2D Games: 2014 so far

When I renamed this site 2-Dimensions, the idea was to focus on, well, two-dimensional media. Specifically: Video games with 2D gameplay and especially raster art; hand-drawn animation; comics and graphic novels; and other similar creations. All glory to the traditional ways, and so forth. Now that I’ve made some progress in breaking things out into other sites, it’s time to get more serious about this. So let’s begin by looking at 2014’s crop of 2D games so far – barring mobile platforms, though, because no single human can keep up with that churn.



PSN | Orangepixel
I grabbed this one on a whim, since it was about three bucks with my PlayStation Plus discount, and it turned out to be worth the money. Evidently it’s a port of a mobile game, one of those rare procedurally generated games that isn’t just trying to be a roguelike. Drawing rather obvious inspiration from Metal Slug, it puts you in control a little pixel dude shooting other little pixel dudes and grabbing weapons as you go. It’s super-simplistic, but unlike a lot of mobile games it’s not an auto-scrolling runner; it’s more of an arcade-style action game. It’s not perfect by any means – the game gives you lots of health to compensate for the slightly messy controls and hard-to-avoid enemy projectiles – but if you want a cheap, dumb, time waster it’s as good as any.

Herc’s Adventures
PSN | LucasArts
This game is rad. I wrote about why it’s rad for USgamer in case you need supplemental proof of its radness.

PSN | XBL | Steam | Double Helix | Capcom
Despite its visual monotony and general lack of new ideas, Strider (2014 edition) manages to rise above previous Strider (1989 edition) sequels – it’s a bit more focused than Strider 2, and unlike Journey Into Darkness it’s not an incompetent mess. Still not a patch on the original, but definitely a step in the right direction. Not that it’ll matter now that the developer has been snatched up by Amazon in order to churn out games for the company’s mysterious games box.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Wii U | Retro | Nintendo
I can’t seem to get into Donkey Kong Country either old or new, but everyone else seems to think Tropical Freeze is the bee’s knees. And who am I to argue with collective wisdom? There’s a kernel of greatness in here that continues to elude me, but you’ll probably have an easier time finding it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Wii U Virtual Console | Nintendo
Now that A Link Between Worlds is three months old, maybe it’s time to revisit that world with the original game. Or, you know, maybe you’ll just want to play this because it’s a true masterpiece of game design.



A PC-to-PlayStation indie conversion, Dustforce seems to be well-regarded. If nothing else, it pairs Rogue Legacy-style retro graphics with the unlikely premise of fighting through enemy mobs with a broom, so there’s that.

Muramasa Rebirth: A Cause to Dakion For/Genroku Legends
Likewise, the new DLC for the Vita version of Muramasa sees you playing the role of a farmer in the same peasant rebellion chronicled by not-so-classic Famicom classic Ikki.

Mr. Driller
The PlayStation version of the original Mr. Driller is definitely the most mundane and feature-light entry in the entire franchise (well, except maybe for the Game Boy Color release), but you can surely find six bucks’ worth of entertainment in this fast-paced arcade puzzler that mixes Dig Dug and Puyo Puyo in one delightful package.

Tomba 2
Cool, Tomba 2’s on PSN! The original has become hard to find and rather expensive. Oh, but for some reason despite the cover art it’s the Japanese release of the game. Weird. And unfortunate, given its emphasis on dispensing quests via text.

Olli Olli
Somewhere between Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Trials HD you’ll find… Olli Olli. That seems like a good middle ground to occupy.

The Firemen 2
The unlikely sequel to Human Entertainment’s very late era Super NES The Firemen hits PlayStation Network as an import title. A strange import choice, but not a bad one. Unlike most PlayStation sequels to 16-bit games, this one doesn’t try to go all in and move everything to awkward 3D; it’s more or less just a higher-resolution version of the SNES game.

Knytt Underground
This game has appeared on pretty much every platform ever, and now it’s on Wii U. If you’ve somehow missed its myriad other incarnations (including its time as a free download for PlayStation Plus), well, here you go.

Ice Hockey
Will team Fat Guy triumph over team Skinny Dudes? Only time (and your twitch reflexes) will tell.

Super C
The excellent sequel to Contra returns to Virtual Console. But still no original Contra. Thanks for being buttheads, Konami.

Retro City Rampage DX
The fun but slightly disappointing GTA/’80s pastiche comes to 3DS with enhancements. I don’t know the specifics, but I’m hoping it means the underwater parts are less grueling.

Life Force
The amazing semi-sequel to Gradius. I lack sufficient skill to be able to beat this on a single life like I used to, but it’s still good fun.

Castlevania II
Yeah, the game’s kind of a mess, but it’s a classic mess brimming with interesting and ambitious ideas. Just use a strategy guide and all will be well.

Mega Man X2
You know, this is a real rarity: One of the few Mega Man games I’ve barely played. I should rectify that, I guess, but I’d have to go into it knowing that it couldn’t possibly live up to its near-perfect predecessor. Alas.

Super Punch-Out!!
Bob Mackey says this game is cool, and who are you to question Bob Mackey?

And the rest:


A decent port of a decent game, but one definitely eclipsed by its sequels.

Dr. Luigi
An amusing ROM hack writ large; just be sure to play it on “hard” difficulty or else it’s super boring.

Mario Tennis
The Game Boy Color tennis RPG makes a comeback and sets a pretty high bar for the upcoming sequel to top.

Ninja Gaiden
Now that God has given us legitimate, built-in save states, there’s really no reason not to finally finish this game.

Mario Bros.
Let me save you some trouble and money; instead of downloading this tired old game, just read this analysis instead.

Mighty Bomb Jack
The semi-classic action puzzler becomes much easier, as with Ninja Gaiden, if you abuse the crap out of save states. Or you could just watch the Game Center CX episode…

Double Dragon
Not the classic arcade game or the inventive NES port. This is a dumb fighting game based on the even dumber movie.

Age of Zombies
A definite play for the lowest common denominator, this top down shooter began life on iOS and seems like it might maybe be kind of decent-ish, I guess.

Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2
This is going to blow your mind, but Jewel Master? It’s a match-three puzzle game. I know, you were holding out for a sequel to the old Genesis game. Sorry.

King Oddball
What’s that, you say? Another mobile port? Yeah, this one kind of falls somewhere between Odama and Angry Birds, if you can imagine that.

The terrible NES port of the lackluster predecessor to Double Dragon and River City Ransom comes to Virtual Console. It would have been a better sale if it had maybe come to Virtual Console before those games, which make this rough (and I do mean rough) draft seem kind of moot.

It’s no Time Pilot, I’ll say that much.

A variant on the nonogram genre, Tappingo seems like it might be kind of an interesting diversion for Picross junkies while they’re waiting for the freshly announced Picross E4 to make its way into the world.

Kung Fu Rabbit
As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with the poorly rated CG cartoon from a few years back. It’s just your typical side-scrolling platformer.

Quell Reflect
And finally, another mobile port to 3DS. A chill puzzler that has racked up lots of positive reviews.

11 thoughts on “2D Games: 2014 so far

  1. Is there a definitive version of Mr Driller for a home console? Two of my favorite puzzle games are that and Super puzzle fighter II.

  2. Mega Man X 2 is seriously underrated. It’s just full of weirdly creative little gimmicks that interact in unexpected ways. And it brought us the oddly memorable Green Biker Dude too!

  3. Since you mentioned the new DKC, I thought I’d mention here that I went back a few years ago to the original DKC in light of your criticism of it, and ended up agreeing with many of your points despite my initial reaction to your statement. There’s a long review I put together of it ages ago that I’ve never uploaded, and if I ever revive my NES review blog from the dead (I still intend on beating the entire NTSC library someday, Lord help me), I’ll throw it up there and would be curious to have your thoughts.

    DKC2 and DKCR are arguably much stronger than the original was (for reasons I have trouble articulating – perhaps more of a sense of purpose in the bonus levels and other optional content, for one, without going full-on collectathon like Rare’s 3D outings), although I can’t speak to the new one on Wii U. Still, music by David Wise can only swing the pendulum a little further in its favor…

  4. @Knurek Well, I don’t use Windows, so Steam is pretty well inaccessible to me. (Yes, technically it’s available for Mac, but….) I didn’t realize just how much content is out there. Way too much for one person to handle. So I shall quietly abandon this idea.

  5. Rather than abandoning it completely, you could instead concentrate on the highlights, or make it a collaborative work as your readers seem happy to add their input.

  6. @MightyJAK Yeah, I know, but I hate half-assing things, and I hate expecting other people to do my work for me. I’m OK with admitting I didn’t think this through very well.

  7. This does show that 2D gaming is still going strong, with more games released this year than you were expecting (even if a number of them are ports and rereleases). Which is not a bad thing at all.

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