2D games: the top 10 in the history of video games

Game designVideo Games

Redacción Tokio | 02/03/2023

Video games are an exciting and diverse type of media with very passionate fans who will defend their favorite games and describe them as the best in the world. Surely you are part of this great community. We also want to take part in that passion and that is why, in this article, we provide a list of what we consider to be the best 2D games in history.

Any of the games listed here could be considered a masterpiece of video game design. Are you interested in knowing more? Don’t miss any detail! Let’s go!


The 10 best 2D video games in history

Making a list of just 10 2D games is not an easy task. Video games have developed in many ways in recent years and there are multiple remarkable and outstanding titles. However, at Tokyo we have selected the following 10 in our list of the best 2D shape games ever:

Super Mario Bros

Mario is one of the best, most charismatic characters in the history of video games. As such, any game in which this popular plumber is the main character can be one of the best 2D video games of all time and for all types of consoles.

However, we’ve chosen his first solo appearance because it is the one that completely revolutionized the concept of platform-based video games and thus laid the foundations for design that is part of this genre. An important video game type in the 80s and 90s, it continues to bring us great joy, both when Mario is the protagonist, as well as the other characters

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac is one of the best roguelikes out there right now. A 2D video game designed to provide an aerial perspective in which games play the role of Isaac, a boy who escapes from his mother and gets lost in a world that resembles a biblical nightmare in which he can only defend himself by shooting his own tears.

The game was designed and developed by Edmund McMillen, one of the most important indie developers of the last decade and who is also the author of Super Meat Boy, a game that could easily have also been part of this list of the best 2D video games.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is one of the most important 2D games in the last 5 years. A game that draws on great references such as Castlevania or Metroid, it also incorporates some mechanics or ideas taken from Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Souls Saga. In this 2D adventure, set in a decaying underground world populated by insects of all kinds, players embody the role of the hero who has to put an end to everything.

Acclaimed by both critics and the public, Hollow Knight has become a benchmark for 2D shape games. In June 2022, the release of Hollow Knight: Silksong was confirmed at the Xbox and Bethesda summer conference. Even if the release date is still unspecified, it was confirmed that it would take place over the next year.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Sonic 3 & Knuckles was released in 1994 for the Mega Drive, the SEGA console. A classic 2D platform video game that had enormous dimensions as a defining design feature. In fact, the company had to divide the game into two parts, in such a way that the two cartridges were merged thanks to a slot in the second one.

Its enormous size at the time was also linked to many tremendously well-designed levels that still live on in the memories of many fans of this video game. This is the game that pushed the classic formula of the saga to the limit and, probably, the last great game in which the popular blue hedgehog appeared.

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country was released for the Super Nintendo in 1994 and was one of the games that revolutionized graphics on 16-bit consoles. This is one of the most popular 2D games released during the 90s and a good example of great level design within this genre.

However, as we’ve already mentioned, what was truly revolutionary about this game were its graphics. This is one of the first titles that, despite being designed as a 2D game, includes pre-rendered 3D settings, as well as some 3D objects integrated into those settings.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest. It is an adventure video game where platforms with metroidvania characteristics can be found. Both installments have been well received both by the public and the critics.

Like many other modern platform games, it mixes 2D with 3D, resulting in a more in-depth type of gameplay. In addition to this, the game’s visual aspect and artistic direction are outstanding.

Metroid: Samus Returns

Metroid: Samus Returns is a reimagination effort departing from Metroid II. It was released in 2017 and developed by Mercury Steam, a Spanish studio also responsible for Metroid Dread, the latest game released as part of this saga. In terms of story and structure, it is similar to the first game from the saga, but it offers new controls, graphics and an expanded shooting freedom from all possible angles.

This is another case within 2D games in which a combination of 2D and 3D elements is used to gain depth and give the game a renewed look. It is one of the best games in the series because it starts from a good foundation, but reimagines it and introduces new elements that improve the original game.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

The third installment of the Castlevania saga is the best of all of them. Released in 1990 for the SNES, and while its soundtrack may not be the best, it is an outstanding game in all other aspects.

Visually, it is one of the best games for Nintendo consoles while, when it comes to playability, it is one of the most difficult in the saga. At the same time, it is a lot of fun and generates proper rewards for players. In addition to this, as the adventure progresses, new playable characters are added, which adds a huge variety to the whole experience.

Metal Slug 3

Metal Slug is one of the most important classic arcade sagas in the history of video games and its third installment, released in the year 2000 and recovered for consoles at different times between 2009 and 2015, has become one of the referents within 2D shape game design.

A fun arcade game, it offers many possibilities and adds new features at a playable level compared to previous installments, which were already outstanding. If you like 2D shooting games, you shouldn’t miss this game. 



Inside is a title based on “forward-escape”, in which the gamer becomes a little boy who runs away. An indie game based on platforms and puzzles that offers a unique narrative adventure and stunning visual art.

A symbolic approach to the meaning of freedom and a game that combines its mechanics and narrative to offer a unique experience for gamers. That is why it is one of the best 2D games in history. An essential title for lovers of games that are a little different and further away from the triple A industry.


Train in video game design

What do you think of our list of the best 2D games in history? Would you remove any? Would you add others? Surely you agree with some of them, and you don’t for others. In fact, the world of video games stands out for the diversity of opinions that are out there including both fans and game developers themselves.

Your opinion is important and your vision of video games too, especially if you are passionate about them and are attracted to the idea of dedicating yourself professionally to this field. In fact, video games are one of the most popular and important media today, and represent an industry full of new professional challenges.

A sector in constant growth that offers new job opportunities for those who know how to take advantage of them. With Tokio School’s Video Game Design course you will be able to become a professional in the field and take your first steps in this industry. Fill out the form below and get more information about our training. Become a tokyer!

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