The past and present of isometric graphics in games

By Gergo Vas on March 25, 2013, 8:00 AM

Games with isometric graphics—a slightly rotated view with a top-down perspective—were a big deal several years ago. Static, isometric maps, mostly used in strategy and role-playing games, allowed the developers to create spectacular, detailed visuals, and most of them have aged really well.

With Kickstarter-funded games like Shadowrun Returns or Project Eternity using the same sort of approach, it looks like isometric games are set to make a triumphant return. We've selected some of the most beautiful games featuring the isometric perspective for today's Show Us gallery.

Desperados: Wanted Dead Or Alive

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines

Commandos 2: Men of Courage

Icewind Dale

Anno 1602

Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

Age of Empires II HD

Shadowrun Returns (Concept Art)

What are your picks for the best looking games with isometric graphics?

Republished with permission. Gergo Vas is an editor at Kotaku.

Sources: RPG Codex Forums, CommandosHQ, Harebrained Schemes, DaveMcKay,, Ubisoft

User Comments: 10

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Polbeer91 said:

Not regarding the question I have a comment.

The most limiting feature of isometic views is not mentioned, namely the ability to see how far things are away. I never noticed this before, but when I started playen AoEII again because the free add-on forgotten empires came out, I had trouble building my farms symmetrically around the Town Center (ocd anyone?). Wikipedia has a nice example [link]

Other than that it is very much true that these games age really well, the graphics in AoE II don't even bother me.

2 people like this | Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

I sunk way too much time into both 1602 and age of empires 2. This list seems to be pc exclusive? If I had to add another game to the list I would add Super Mario RPG. It looked fantastic for its time.

RH00D RH00D said:

The best thing about isometric graphics is that even years afterwards they don't look that bad. I can still enjoy Diablo 2 and Starcraft 1 a lot. Sometimes high-quality isometric is better than low-quality 3D.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

So MANY kickass games using ISO; Landstalker, Fallout 1 & 2, Planescape Torment etc etc so I REFUSE to choose one :D

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

That Shadowrun Returns looks pretty cool. They all do, actually. Props to the artists who generate this kind of isometric view.

Zedster said:

Attic Attack on the ZX Spectrum!

Guest said:

It's hard to complain when you're basically running/playing around in a "work of art". ;)

TitoBXNY TitoBXNY said:

Planescape Torment, Diablo 1 and 2, Baldurs Gate series and Titan Quest games are my favorites of all time. Planescape world is still astounding.

Lurker101 said:

Not even a mention of the Westwood Studios versions of Command & Conquer?

Guest said:

Could have picked a better screen for Baldurs Gate II

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