is extremely complex and isn’t completely linear, but can be influenced by you. In addition to the main quests, there are also side quests to complete, which can influence the course of the story and its ending.
Calling Dome Keeper a tower defense game doesn’t quite do it justice, but it comes close. At its core, your task is to fend off ever-increasing waves of enemies and upgrade your tower – in this case, a dome. You do this by gathering resources and mining.
Explore the world to find materials and use them to make your dome more powerful. Your enemies are hostile aliens that you’ll have to hunt down in the tradition of other rogue-lites.
From a purely visual point of view, Dome Keeper is a feast for the eyes, minimalistic but with its own charming style. The gameplay is easily accessible but unfolds a pleasant level of complexity with each new run and wave.
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For example, our Octopath Traveler II trainer contains 48 codes with which you can adjust the battle reward, your money, your movement speed, and more. The trainers are always up to date, so you don’t have to worry about updates and patches. If you’d like to know more about PLITCH and how it works, check out this blog.
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