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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?
What is your least favorite art style?
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
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.