13 Best 2D Games on Steam for Authentic Retro Gameplay (2024)

Making 2D games is deceptively difficult. Although indie developers frequently use pixel graphics due to financial concerns, it evokes familiarity and an admirable aesthetic style regardless of nostalgia.

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However, many people need to know how much work it takes to create high-quality 2D animation for a game. It is frequently more troublesome than using 3D graphics. The 2D platformer genre is one of the earliest in gaming, dating back to the early 1980s. Space Panic, released in 1980, was the first 8-bit game to feature platforming action.

The genre rose to prominence when Nintendo’s Donkey Kong was released in 1981 and became a major hit in arcades worldwide. And since then, hundreds of additional outstanding 2D platformers have been produced, many of which have become instant classics.

Whether you favor pixel art, hand-drawn graphics, anime-like aesthetics, or well-animated games, there’s plenty to enjoy in 2D graphics. So, let’s begin on the journey of 2D gaming masterpieces!

Explaining 2D Games and Their Various Types

As the name implies, 2D games have only two axes of motion. These are often “flat” games in which you can move left and right and up and down. Many 2D games are linear, which implies that your primary purpose is to progress from the start to the end of a level.

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Also, the controls in 2D games are easy. Since your character needs a full range of 3D motion, they have fewer options for movements and interactions with other objects. Since 2D games exist on only two planes, they are better suited to simpler titles. Let’s look at some of the most well-known 2D genres.

Platformers

Platformers are one of the most common 2D game genres. Since your goal is only to complete each level, running and jumping in two dimensions is a perfect fit. Sonic the Hedgehog and Rayman Legends are perfect examples.

Fighting Games

While 3D fighting games are available, classic fighting games first appeared in 2D. These match you against an opponent in an arena where you can only move forward/backward and leap.

Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are two examples.

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Puzzle Games

Match-three games and block-clearing puzzles, for example, work in 2D because there is little to them other than moving pieces. Unlike 3D puzzle games, which are often far more complicated and feature movement-based challenges, these puzzle games, like Tetris and Bejeweled, are simpler.

Role-playing Games

Role-playing games (RPGs) are another 2D mainstay. After all, RPGs are greatly influenced by tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons. The choice is everything in role-playing games. They allow you to build your character, make choices that impact the tale, and explore the universe at your speed.

Metroidvania Games

For many, the word “2D gaming” conjures up images of Metroidvania games. This genre gets its name from the Metroid and Castlevania series, which feature large spaces linked by 2D rooms, with some areas of the universe locked off until you acquire a new ability or get a new item.

The best examples of this genre are Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

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Multiplayer Games

For years, 2D multiplayer games have easily challenged the dominance of 3D multiplayer, whether through couch co-op or the magic of the internet. Numerous 2D multiplayer games are available, including Among Us, Sonic Mania, and many others.

Simulation Games

Simulation games put you in charge of something you’re unlikely to encounter, such as building a house or maintaining a dinosaur zoo. They tend to focus on detail and managerial techniques to represent their chosen experiences as authentically as possible accurately.

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The Sims are the best of all time, but successful 2D games include Factorio and Stardew Valley. Apart from these genres, other popular 2D games include Idle games, auto-scrolling games, rouge-like games, online card games, and more.

The Evolution of 2D Game Graphics Over Time

Graphics add visual attractiveness to a game and much more. The graphical features of these games will delve into the experience. Nobody wishes graphics improved at the gameplay price, but no one is interested in trading GTA IV for Pong.

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From Pong’s simple forms and colors to the photorealistic landscapes of modern video games, visuals have transformed dramatically. Game graphics have changed from simple 2D graphics to extremely precise, indulging 3D space. Previous versions of 2D graphics laid the foundation for modern enhancements in video game designs.

Pong was introduced in 1972, with rudimentary black-and-white visuals of lines and dots on display. Fast forward to the 1980s, 2D graphics had transpired significantly, with games like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog portraying bright, cartoon-based graphics that were a reliable upgrade over the earlier gaming stages.

Then they launched the scrolling backgrounds and parallax scrolling. Scrolling backgrounds enabled game creators to build massive, more captivating game worlds, while parallax scrolling offered depth and dimension to the playing environment.

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As video game consoles started to enhance, 2D graphics used to be the norm until the mid-1990s. Almost every 2D games, like platformers, puzzle titles and sports games, were available on the Super Nintendo, NES & Sega Genesis.

However, in the late 1990s, a new era of 3D graphics emerged, bringing more immersive and engaging worlds, which are being expanded to usher in a new era of high-definition, high-spec gaming.

With all of the excellent 2D games available, some stand out from the crowd. They are the ones that most of you will never forget and will return to time and again. Simply, these games are two-dimensional gems that every PC gamer should experience.

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With that in mind, we have created a list of Steam’s most exquisite 2D games. Whether you favor platformers, roguelikes, or just plain fantastic games, there should be something on this list to keep you entertained for hours!

Dead Cells

Who would’ve imagined that a 2D roguelite game would win multiple awards for the Best Action Game category? Well, Dead Cells did exactly that. Not only did the game exceed expectations, but it showed how far games can go with innovation and a pure love for gaming.

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The first thing you’ll notice is the game’s combat. Clearly, it’s been inspired by the likes of Dark Souls. Along with the unforgiving action, you’ll be greeted by an ever-changing castle. Basically, each time you die in the game, the castle will change. This means that your playthroughs will be different every time.

Not only does this add a level of depth, excitement, and difficulty, but it also keeps you constantly on your toes. If you want a challenge in the form of a 2D action-platformer, Dead Cells is what you should be playing today!

Developers: Motion Twin

Publishers: Motion Twin

Release Date: August 7, 2018

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Tetris Effect

You’ve certainly played many variations of Tetris, but none like Tetris Effect. The latest creation of Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Enhance Experience’s falling-block puzzler mixes music, sound, vibration, and images into something almost transcendent.

Tetris Effect is best described as euphoric. It makes your skin quiver & your thoughts drift into blissful receptivity. The combination of time-tested gameplay and Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s synesthesia, inducing music and visual design results in something you’ve probably never seen before.

And if that sounds unbelievable, try it out yourself!

Developer: Monstars Inc., Resonair, Stage Games

Publisher: Enhance

Release Date: August 17, 2021

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Rayman Legends

The engaging aspect of Rayman Legends is its presentation of the latest and unexpected thoughts for over 12 hours. It seamlessly rendered game offers dozens of unique perspectives, defining that the platforms’ genre has the potential for fascinating innovation.

It gets a lot of mileage from four basic moves thanks to excellent level design that plays with genre clichés. And there’s enough to do with fantastic local co-op and hundreds of unlockables, including Rayman Origins stages, special character skins, and mini-games.

Hands down, this is one of the best platformer games you can play right now!

Developer: Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: August 29, 2013

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Limbo

Limbo is not a happy-go-lucky game, as is clear from the journey’s beginning. Your goal is to find your sister; despite your tender age, you must embark on a perilous adventure through a lethal jungle.

You must tackle numerous environmental challenges while fighting local creatures and other humans. It’s more than just a standard 2D platformer for PC; it’s an ambient experience with a symbolic, gloomy, and fascinating plot.

Developer: Playdead

Publisher: Playdead

Release Date: August 2, 2011

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Celeste

Celeste isn’t an ancient classic game, but it made our list because of its retro aesthetics and storyline. In the game, you take on the role of the main character – Madeline and travel to the summit of Celeste Mountain.

It is so easy. Indeed. And that’s why the developers have included numerous twists to spice up the game. For example, you must face several trials, withstand her inner demons, and explore the mountain’s mystery, among other things, during the adventure!

Developer: Extremely OK Games Limited.

Publisher: Maddy Makes Games Inc.

Release Date: January 25, 2018

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Cuphead

When you hear the name ‘Cuphead,’ you initially think it will be a fun casual game. Cuphead is a retro-style action game based on 1930s cartoons. It is a single-player co-op player game. The game has watercolor backgrounds, jazz music, and other elements that harken back to simpler times.

In this game, you must travel to different realms, use various weapons, and master powerful moves to survive. Cuphead can take you to a bygone era in a fascinating realm where you must uncover hidden mysteries while trying to repay your debt.

Developer: Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc.

Publisher: Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc.

Release Date: September 29, 2017

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is one of the most notable 2D games that draws on famous precedents such as Castlevania and Metroid. It contains some concepts or ideas from Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Souls Saga.

In this 2D adventure set in a rotting underground realm teeming with insects of all types, players take on the role of the hero who must put an end to everything. The best feature about this game is that it is appropriate for all age groups over 7. So, if you’re looking for a game for your child or yourself, the Hollow Knight is a great choice.

Developer: Team Cherry

Publisher: Team Cherry

Release Date: February 24, 2017

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

DAVE THE DIVER

If you love adventure games, DAVE THE DIVER is one that’s worth your money and time. This is a beautiful and calming single-player RPG that takes you on an enchanting trip to the mysterious Blue Hole, and through Dave’s life.

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Dave isn’t your usual diver. In fact, he runs a sushi restaurant at night, which you have to manage. During the day, you’ll be searching for exotic fish and marine creatures. In case it wasn’t obvious, Dave dives into the sea to find fish that can be used for the restaurant’s menu.

From increasing the restaurant’s popularity to finding the self within the magnificent waters of the sea, it’s your responsibility to ensure that Dave finds fulfillment in both these endeavors. Don’t worry — this game will hook you in right from the beginning and make sure that you have the time of your life.

Also, in case you’re looking for an excellent Mac game, this is a serious contender for your next playing session!

Developer: MINTROCKET

Publisher: MINTROCKET

Release Date: June 28, 2023

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef

Warhammer 40K: Shootas, Blood, and Teef is a full-blast game. Players can enjoy it without a vast understanding of the Warhammer universe, but it would be nice. It’s a fun little arcade game with multiple difficulty levels to meet any difficulty.

If you find a constant group of friends (or online randoms) to play with, even better. Shootas, Blood, and Teef is a lighthearted slice of the Warhammer 40K universe that will entertain you for a few hours with its arcade run and gun fun.

Developer: Rogueside

Publisher: Rogueside

Release date: October 20, 2022

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Super Meat Boy

Many believe Super Meat Boy to be the game that kicked off the indie revolution by offering inspiration and confidence to hordes of would-be developers who began with nothing more than an idea and a desire. It’s debatable whether or not this is the case. In any case, it’s fantastic and manages to be as tough as simple.

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Although it may not appear challenging at first glance, completing a Super Meat Boy stage can require numerous attempts due to the atrocious positioning of the numerous lethal obstacles. With enough practice and effort, you should be able to finish this fantastic 2D title and feel a true feeling of accomplishment.

Developer: Team Meat

Publisher: Team Meat

Release Date: December 1, 2010

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Ori and the Blind Forest

If it hadn’t been for the success of previous indie games like Castle Crashers and Limbo, the world might never have been gifted with Moon Studios’ wonderful debut release, Ori and The Blind Forest.

This game is one of the most graphically spectacular of the decade, with vivid colors and uniquely designed backgrounds that are a visual pleasure. The rest of the game’s components are equally well-realized, and when combined, they produce an experience that can only be described as breathtaking!

Developer: Moon Studios GmbH

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

Release Date: March 11, 2015

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Streets of Rage 4

One of the best aspects of Streets of Rage 4 is that it is a love letter to the series’ fans. It modernizes everything excellent about the originals for a new audience.

The graphics are stunning, the gameplay is tight, and the soundtrack is fantastic. It is one brawler that you want to take advantage of. After all, nothing beats picking up an adversary and flinging them into another enemy to rack up more points.

Developer: Dotemu, Guard Crush, Lizardcube

Publisher: Dotemu, Yooreka Studio

Release Date: April 30, 2020

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection

If you grew up playing video games, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Mega Man. This game was first launched in 1987, and the franchise quickly evolved to include over 50 games across numerous platforms.

Its plot focuses on emerging robotic systems. The protagonist of the game is Mega Man, who attempts to rescue ancient artifacts known as Biometals from evil robots and Pseudoroids. The game’s best feature is the ability to control the difficulty level. As a result, you can adjust the level based on your knowledge and preferences.

Developer: CAPCOM CO., LTD.

Publisher: CAPCOM CO., LTD.

Release Date: February 25, 2020

➡️ Check it out on Steam.

Final Words

As you can see, millions of games are available online, particularly on Steam. However, it narrows to personal preferences in style and settings, which vary from person to person. Remember, this blog has included games from diverse genres with varying plots. Thus, you can expect to leave this site with some wonderful, classic games to check out and have endless hours of fun – solo and with friends!

And, if you’re a connoisseur of games available on Steam, you can’t miss out on our picks for the best Steam games!

13 Best 2D Games on Steam for Authentic Retro Gameplay (2024)
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