Mario is a simple design. The Dragon Warrior/Quest characters have a distinct style to them. Pac-Man came from Pizza. What ever how characters were created, there has been something from art that has brought it life. From simple pencil sketches to outfits, character design tryouts, and other methods, a lot of games cannot exist with these.
If you hear a name, that can bring memories of that character you may or may not love. You can envision its design and depending on what the series is, there may be a version that resonates with you. When Link get’s mention, which ideal comes to you? Ocarina Of Time, The First Zelda Game, Zelda 2, Windwaker, Twilight Princess, Link’s Awakening, THE CD-I GAMES? It’s challenging cause each of those games has a particular art style that made Link and those worlds alive.
Art can bring the possibilities of multiple expression. If a character is depress, the colors to make that character can represent it. Claymation may be appealing due to seeing it in motion and the characters staying at a steady frame rate. Making a world or environment can even be its own character to the game. The deadly pits, spikes, acid rivers, trees and grass, traps, and more are nemesis that can ruin your progress but they can look surprisingly easily to overcome although some devious moment might happen.
Take for example, Metroid Prime on the Gamecube. That world breaths life from the perspective it is in. With a lavish world and simple effects like the rain hitting Samus suit, the art world helps the player believe the world she is on and what it does to her and the suit at times. It’s engaging to watch throughout the journey
There is an indie game called West Of Loathing. It’s a comedic RPG of a game with a stick figure art style. It’s was received with decent reviews and it seemed as a good idea. Comparing that to another game The Garden Between and Planet Alpha, you can see the various art styles that bring those characters and world alive. Simple and effect while some are detailed and expressive, just makes a perfect balance of awe and love.
It is always important to know that the developers and artist work hard to bring us these characters and stories. It doesn’t always knock it out the park but when it does, it’s a beautiful sight to see.