Skip to main content

The 7 most beautifully animated 2D games

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 animatedanime-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 gameusing 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…