Why does modern low-res art seem to look better than retro low-res art?

N.B: I previously used the term “pixel art”, which I took to mean “modern, intentionally low-resolution art,” though that’s an inaccurate definition, so I edit the title

It seems to me that modern low-res art looks better than retro low-res art, in some intangible/hard-to-pin down way.

For example, take a look at this screenshot of Stardew Valley:

Stardew Valley random screenshot

It looks much better than any retro game I can remember, but in a way I can’t quite quantify. What is it that makes it look “so much better”? I have some ideas of what might be responsible:

  1. Higher colour depth
  2. Higher resolution (even if it’s the same low DPI, it’s just larger overall)
  3. Anti-aliasing

Is it these, or something else?


I think it is shadows that make a huge difference. If you zoom on the fence, you can see what looks like a grey border that is bridging the gap between the posts and the ground. Other shadows are more obvious. Also:

  • lighting the well and trees are illuminated in appealing ways
  • variation because modern games can have storage space to hold multiple variations of an object or tile, it looks more realistic. So rounded edges, wavy edges, and differing phyllotaxis make a realistic scene.
    legend of zelda low-res
    Super Mario Bros., posted in another answer
    Compare to these pictures, which are obviously tiled and have limited color. You can especially notice that while the tiles seem slightly highlighted, the character is faded compared to the surroundings.

Source : Link , Question Author : Alexander , Answer Author : Wezl

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