Home > Design, Games, Links > Is the Retro graphic style making a comeback?

Is the Retro graphic style making a comeback?

For some time, independent developers the world over have been creating games that display a charming, low resolution graphic style, nostalgic of the early days of gaming. These games remind us of a classic era that brought us games like Contra, Super Mario Brothers, and Doom. At the time, the spiffy graphics were another cool draw for consumers, but not the defining characteristic of the game.

Image courtesy of quin

Today, though, we see games like this becoming more mainstream. Perhaps the best example of this is the wild success of Minecraft. The possibility of free form construction and creation is the most basic appeal here, and the nostalgic, pixelated art style only adds to the game’s charm. I recently reviewed Revenge of the Titans, which shares a similar philosophy in terms of graphics. The game is fun on its own, and it doesn’t need the latest and greatest graphics to make it that way. Instead, it applies its retro graphics style toward shaping the attitude of the experience. Finally, we have the upcoming Fez by Polytron Corporation, which features a pleasant, yet low resolution style.

All of these games are by independent developers, so the question then becomes: Are gamers giving more of a chance to games without the snazziest graphics? Or is this just a byproduct of independent games, which often favor the retro style for ease of development, becoming more mainstream?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Categories: Design, Games, Links Tags: , ,
  1. April 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    And don’t forget #sworcery.

    There’s certainly been a backlash against the AAA normal-mapped next-gen style. The popularity of retro is one big symptom of this.

    But what I think the real positive outcome of this is going to be is to really start to see the market value and reward games with a strong, consistent, original and meaningful art direction. Already games like TF2 stand out not because of engine tech but because of their art direction.

    I think the key advantage that indies have over commercial games is being able to take risks with gameplay. That’s crucial. However, the “other” advantage, which is even more important in getting attention, is the freedom to do whatever they want with the art direction.

    Art Direction gets their attention, Game Design keeps them playing. Indie games that do well are the ones that innovate on both fronts, like #sworcery, minecraft, Fez, VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy.

  2. April 9, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Check out our game http://www.damianfiligree.com it has retro-style graphics.

  3. Cas
    April 10, 2011 at 2:22 am

    At first glance you might think it’s “retro style” but taking another look will show you that actually the graphics in Revenge of the Titans (and indeed Minecraft) are actually ultra-modern, requiring some pretty hefty GPU power to make a reality. For example, Revenge actually has upwards of 2-3000 sprites in a *single frame*, rendered at 60fps, in 10 layers, and each sprite is blended and coloured and independently animated, at high resolution. Something which is a far cry from “genuine” retro graphics such as those found in VVVVV. In effect what we’ve done is evoked the feeling of games of yesteryear by simply not using the most common effects and styles that most modern AAA titles are using – so we’ve done it in 2D, used fairly small sprites, and avoided bump mapping, and stick to horizontal and vertical and 45 degree angles.

    Cas 🙂

  1. March 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm

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