Top 10 Retro Games with Unique Graphics
Back in the early days of gaming it was quite difficult to find information about new upcoming games. The internet was just emerging, so you couldn’t look up everything and anything. Video games back then had to stand out.
The following games on this list had unique graphics that made them stand out. If you saw these games in a magazine or on a commercial they’d make a lasting impression and you’d hafta know more.
The title image for this blog is from Flower. It’s a fantastic indie game on the Playstation 3 you probably heard talked about to death, but I recommend you check it out.
As always for my 1 More Countdown lists, only one game per franchise and retro games only from the Playstation 2 era and prior. Also I decided to exclude games with digitized graphics or cell-shading because they deserve their own list.
Vectorman was a classic series on the SEGA Genesis. There were two games in the series, with a third on the way which was cancelled very early into production.
Vectorman was a run and gun platformer where you play as a green robot made up of balls, who is sent on a quest to take down an evil robot strapped to an active nuclear warhead.
The graphics in Vectorman is the Genesis’ answer to a popular SNES franchise that will appear later on this list. The game had pre-rendered 3D models for the background and characters that made everything pop.
9.) Donkey Kong Country
You all know this game. It’s one of the best platformers on the SNES or best platformers ever. There were three Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES with number two being the most love, a Nintendo 64 collectathon, one Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii, and another platformer for the Wii U. These games are popular.
The plots of these games are often based on fruit. Many people didn’t play this game for the story, but rather gave it a chance because of the outstanding graphics.
Just like Vectorman, Donkey Kong Country used pre-rendered 3D models for everything. What made it stand out from other games that used this technique, such as Stardust and Killer Instinct was the use of light and bright colors that made it above the rest.
8.) Star Fox
Don’t worry readers, there are some more unique and crazy games as this list goes on.
Star Fox was a SNES space shooter that is widely beloved by all. The game is about anthropomorphic animals with their legs chopped off shooting at other animals while they are all in spaceships… and sometimes submarines or tanks.
This game received a ton of hype when it was coming out and 99% of that hype was due to the graphics. This game was the first Nintendo game to use 3D polygon graphics. It was one of the first games to actually show 3D models in details and was majorly hyped.
All of this was possible due to the Super FX chip which was a graphics support unit that blew the original SNES graphics out of the water.
7.) PaRappa the Rapper
If you know me, you know I love the entire PaRappa series. This includes the first game for the Playstation 1, the sequel for the Playstation 2, and of course Um Jammer Lammy for the Playstation 1.
These were all rhythm games about a rapping dog, or a rocking lamb going through the trials and tribulations association with youth and solving all their problems through music.
Starting with the PS1 and N64 era all our favorite games went 3D, but PaRappa was the complete opposite. All the characters are completely flat, as if they were made out of paper, but in a three dimensional world. It was a style that really stood out but was perfected in…
6.) Paper Mario
Paper Mario originally known as Super Mario RPG 2 (but eff that because there was no Geno) was a franchise that started on the Nintendo 64.
It’s a Mario game. You rescue Princess Peach from Bowser… that’s the entire plot.
Paper Mario had the same graphical style as PaRappa but ran with the idea of the characters being made out of paper. The environment had a different effect on them, they were able to go into tight spaces, or fold up and go to bed.
Speaking of the PaRappa the Rapper series, this next game was made by the same people. However, it’s not the same graphics and not set in the same universe, so the one game per franchise rule doesn’t count.
This is a rhythm game through and through. There is no plot. Your goal is to guide the female rabbit Vibri through an obstacle course that goes along with music. Also this game KICKS ASS because it lets you use your own music for the stages. If you’re wondering why you may not have heard about this game is that it was EU and JPN only until it was rereleased on USA PSN.
The game is for the Playstation 1, and it’s one of the simplest looking games ever. It’s only black and white with simple vector graphics. Simple, but elegant.
4.) Yoshi’s Island
Yoshi’s Island aka Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is a beautiful game. It was a direct contrast to the normal sprites of Super Mario World and the pre-rendered 3D graphics of Donkey Kong Country.
Also while this is a Mario game, it’s different enough from Paper Mario to be considered a different franchise/series. So… I’m bending my rule, not breaking it.
The game is about Yoshi transporting little Baby Mario to little Baby Luigi all while avoiding the traps and minions of Baby Bowser. Being a Mario platformer, you jump on enemies, eat enemies, defeat bosses, and collect coins.
Back when this game was released, Miyamoto loathed the pre-rendered graphics of Donkey Kong Country, so he wanted to make the complete opposite. Yoshi’s Island is that game. The aesthetic is more of a hand drawn style powered by the Super FX2 microchip. The graphics and especially the backgrounds look like they were drawn with a crayon.
Claymation is one of my favorite visual styles ever. Stop motion in general is such a precise and time consuming process, that I love every detail of it.
That’s probably why I enjoy Skullmonkeys, its prequel The Neverhood, and it’s spiritual successor Armikrog (coming soon thanks to Kickstarter). The entire world is made out of clay from the backgrounds, to the items, to the enemies such as Joe Head Joe pictured above.
You might be seeing this entry and wonder where is Clayfighter? Well that’s in the number 11 spot on this list.
I’ve praised Skullmonkeys so much as I wrote lists that you all better have played it by now.
2.) Out of This World
Out of this World also known as Another World is easily one of my favorite games I had for my SEGA Genesis.
The game follows our main protagonist, Lester, as he tries to survive on a barren alien planet. He is assisted by a big burly alien named Mike Aruba (who some people call “Buddy”). The game is a cinematic platformer so it is full of death and discovery. You’ll make your way through a section over and over again constantly dying until you figure it out.
The game is composed of vector graphics but stunning vector outlines the likes of which have never really been seen before in the 16 bit era. Back then there was a lot of sprites, but nothing that looked quite like Out of This World.
There are many games on this list with unique graphics but this is the only game on this list that the graphics could be considered art.
I’ve mentioned Okami here and there on various lists, but I still haven’t beat it. Something always gets in the way. It’s a shame because it’s a damn fine game.
The game follows Amaterasu, the sun goddess, on her quest to save the world from an evil curse… but there is so much more to this game including mythical beings, and an engaging/elaborate plot/backstory.
The graphics of this game is pure art. Everything in the game looks like a watercolor painting, which makes sense since the main weapon in this game is the celestial paintbrush. The whole game is made to look like an ink brush painting, or sumi-e, and it is just beautiful.
There’s no other way to describe this game, but beautiful and thus it takes the number one spot without any competition.
By the time you read this list, you’ll already know that 1 More Castle will be closing shop. I have one more list that will be published on July 28th. I feel like my last list on this site will be a proper sendoff to 1 More Countdown and 1 More Castle.
Thanks for giving me a chance Andrew and Eric.
Thanks for reading.