The Best Isometric Video Games

By Luke Plunkett on at

There’s just something about video games with an isometric viewpoint, isn’t there? Something...cute about them. No matter how dark and brutal a game’s setting and art may be, tilting a camera up and around makes everything look like an action figure.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way! There’s something comforting about this to a grown man like me, in the same way that otherwise mature adults enjoy things like board games with miniatures. Something makes isometric games feel strangely tangible, as though by mimicking the presentation of a toybox, the game feels a little more real.

Below then is a list of the best isometric games. Note that I’ve been fairly strict about what qualifies as “isometric”: the principle itself was designed to simulate the presentation of a 3D space on a 2D display, so if the game has a free camera which actually allows the exploration of a 3D space, or has a fixed camera that doesn’t properly recreate a 3D space (ala Link to the Past’s cartoony distortion) then that’s cheating.

Basically, we’re talking about a screen that looks like this:

The Best Isometric Video Games


Fun fact: the isometric perspective in most games isn’t quite true isometric. From wikipedia:

The projection commonly used in videogames deviates slightly from “true” isometric due to the limitations of raster graphics. Lines in the x and y directions would not follow a neat pixel pattern if drawn in the required 30° to the horizontal. While modern computers can eliminate this problem using anti-aliasing, earlier computer graphics did not support enough colors or possess enough CPU power to accomplish this. So instead, a 2:1 pixel pattern ratio would be used to draw the x and y axis lines, resulting in these axes following a 26.565° (arctan 0.5) angle to the horizontal. (Game systems that do not use square pixels could, however, yield different angles, including true isometric.) Therefore, this form of projection is more accurately described as a variation of dimetric projection, since only two of the three angles between the axes are equal (116.565°, 116.565°, 126.87°).

The more you know!


FALLOUT

The Best Isometric Video Games


SUPER MARIO RPG

The Best Isometric Video Games


JUNGLE STRIKE

The Best Isometric Video Games


Q*BERT

The Best Isometric Video Games


ULTIMA VIII

The Best Isometric Video Games


SYNDICATE

The Best Isometric Video Games


ROLLERCOASTER TYCOON 2

The Best Isometric Video Games


LITTLEBIGADVENTURE

The Best Isometric Video Games


LANDSTALKER

The Best Isometric Video Games


BALDUR’S GATE

The Best Isometric Video Games


XCOM

The Best Isometric Video Games


DIABLO III

The Best Isometric Video Games


AGE OF KINGS

The Best Isometric Video Games


CRUSADER: NO REMORSE

The Best Isometric Video Games


SIMCITY 2000

The Best Isometric Video Games


CIV V

The Best Isometric Video Games


POPULOUS

The Best Isometric Video Games


FINAL FANTASY TACTICS

The Best Isometric Video Games


STARCRAFT

The Best Isometric Video Games


THEME HOSPITAL

The Best Isometric Video Games


Think of any we missed? Got a favourite not on the list? Vent furiously below.