In this iteration of User Discussion, we ask users about their opinions on the art styles of games. We also discuss whether or not the art direction impacts the overall enjoyment of the game. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

What is your favorite art style?

My favorite art style would have to be a realistic art style, in the veins of The Last Of Us or Mass Effect. - Vaas

My favorite art style used in games is definitely artsy surrealism, styles that mimic artwork/cartoon animation. Cel shading is of course among my favorite styles, used in The Wind Waker and Viewtiful Joe.  Okami is probably the most visually impressive game I've ever played, and the visuals are an integral part of the overall experience.  Hand-drawn visuals are also favorites of mine, like The Minish Cap and (for a contemporary example) Bravely Default's backgrounds.  Old-school sprites are also visually pleasing, a la A Link to The Past and Final Fantasy pre VII.  Visuals that capture the spirit of fantasy will always catch my eye first. - Thomas Stensland

My favorite art styles are anime-like, cartoonish, and cel-shaded. Games like Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Super Street Fighter 4, Tales of the Abyss, Fire Emblem Awakening, and South Park: Stick of Truth. I've always liked those artstyles due to having a very strong fondness for animation, due to growing up watching nothing but cartoons, and now because of my growing interest in anime. - Kira

I guess I could say the one that speaks to me the most when I close my eyes is the 2008 Prince of Persia illustrative art-style. I enjoy balance in many things, and to me, that game's storybook essence perfectly captured a beautiful line between the cel-shaded graphics I adore from Windwaker and Okami and the more distinct realism of games like Uncharted and Metal Gears. Making the real and unreal match brings what I believe to be the most connective experience that's short of uncanny valley territory and something beyond more cartoonish designs, though not to discredit either when they're done well. - Tim Gruver

Does the artstyle affect your ability to enjoy a game?

While it doesn't necessarily strengthen or weaken my opinion of the game, I feel that a particular art style can add more to it. When a game tends to have brilliant atmosphere visuals, I usually feel more immersed in the game because of the incredible beauty of the world and characters around me. - VannahFoxTheTriforceWeilder

Art doesn't affect my ability to enjoy a game too much, unless the art style is absolutely horrid. -Kira
It does much of the time, though not always. It's a typical complaint that many of our games have strived to be movies more than games, and it's true that watching them is often as gratifying as playing them with what immersion they bring. Our visual observation is what immediately grabs our eyes before our hands and it's usually what's most inviting stepping into a world like Xenoblade Chronicles or Zelda. I've gotten past plenty of games' bad graphics and unappealing art-styles, but in spite of them rather than because of them. - Tim Gruver
No it doesn't, it just gives me something to admire while I play the game. - Vaas

What is your least favorite art style?

I can't say I have a least favorite style...I suppose I'm not overly interested in realism, but even that style has the potential to awe me (see the GC Resident Evil/Resident Evil 0, and recently Metal Gear Solid V). - Thomas Stensland

I dislike art styles that tand to have muddy and in a way, dark visuals, such as Call of Duty Black Ops and horror games in general. In both games, it's pretty difficult to see particular parts of the game, and with bad lighting, can get amazingly frustrating. Unless it adds to the atmosphere, such as parts of Shadow of the Colossus, it won't do anything for the game except cause the player to be somewhat annoyed. If a game was looking for a "darker tone", just take a look at Super Paper Mario or Majora's Mask. Those two games take contrasting (and sometime vibrant) colors and succeed in creating that dark atmosphere for the player, without blandness or muddiness. - VannahFox

I would have to say the kind of hyper-realistic art-style from games like Team Fortress and, uugh, Brink. If you've never heard of the latter, then good for you, though the former's great from what I've seen of it as a game rather than as a visual aesthetic. While I'm still a believer in photo-realistic gaming eventually conquering its flaws given time, I'm not a fan of the kind of caricatured, distorted faces even within a cartoonish setting. It's simply half-human in a more freakish way that mirfs me. - Tim Gruver

My least favorite art style is the one where the only colors are brown and grey, with some muzzle flash. Hate it when a game has an incredibly dull art style like that. *Coughs* Gears of War! *Cough* I'm also not a big fan of "photorealistism". Too boring for me. - Kira

Is it as important as other features? (Gameplay, story, side modes)

As any gamer can attest, the best thing about a game is the full package. Graphics, stories, side modes, achievements/trophies, DLC, and art styles included, are all but a part of the bigger picture. Each of them is expendable by themselves, but they make a difference collectively. Functionality is the most important thing a game has to have for me to be able to play it, but its looks are what usually bring in the subtleties that keep me playing. Things like art-style and storytelling are the more compelling things about a game more often than not, and it's what I remember about a game the most. - Tim Gruver

It's popular to say that 'graphics don't matter,' but I don't adhere to that doctrine.  Graphics and art styles absolutely DO matter.  There are some games where visuals are just as important as other aspects.  I mentioned that The Wind Waker and Okami would not be as enjoyable if they had used different graphical styles.  In the case of those games (and several others), the art style contributes to the mood of the story and provide visual indicators as to what can be interacted with/used to progress.  While I would consider narrative to be the most important part of a game in most cases, art style is pretty close. - Thomas Stensland

Gameplay and story trumps art style every time. Gameplay and story is what is far more important than any beautiful surroundings, as gameplay is what creates the game's longevity. Just think of it as a dish: Art Style are the spices of games. Gameplay and story are the meat. A main dish certainly tastes a lot better when it's skillfully spiced and spices are needed to make a truly memorable meal. But spices don't make a meal and I'd rather eat a plain piece of meat than a plateful of salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. - VannahFox, the girl with interesting analogies

It isn't as important as gameplay or story but I would say it comes in third. - Vaas

Our Answers

I personally don't have a favorite art style. It varies depending on what I want to play or watch. There are certain settings or themes I prefer over others, but for the most part, art style is not something I consider when playing a game. Now, occasionally, when playing a game, an art style is what I distinctly remember in a game. It has more to do with the game being visually memorable than enjoyable.  I do however, find it hard to enjoy a game when the art style is just muddy and gritty. I think that developers can be photo-realistic without sacrificing color. This is one of the things that bothered me about last gen. Everything was so muddy and brown.  Sure it looked pretty at the time, but in the long run, the stylized and more colorful games will age better visually. 

The art style is not nearly as important to me as a gameplay or story. These are what make a game a game. The focus of the game should be the gameplay itself. That's what a control exists for. If you have a beautiful game, but the gameplay is awful, people will skip it. When gameplay is bad, it frustrates the player instead of it being fun. This sets gaming apart from, say, movies, were a bad story can be easily covered up by stunning visuals. - RedQueen

That's a difficult one. I don't think I really have a favorite. I absolutely love Borderlands 2's comic animation, dramatic colors, and the like. I also really like the world of the BioShock games, as you could no doubt tell. If a game looks absolutely terrible, it'll still annoy me, but if the game is fun or the story is interesting, I don't mind too much.

Same as before, I don't think I really have a least favorite. I'm not into anime, but it can occasionally be done well. (See Gravity Rush) Well, I suppose I'm not a big fan of those... Well "unfocused art styles". Such as Brink, where they get too caught up on so many styles, that it looks terrible in the end. Was it a cartoon? Cel? Photorealistic? That is what still boggles me, along with buying the game in the first place.

Occasionally, but not often, does it really take priority over other features. With games like Journey or Flower, where it's more of an effects show than anything else, then yes. But otherwise, I find Borderlands 2's gameplay and loot hunting and BioShock Infinite's characters and story over their graphics. Not sure what'd be like without them, though... - Myself

Once again, thanks for reading! Special thanks to RedQueen, as she pretty much did everything, and to Tim Gruver, who was patient enough, despite some issues. Thanks to Thomas Stensland, VannahFoxTheTriforceWeilder, Vaas, and Kira as well! What about you? Would you eat a plain piece of meat? Tell us in the comments.