Many will look at older games and continue to play them for the charm they hold – the nostalgia trip, or perhaps even just to remind yourself how far we’ve come. Different studios and different consoles have their own style and design, and as technology develops we’ve grown increasingly fond of the more “photorealistic” style that shows off how powerful modern hardware is, but also shows how far studios are able to push the limits of what they’re working with. As we work toward hyperrealism, however, we constantly receive reminders that it isn’t always necessary to make a game an instant classic, and there are plenty of modern examples that show how sticking to an older, or more simple style can propel a game into instant success.
Nintendo are a perfect example of a company that utilize an art style that whilst modern, doesn’t really follow the modern style for realism – we’ve had games such as Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey that showcase how remaining true to a more classic style of design can be just as effective as innovating a newer style – by remaining simple, with vivid color and pleasing aesthetic, the style doesn’t age as technology develops, it’s what allows the games to have huge replayability through multiple generations as a style that’s easily recognizable, without being too difficult to follow along with in moments of fast action.
We also see how even with limited hardware, modern advances allow art styles to remain relatively simple. Mobile devices, whilst very powerful for what they are, are still a far cry from what a portable console like the switch is, yet they have managed to gain the biggest audience in the gaming market – whilst portability and accessibility have a huge part to play in that, the way hardware is used also has an input. And you’d be mistaken to think they’re all strategy money grabs or part of a long list of credit card casinos here that dominate the mobile gaming market – we’re seeing a huge increase in games that require more from the mobile devices but utilizing a simple, but effective art style.
It would be difficult to talk about a timeless art style without approaching games that remain huge, even after over a decade of innovation – the biggest being the PC MMORPG World of Warcraft, which still boasts millions of subscribed players, more than most other games, whilst still resembling an art style from 2004.
We may see that the newer console releases will continue to innovate ways to make newer games look as realistic as possible, however it is likely those will be the ones that suffer the most in the test of time as they begin to look dated as technology develops further – the games that remain simple are the ones that bigger audiences will continue to return to, and the ones that will be shown to the younger generations to capture their attention the way they still do today.