To help me tell this story, I spoke with legendary pixel artist Christina-Antoinette Neofotistou (probably better known by her online handle, castpixel
) and Celeste creators Maddy Thorson
and Pedro Medeiros
“What Eastward does best is create a world that feels like the games we played growing up,” my brother said after the game’s September 2021 release. It joins Extremely OK Games’ puzzle-platformer Celeste and Eric Barone’s mega-hit farming simulator Stardew Valley (also published by Chucklefish) in a rapidly growing club of video games tapping into nostalgia with high-end pixel art graphics and a retro aesthetic. But while many of these games look like they could have been released on the Super NES or Sega Genesis, they offer more complex graphics and gameplay than those systems could ever handle.
But how does a quirky pixel art game like Eastward make such an impression in an industry obsessed with horsepower and realism? These games see pixel art as more than a relic of the past. It’s no longer about technical compromise and limitations, but a flourishing art form inextricably tied to video games. Over the past decade, pixel art has experienced a renaissance thanks to the popularity of indie-developed games like Celeste and Eastward. Twenty-five years after Sony and Nintendo tried to kill it, it’s proving popular not just for its nostalgic appeal but as a platform for modern gaming experiences.