If there’s anything that makes an aging gamer happy, it’s seeing new games made with old-fashioned graphics. Like watching a movie shot in black and white, retro graphics instantly transport us back in time to when 4 or 8 bits seemed like more than enough. Here are 10 of our favorite modern iOS games that use old-fashioned graphics and sound design, as opposed to old games that have been ported to iOS.
This apocalyptic best-seller kicked off two major trends in the App Store: endless running games, and retro-styled graphics. We’re not sure what’s happening in the story, why you’re running for your life, or why War of the Worlds-style pods are destroying the background, but Canabalt’s mystery is part of the fun.
#9: Super Mega Worm
If you’ve seen the movie Tremors, you know a thing or two about giant underground worms. They’ll eat anything that they can sense on the surface, and in this game, that means babies in carriages, police cars, and cows. Chaos and mayhem seem so much cuter when the victims are just a few blocky pixels tall.
#8: Hook Champ
Rocketcat games made it clear in their debut iOS game that they were passionate about retro games. Not only does Hook Champ have a hilarious sense of humor, but the visual style makes it look like the kind of game we wish we owned on SNES or Sega Genesis. As you swing through caverns with a vicious chomper at your tail, Hook Champ provides you with a sense of adventure that feels timeless.
#7: Pix’n Love Rush
Pix’n Love Rush brings out our attention deficit disorder with its rapidly changing backgrounds and gameplay styles. You control a pixelated cat who bounces from scene to scene, picking up coins and shooting at bats. Every ten or fifteen seconds, the levels will change. One moment, you’re climbing vertically, the next, you’re jumping over chasms from left to right.
#6: Star Marine: Infinite Ammo
Our latest retro passion is Star Marine, a game that feels like Contra down to the core. In addition to the retro look, which developer Glitchsoft nailed perfectly, we like the fact that the game retains old-school quirks like the ability to shoot in just eight directions, or the way enemies will knock you back off of platforms when they hit you.
#5: League of Evil
League of Evil is what Mega Man would join if he wasn’t such a good guy. Like Mega Man, League of Evil is a challenging retro-styled platformer that demands precision. If you’re up for the evil task of reaching and destroying the scientist at the end of each level, you’d better flex your thumbs and get ready for some classic gaming.
#4: Kami Retro
Kami Retro may resemble an Atari game on acid, but it’s more complex than anything you’ll find in Atari’s Greatest Hits. First, you have to put platforms and fans in just the right spots. Then, you have to time the jumps of four different characters as they stream out of a door. It’s part puzzle, part platformer, and 100% retro.
#3: Game Dev Story
After playing Game Dev Story, now we always imagine programmers catching on fire as they approach crunch time. In this insider-y sim about the games industry, you have to come up with innovative ideas, market and test them, and then reap the rewards when the game hits store shelves. The gaming in-jokes and nods to long-gone consoles will make you feel nostalgic in more ways than one.
#2: Mage Gauntlet
Rocketcat wasn’t satisfied with just making action-platformers like Hook Champ and Super QuickHook, so they went ahead and created their take on action-RPGs as well. Mage Gauntlet combines fearsome combat with clever characters and dialogue, and this game strikes just the right balance. This was one of our favorite games of 2011, and it definitely belongs in any retro-loving gamer’s collection.
#1: Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
The retro-styled iOS game that’s made the biggest impact on us so far is Capy’s Sword and Sworcery. Less of a videogame and more of an interactive fantasy film, Sworcery boasts the most amazing retro visuals we’ve ever seen, courtesy of artist Superbrothers. Using just a few pixels, Sworcery made us feel real emotion while most of the other games on this list just get our hearts pumping from sheer action. For using powerful, memory-stirring pixel art to tell a great story, Sword and Sworcery is the best retro-styled game out there.
Want to share more of your favorite retro-style iOS games? Let us know in the comments!