9 Best Character Animations in Video Games That Will Inspire You

Animation has played a vital role in bringing gaming characters to life. Developers keep factors like motion fluidity, movement mechanics, control, smoothness and realism in check while designing and animating lead characters.

It all boils down to the specifics of a video game project. Some characters are restricted in movements and actions, while some are given more freedom to operate and explore in an open world.

In this post, we have identified the best examples of unique character animations in video games and what makes them relatable and captivating.

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia was created in 1989 by Jordan Mechner. A classic, action-adventure game which was later acquired by Ubisoft and turned into a lucrative gaming series.

Despite the limited tech available in those times, creator Jordan Mechner decided to provide unparalleled fluidity to Prince’s character by rotoscoping his brother’s acrobatic action movements.

Gamers could actually experience the anticipation in Prince’s personality while moving around. The animation showed how Prince would take a pause before jumping to another point by assessing a spiky death pit or gaping crevasse.

Prince of Persia was a vivid example of realistic performance of a character with restricted technology resources.


Metal Slug

Metal Slug was first released in 1996 by SNK as a run-and-gun game. It is another one of those classic shoot ’em up games which achieved a legendary status in the gaming world.

At the time when there were limitations of 2D graphics, Metal Slug creators pioneered seamless character motion. Every little square of pixels was infused with flair and personality.

Every frame perfectly captured explosion, gun fires, objects flying in, laser beams and opponent attacks.

Metal Slug proved to be a very successful game franchise which developed a huge cult following. So much so that SNK has recently announced a new game in development to bank on its loyal fanbase.


Tobal 2

Tobal 2 was developed by a household Japanese gaming company Dreamfactory and published by Square in 1997. The manufacturer was also responsible for a very iconic fighting game, Tekken.

This game is known for extensive use of procedural animation technique. In this technique, animations are automatically generated in real-time to allow for more diverse actions.

Procedural animation method is primarily used for particle system simulation such as hair, wind or clothing which otherwise is aggravating to animate by hand.

Tobal 2 signifies this technique by showing every character seemingly aiming to hit the limb as they throw a punch or kick.

On the other hand, every character moves arms or limbs to block a hit as they are aware where to move and what is the required action.


Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 was developed and published by Capcom in 2005. It was under works for nearly six years.

It is a part of a prosperous survival horror game franchise and is set in a third person over-the-shoulder camera angle.

The most striking part of its animation is immersive and smooth flow of character movements, hair fluttering while running, precision aiming, and facial expressions.

Resident Evil 4 redefined the third-person shooter gaming style and is one of the most influential games of 2000s decade.


L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire was developed by Team Bondi and published in 2011 by one of the most renowned names in the gaming industry: Rockstar.

It is a neo-noire, action adventure game, inspired by 1940s Hollywood detective films, which revolutionized the facial motion capture with big budget and brilliant actors.

The mocap technology was very much integral to the entire gameplay as gamers would have to rely on facial expressions of characters to judge who is a suspect in the investigation of a crime scene.

L.A. Noire is notable for being the very first user of MotionScan technology in which 32 cameras are installed to capture facial expressions from every angle.


Grand Theft Auto V

It’s not a surprise that Grand Theft Auto V gets mentioned here. One of the top selling games of 21st century which managed to accumulate $800 million in pre-orders only.

Rockstar developed and published this game in 2013. It is known for its polished and unrivalled gameplay along with motion capture.

It grants so much freedom to multiple characters in an open world with compelling stories. It is exceptional in showing how non-playable characters (NPCs) react to every change in the landscape.

The most phenomenal aspect of GTA V would be massive attention to details such as the detachment of flip flops from feet when one of the characters walk as it happens in real life. That is why it won Game of the Year award in 2013.

It has sold over 120 million copies worldwide as of February 2020.


The Last of Us

The Last of Us was developed by glorious production house, Naughty Dog (responsible for another bestselling series, Uncharted) and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2013.

When the survival horror genre was laden with clichés and worn out ideas, TLOU emerged victorious in coming out with one-of-a-kind storyline for a zombie post-apocalyptic game.

From the Cordyceps fungal infection to the use of artificial intelligence in NPCs, everything was novel about the game.

The animation feels so real when a normal character in third-person perspective reacts to walls while running past, holding out a hand to balance and squeezing through the gaps by rotating the frame.

Its outstanding success lead into a much-awaited sequel and tv series development headed by HBO.


Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon: Zero Dawn is an action role-playing game developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2017.

It is set in futuristic 31st century open world, where instead of cyberpunk-influenced backdrop, people are scattered everywhere in a tribal-like setting fighting with robotic mechanical creatures.

The animation flows beautifully all together to cater to its combat system that is fast-paced and requires quick weapon switch. Hairs, furs and assorted items flicker in the breeze adequately.

The stand-out aspect of the animation would be the mechanical robots and their bone-chilling movements along with attacks.

Horizon: Zero Dawn’s success also led to an announcement of its sequel which will be released in February 2021.


Ghost of Tsushima

Finally, a game from the 2020s. Ghost of Tsushima is a latest addition in Sucker Punch and Sony Computer Entertainment families.

It is an action-adventure stealth game set in an open world environment of late 13th century Japan opposing Mongolian invasion. It is played through the viewpoint of a Samurai based in Tsushima Island.

Every frame in the game is poetic. The silky, creamy and sleek animation of golden birds, high grass and fluttering of Samurai’s armor beautifully make up for its bloody and gory action sequences.

It has shipped over 2.4 million copies in its first three days of release.


Final thoughts

These video games garnered rave reviews for their fascinating storyline, characters and gameplay. But the animation is what brings them all together and gives it a polished look. The fluidity in animation is very central in giving the overall design a tranquility to impress the audiences.

If you are struggling with creating smooth flowing animation in your video, you can pick up your phone and give our video strategists a call. See how we can help you in providing a sleek look to your project today!

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Posted by Adil Ashraf

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