How can I simulate height in a top-down tiled 2D game? One way I thought was to make tiles which are supposed to be higher brighter, but I was wondering if there was a standard or better implementation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What did you end up doing and how did it work out for you? \$\endgroup\$
    – ashes999
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


First of all and to clarify, do you require it to be completely top-down or do you consider something like this as being top-down too. In that example you can tell that the house is much taller than the barrel simply by the amount of tiles that they both span vertically. Also, allowing the character to move behind the objects is another good way to let the player realize how tall something is.

If on the other hand you really mean a pure top-down view of the world, you could try your own suggestion of giving different brightness values depending on the tile's height. Give it a try since it should be pretty easy to implement, and see if the results are satisfactory enough.

But if you wanted to give a stronger impression, perhaps you could add shadows too. Pick an arbitrary light direction and have your tiles cast a shadow on tiles below their respective heights. This way taller tiles would cast longer shadows than lower tiles, and give the player an additional visual cue of the height of each tile. It should be much harder to implement though.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also if you're handling dynamic objects along an inexistent Z axis(depth) where you only have X and Y(width and height), You can try to use scaling to give impression of being closer to the camera. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 1:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to fix the previous comment, In case, Z would be your up/down and x and y longitude and latitude. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gustavo-Gtoknu Hadn't thought of that but it might give a neat effect too. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 2:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but if you come to think of it, LOTS of SNES/GBA games used that effect, including lots of topnotch RPGS, like Zelda \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 2:20

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