Volgarr the Viking: 2013 Game of the Year
Oniken: 2012 Game of the Year
Check out our Best of 2013 awards show, where we discuss all of
the best 2D video games of 2013 and give out meaningful awards!

Krunch

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by LeGrudge & Rugged for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2012
In Krunch, you take on the role of one of six Krons, which are flying mechanical orbs, each with one huge eyeball and a mouth. The game begins with the six Krons hovering in separate tubes with a pair of tentacled creatures sitting in the foreground. An alarm sounds, and the Krons are flushed out into some kind of giant facility filled with traps. Walls close in and enemies give chase, and you dash ever forward, avoiding spikes, spinning saw blades, and other instruments of pain across 100 levels.


Things start out simply enough, as you find yourself emerging from a tube, with the basic movement controls displayed above you. Nearby, another Kron moves away, attempting to make his escape. You are able to move freely in any direction, but you don’t have long to get your bearings, as a wall begins to slide in from the left side of the screen, and it will crush you if you don’t get going.

Escape Goat 2

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by MagicalTimeBean for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2014
Escape Goat 2 is the sequel to Escape Goat, a block-based puzzle platformer starring a goat. The most immediately apparent difference between this game and its predecessor is in the visual presentation. Escape Goat 2 features more detailed lighting and high definition illustrated sprites, whereas the original game went for more of a chunky retro feel.

As before, you take on the role of a purple goat with a magical mouse friend as you set off across a number of single-screen environments on a puzzle-platforming quest to rescue a bunch of sheep.

The goat can perform a dash to the left or right, either across the ground or in midair. He can also execute a 2x variable height jump, and a 4x double jump. The double jump can be initiated at any point, even when dropping off a ledge or after a midair dash. These abilities are more than enough to get you around the environment, but to solve the more complex puzzles, you’ll need the help of a little mouse.

The mouse has a number of advantages over his Capricorn friend. For one, he can fit into tight spaces where the goat cannot reach, but more than that, he can climb walls and crawl across ceilings like a Spider Ball-equipped Samus Aran. Drop the mouse at any point in the environment and it will walk forward, climbing up any walls it touches, up across the ceiling, and wrapping around platforms. While the mouse can’t grab any collectibles, it can activate switches and perform a number of other helpful tasks, like drawing enemy fire.

The Floor is Jelly

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Ian Snyder for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014
The Floor is Jelly posits a rather fun question… What if the floor were made of Jell-O, and moreover, what if that Jell-O wobbled about when you stepped on it, jiggling itself and everything around you, allowing you to jump onto it from any height, and even becoming a makeshift trampoline as a result? It certainly allows for more interesting possibilities than the age old children’s game of The Floor is Lava.

Even though the game is all about bopping across various gelatinous surfaces, it actually begins with a single wobbly blue ring floating in space. In each corner of the screen is a white dot, and touching the first of these dots causes a collection of colored blobs to stream into the playfield. You are free to bounce around between them, slide over and repel them away, or let them push you along. Touching the other dots brings in more of these blobs with a current moving them around.

These blobs are actually comprised of the same colors that make up the first world, and sliding over the last white dot causes everything to move downward, with the blobs – blue, white, red, orange, and yellow – settling to become the rubbery blue ground, white background, and autumnal flora. And at last, a tiny little being is dropped onto a blue surface that bounces when it lands.

You control the little thing who appears to be nothing more than a body and a pair of legs… but your character isn’t nearly as important as the world it inhabits. The first few levels allow you to try out the game mechanics and act as a playground for you to experiment with the unusual environment.

A Wizard's Lizard

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Lost Decade Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2014
A Wizard’s Lizard begins with a simple introduction… A wizard is standing over a cauldron, working to create a magic potion that will protect its user from death, but just as he completes it, Death himself appears. Since Death cannot actually kill the wizard, he merely takes him away, promising that his punishment will be worse than death. You play the part of the wizard’s lizard, who sets off to rescue his master.


The lizard heads into the town of Amberfall to speak with the townspeople, one of whom offers a bit of gold to help him on his way. The gold may be used to purchase a weapon or armor from the town’s merchant, or left unspent. Either way, the graveyard sits at the edge of town and can be entered at any time, thus formally beginning the adventure.

Level layouts are randomized and are made up of a series of interconnecting rooms with doorways leading up, down, left, or right. A minimap shows the available exits, as well as the outlines of any previously visited areas. The starting dungeon features a confined space with a small number of rooms, but each new area offers larger and larger dungeons. It is up to the player to explore each room and eventually make his way to the area’s boss.

The Best of 2013

END OF YEAR AWARDS
It is time to celebrate the greatest 2D video games of 2013, where we award the best games from multiple genres, offer up some interesting categories, and discuss the year's biggest disappointments. And of course, we have selected what we feel is the overall best 2D game of 2013. If you enjoy watching people and horses discuss great 2D games, then you have strange and wonderful tastes that will be well-satisfied by the video below. Enjoy!

Mutant Mudds Deluxe / Mutant Mudds

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Renegade Kid for PC, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, and iOS, originally released in 2012
Mutant Mudds Deluxe is an enhanced version of Mutant Mudds. The game is a fairly straightforward platformer meant to harken back to the days of 8- and 16-bit gaming, featuring bright colors, low resolution, and cartoony enemy designs. You take on the role of Max, a video game loving kid – with a video game loving grannie – who finds his world turned upside-down when a meteor crashes down, bringing with it an army of Mutant Mudds.


Fortunately, Max has just the thing to deal with this muddy menace, a water gun that he can use to splatter his foes into a dirty brown spray. His weapon of choice has a limited range, but unlimited ammo, allowing him to squirt his enemies into oblivion, as long as said enemies are to his left or right, as there is no way to target enemies above, below, or at an angle.

In addition, Max has a limited-use jetpack (also water powered) that lets him hover for a short time and cross small gaps, with a meter in the lower left showing how much energy remains. The jetpack recharges instantly when Max touches the ground, allowing him to jump and hover as much as needed. The player can also cancel the jetpack while in midair, but cannot re-engage it again until he returns to solid ground. In early levels, a basic understanding of the jetpack mechanics will suffice, but later levels and challenge areas require mastery of its use.

Risk of Rain

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Hopoo Games and Chucklefish for PC and Vita, originally released in 2013
Risk of Rain begins with a long cargo ship – known as a “space train” – flying through space. We get a look at the interior of one of the cargo holds and see a fellow with a rather large sword appear and swing his weapon. Suddenly everything is burning and creatures are running around, and cargo begins falling down onto the planet below. You play as a survivor, fighting your way through hordes of enemies on the planet’s surface and using teleporters to move from location to location as the monsters in the area are destroyed.

The player’s character appears as a tiny sprite on a large playfield which soon becomes filled with enemies that spawn in all over the environment. The goal in each level is to locate and activate a teleporter, at which point a boss is spawned into the environment, along with a continuous stream of enemies. Survive for 90 seconds (120 seconds on the harder “monsoon” difficulty) and the enemies will stop spawning. Destroy the boss, and take out any remaining enemies, and you are free to teleport into the next area.

The basic gameplay template is very simple – and even the mechanics are very straightforward: move, jump, climb, and shoot – but the game is tough as nails, and the roguelike elements change everything…

Teslagrad

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Rain Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, Vita, and Wii U, originally released in 2013
Teslagrad is a puzzle-based adventure platformer that centers on the use of electricity and magnetism, which is perhaps a bit unsurprising given the inspiration from Nikola Tesla, a pioneer in the fields of electricity and magnetism, as well as several other areas of engineering. The game focuses not on Tesla himself, but rather on a little boy – who bears some resemblance to the inventor – who must use the power of Teslamancy to safely traverse the mysterious and dangerous structure known as Tesla Tower.

The game begins with a father – who also bears a resemblance to Tesla – walking along the road with a child in his arms and some kind of device strapped to his back. When he reaches his home, he nervously hands the child off to his wife and continues on. A year passes, and a group of red-clad men, vaguely Russian in appearance, show up at the house. Taking the part of the little boy, you exit from the rear of the house with your mother urging you onward, away from the men who are attempting to capture you.

As you run through the city, rain falls, washing over the buildings and sidewalks as somber music plays. You have no offensive abilities, so you stick to the rooftops to avoid detection, and run away when you are eventually spotted. The world is dank and grim, with streetlights glowing near European-style homes, power lines strung between them, and a giant tower looming in the background with what appears to be a fire burning between the houses and the tower. Here and there are propaganda posters espousing the virtues of the red-clad military force.

Two Brothers

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Ackk Studios for PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, and Xbox 360, originally released in 2013
Two Brothers is a narrative-focused action-RPG with a rather odd tale to tell. Roy Guarder is a scientist, inventor, and philosopher who embarks on a quest to search for the remains of a lost civilization of aquatic people. He and his wife set out across the mysterious Cursed Lands, a place so dangerous that it has gone untouched for more than 700 years.


The game begins with Roy and his wife climbing to the top of a mountain to reach Dry Bone Summit, the last known location where the lost civilization was said to have lived. Soon they encounter a gigantic fish, apparently the last of its race. Roy moves toward the fish but steps on a switch that activates a trap, sending out an arrow that kills his wife.

Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Last Dimension for PC, Mac, Linux, and Ouya, originally released in 2013
Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge is – as the title suggests – a tale of petty revenge. Selena S, hero of the galaxy and disliker of overcoats, is updating her “Spacebook” profile while returning from her latest galaxy-saving mission. Upon doing so, she is promptly trolled by a fellow known as The Space Prince, and so she swears to enact her revenge by fighting her way through seven enemy-packed levels so that she can raid his palace and kick him in the crotch.

As far as plots go, it’s about as throwaway as they come, although this was to some degree intentional, as the developer modeled the game after computer-based action titles of the late 80’s and early 90’s. In games of this era, story almost always took a backseat to the action. Those that did provide a story generally only offered motivation for the hero of the tale to fight his or her (but usually his) way through countless enemies.

Everything here, from the story, to the visuals, to the scantily-clad heroine is inspired by these action-based titles, offering colorful worlds, enemies in need of termination, and a strong but unnecessarily well-endowed heroine wrapped in revealing skin-tight spandex.

SteamWorld Dig

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Image & Form for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita, and 3DS, originally released in 2013
In SteamWorld Dig, you take on the role of Rusty, a steambot whose father – a miner – has recently passed away and left behind a mine filled with valuable treasures and ancient mysteries. You roll into the robot populated Wild West town and assume operation of the mine, discovering your father’s body in the first few minutes of the game. From there, you begin digging for yourself, armed with only your father’s pickaxe and a few minutes of fuel for your lantern.


At the start of the game, Rusty isn’t a terribly capable miner. He can use his pickaxe to dig into adjacent dirt in four directions while standing on the ground, and he has a 1x jump. In addition, he can wall slide and wall jump, and repeated jumps allow him to scale vertical shafts… a skill which is very necessary, as the only way to sell accumulated ore and purchase upgrades is to return to the surface.

Ninja Senki

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by Jonathan Lavigne for PC, originally released in 2010
Ninja Senki is a very traditional action platformer, harkening back to the glory days of the NES and GameBoy, where boys were boys and games were tough and all the best strategies were found in the pages of Nintendo Power. The story is as simple as they come: “Kinuhime was killed by a ninja demon. Now Hayate has become obsessed with revenge. But can revenge bring her back?”

You take on the role of the ninja Hayate who must travel across feudal Japan to avenge the death of his love. You are equipped with the standard 8-bit ninja skillset… a jump, double jump, and infinite shuriken.

You have a high 2.5x jump which can be extended a bit further with the double jump. In addition to jumping again in midair, you may also initiate a double jump while falling, which is used as an advanced technique to get Hayate between low overhangs and bottomless pits. Interestingly, the ninja can also perform a double jump after touching water, which opens up a small number of challenges where you must repeatedly jump across a body of water which otherwise acts as a bottomless pit.

Tiny Barbarian DX

2D GAME OVERVIEW
A game by StarQuail Games for PC, originally released in 2013
Tiny Barbarian DX is a game about... a tiny barbarian… specifically a barbarian based on the series of Conan the Barbarian stories written by Robert E. Howard. While the barbarian is labeled as tiny, the character itself isn’t significantly smaller than the enemies he faces – and he’s certainly much more muscular – but his size in relation to the screen is quite small. The game is a platformer with sword-based combat.


When you boot up the game, you find the barbarian at the top of a hill with an endless horde of ever-tougher enemies ascending to meet him. This sequence is actually impossible to beat – although you are free to replay it to see how long you can survive – and it acts as an introduction to the main adventure. Once you have been defeated, the title screen appears (or you can just skip straight to it) allowing you to begin the game proper.

Latest video feature: The Best 2D Video Games of 2013.