Like all great trends, retro-style PC games have circled back into popularity. They invoke a feeling of nostalgia for a gaming era long gone, but not forgotten.
Many of today's game developers grew up in the 8-bit era and are now using their talents to breathe new life into this classic style. They're introducing fun mechanics and innovative play styles that rival the graphically elite, big-budget games.
We kick off our homage to the pixelated past with one of the best, most violent games of the past year.
The 80s were a time for arcades, VCRs, and unrealistically violent movies. Hotline Miami is your time machine back to the era—DeLorean included.
Enjoy a classic top-down view as you barge into gangster hideouts and savagely dispose of all the men in their stylish white suits. Watch your step: A single shot could be your demise—and these gangsters rarely miss.
FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light may be a simplified look at commanding a space cruiser, but dig beneath its retro exterior and you'll uncover a deep extraterrestrial epic.
This isn't Galaga: You must micromanage your crew to ward off space pirates and hostile aliens. Your allies are in dire need of the vital information you carry, and the rebel fleet will stop at nothing to blow you away.
Explore, buy new weapons and parts, recruit crew members, and face the harshest conditions the cold vacuum of space can dish out.
Retro City Rampage
Turn your PC into a classic arcade cabinet with Retro City Rampage.
Don't let the pixel-licious graphics and old-school points system score fool you—this game is contemporary.
In this time-traveling adventure, be on the lookout for homages to movies, games, and pop culture from one of the most interesting eras in modern history, all in nostalgia-inducing, 8-bit-graphics style.
Now get out on the mean streets of Theftropolis and fight off those annoying kids from Saved by the Bell—seriously.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is in the same vein (no pun intended) as such classic games as the Mario Bros. series, delivering plenty of challenging, side-scrolling, platform-jumping action.
There are, however, a few key differences: Rather than a plumber, your character is a skinless wad of meat. And instead of rescuing a princess, your goal is to save the bandage that is your girlfriend. Weird? Maybe just a little.
Super Meat Boy's levels are short, but each one requires precise timing and agility.
The game is very fast-paced, with daring jumps and wall slides that will have you cursing your slow fingers time and time again. You'll die often, but since when did that ever deter a true gamer?
Playing in a pixelated, two-dimensional world can be pretty boring—until you don a magical hat that gives you the ability to spin it for a new perspective.
Fez even mimics a classic computer bootup sequence when the world is corrupted and requires a "restart." You can't get much more retro than that.
Explore the glitch-ridden land and collect the Hexahedron cubes you need to restore it. Your 16-bit buddies are counting on you.
Run, jump, and slide to a retro rhythm in Bit.Trip Runner.
Take in the old-style graphics, controls, and sound, as well as the references to classic games like Pitfall.
Avoid obstacles and collect power-ups in this side-scrolling jumping game that demands the reaction time of a Jedi. It's a bite-sized game to pick up and play, whether you have five minutes to kill or can indulge yourself for the entire day.
When you tire of running, pick up one of the many other Bit.Trip titles for further new takes on retro-stylized rhythm gaming.
Gunpoint might look like a two-dimensional version of Splinter Cell, but its innovation will surprise you.
Don't underestimate those pixelated guards, they'll take you out with a single shot. Rewire doors, cameras, and lights to sneak through stealthily without raising alarms.
Once you complete your mission, collect the cash from your shady customers and upgrade your gear to become the most efficient spy-for-hire ever. You can accomplish some nifty tricks with the advanced stuff.
Atom Zombie Smasher
The zombies in this game might be simple purple blips on a two-dimensional map, but their hunger for brains is overwhelmingly frightening. Get ready to take on the undead horde in Atom Zombie Smasher.
Use snipers, mines, bait, and an orbital cannon to blow away the walking dead (and the rest of the city). Of course, there are those pesky survivors to deal with. Hustle and bustle to get them out as fast as possible via helicopter before the place gets carpet-bombed. The more survivors you pull out, the better your chances will be against the brain-eating cadavers.
Gravity can be tricky when you're trapped in an alternate dimension. But in the VVVVVV universe, all you need do is flip a switch to toggle it on and off, as you navigate its maze of spikes and monsters to locate your spaceship's missing crew.
Flip gravity to fall to the ceiling (you read that right) and make your way past pits and other obstacles safely.
The game reminds me of the the old Commodore 64 console, right down to its entirely chiptune (that's 8-bit to the unhip) soundtrack. Prepare to drown in the nostalgia.
At first, Prison Architect's inmates will warm your heart with their cute little heads and misshapen bodies—but then they start to riot.
Choose from myriad materials and objects to build your perfect jailhouse, be it an enlightened house of corrections bent on rehabilitation, or an unrelenting hellhole where the devil's rejects are sent to rot.
This game's title doesn't tell the whole story. You're not just the prison's architect, you're also its warden. Hire staff, establish schedules, and manage the books to make your prison as efficient as possible. Keep the cons content and you might avoid a bloodbath.
Tim, Braid's protagonist, looks like Mario—if he donned a suit and tie, shaved his mustache, and enjoyed the ability control time.
Run, jump, and bend time in this 2D puzzle-platformer to save your true love, the "princess" (sound familiar?).
You'll never die: You simply rewind each time you screw up. You'll encounter some interesting gameplay mechanics, including using a time-shifted copy of yourself to make your way through one level. This game brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "playing by (or is that with?) yourself."
Mario is child’s play compared to this!
When the earliest video games were taking shape, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed over the world. So it's no surprise that a retro-style game would explore the worst-case scenario.
The world map in Defcon will remind you of the 1983 movie War Games. Command your forces and strategically place buildings that can detect, stop, and launch ICBMs.
The board will stay fairly quiet and peaceful until DEFCON 5—then all hell breaks loose. Sit back and watch as the nukes fly.
Whoever sustains the fewest casualties wins, but the survivors might envy the dead. After all, the only way to win a game of nuclear war is not to play.
The notion of exploring ancient underground temples and other archaeological sites has captivated young minds since the days of Pitfall and Indiana Jones. Now, Spelunky will have you treasure-hunting in an old-school way.
Every loot-laden cave has one thing in common: Danger in every never-ending corridor. Spelunky stays true to that tradition, with randomly generated destructible maps, and plenty of creepy-crawlers on the prowl.
Don your miner's lamp, throw a few bombs, and get rich while uncovering the ancient mysteries of the cave, in this 2D platforming adventure.