ICO was first released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001 in Japan and North America and in 2002 across Europe. Created by Team ICO, ICO had to put up with the ever increasing market compared to their lack of experience in the video game industry. The games design was led by Fumito Ueda who graduated from Osaka University of Arts in 1993. After making a few video games, he later worked for Team ICO after it was formed and lead the game's design when ICO was being developed. Ueda decided to create a world where there were puzzles yet the world characters where enemies were rendered dark to present evil and the female character who was the main key of the game to glow and shine light to represent good. ICO is one of the more well known games which represents video games in its graphically minimalist form. The entire game is set in a castle, with the same tiles and brickwork everywhere. The levels geometry shape and form represented something different in each area, which was well noticed despite being rendered with the same texture. There's little decoration between environment, which isn't much compared to the other colorful, flash looking worlds found in other video games at the time. There's also much characters found in the game which use the same effect such as the final boss who is rendered entirely black to represent darkness and evil.
The game doesn't feature much combat. The main character simply armed with a wooden stick and has to run around the game world to stuns the enemies away from trying to capture the female character. Players also have to solve puzzles and attempt to open doors to move to the next sections of the game. To do this, they must hold the female characters hand and assist her to these locations with blocked door. These often glow when the player successful gets those door unlocked. While the game doesn't feature much action, it does however have alot of ways to express itself to make the game look alot more unique. The games lack of bright colors and uses fog also helps express the depth and mystery in the games world. The lack of combat may of been addressed and was used to make the later game Shadow of the Collossus however interestingly enough, the game feels alot more minimalist in the gameplay as well as graphics, which the developer seemed to have kept as that game lacked enemies and was riddled entirely with boss battles. Udea's fame from ICO and Shadow of the Colossus has allowed alot of people to wait for the third game in the series' universe, The Last Guardian, which has been delayed many times and will be released sometime for the PlayStation 4.
Ace of Spades was developed by Jagex and released in 2010 for the PC. Jagex is very well known for their online game Runescape. Runescape hasn't got the best graphics since it was released during the late 90s, however they set out to make another online game which was named Ace of Spades. Ace of Spades had taken on the popularity of voxels which can be generated in today's video games. Games such as Minecraft and 3D Dot Heroes show off what voxels can offer players however those games are rendered with block patterns to make them feel pixelizated, in an effort to give them more of a classic gaming feel. Ace of Spades however, delivers voxels in its purest form. Ace of Spades may look incomplete with the lack of textures and animation on character models however its the art style Jagex went to make and they released the game to attract players to try the game. It may be cheap and easy to use to represent the characters and levels however the style settles in to simply show off what the hardware could do for games in the current generations. Will there ever be more from Ace of Spades is unknown however it's clear that Jagex has done whatever they could to market this MMO and they've used the visual style to do that, so my best guess is that, it's no surprise. Unfortunately for Ace of Spades, there's been loads of complaints over the games release and the games performance shortly after, thus making it clear that Ace of Spades graphically minimal style was really used for.
Bit Trip Beat was first released for the WiiWare in 2009. The game may represent early version pixel art inspired by an Atari 2600 style game however the game blocky 8-bit pixel feel is easily presented as the game doesn't use much pixels and makes the out of color televisions and audio which wasn't presents in the early 80s. Most of the blocks represents something different and players would have easily understand what each block does during gameplay, such as representing a different beat to a song and the way they move and bounce of the surface. The bright colors mixed with music is simple enough to be draw into. The experience is wrapped up as a rhythm game to be picked up and played by anyone who owns a Wii. The success of Bit.Tip has spawned a number of sequels however it moved toward being more pixel art thus losing the minimal appeal. Bit.trip Beat was praised for its visuals at the time of its release and had to compete with other games with better graphics. Bit.Trip was also thanked for being a decent title for the WiiWare.
Super Hexagon was first released for the iOS in 2012 and later ported onto the PC the same year. The player takes control of a triangle and has to avoid walls on a hexagon based field closing onto it. Super Hexagon started off as a flash game titled Hexagon. Hexagon was designed by Terry Cavanagh, whom is well known for creating video games with a minimal feel from in some of his games, such as one of his other previous games VVVVVV.
Super Hexagon is interesting because the game simple state sometimes tells a story much of itself. Taking control of a triangle, its almost feels like taking control of a piece which is weigh in at three polygons, whereas the field has six edges which make the boundaries of the field. The walls closing in onto the poor little triangle can be very big and really add weigh to the challenge as some walls are very thick that the side edges make obstacle within themselves. The walls are bold and colorful which is often cast against either a black or white backdrop, which are clear for the player to take notice to avoid them during gameplay. The player has to survive the polygon-greedy shape for 60 second before unlocking the next difficult of the challenge to show that three sides are better then six. Sometimes the Hexagon sometimes teases the player by transforming the field into a pentagon or a square but it adds more to the challenge of having to avoid the walls closing onto the player.
The game doesn't offer much content other then pitting the player in a hexagon looking field with those giant lines closing in to avoid. Some elements of the game I will criticize. The first being that the edges leading to the points of the main hexagon don't really mean anything. I thought the triangle would have been fixed on rails and it would have be easy to just tap the arrow keys which could lock the triangle in place however game doesn't allow that to happen. Players have to really steer the arrow perfectly and accurately depending to avoid the walls as the game doesn't want to rail the triangle in line to the shapes edge. This element aid to the challenge and requires alot of practice to complete in the levels, which this short game offers.
The best thing about this game is its ending. Yes... this game has an ending! Worth watching if anyone is excellent enough to beat the game as it's far from being visually detailed compared to other games that offer a story. The game is backed with a chiptune soundtrack from Chipzel, where those tunes was later made into a vinyl soundtrack shaped like an hexagon to fit the theme of the game. Special thanks to whoever posted this title in the anonymous comment feature of this page for letting me know about Super Hexagon.
#6: Undertale (PC)
Undertale was released in 2015 which can be found on Steam for the PC. The game was created by the indie developer Toby Fox. Undertale is a RPG where players take control of a child who has fallen into the depth of the earth and who must find a way to return to the surface only to find that a magical barrier in the way. The child encounters monsters which helps or attacks the child. As the game takes place underground, the games battle system renders enemies as monochrome graphics as well as navigating a field, with areas represented by color schemes, with a fixed color hue to those areas, making it one of the more interesting choices and simple representations with the art direction of the game. This was a clear design choice of graphical representation of the game and different to the other indie games currently out. This helped the story and theme of the game to represent the theme of the game. Undertale was praised for many of the games elements. I would definately think that this game is a good attempt to represent minimal graphics in the market compared too some of the other indie games out there
#5: LIMBO (PC)
Limbo was created by Playdead and released in 2010 for the PC and Xbox. You play as a un-nammed boy who journeys across the world. Various obstacle include trying to flee a giant spider and puzzle solving element which take a while to master. Limbo's popularity is based on the games story told thru very simply visual cues. The games graphics of no color and a strong choice between black and white is what attracted many players at the time. The games backdrops help a the feel of the game, of it being eerie and dark. Limbo tells the games story visually in a dark themed world. The world is seen using its contrast of color, such as using the light shining from the backdrop of the game. Limbo has won several awards based of this. The game developers have recently released their own game Inside for the X360 and PC. The success of Limbo and the money made from the game has been used to make Playdead's other game, Inside, which was released this year. Out of all the games that allowed for a monochrome feel, this really allows the hardware in its age to show off what PC could do.
Another World also known as Out of this World is a cinematic platform adventure created by Eric Chahi for Delphine Software and released in 1991 for the Amiga ST. It was praised for its incredible story telling by using only visuals. While vectors graphics were common at the game's release. It may of prompted the designer to make the entire game in vector form. Each scene was created in vector form which gave a style at the time like no other and make each scene unique. The characters were the biggest draw at the time. The characters lacked detail however players had a good idea with what the characters were. Characters such as the main character, the alien friend Buddy were clearly seen. Enemies were clearly presented such as the beast from the first level which was represented by a shadow ape shaped with red eyes, which was enough to let the player know that the creature was a threat towards the player. Other then the cinematic story and being one of the more popular games because of the games themes. Another World graphics add another layer to what makes this game great and simplicity represented. The game is very very big for its time and the style is maintained throughout the game. Making the game did take alot of work however. The introduction screen alone was said to have taken around 1 year to fully make itself. Another World's story has been praised for being moving and emotional as the game doesn't feature any text or voice narrative. Another World aged every well even compared to many of the games of its time.
Marble Madness is an arcade game designed by Mark Cerny and published by Atari Games in 1984. Marble Madness may possibly be the most earliest example of a game which used minimal style graphics at a time. Using a trackball on the arcade machine, the player takes control of a marble which has to make its way through six obstacle course in the least amount of time. While video games during the 80s, other company wanted to push the limitations with the hardware, to try to create the most realistic game as possible, Marble Madness took it much easier approach by making the games graphic look more simple by rendering the in-game field in a grid like feel viewed from from an isometric angle, with the main character was the marble itself. The field was littered with hazards to affects the marble's performance. Maybe the game was inspired by pinball machines which were slowly becoming unpopular at the time because of arcade games. Marble Madness was a hit at the arcades! The game was such a hit that it was ported across many consoles where it continued it success and leading to many debates to which version was the well ported, The ZX Spectrum was considere the worst because of the console limitations. The Amiga was known to be the best port of Marble Madness.
#2: SUPERHOT (PC)
Superhot was released earlier this year for the PC via Steam and the Xbox One. The game is a first person puzzle shooter which requires the player to kill all the enemies to win however time within the game only moves if the player moves, which is supported by its visual. This helps for players to be more aware of its surrounding and to execute strategies to avoid bullets and attack to kill those enemies in the level. The graphics are extremely stripped down to models and are color coded. Black for the objects and red for bullets and enemies. The entire environment is white, shown by the light hitting on the levels surfaces to present the games world. This can often helps the player to clearly see what is available and accessible during the game. Each object are modeled clearly to represent what it really is and aren't masked or decorated with textures. Superhot has puzzle elements over shooting despite being an FPS. Enemy moves and attacks are expressed greatly in the levels to give a good idea for the player to see how they posing as they attempt to attack the player. Poses such as one enemy charging towards the player holding a sword or another enemy holding and pointing their guns towards the player. This gives a good idea with how the players when the game time is frozen when they look around which helps them plan and summarize their strategy, to help them to complete each level. Enemies ploygons break to express when they get killed by the player, making the most out of the games simple elements, The minimal look makes the game more of a learning experience mixed with action for a game. Superhot's simple approach in presentation greatly helpped its gameplay for modern hardware. The game can look too simple at times because of the game only uses three colors in the entire game.
#1: Grow Home (PC)
Grow Home was released last year by Ubisoft Reflection for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4. Grow Home has a mix of simplistic elements as well as an imaginative adventure. The player takes control of a robot named B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid), and are tasked with oxygenating its home world by climbing a giant beanstalk, and harvesting its seeds. The world is presented with patterned polygon to represent most of the games world such as the beanstalk, mushrooms and rock. The game also has well structured shapes to represents organic objects like leaves and flowers. Some of which look functional as the player can often use those objects to use in the game world such as a leave to guile across the landscape. The player has to grow the plant to a certain distance to win the game.
I think it shouldn't be a surprise that Grow Home managed to find itself on here. I've always put this game across many of my lists and I really hope this is the last time I put this game on any list. Grow Home strongly represents a game featuring minimalist graphics on current age hardware. I think the release of Grow Home made many players realized where the game industry is heading as Grow Home's graphical style strongly represented where the industry is heading for art games. Ubisoft Reflections have released a sequel to Grow Home, which they have titled Grow Up which was released last month, where they've expanded the game's world and gameplay mechanics while keeping the games graphics style as seen in Grow Home.
Worthy Mention: Some Unreal Engine 3 games - A few developers have been taking the Unreal Engine 3 and aren't bothered using their full capability. They were smart enough to rely on making games look at interesting with the minimal and watered down as they possibly can. Such games are Antichamber, Life is Strange and Master Reboot are good example. These developers let the engine lighting and rendering do all the work while they've made their games.
Toy Commander - Released during the time when companies got onto the idea that 3D graphics of its time could make video games about toys. While many tried and branded their games with the popular names, Toy Commander simply created a generic looking video game about toys. The game was developed for the Dreamcast by No Cliche. The game had the player completing various missions using toy vehicle, such as trucks and planes.The backdrop being the walls and furniture of the house in the game somewhat gets in the way of that feel but it was the entire point of the game anyways.
VVVVVV - Another game from Terry Cavanagh's portfolio. Set on a space ship rendered in pixel art, where the player takes control of a character who has to save his friends. VVVVVV features rooms which are are color coded in a way to divide each scene in the game. They each have a unique color shade to them. Those rooms contain enemies which are also the almost same color but in different tone to the room itself. It would have been great if the lead character changed into the same color as the room itself to really match the feel and look to each room. I think it would have been a powerful detail to the game.
Canabalt - Canabalt was a video game project created by Adam Saltsman. Canabalt is a game where the player takes control of a man wearing a black suit, who runs endlessly within a city, in the process of collapsing. As the nameless character runs for his life, obstacles appear at various times, such as jumping across gaps between high rise building. The game is endless. If the character loses track and falls, results in a game over and their longest distance is placed on leaderboards if their reach the furthest. Graphically, Canabalt is noticeable for its vast greyish color scheme to represent the mood of the game.. The games graphics may of helped with the games reception. The game is littered with good special effects such as the windows breaking and birds flying off as the character runs past them using the limited of shades of color available The game does get away by being too simple and minimal at times. Canabalt was featured heavily during the time it was released and attracted alot of interest as the minimal style was noticed.
Vib-Ribbon - Uses of vector lines to represent its graphics, which formed the fun character itself and also the lines which represent the music in the game and the gameplay mechanics. It maybe was meant to represent that idea that music can be simple yet as fun as music would have been. Graphically, some of of the lines could of been thicker and some could of been color coded and it would have been a more beefed up look and feel to it for me to think it could of had more beef in presentation but who knew such a wave of graphically rendered video games would have meant alot visually back then?.
With the ever increasing amount of power found in our consoles to push to render the most realistic graphics, how niche will minimalism in video games be to attempt to create a new audience in gaming and art. How far and great will this genre be in the future of video games and how it influences today's industry does interest people.
List by 91210user (09/12/2016)
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