What is an Isometric Game: Diving Deep Into the Isometric Universe

What is an isometric game? The word “isometric” means “equal measure.” In computer games, “isometry” is a way of showing things that makes them look three-dimensional, even though they’re not. It uses a special kind of flat picture that makes objects appear 3D. This can show more details than a regular top-down or side view. As computer graphics got better, more games started using a different way of showing things, called perspective projection, instead of isometric projection. This made isometric projection less common.

Isometric artwork of fantasy-themed game room interiors with magical items, Isometric Game Design

The Structure of an Isometric Game

The structure of an isometric video game involves specific elements that work together to create the isometric view game world and player experience. What is important here?

A GIF showing the process of designing an isometric manor, from initial sketches to the final in-game rendered model

Camera Positioning and Angles

Isometric cameras in games usually follow the “45-45 rule.” They look at the player from a 45-degree angle, and the game world is also tilted 45 degrees. To achieve this, the camera starts flat and aligned with the ground and coordinate axes. It’s then rotated 45 degrees horizontally, 35.264 degrees vertically. This skewing of the grid creates special tiles for games, which is why it’s called “isometric projection.” This method is great for isometric view games development because all three axes (x, y, and z) have equal angles of 120 degrees. The artists use a parallel projection technique to create, for example a visually stunning isometric cityscape.

Grid Structures

Are isometric games 2D or 3D? An isometric grid is a special grid that makes things look 3D on a 2D screen. It’s like drawing lines at angles to create a sense of depth. Sprite-based games use clever techniques to fake the appearance of 3D depth, making 2D characters seem three-dimensional. Game developers use it to make game worlds seem 3D in isometric games even when they’re not. It’s handy for strategy games, city builders, and RPGs to show depth and space in the game. Grid structures in isometric video games refer to systems where the game world is organized into a grid-like pattern, typically made up of rows and columns. This grid structure is used to regulate and align various game elements, such as character movement, object placement, and level design.

Character and Object Design in the Isometric View

Characters and objects need to match the 45-degree angles of the perspective. They should be drawn to fit a grid system and show depth with layering and shading. Keep a consistent style and color palette. Characters and objects should also have animations that work in the isometric world and provide clear feedback to players. Simplicity is key for easy player recognition, and regular testing ensures everything works as intended.

A set of animated animal characters, cartoon stylized, the best isometric games for mobile gamers

Our Top Picks for 2024 Isometric Games

We’ve compiled a list of the best isometric games to help you get inspired. The titles range from epic fantasy adventures to gritty post-apocalyptic tales.

Whether you’re a fan of deep storytelling or strategic combat, you’ll definitely find something for yourself among these isometric view games :)

Isometric Games in 2024, TOP 5
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Modern Isometric Games

Modern isometric games are back in style, offering a blend of 2D isometric game graphics with a 3D feel. They come in various genres, from isometric RPGs to city builders, and they look stunning with detailed visuals and captivating stories. These games often introduce unique isometric gameplay mechanics. No matter the platform, isometric games can be found on everywhere, including mobile and indie scenes. 

However, in the case of isometric city builders, it’s important not only to be able to make art, but also to understand the principles of game city design

Player choices matter, and multiplayer features are common. Puzzles, modding, and user-generated content add depth to the experience. Extremely popular modern isometric game examples include “Divinity: Original Sin 2” and “Stardew Valley.” The last one, Stardew Valley, has an interesting feature.

In this game, the isometric perspective is used even though the game is programmed as a top-down game, adding depth to the gameplay.  The isometric style is strongly present in the games similar to Stardew Valley niche, attracting gamers who appreciate its unique visual techniques.

Our team also made several isometric games for different genres. 

Manor Cafe

Epic match-3 puzzle game, isometric illustration of a large manor with lush gardens, a cafe area, and different isometric rooms

A new match-3 game. Our artists have created in-game maps of houses with various rooms. We’ve created beautifully detailed isometric locations, including parks, rooms, and spaces to explore and enhance. So, don’t worry at all! Our team is well aware of what a match 3 game is, so we’ve got you covered.

Each room offers three levels of uniqueness and coolness. Players can unlock them by leveling up, revealing stunning locations with hundreds of 3D objects. Our team created 3D models, applied layer rendering, and added finishing touches to ensure high quality. The outdoor and indoor locations are visually appealing, enticing players to explore every corner. For instance, there’s a lush garden waiting to be transformed with flower beds and an elegant fountain. 

 Millionaire Mansion Builder

Building like in Roblox, isometric view of a luxurious bedroom with a canopy bed, bathroom with golden fixtures in a mansion setting

A house renovation game with 3D isometric room interior assets and slot machine mechanics, similar to Homescapes. Own a messy mansion and use your creativity to restore and decorate it by playing casino slots, earning coins, and renovating.

Our game art team created 3D isometric sprites for the mansion’s interior, including animated assets like lamps that turn on and off. The renovation process spans from a broken house to a sophisticated interior design, with assets rendered in separate layers for added depth and interactivity. We also designed the game’s logo and 2D slot machines in unique styles according to casino industry trends. Our concept artists created pleasant yet not overly flashy wall art for the casino game within Millionaire Mansion. 

Steampower 1830 Tycoon

Interface of a city-building game art, isometric view of a bustling city with trains and industrial elements, Railroad Tycoon

In this game we’ve put a lot of focus on detail. Our artists have designed tilesets, 3D elements, and various assets, ensuring a high level of detail across the board. The game offers a 3D perspective viewpoint of the entire city, allowing players to explore it from all angles. From upgrades to railroads and 3D characters, we’ve crafted every aspect of the game. We believe it’s this attention to detail that makes our game stand out in its genre, and we’re sure players will notice and enjoy the care we’ve put into its development.

Isometric video game graphics, various mansion rooms, garden with a central fountain and statues, Isometric Games Art, Code and Maths

Why Choose the Isometric Perspective in Games?

Why go with the isometric perspective in games? Here are three good reasons:

More Depth and 3D Feel: isometric view adds depth and a 3D look to games, making them more immersive.

Unique Gameplay: it offers a different gaming experience, with strategic planning and exploration that’s not found in typical 2D or side-scrolling games.

Blend of 2D and 3D: isometric games combine the charm of 2D graphics with a touch of 3D, making them visually appealing.

Isometric Character Sprites: whether you’re playing a city builder or an adventure game, isometric character sprites add to the visual appeal and overall charm of isometric games. This perspective continues to captivate players with its simple yet deep style.

Isometric illustration of a fantasy village, colorful buildings, fountains and conceptual design stages, Isometric challenge for a vertical world design

Design Challenges in Isometric Games

Creating games in an isometric view comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some key isometric design challenges you may encounter based on our experience:

Overcoming Depth Perception Issues: isometric game need to address depth perception challenges to ensure that players can accurately judge the position of objects and characters within the 3D-like environment.

Ensuring Clear Player Navigation: designers must provide players with intuitive navigation tools and cues to help them move smoothly through the isometric world, as it can sometimes be tricky to navigate.

Balancing Design Aesthetics and Functionality: achieving a balance between visually appealing isometric design and functional gameplay elements is crucial to create an enjoyable gaming experience.

Optimization of isometric games: optimizing isometric games presents challenges due to their unique characteristics. These include efficiently managing layers, choosing the right grid size, and correctly scaling assets. Dynamic lighting, camera control, and AI optimization can be demanding. Balancing the level of detail and handling textures are also crucial for performance. To optimise isometric games is to ensure compatibility across different devices and screen sizes. This adds to the complexity of optimising isometric games.

Using sprite sheets: like dealing with artifacts and overlaps between sprites, managing scaling and resolution for different parts of the game, handling memory usage and load times, optimizing complex animations, and ensuring transparency and sorting. Additionally, optimizing for mobile devices, maintaining visual consistency, and balancing file size and compression are important considerations for developers working with isometric sprite sheet.

Isometric Assets created with Maya and Photoshop CS3, collection of furniture pieces, elegant chairs, animal statues, and ornate columns

How to Develop: Tips for Mastering Isometric Game Design

Creating isometric games is enjoyable but comes with challenges. Master the 45-degree angles for a convincing 3D effect. A grid helps with accurate asset placement and maintaining a consistent look. Also, place closer objects in front for realism. Don’t forget to keep a unified look and color palette for a harmonious game world.

Mastering the right balance between detailed assets and clarity helps the players to quickly figure out how to play your game. Ensure UI elements fit well and are easy for players. Make sure your game runs smoothly, as isometric games can be resource-intensive.

Popular Game Engines Supporting Isometric Views

Engines for isometric games like Unity or Unreal Engine, Godot, and RPG Maker have tools and plugins to make isometric game creation easier. These engines help you build engaging isometric worlds.

To become a pro at isometric game design, you need to understand the perspective, use a grid, keep a consistent art style, and create a user-friendly interface. With these tips and the help of popular game engines, you can make awesome isometric games. For more information, check out our article about the best engine for isometric games.

Tips for Developers

Yes, 2D games still popular, and if you know just a little bit about the modern game industry, you’ll notice that there are plenty of isometric view games. 

What should the modern developer of such a game know? Understand the principles of isometric view, including both horizontal and vertical axes. This knowledge is fundamental for creating a convincing isometric 3d game look. Implement a grid system to ensure precise placement of assets within the isometric game. Maintain a unified art style and color palette throughout the game for a harmonious look. For more on isometric pixel art for programmers, read our article.

Grids help with consistency and character movement. Properly manage layering to create a realistic 3D effect. Objects closer to the viewer should be drawn in front of those farther away. Find the right balance between detailed assets and clarity to ensure players can easily identify objects. Explore and study other successful isometric games for inspiration and to keep up with industry trends.

Summer isometric game illustration, coastal cityscape, diverse buildings, park attractions, and bustling streets

The Future of Isometric Game Art

Artificial intelligence (AI) can create art that looks like it’s made by humans. Some worry that AI might replace artists, but that’s not how it usually works. Artists had similar concerns when photography and digital art emerged, but all these art forms coexist.

AI won’t replace human artists in isometric game design. Human guidance is essential to choose subjects, settings, and refine the final output. Think of AI as a helpful tool, not a replacement. To use AI effectively, break the process into steps and correct AI’s work as needed. For example, when using AI for concept art, guide it through iterations and select the best elements from different generated images. 

AI-driven Game Art Design Services use AI tools to make game development faster and more cost-effective. These tools help with content creation, prototyping, and more. AI in game art reduces costs, makes players happier, and gets attention in the game development world. AI-generated character design has revolutionized the gaming industry, providing more creative options. Our team combines art AI concept and our game expertise to create art and design.

We use AI driven art for game market trends, player preferences, and game mechanics. This helps us create game art. Our service combines AI and human creativity to bring your ideas to life. Our team is great at using AI-generated concept art to improve sketches and make projects unique.

Fantasy Rooms in Isometric Perspective, music room, regal throne room, aquatic chamber, and a mysterious magical room

Isometric vs. Other Perspectives: A Comparative Study

The main difference of an isometric view from top-down, first-person, and third-person lies in details. Let’s compare them. Top-down view gives an overhead look, first-person gives you the character’s view, and third-person offers both balanced FOV (field of view) and immersion. Isometric gives an opportunity to create complex and boss battles with different moves and a lot of projectiles, which is a distinctive feature of many isometric roguelike games. In isometric designs objects maintain the same size regardless of their distance.

For more insights into a combined approach that incorporates both 2D and 3D technologies in some way, have a look at the article about 3D games with 2D sprites.

Isometric view of a historical train station with town buildings, various in-game rewards and actions, Top-Down Isometric View

Conclusion: The Everlasting Charm of Isometric Games

Isometric games have a lasting charm that keeps players and developers hooked. Their mix of depth, accessibility, and good looks makes them a favorite in the gaming world. Isometric games can adapt and shine in a changing tech landscape. They bring nostalgia and offer cool new experiences, making them a vital part of gaming. The isometric perspective is here to stay, thrilling gamers and creators for years to come.