The 7 most beautifully animated 2D games

3. Muramasa / Odin Sphere / GrimGrimoire

You may have noticed a lack of anime in this list so far (with the exception of Super Robot Taisen, which we were making fun of). Thing is, most of the time, games based on anime save all the best animation for the cutscenes, and the actual gameplay is far more jerky and bland-looking. But if you're looking for well-animated games with just a touch of anime style, Muramasa, Odin Sphere, and GrimGrimoire (all by developer Vanillaware) fit the bill nicely.

Gee, that’s pretty. And check this out!

Look familiar?

Above: “Great Wave off of Kanagawa,” by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, who incidentally also created the very NSFW “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife.” Coincidence? 

Obviously, static screens don’t do these games justice. YouTube videos don’t really do the job, either. It’s only when you actually play the games, control the characters and experience the fluidity and precision of the animation that you get sucked into the worlds Vanillaware has created. And lest you think these three games hold a monopoly on beautifully animated anime-esque games, check out this trailer for Critter Crunch on the PlayStation Network:

Kind of a clusterf**k, but aren’t those little furballs cuties?

Above: You can bet your ass that if we ever do a feature on ‘The most beautifully animated rainbow vomit,’ Critter Crunch will be at number one 

2. Like, a billion different fighting games

Well, gee, there are way too many well-animated 2D fighters out there. Let’s show you just a few.

Above: Feel free to tell us which ones we were morons to ‘forget’

If you want to talk about a genre in which character movement is important, just look at fighting games. Actually, in just about any 2D fighting game, the animation is really all there is – two bounding boxes, some energy bars, and a shit-ton of animation sprites. And while most 2D fighting games use hand-drawn art, which gets scanned in and turned into pixel art, the transformation process of pen to pixel is something of an art in itself.

Above: Sure, we love our Udon-drawn HD sprites too, but you have to admit there’s something charming about pixel-Ryu here

Nothing wrong with just using pure pixels, either. Some of our favorite artists use pixel art in ways that absolutely astound us: if you haven’t seen Paul Robertson’s utterly mind-blowing Kings of Power 4 Billion Percent, find a working link to download the full movie right away. No, don’t just watch it on YouTube – you have to see this spectacle in its high-resolution, pixelated glory.

Above: Actually, someone tried to make an unlicensed game using Paul Robertson’s art as assets, but we’ve yet to see a game that successfully captures the epic, ultra-hyperactive feel of Robertson’s work. Someday… 

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  • kazemaki - May 1, 2014 5:25 a.m.

    Did they forget mortal kombat in that list of fighters? XD
  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 6:49 a.m.

    New trailer below
  • Lemming - June 29, 2012 9:56 a.m.

    It's out now for iOs. Some are complaining about cost to length of content but if they knew the history they might've thought differently.
  • hugobedward - July 24, 2011 6:48 a.m.

    GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! it seams that a company called React Entertainment are releasing the act in august.
  • lymanzaar - November 29, 2009 10:43 p.m.

    The Act should be a either a Virtual Console or XBLA game.
  • Kytl - November 27, 2009 5:20 a.m.

  • Spybreak8 - November 24, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    Good read
  • jackthemenace - November 23, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    UI LOLled at the stick man XD but i really want to get odin speher for the PS2, and i intend to get muramasa at christmas (aswell as EVERY OTHER GAME that i've ever wanted)
  • GrenadeSpamAndSausages - November 23, 2009 7:43 p.m.

    Wow The Act looks absolutely stunning I feel really quite bad for not even knowing it existed and now even worse that it no longer exists, mission accomplished gamesradar you made me hurt inside.
  • Memph - November 23, 2009 6:42 p.m.

    1 vote for Metal Slug series. Still looks corking today
  • erreip199 - November 23, 2009 1:56 p.m.

    man i gotta get myself Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for the lols XD and thx GR now i feel bad for never knowing The Act existed until today :c... perhaps one day i can get a PC copy of it... i bet some one will port it... someday
  • deedob - November 23, 2009 12:51 p.m.

    Meh... Sorry, mr article creator... i just don't "feel" any guilt for "the act". There was already some games who looked and played almost exactly like that game that were released decades before. They are still being released now and then. Dragon's Lair, Space Ace... You pushed a joystick or a button on "cue" to change the animation sequence of the "game". Same as the "act" where you turn a knob to change the animation. They all look the same exact kind of game. Trial and error games like those are somewhat a thing of the past (and should mostly stay there if you ask me)...
  • Styrophoamicus - November 23, 2009 5:51 a.m.

    " Dan Castellaneta, isn’t known for anything else" Are you being sarcastic? He's Homer Friggin' Simpson!
  • GameManiac - November 23, 2009 5:27 a.m.

    Now I'm having a REALLY tough time deciding if I should get A Boy and his Blob or not. ... Also...Uuuuugggggghhhhhh... Not that fox-woman from the Murasama game again? It's warping my mind!
  • bocaj - November 23, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    Great top 7!
  • uvebeenpwned - November 22, 2009 10:32 p.m.

    So wait...on Super Robot Tenshin whatever, the ladies' boobs grow bigger for their special attacks, and its like an instant win? Usually that only happens in bed. lol.
  • Metroidhunter32 - November 22, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    I knew Muramasa had to be on here somewhere.
  • lovinmyps3 - November 21, 2009 8:21 p.m.

    Damnit!! I would totally download The Act on XBLA!! ='(
  • bamb0o-stick - November 21, 2009 6:43 p.m.

    Dammit, how is it our fault that amazing games like The Act fail? The very reason we are reading gaming magazines and websites are to have things like this brought to our attention about it. You guys share a load of the blame as well as we do.
  • Kabukibear - November 21, 2009 4:41 p.m.

    I actually got a chance to play The Act at a small game show in Miami, Fl a couple years back. They had all sorts of old systems to play and had that arcade there. I was hooked immediately and my gf had to drag me away after I kept pumping quarter after quarter into it. It's every bit as charming and well done as they make it seem in the article. I didn't get very far, I was at the doctor part, riding a hospital cart down a hall trying to avoid other patients and obstacles. Anyway, this is a shame, I had no idea at the time that it was one of those games I'll probably never get to play again. Bummer.

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