Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well.
This month I wanted to talk a bit about game assets and, in particular, about top-down pixel-art assets that can be found on itch.io, both free and nonfree.
This is a topic that has caught my interest pretty recently. I didn’t use to think much about it, really, since I am a pixel-artist myself and I don’t really need to use assets made by other people. However, I’ve come to realize that being able to do all of the pixel-art of my games doesn’t mean that I should. Even if you’re an artist, there’s nothing wrong with using and/or adapting assets by other people, since it can save you a ton of time and even improve the quality of your projects if done right.
During the past few weeks I have been compiling some assets for my own projects, and I’ve stumbled upon some really amazing creators and assets. From these, I’ve selected my favorites and I’m going to share them with you!
- This is a personal top 5, selected from the assets that I find of most interest to me, personally. It’s not meant to be an absolute truth.
- I own almost all assets in the list, partially or totally, so I’ve been able to have a good look at them before judging them.
- All assets found here are for orthogonal (top-down) pixel-art games on a standard 16×16, 32×32 (x2) or 48x48px (x4) tile grid.
- This post isn’t sponsored. I’m just promoting these assets because I want to! =)
1. Time Fantasy assets by finalbossblues
Now, at the time of writing, I have absolutely no doubts about who deserves the first place in my personal top 5. Jason Perry (finalbossblues) is a professional pixel-artist who has been making RPG pixel-art assets in the style of the SNES classics for a number of years. His most popular asset series, Time Fantasy, is absolutely massive: there’s all kinds of assets in it, from the most basic “RPG town and trees” stuff to steampunk, horror, modern environments and more.
As you can see in the picture above, he makes both tilesets and characters. Although I’m personally more interested in the tilesets, because I can make my own characters, the characters are also good quality and he provides a very complete set of character bases and even has his own character generator.
Most of his assets are nonfree, but reasonably priced, and he also has several free packs that are very interesting on their own. Both free and nonfree assets can be found on his page on itch.io, and there’s also some extra free assets on the Time Fantasy website. If you’re going to use his assets in any serious capacity, I heartily recommend his Patreon as well – by subscribing to the 10$/9€ tier, you get instant free access to a big part of his asset library, as well as to any new asset packs that come out while you’re a patron, and there’s also plenty of Patreon-exclusive assets that you can’t find anywhere else. He updates his Patreon with new assets every few days and is very diligent about it too.
His assets are also available as RPG Maker-exclusive DLC, although I really wouldn’t recommend that option because it limits you to using them on RPG Maker alone. All Time Fantasy assets come with RPG Maker-ready versions even if you purchase them from itch.io, so I think it’s worth it to get the “engine-neutral” option.
All in all, I’m really impressed with these assets, I totally recommend them and I’ll be using them in my future projects for sure! I’m looking forward to seeing more from the author.
2. Super Retro assets by Gif
I’ve scoured the Internet far and wide, and there’s only one other classic RPG pixel-art asset collection that (for me) can compete with Time Fantasy in terms of completeness, pricing and style consistency, and that’s the growing Super Retro assets collection by Gif.
The Super Retro collection comes in two flavors: Super Retro World, which is currently the most complete set, with all kind of “basic” environments like different dungeons, scenarios and characters, and the most recent Super Retro Odyssey collection, which currently only includes one asset pack (inspired mostly by Japan) but will eventually include packs based on different regions of the planet.
Unlike Time Fantasy, Super Retro is more cartoonish and colorful, and the characters are chibi-er, more akin to Game Boy or Game Boy Color characters in their proportions. The assets are very varied and delightful to look at and work with. They also come with tilesets and autotiles ready for RPG Maker, which is a huge bonus.
The aesthetic of this asset collection is particularly dear to me, since I come from a Pokémon fan-gaming background, and it’s very obvious that Gif took a heavy inspiration from (among others) Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS Pokémon games. These assets, unlike Time Fantasy, are also pretty easy to combine with other assets from different artists, with just a slight palette correction to make them consistent with each other, which can be very useful when you’re on a budget and mix and match assets from different sources.
The Super Retro collection can be found on Gif’s itch.io page. There’s a couple of free packs, although most are nonfree. The price is very reasonable: the whole Super Retro World pack can be purchased for only 40$ (not including Super Retro Odyssey), which in my opinion is a steal, since you get the right to use these assets (commercially or not) forever.
Like Time Fantasy, Super Retro can be bought as an RPG Maker DLC, but again I wouldn’t really recommend it. There’s also a free online demo, playable from the browser, where you can see in action the different game assets from the Super Retro Packs.
In addition, Gif is running a pixel-art charity fund through Ko-fi (with a bonus: subscribing to it provides you free access to his future asset packs!) and he often donates copies of Aseprite to pixel-artists, so he does a lot of good for the pixel-art community.
If you think they will fit your project, I totally recommend the Super Retro assets. They’re consistent, have a good balance between quality and variety and the price is very indie-friendly.
3. “Modern” assets by LimeZu
The “Modern” assets series by LimeZu (Modern exteriors, Modern interiors and Modern Office) is very peculiar. Unlike most RPG assets you can find on the net, they are focused on modern, realistic environments, and the sheer amount of assets (and the speed at which LimeZu keeps producing them) is astonishing.
The pixel-art technique of these assets is a bit unpolished when compared to other entries on this list. However, the assets are consistent with each other and, most importantly, extremely usable and excellent for creating detailed, lively worlds, so I think they are a very good option if you’re working on a modern RPG and can’t afford to hire an artist. Also, the quality of the pixel-art keeps improving with each new update. I honestly admire the dedication of the author.
One more thing: the pricing of these assets is absolutely ridiculous. Currently you can get the three asset packs for around 5$ total. I believe that the author, in all fairness, should probably ask for more, but since these assets are top-selling on itch.io, hopefully they make enough sales to compensate for the low price.
Either way, my best wishes to the author, and I’ll keep my eye out for updates!
4. World of Solaria assets by Jamie Brownhill
My next recommendation are the World of Solaria assets, by Jamie Brownhill. As he explains on his itch.io page, these assets were meant for an epic RPG that he never got around to making, so now he sells them so other people can use them in their own projects.
The Solaria assets are very cartoonish and colorful and they create a cheery atmosphere. Personally I find them quite charming. The pixel-art technique isn’t as polished as that of the Time Fantasy and Super Retro collections, but it’s more than decent. The assets work very well together when put on a map and the variety is reasonable for any generic RPG.
The pricing, like all assets listed, is very good. It’s not not as affordable as Super Retro World (the Solaria tileset bundle, for example, costs 40$, the same as the whole Super Retro World pack, and unlike it it doesn’t include characters, which are sold separately in the Solaria sprite pack), but both asset packs fill a slightly different niche. Super Retro speaks more “modern/Pokémon-like RPG”, while World of Solaria is geared towards traditional epic RPGs, with plenty of tiles related to dungeons, caves and such. So, if you’re working on a project in that vein and don’t like/can’t afford Time Fantasy, the Solaria assets are a very solid option.
Brownhill’s assets aren’t RPG Maker ready yet, but he’s announced that he’s going to start working on RPG Maker compatibility in April, so that’s great news!
5. Tinytales assets by Mega Tiles
I didn’t want to close this top 5 without mentioning the Tinytales asset collection by Mega Tiles.
This collection is particularly useful for RPG Maker users, since not only are all tilesets RPG Maker-ready, but it also includes many character sprites, battlers and backgrounds, enough to make an entire RPG with them. They also have a character generator, although in my opinion a bit overpriced. It should be definitely bought in a pack or at a discount (current owners of any Tinytales asset can get it almost for free, at 0,79$, although I’m not sure if this offer is permanent or temporary).
What I’m personally most interested in, as I mentioned previously, are the tilesets. The Tinytales collection is pretty varied, as much as (if not more) the Super Retro series, and it has a very clean and pleasant aesthetic. However, there are two points against it, which is why I’m putting it last in the list: its price, which is a lot less affordable than other options (as of now, 179,50$ for the entire collection), and its distinctive style, which makes it impossible to mix and match with other assets from different authors. Still, it’s still a very solid option, very complete and of good quality.
There’s plenty of other pixel-art top-down assets on itch.io that would merit an entry on this list. I simply listed the ones that stood out to me the most, personally, in the niche of 16x16px pixel-art for RPGs, and which had enough variety to populate an entire game on their own. However, I know of many assets that are truly beautiful and could fit a variety of projects.
For example, personally I really enjoy World_of_NoeL‘s overworld and dungeon assets, which you can find on their itch.io page. They don’t seem to have a lot of recent online activity, but their assets are still available and, in my opinion, pretty excellent for Zelda-like games. Unfortunately, these sets aren’t complete enough to make a full game with them.
Another asset that I’m in love with is the SunnyVille Farm asset pack by Roboki. It’s very simple yet extremely charming and bright. The buildings in particular are adorable.
The Wonderdot RPG assets by Pita are also absolutely amazing and it’s a shame that they aren’t doing more with them or expanding them, because they could be a game changer. As a pixel-artist and pixel-art enthusiast I drool each time that I look at them.
GuttyKreum is another prolific pixel-artist who takes great care in details. He makes RPG assets (mostly tilesets, but also icons and backgrounds) and has two main collections published on itch.io, the Japan Collection and the Gutty Fantasy Collection. I didn’t include them in the list because they aren’t 16x16px (some of his assets are 32x32px, others are 48×48) but I wanted to mention his work here because it’s really great.
His style is extremely distinctive, which makes his assets impossible to mix and match with any other sets (also, the details of his assets can hardly be matched), but there’s more than enough variety in his packs to make full RPG games with consistent graphics. If you’re interested, go have a look at his itch.io page!
Finally, another author I didn’t mention is Seliel the Shaper, creator of the Mana Seed asset series. Mana Seed is a particular case. The assets fit a 16x16px grid and are of truly excellent quality (Seliel the Shaper truly knows their craft: have a look at their itch.io) and very varied. Honestly speaking, I think they’re the best top-down pixel-art assets that money can buy.
However, the assets have a restrictive license, meaning that you have to repurchase them for every project that you intend to use them in. This, coupled with their high price (justified, because as I said they are truly works of art), makes them a non-viable option for me. I plan on creating many games over time, most of which will probably never recoup the costs of their creation, so buying one-time licenses doesn’t make sense in my case.
However, if you’re planning on making bigger, more ambitious commercial RPGs and you have the money to spend, I’d say that it’s totally worth it. I own some of their tilesets from asset bundles and they’re extremely well made.
Well, that’s all for the list! Phew, this actually took longer to write and prepare than I expected, haha. There goes half my Saturday… Hopefully you found some new artists to follow/admire/drool over/buy from =D Thank you for reading and until the next time!