In the early days of game development, VFX was evidently limited to basic pixel art design and simple animations. The world of video games is constantly evolving though. Following the appearance of new generations of consoles, we see developers push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of graphics and gameplay. This leads to a bigger diversity in VFX styles overall.

VFX plays a vital role in the gaming industry. It adds immersion, atmosphere, and a sense of scale to video games. However, creating good visual effects is no easy feat. It requires careful planning and execution, coupled with a lot of trials and errors. 

There are many different styles of visual effects, and each one has generally its own set of challenges. In this blog post, we will be exploring the most popular VFX art styles in games. We will also see how these styles are used to create different visual experiences. So, if you want to learn more about this topic, then read this VFX Style Guide.

What are the Different VFX Styles in Games?

There are many different art styles in games. Each has its guidelines and principles. Some of the most popular styles include Traditional 2D, Realism, and Cel-Shading syles. Each of these styles has its unique look and contributes a different feel, to the game's world.

First thing to remember as a VFX artist is that you need to have the consistency. The VFX style has to unquestionably match to the the art style of the projects you are working on. Also check it VFX Tools that are Used in Games.


The term “realistic” is often used to describe the visual design and fidelity of modern video games.

However, this term can be misleading, as it implies that the goal of game developers is to create images that perfectly recreate reality.

In reality, the term “realistic” simply refers to the elements of detail and realism in a game's visuals. This is the style that most AAA game productions are using. This style tries to replicate real-life visual effects as closely as possible.

Today, you can see realistic VFX in a variety of games, from first-person shooters to open-world adventures. And as games continue to get more realistic, we can only expect that the use of photorealistic VFX will consequently increase.

To create realistic VFX style, artists use photos and videos of explosions fire and smoke. They also use physical simulations to get the right look based on: Shape language, Softness, Believability, Motion, Level of detail

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Translucent, Additive, Premultiplied also Masked (Dithering)
  • Simulations (Flipbooks, VAT, RBDs)
  • Shaders (UVs, 6 Point Lighting etc.)
  • Textures (Simulation Flipbooks)

Game Examples:

  • Battlefield
  • Uncharted
  • Red Dead Redemption


Semirealism tries to keep the look of the game realistic, but at the same time adding elements that don't exist in our world. Good example is magic. The importance leans more towards achieving a certain mood rather than a realistic look, so VFX can be a bit skewed to the reality.

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Translucent, Additive, Premultiplied also Masked (Dithering)
  • Simulations (Flipbooks, VAT, RBDs)
  • Shaders (UVs, Distortions, Vertex Displacement etc.)
  • Textures (Especially tileable ones, decals etc.)

Game Examples:

  • Lost Ark
  • Witcher
  • God of War


Stylized games are focused on being more artistic. What's most important is getting a certain mood and a unique look. There are tons of different styles that are extremely hard to categorize, but I will try to give at least some examples.

Cel Shading/Anime:

Cel-shading is a type of shading used in computer graphics to give three-dimensional (3D) assets a cartoon-like look. The goal of cel-shading is to give the illusion of a 3D object, while still maintaining the flat, two-dimensional look of traditional animation. It is often used in video games to result in a cartoon or anime-like look.One way to achieve cel-shading VFX style is by using a mesh with an animated texture panning across the UVs. By animating the texture, we can create the illusion of movement and depth. Additionally, we can use cel-shading to add lighter and darker areas to the mesh, which can further help creating the illusion of depth and dimension.

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Masked
  • Shaders (Fake Lighting, UVs, Vertex Displacement etc.)
  • Textures (Usually less realistic, with more focus on getting a certain shape)

Game Examples:

  • Genshin Impact
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Hi-Fi RUSH

Handpainted/Traditional 2D:

Traditional 2D animation is created by drawing each frame by hand. In games it mostly gets blended with other techniques to get a desired effect, however huge part of your work in handpainted style game will be used on drawing those flipbooks.

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Translucent, Masked
  • Shaders (Flipbooks, UVs, Spline Meshes)
  • Textures (Hand drawn shapes or flipbooks)

Game Examples:

  • Valorant/League of Legends
  • Pyre
  • SpiritFarer


Pixel art is a type of 2D art that uses pixels as the building blocks. The artwork is created through a process of careful planning and execution, and the final product is often very precise and detailed. There are many approaches of getting effects in this style, it can vary from handpainting the flipbooks to using shader magic and pixelizing the result.

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Translucent, Masked
  • Shaders (Flipbooks, UVs)
  • Textures (Either handdrawn or procedural)

Game Examples:

  • Moonlighter
  • Eastward
  • Celeste


Casual style is usually used on platforms like Mobiles/VR that are limited in their resources. However there are many PC games that used it also as a stylization and got out with amazing results.It's mostly based on wisely using primitive shapes and simple materials to get a certain look.

While creating such a look it's very typical to work with:

  • Materials: Masked
  • Shaders (UVs, Vertex Displacement)
  • Textures (Procedural. Rarely anything complex)

Game Examples:

  • Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
  • Superhot
  • Monument Valley

How VFX Artists Define a VFX Style?

You have just read the VFX Style Guide and now you are wondering which VFX style should you choose? The first step in defining a VFX style for your game is to take a step back and look at the overall style of the game. 

Decide on:

  • The game's genre?
  • The art style?
  • The tone of the game? 

Once you have a good understanding of the game's style, you can start to narrow down the options for VFX. From there, it's important to look at the different types of VFX and see what styles are best suited for each. 

The VFX style is typically created based on the game's art style and it's defined early in the production pipeline aka the (concept stage). And is created with the collaboration of the game's creative directors, art direction, and the VFX lead/principals. And can be further defined by the game's resources, characters, and story.

Specialize in one VFX Style

Every style has its VFX specialists. Some artists specialize in one of these VFX styles and focus on them (a tip for students: if you are thinking of going into VFX choose one style and stick with it then learn the others later)

Every VFX style offers its challenges from proof of concept and code to the different techniques and equipment. Only because a video game has great visual effects, it does not mean that there were no challenges during the process of making it.

Take Riot's League of Legends as an example.The release was in 2007 and it took years for this popular game to reach its current status. It is the continuous process of coming up with new ideas to improve the game and make it more fun for players. The LOL team is always improving the game. Designers, programmers, and VFX artists all contribute to the game's improvemnt and create visually artistic game. 


In this VFX style guide, we looked at the common types of VFX styles. Each of these styles has it's unique characteristics and challenges. By understanding the different VFX styles, you can get a better appreciation for the artistry that goes into the creation of VFX.

Here is a list of guides that will help you with

The documentation of the league's VFX style guide

Realism to Stylization

Hope you found this helpful.

Thank you for reading.

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