Pretty in pixels
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
- Mother 3 (GBA)
- Super Metroid (SNES)
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
- The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)
- Final Fantasy III (SNES)
Image: Nintendo Life
HD-2D has become the new lofty bar for retro-inspired RPGs or remakes of our favourite Super Nintendo RPGs. Square Enix’s new trademark visual style started with 2018’s Octopath Traveler and has also been used in this year’s strategy RPG Triangle Strategy. But, arguably, its true potential has been realised in the stunning remake of Live A Live.
With every new HD-2D game, Square Enix has pushed the boat out further. Colour-popping pixels and stunning diorama-esque worlds made us dream of remakes the first time we saw this visual style come to life, but Live A Live proved it was possible — and absolutely worth it. And Square isn’t resting on its laurels either, with Dragon Quest III also due to get the HD-2D remake treatment.
Imagine, though, if Square Enix wasn’t the only company that could use HD-2D as it is now. Think of the possibilities of seeing your favourite retro games on modern-day hardware looking that beautiful.
We’ve been getting a bit giddy thinking about what we’d love to see in HD-2D (or similar), and we’ve narrowed it down to 12 different Nintendo games all of different styles and genres — so not just RPGs, though there are a few of those here — if Square Enix ever let other companies borrow it. Just an idea.
Take a look at our picks, then vote in our poll below and let us know where we’re going wrong (or right!).
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 13th Apr 1992 (USA) / 24th Sep 1992 (UK/EU)
The Legend of Zelda’s top-down 2D adventures have already proven perfect remake material, with 2019’s Link’s Awakening blowing us away in its adorable little plastic toy style. But — hear us out — what about giving those Super Nintendo pixels from A Link to the Past a little polish?
Hyrule’s beautiful greens, browns, and blues would come alive in an HD-2D world — imagine what the water would look like. And think about how Nintendo could play with the lighting in the Sacred Realm and Dark World. Seeing the same location in two different ways was already incredible in 1991, but with some juiced-up pixel art emphasising the differences in shades and colours between the parallel worlds? We think there’s no better way to show off HD-2D’s beautiful lighting and shadows than here.
Mother 3 (GBA)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 20th Apr 2006 (JPN)
Okay, now we’re being ambitious. Mother 3 has never seen an official western release (hey, just like Live A Live before 2022!), and with endless teases and our constant hopes being dashed, why do we add to the pain of waiting by thinking of a remake?
This is another one where we’d honestly just take a port, and we’ve also seen fan interpretations of Mother 3 in that cute little clay or toy style. But — as long as the Peanuts-style art is preserved, and the weird and wonderful world is fully realised — we think HD-2D could make what is already an unsettling, emotional, and beautiful story even more incredible. We’d welcome an EarthBound remake too — that goes without saying — but Mother 3’s inaccessibility makes this a prime candidate.
Super Metroid (SNES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: 18th Apr 1994 (USA) / 28th Jul 1994 (UK/EU)
Another side-scroller! But Metroid’s star is rising once again, and in the wake of the utterly fantastic Metroid Dread, while some people might want a Mercury Steam-style remake of the Super Nintendo classic, we want those creepy, pulsating pixels to be preserved in some way.
Super Metroid is still the queen of atmosphere in both its visuals and music; the depth HD-2D could lend to the maps of Zebes would do wonders to emphasise this further. The bubbling lava and acid could cause Samus and the strange lifeforms of Zebes to cast threatening shadows. Kraid’s humongous sprite could tower even more in glorious HD-2D detail. And Samus’ array of skills and weaponry could get some very shiny extra effects that would dazzle not just the enemies, but us as well. We’ll take a return trip to Zebes any day, but a pixel art remake of Super Metroid would have us on the next available spaceship.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 6th May 2003 (USA) / 9th May 2003 (UK/EU)
Perhaps one of the oddest ducks on our list, Aria of Sorrow might be the best Castlevania game, and it’s already beautiful on a little handheld screen (or a Switch screen, if you will). But who’s to say sidescrollers can’t also adapt to that HD-2D style?
There are a few ways we think HD-2D can really make an Aria of Sorrow remake pop — those environments and backgrounds could really bring even more depth, light, and shadow to each location that Soma Cruz explores. We could get a few more boss fights like the Balore one, which uses the background and creates a sort of faux-3D effect. And some of those character sprites could get even more expressive. Ayami Kojima’s art deserves an even more excellent pixel art style, and frankly, HD-2d would make it shine even brighter.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Feb 1992 (USA) / 1994 (UK/EU)
This quirky little adventure game sparked off an entire series for Konami, but the Goemon franchise is one that often gets forgotten about. Not by us, so we’re demanding a comeback by dreaming about it in even prettier pixels.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja might have you walking from left to right most of the time, but the town areas allow you to explore in a sort of 3D plane, with characters coming out of buildings and enemies sneaking up from behind doors. It’s already a kaleidoscope of colours on the SNES, too. Plus, we can get a taste of HD-2D platforming, first-person dungeons, and a Gradius-style minigame in a stunning new visual style? If HD-2D wants to make a statement for every single kind of pixel art game, Konami’s classic is a good place to start.
Final Fantasy III (SNES)
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Squaresoft
Release Date: 11th Oct 1994 (USA) / 18th Mar 2011 (UK/EU)
We’re frankly a little bit surprised that Square Enix opted for a ‘Pixel Remaster’ series for its classic Final Fantasy games when HD-2D is right there. We know that HD-2D isn’t cheap, given that it uses Unreal Engine, but the Pixel Remasters aren’t on Switch, yet. And Final Fantasy VI, with its changing world and stunning set pieces, would be a true showcase of the visual style on Switch.
Square Enix has said that it wants to remake more games with HD-2D visuals, and while there are some deserving, missing classics that we’d love to see, how can we deny one of the best Final Fantasy games a true remake?
Oh, and if you’re really not convinced, we have two words for you — opera scene.