2D Art styles

As part of trying to pinpoint what exactly an art style is, I think it would be best if I tried to properly define what the two main styles of visuals used in gaming are; 2D and 3D. Whilst what they are is immediately obvious, it would still be best if I quickly covered what each entails and some of the variations and best uses they have in the modern industry.

2D art styles were initially the only real option due to hardware limitations (Some earlier machines had the ability to display basic vectors but these were not truly widespread until around the fifth generation of consoles). However, as technology advanced, 3D became an option and 2D moved more into a choice rather than a restriction.

2D art styles work well for allowing hand drawn/designed assets to be used as close to their concept iteration as possible. This can work well for more visually expressive games with complex animations. Generally, 2D art styles are chosen because they fit the game genre or design. An example of this would be the fighting game or platforming genres. These genres are typically restricted to 2D movement and interaction and as such work well with 2D graphical assets that do not have to deal with depth or be rendered in a way that the camera angle is unknown. (NOTE – Both of these genres can also work well with 3D art styles as well)

As I stated in a previous entry, Pixels are also a staple of 2D art styles. When used appropriately, they can be incredibly appealing and they have fantastic range (Although most Art styles can be adapted to fit any theme if properly adjusted).

Many games mechanically chose 2D due to genre and fitting mechanics, but still use 3D art styles (Mighty number 9, TRINE ECT). Likewise some game that involve 3D movement and mechanics use 2D Art styles (South park : Stick of truth, Paper Mario).

Broad overview of Art style history and Vision statement

In my previous Post, I realised that I had been referring to Pixels throughout gaming’s history with a focus on them as a rendering method rather then their artistic merits. I think a good way of moving forward at this point would be to briefly cover as many widely used Art styles in the games industry as possible for future reference. I will also briefly talk about my decided vision statement that I will be basing my future research around.

A brief list of popular art styles in the games industry:

  • Pixels

  • Hand Drawn (VECTOR OR PIXELS)


  • 3D (Realistic)


As I type these out, I have noticed something that I will need to consider carefully as I progress. In a similar fashion to how Game genres function, these categories are insufficient, broad stroking boxes that do not adequately describe what they are attempting to categorize. This is more an error on my part than the industries necessarily. Attempting to classify art styles is not an easy task considering its visual nature (Though not impossible, it seems harder to do in 1-3 words as genre classifications oft are). A good way of attempting to work my way through this line of thought would be to pick a wide variety of games and attempt to sort them via art style. I will make a note to pursue this more at a later date.

Having considered where my research has gone thus far, I have come up with a vision statement that I want to direct my research towards exploring. Simply put, my vision statement is as follows:

Art styles shape and are shaped by every element of the game

I have been wondering what constitutes an art style and what elements define it. I have stated before that I believe, whilst not as important to interpretation as gameplay, a game’s art style gives a game its identity to its players. I would like to explore what contributes to a games overall art stylings such as art direction (In both asset creation and rendering methods), Sound design and gameplay/narrative elements.

From here on out, I will be attempting to either support or rework my claim with my research. I hope to learn more about art direction in video games and how I can use this in my future works.