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The 10 Best Video Games That Are Entirely in Black and White

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The 10 Best Video Games That Are Entirely in Black and White

A game’s art style is a vital part of the experience, and the decision to go completely monochrome benefitted these games immensely.

While far from the most important aspect of a video game, a standout visual style can do wonders for elevating an experience. There has been no shortage of titles attempting to entice players making bold decisions regarding their aesthetic, and exclusively rendering most (if not all) of a game in black and white is one of the boldest.

In the interest of highlighting the games that have been the most successful at pulling off this monochromatic feat, here are the best video games that are entirely in black and white.

Limbo

Best Black and White Video Games

The boy in Limbo wakes up and has to defend himself from a very scary spider.
Image Credit: Playdead

2010’s Limbo is perhaps the most commonly discussed game on the topic of monochromatic visuals, which makes its early inclusion on this list an absolute must. This puzzle-platformer puts the player in control of a boy who wakes up in a shadowy forest with no recourse but to try and find his way out. The more straightforward narrative and control scheme serve to highlight the game’s clever brain-teasers, while the black and white aesthetic establishes the game’s intensely atmospheric world.

Developed by Playdead and initially published by Microsoft Game Studios, Limbo released to critical acclaim, was one of the highest selling games on the Xbox Live Arcade, and is now available on all major platforms (including the Nintendo Switch). If you have yet to play Limbo and any of the above sounds intriguing, it’s well worth picking up.

Downwell

Best Black and White Video Games

The protagonist in Downwell falling and avoiding both objects and enemies.
Image Credit: Devolver Digital

Downwell is a game with a simple premise. You fall down a procedurally generated hole in the ground (also know as a well), blasting enemies from above and slowing your descent by firing off your Gunboots. The game’s high-concept setup makes for an immediately exciting experience that’s effortless to pick up and play, and there’s a very noticeable element of feeling yourself getting better at the game with the more time you spend in it.

Technically the game uses a four-color palette rather than existing entirely in black and white, but the other two colors are used sparsely in comparison and accentuate the monochrome majority. Downwell launched on iOS and PC in October of 2015, but is now also available on Android, PlayStation 4, and (more recently) Nintendo Switch.

MadWorld

Best Black and White Video Games

A cutscene from MadWorld featuring protagonist Jack Cayman.
Image Credit: Sega

MadWorld was the very first release from the action game greats at PlatinumGames. Published by Sega in the beginning of 2009 exclusively for the Wii, it still remains one of the most unique games on the platform. It’s packed to the brim with bloody mayhem and sees protagonist Jack Cayman competing in a violent game show called Death Watch for a large cash prize to the tunes of a hip hop soundtrack.

More importantly for the purposes of this article, the game’s visuals are evocative of a graphic novel in motion. Both the environments and characters are drawn on-screen in dark, inky visuals that are only broken up by stylish streaks of red as the player mows down enemies with the chainsaw embedded in Jack’s arm.

Although the title underperformed in sales and never left its original console, MadWorld remains one of the most singular games to ever see the light of day and easily earns its place on this list. Fans are still holding out for a remaster, though.

World of Horror

Best Black and White Video Games

A gameplay screenshot of World of Horror with an event that shows a twisted reflection.
Image Credit: Ysbryd Games

Even among the many unique games on this list, World of Horror is one of the titles that stands out the most. It launched into Steam Early Access in February 2020 and features a seamless blend of roguelite, RPG, and point-and-click gameplay elements infused with a horror setting inspired by the works of Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft. Combining these elements together makes for a compelling and relentlessly replayable game, especially given that it offers 12 possible mysteries to solve and over 200 possible events in each playthrough as of this writing.

In the case of World of Horror, the blocky, monochrome pixel art elevates the eeriness of the events that unfold. The detailing is such that World of Horror is consistently unsettling, but still gives your imagination room to wander, as all good horror does.

If you want to learn more, you can check out Twinfinite’s overview of the game prior to its Early Access launch. As of right now, it’s only available on PC.

Trek to Yomi

Best Black and White Video Games

Protagonist Hiroki gets ready to fight in a forest in Trek to Yomi.

One of the most recent games on this list, May 2022’s Trek to Yomi is an interactive love letter to Japanese cinema of the 1950s and 60s courtesy of developer Flying Wild Hog and publisher Devolver Digital. It hearkens back to films like Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961) in both its filmesque presentation and its revenge-fueled narrative, placing players in the role of Hiroki as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery in tandem with his quest for vengeance.

Trek to Yomi serves as an excellent embodiment of just how much can be accomplished with a limited color palette. The set pieces, lighting, and theater-adjacent presentation are artful and a visual treat for the eyes. Even though its gameplay was less well received than its aesthetic stylings, it’s more than worthy of a spot on this list and is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Gato Roboto

Best Black and White Video Games

Kiki the cat standing on top of boxes in Gato Roboto.
Image Credit: Devolver Digital

Because who doesn’t want to control a cute cat in a mech suit?

Gato Roboto is a metroidvania title developed by doinksoft and published by Devolver Digital. After making a crash landing on a planet while investigating a distress signal, a man named Gary is trapped on the ship and has to task his cat, Kiki, with finding a way off the planet. Being a metroidvania, the game puts a large emphasis on exploration and item-finding in between the hectic boss battles and platforming.

Similarly to Downwell, Gato Roboto’s black and white pixel art is equal parts nostalgic and adorable. Despite the lack of coloration, everything on screen is clearly identifiable and adds to the frantic fun of the gameplay. It’s so fun, in fact, that it made our list of must-play indie titles in 2019, and it’s available on PC, Switch, and Xbox One.

Ghost of Tsushima: Kurosawa Mode

Best Black and White Video Games

A screenshot of Ghost of Tsushima's Kurosawa Mode

Released in 2020, Ghost of Tsushima is a gorgeous open world game starring protagonist Jin Sakai, a samurai fighting at the forefront of the 1274 Mongol invasion of Japan to protect his homeland. The title was very well received, with particular praise going to its fluid combat and graphical presentation.

The context of Ghost of Tsushima’s inclusion on this list is a bit different, as its own take on black and white presentation is an option that the player can toggle on and off at will rather than a decision the game was developed around. Ghost of Tsushima features a “Kurosawa Mode” that not only applies a black-and-white filter over the action, but also implements audio changes that mimic analogue devices of the 1950s. Given that Ghost of Tsushima contains so many deep and vivid colors, limiting the output to black and white leaves the on-screen image feeling striking and detailed.

Although the game is more than playable in Kurosawa Mode, it’s important to note that it can make certain aspects of gameplay more difficult, as some combat indicators use color cues to prompt a response from the player. Still, it’s highly worth seeing for yourself, and should you need a refresher on where to enable Kurosawa Mode in Ghost of Tsushima, look no further than our guide on how to do just that.

Best Black and White Video Games

Link tries to prevent his boat from capsizing in  the intro of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

Although it was the fourth Zelda release overall, Link’s Awakening is notable for its departure from quite a few early series staples: there is no Zelda, there is no Triforce, it takes place on an island called Koholint instead of Hyrule, and there’s a giant sleeping fish that Link needs to awaken by collecting eight musical instruments. Link’s Awakening can certainly get a little weird, but its dungeon crawling roots are still very much intact.

Some of the greatest black and white games feature monochromatic visuals not because of an intentioned design decision, but hardware limitations. This is true for Link’s Awakening, and in turn is of the most distinct looking titles on the original Game Boy. The limitation of color required the on-screen sprites to ooze style and character in order to stand out in Link’s debut on the smaller screen, and that ensures Link’s Awakening will remain one of the most memorable black and white releases in perpetuity.

Only the original Game Boy release of Link’s Awakening is in black and white, as the re-release on Game Boy Color added vibrant coloration to the experience (as you would expect), and the 2019 remake for Nintendo Switch is also very much in color. While both of these rereleases are great ways to experience the game, there’s something to be said for the way the original highlights the appeal of early black and white graphics.

Return of the Obra Dinn

Best Black and White Video Games

An investigation takes place in Return of the Obra Dinn.
Image Credit: 3909

2018’s Return of the Obra Dinn is an excellent puzzler that puts the player in the role of an insurance inspector working for the East India Company circa 1807. After a missing merchant ship (the titular Obra Dinn) reappears after five years, you’re sent to investigate what happened to the 60 passengers that were onboard. By means of a magical pocket watch, the player is transported to the past and must piece together what happened to everyone using context clues and process of elimination.

In addition to the unique premise, there’s no other game that looks quite like Return of the Obra Dinn. It’s binary, 1-bit art style emulates the appearance of early computers, which is thoroughly evidenced by the in-game options that allow the player to change those colors to emulate other monitors of that era. Like the other games on this list, Return of the Obra Dinn’s limited use of color thoroughly enhances the experience whether you’re playing on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Switch.

Pokémon Red and Blue

Best Black and White Video Games

The title screen of Pokémon Red.

If there was ever a duo of games that needed no introduction, it would be Pokémon Red and Blue. After the release of these two titles in 1998 (two years after their initial debut in Japan), Pokémon would go on to become one of the largest franchises on the planet in conjunction with a trading card game, anime series, and countless other spin-offs and business ventures. Red and Blue showcase the successful Pokémon formula at its most distilled: exploring, catching ‘em all, and battling in a way that sets the stage for the increasing refinement of the games that would follow.

Just like the original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening above, the color palette of Pokémon Red and Blue was also inhibited by the Game Boy’s dot-matrix display screen, but was no worse for it. Everything from the NPCs inhabiting the Kanto region to the iconic designs of the pocket monsters themselves are both clearly defined and expressive, and the game world is impressively brought to life.

Those are the 10 best video games that are entirely in black and white. If you need more convincing regarding the last entry in this list, you can check out 10 Reasons Why Pokémon Red and Blue Are Still Amazing. If you’re still on the lookout for more games with great visual execution, look no further than Twinfinite’s 10 Games With Eye-Popping Art Styles That We’ll Never Forget.

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