The Best Isometric Video Games

By Julio Franco
Sep 10, 2015
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  1. 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:

    Fun fact: the isometric perspective in most games isn’t quite trueisometric. 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!


    Super Mario RPG

    Jungle Strike


    Ultima VIII


    Rollercoaster Tycoon 2

    Little Big Adventure


    Baldur's Gate


    Diablo III

    Age of Kings

    Crusader: No Remorse

    SimCity 2000

    Civ V


    Final Fantasy Tactics


    Theme Hospital

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

    The Bests are Kotaku’s picks for the best things on (or off) the internet. Republished with permission.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,106   +1,376

    StarCraft-II tops them all as the most advanced isometric game today, with its latest extension, Legacy of The Void, due to be released on September 13.
    Peter Farkas likes this.
  3. indiangamer

    indiangamer TS Enthusiast Posts: 57   +9

    Without mentioning dota this list is incomplete
    Panda218 likes this.
  4. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,184   +1,215

    As a kid I spent a lot of time playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and especially SimCity 2000 :)

    I played more Command & Conquer than I did Starcraft, that said I really only play Starcraft II these days.

    Thanks for the list it brought back some fun memories ;)
    Peter Farkas, Jos and SuperVeloce like this.
  5. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 1,803   +483

    This is a good list. I played a ton of Hospital Tycoon, it was so much fun.
    You could add Caesar 3 and Pharaoh to the list. Pharaoh is one of my favorite city building games.
  6. theruck

    theruck TS Booster Posts: 100   +20

    You can see actually that there is less detail to be seen in diablo III than in theme hospital. therefore I like the old games like syndicate more than the new ones with this perspective.
  7. money

    money TS Enthusiast Posts: 44

  8. Peter Farkas

    Peter Farkas TS Addict Posts: 214   +67

    XCOM rules forever! :)
  9. Nero7

    Nero7 TS Booster Posts: 154   +40

    YOU FORGOT C&C!!!!!!!

    Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 :(
    They are amazing games to mod btw.
    NightAngel79 and Peter Farkas like this.
  10. Guardian31756

    Guardian31756 TS Rookie Posts: 17

    How could you forget the #1 game of all time , Transport Tycoon ?

    I still remember my days of playing with A-Train.
    thelatestmodel and Peter Farkas like this.
  11. hitech0101

    hitech0101 TS Guru Posts: 433   +23

    I always enjoyed playing these games, Age of Empires, Diablo 2, and more recently Starcraft 2 . These games are always fun to play and you keep going back to them.
  12. enemys

    enemys TS Booster Posts: 41   +17

    I'm playing Baldur's Gate 2 (not EE, the original one) at the moment and I must say I remember no game other than Witcher 3 that has given me so much fun and stolen so much of my time. Even the biggest RPG titles like Mass Effect or The Elder Scrolls cannot compete with Jan Jansen, Minsc and Boo.
    darkzelda likes this.
  13. Avenger001

    Avenger001 TS Member

    Empire earth 2
  14. amstech

    amstech TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 1,436   +592

  15. insect

    insect TS Evangelist Posts: 315   +114

    They used a screenshot from the Console version. Check out the PC version - details (like shadows, AA, resolution, textures) have all been ramped up.
  16. Randomthom

    Randomthom TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +16

    Not to forget solo playthroughs, evil party playthroughs, multiplayer-made parties (I.e. making all 6 characters) or even a multiplayer run... Always had a thing for Aerie too...
  17. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 853   +352

    I stopped playing video games in the early 2000's, when I would sit down after work at the computer, and look up and it was after 10pm LOL.
  18. Peter Farkas

    Peter Farkas TS Addict Posts: 214   +67

    I am having those days now mate. :)
  19. NightAngel79

    NightAngel79 TS Booster Posts: 159   +37

    Same here, it's all Witcher 3's fault
    darkzelda likes this.
  20. risc32

    risc32 TS Booster Posts: 186   +75

    For me it's Zaxxon on the c64. one of my earliest video game memories. that game was tough, like they all were at one time.
  21. enemys

    enemys TS Booster Posts: 41   +17

    I've only solo'ed BG1 TuTu (fighter/mage/thief FTW!) and it was tons of fun. Without exp cap (removed by mods) my single char, which ended up with over 1.8 million XP, was actually stronger than a full party. I've never tried full-custom party in BG1 nor BG2, though, since I didn't want to loose all those banters between party members. Premade party is something I leave for the first Icewind Dale (which is also awesome, by the way, though more H'n'S than RPG).
  22. Randomthom

    Randomthom TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +16

    I don't think there
    I don't think there's an infinity engine game I haven't played... :)
  23. thelatestmodel

    thelatestmodel TS Enthusiast Posts: 85   +20

    Ultima VIII - no
    Transport Tycoon - yes
    Also No Regret was better than No Remorse.

    Otherwise I like this a lot actually!
  24. Fencerx

    Fencerx TS Rookie

    Tibia was remarkably (on its 7.4 version) one of the best and addicting games that should be added into this list.
  25. DAOWAce

    DAOWAce TS Booster Posts: 248   +30

    Seems to be some mistakes.

    Diablo III should read Diablo II.

    Civ V should read Civ III.

    Fits with everything else that way, plus it's much more accurate.

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