If you, like me, miss traditional animation some of the games below will certainly draw your attention. These are some titles that look like classic cartoons, but to be clear, this list doesn’t feature cel-shaded games (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker,) games that resemble modern animated cartoons (Overwatch) or games based on actual cartoons (Ducktales Remastered). If you feel like I missed a game, feel free to share it in the comments section.
5. Dragon’s Lair
I’ve never been a fan of this expensive and unforgiving arcade game, but if there’s something about Dragon’s Lair that I love is its fantastic animation. This aspect of the game was in charge of former Disney Studio animator Don Bluth who injected the game with movie quality visuals and despite the limitations proper of its time, Dragon’s Lair managed to look outstanding thanks to LaserDisc technology.
4. Wario Land: Shake It!
This side-scrolling platformer for the Nintendo Wii might have gone unnoticed back in 2008 due to its repetitive gameplay, but its visual style is gorgeous. The artistic design is hand-drawn which means that thousands of frames needed to be created by artists to animate Mario, the enemies he fights, backgrounds and scenery.
3. The Curse of Monkey Island
Another SCUMM engine game, The Curse of Monkey Island looks as impressive today as it did back in 1997. In a sense, this point-and-click adventure represents the perfect package if you’re into the genre: the voice acting is terrific, the time-tested gameplay is intuitive and the cartoonish graphics looks amazing.
As of this writing, Cuphead isn’t out yet, but regardless of how the run-and-gun game plays when it comes out, the graphics will definitely look stunning. Cuphead was designed in the style of 1930s cartoons which happens to be the first style of animation to be standardized in the United States and gave a cohesive look to the era.
1. Day of the Tentacle
The sequel to Maniac Mansion is one of the best point-and-click adventure games ever made and its fantastic animation which was clearly inspired by Chuck Jones cartoons. Not only did this game prove how flexible the SCUMM engines could be, but also how the cartoon-style visuals contribute to the comedic elements so proper of Lucas Arts games. If you’re planning to play Day of the Tentacle, check out the Remastered version which features developer commentary, as well as more detailed backgrounds and characters.
Other games that were considered, but didn’t make it to the final version of this list include: Rayman Origins, Valkyria Chronicles, Broken Sword II and Ni No Kuni.