Back in 2011, Re-logic launched their game Terraria. Before launch, Terraria became known in the gaming circle as a 2D version of the then-popular Minecraft. Upon launch, the game became a huge success and climbed rankings rapidly by acquiring users at a fast rate.
As of 2021, Terraria has sold 30 million copies and is available on nearly all popular gaming platforms including Android and iOS.
People have written thousands of words analyzing the reasons for Terraria’s success. But many of these writers neglect one crucial aspect of the game that aided its success: the art style.
Terraria has a 2D pixel art style. The pixel art style is a popular game art style. first popularized by games from the NES, like Super Mario and Contra. During the NES era, the pixel art style was a necessity. The consoles at the time had minimal computing power compared to those of today. They could in no way render complex 3D graphics. But they were adept at rendering that had 2D pixel art.
In modern pixel art games like Terraria, however, the pixel art style is intentional. The mobile game developers of today don’t have to overcome the challenges developers of the NES faced. But they chose still choose the 2D pixel art style due to a myriad of reasons.
Many of us played games that had pixel art style during our childhood. These included well-known titles like Super Mario, Contra, and Legend of Zelda. Games like these three were the first exposure for many of the old crowd of gamers today, to the wonderful world of video games.
As a result, when playing pixel art games of modern time, many in this crowd will get a sense of nostalgia. The games take them back to the glorious days when games were different. When playing modern pixel art games like Shovel Knight and Dead Cells, they might remember their childhood experiences of playing Mario and the like. Even though the pixel art games of today are far advanced compared to the games they played at the time.
And nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It can be enough to hold the attention of players for a while. And many mobile game developers around the world, are already capitalizing on it.
Many of today’s gamers might find pixel art unappealing. They complain that pixel art games are not realistic. They would instead prefer 3D games, which have realistic visuals akin to the real world.
But a significant percentage of gamers love pixel art and its unique aesthetic. To them, the rugged, pixelated, low-res, and stylized visuals of pixel art offer a different experience. Something hyper-realistic 3D cannot replicate.
One aspect that these gamers swear by is that pixel art games are more immersive. At first glance, this might seem untrue. After all, 3D games are closer to reality, while pixel art games are far from it.
But it is precisely this unrealism that causes better immersion. When playing pixel art games, the player has to use their imagination a bit more. Like the art, the characters, and the environment are pixelated, their minds will have to fill in the blanks.
This makes them more of an active participant in the game, compared to 3D games. In the latter, players are likely to find faults in the visuals, as they have to be as realistic as possible. Pixel art has no such standard to match up to.
Another reason why mobile pixel art games is coming out en-masse is that these games can be developed at a lower budget in a quicker time. Artists need relatively lesser time to create the visuals, which reduces the overall production time significantly. Contrast this with a 3D game, where the art team has to do modeling, texturing, rigging, lighting, and animating, each of which may take as much time as it takes to create an entire 2D pixel art scene.
Pixel art games are also apt for Android and iOS mobile phones. Most of the people who play on these platforms have a preference towards 2D art style over 3D. Pixel art, being 2D capitalizes on this.
The immersion aspect mentioned earlier also comes into play here. Mobile gamers usually play in short sessions. So, for the best results, developers must hook them on the game as soon as possible. Since pixel art engages players better, many mobile game developers have started using it in their games.
Mobile art games are gaining popularity. Already, there are acclaimed pixel art games like Terraria, Stardew Valley, Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery, etc., on mobile. And each year, more games are being released in different genres.
All this points to the fact that mobile pixel art games are here to stay. And this is the right time to create one for yourself.
The best way to do this would be with a team of top mobile game developers. At Juego Studio, we have a full-cycle team including a dedicated art team, that is adept at all art styles. We can create any game you want at the target platform of your choice in minimal time.