Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places, and this rings true especially in the world of branding and design. In this article we discuss The Branding Behind Iconic Games.
Given the amount of media we are subjected to nowadays, there are plenty of sources for inspiration. However, one of the best sources of inspiration in the modern world is video games.
True enough, the cultural impact of video games can be seen and felt throughout Hollywood, social media, music, and beyond.
Considering that the gaming world has ballooned to a global industry that generates billions in revenue, there’s sure to be more than a few lessons we can learn when it comes to building a brand that sticks.
Below, we’ve put together a list of iconic video games to see how they approach things from a branding perspective and try to break down the reasons for their prevailing success.
There is perhaps no other video game figure who is as recognisable as Mario from the Super Mario Bros. Mario has been around for 35 years and is one of Nintendo’s most successful creations, which says a lot considering that the company is responsible for many of the world’s most iconic video games.
A part of Mario’s success can be attributed to how familiar people are with the character. Any game with Mario in it has instant appeal, due to how popular the character is.
Given how distinct Mario is, many would be surprised to know that Mario’s design was actually a result of limited technology. CNN Business details that Shigeru Miyamoto, the game designer of Super Mario Bros, designed Mario the way he is due to the limited graphics present in the earlier gaming consoles.
Indeed, Miyamoto had to get creative and create a character that was recognisable with the least amount of pixels possible. As a result, Mario has his signature big nose, a moustache, and a hat so that players can immediately recognise the character’s face despite the graphic constraints.
When it comes to iconic video games, Tomb Raider is one that’s near the top of everyone’s list due to how revolutionary it was. Tomb Raider is described by Foxy Games as one of the most recognisable characters in gaming history and is often praised for pioneering female characters in video games.
Unsurprisingly, the Tomb Raider brand has successfully expanded beyond the world of video games — making it to the Hollywood big screen as one of the earlier examples of games-turned-movies.
In fact, 2018’s Tomb Raider film is already slated for a sequel — emphasising how in-demand Tomb Raider still is despite being released back in 1996.
However, unlike Super Mario, Tomb Raider’s success comes from its openness to change. While it was groundbreaking to have a female lead in an action game, players often criticised the original Tomb Raider games for having an air of sexism around them.
And while video game companies could get away with this back in the 90s, modern audiences are even more critical about these things nowadays. As a result, the Tomb Raider property has evolved from a character that encouraged objectification to an empowered heroine.
This becomes clearer when you put the original character designs next to the modern iteration of the character. The original games had Lara Croft in clothing that was unfit for the exotic and dangerous locales she explored in the games.
On the other hand, modern Lara Croft is equipped with clothing that is better suited for the harsh environments the game is set in.
We can’t talk about iconic video games, and not mention Pokémon — one of the most successful video game franchises in the world.
The property has expanded into different mediums — including shows, mobile games, and movies. And while there are many things that Pokémon has done right, one underrated aspect of their branding is the emotional connection they’ve built with their audience.
This is something that Pokémon has focused on since the release of the first games. A great example of this is 1998’s Pokémon Yellow. It featured similar game mechanics to other titles in the franchise, save for one key difference — it showed Pikachu trailing behind your character as you moved through the world.
The game even lets you interact with the Pokémon by talking to Pikachu. And while Pikachu’s interactions with the players were limited to short demonstrations of pixelated affection, this was enough to build an emotional connection with the players and catapult the character into pop culture superstardom.
This is why, despite there being over 980 Pokémon, Pikachu is still the undisputed mascot of the franchise.
If you enjoyed reading this article and want to learn more about branding, check out our article on minimalism and logo design.
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Also published on Medium.