The Power Of 2D: How Stepping Back A Dimension Works

The Power Of 2D: How Stepping Back A Dimension Works

With all the improvements in technology, all the leaps and bounds made in the previous years, it’s odd that going backward has led to some fantastic video games. 2D has been embraced by both the indie developer and the big-budget developers in the pursuit of creating emotional video game experiences. While 3D is still hugely popular, 2D has become the conduit for some of the most thought-provoking, atmospheric,and emotional titles released in the last ten years.

2D has seemingly become one of the most visually stunning stylistic choices in recent years. 2D carries a strange ability to create a connection with the player, a connection that can speak to the emotions, be it sympathy, fear or even excitement. The 2D style may be simple, but that’s exactly why it works. Stripping away the sheer spectacle of full-3D games allows the 2D style to have a much more profound effect on the player. This is perhaps one of the main elements as to why the style carries more touching storylines in such an effective manner.


The most recent example of this is Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts, a 2D title set in World War 1. The cartoonist minimalist style combined with the brutal, almost primal, nature of WW1 creates a strange contrast between the beauty of the game and the horrors of war. The bright and bold colours bring the characters and the environments to life. Given the game’s silent nature, the impact of each section is almost entirely reliant on the visuals, as the story is told through the game’s art. Seeing the transition from beauty to horror, resulting in death, is where the game makes its impact.

Another Ubisoft title, Child of Light, also uses the 2D style create a child’s fairy tale effect. The strong colours, the design of the environments, the hand-drawn qualities to the characters. The visual style creates the game’s identity and soul. Child of Light would not have the same sense of wonder if it was a 3D game; the 2D style carries the game’s tone and feeling perfectly. There’s a sense of honesty that 2D pulls off so well.


Stoic Studios utilized the 2D visual style to create one of the most beautiful video games in recent years. The Banner Saga is brutal, both in terms of difficulty and plot. The 2D art style works in tandem with the game’s content, allowing the game to look more like a mature animation as opposed to just a video game. Each frame of The Banner Saga feels like a work of art, a labor of love, giving the game an immense sense of heart. This heart lets characters come to life, which in turn makes it a tragedy when they die in-game.

There’s a host of modern 2D titles that have made a name for themselves, such as Limbo, Rayman: Origins, Blood Rayne, Dust: An Elysian Tails, Skull Girls, and even bigger budget titles such as South Park: The Stick of Truth. 2D has become such a versatile style that can convey genuine emotions while carrying mature plots to straight-up arcade thrills. Going back to 2D, with all the leaps in technology, has truly been one of the most fruitful moves in modern video games.

Sean Halliday

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