Animation in Video Games

Animation in Video Games: All You Need to Know!

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Video games, like all other forms of entertainment, have evolved over time. A video game’s display today is significantly superior to what it was previously. It’s worth noting that animations are now an essential feature of video games. Animation in video games is the art of animating people and objects for game players. As technology develops, video games change quickly; thus, making an effective animated sequence involves artistic talent and familiarity with computer technology.

Since video games require character interaction, 2D-animated video games might be more challenging than movie animations. In video games, the user controls every action, and the characters must react to that action. The animation must therefore appear excellent from all perspectives. For this reason, animators need to be knowledgeable about many forms of animation. That is exactly what we’ll discuss in this blog. We’ll figure out the functions of animations in video games, their types, and the best 2D game animation software.

Getting into Gaming Animations

Characters were first introduced to the globe in pixelated cartoon form not all that long ago, it seems. However, two-dimensional figures have evolved into heroes as a result of significant technological advancement, particularly in recent years. Characters of today are so masterfully created, with realistic elements, that they may now evoke feelings.

Animation for video games is short and responsive that replies to players’ commands instantly. The animations communicate with the players and convey various moods, including joy, fear, excitement, and more to name. However, you’ll also need to know different animation techniques when creating 3D or 2D animations for creatures, battles, monsters, etc.

A lot goes into making a great video game than having an engaging plot, entertaining gameplay, or innovative levels. All of this would be for nothing if the characters weren’t there. When all of a video game’s components work together and enhance one another, an incredible gaming experience is produced. It comes as no surprise, though, that the play’s primary focus is on its characters.

What Are Character Designs in Video Games?

Character design is a crucial phase of video game production. In this stage, the gaming animator builds a character’s concept, style, and artwork from scratch. The lengthy and intricate procedure typically starts with the artist studying the character’s personality. Since each character has different design needs and character requirements, character designs in 2D and 3D games can be very different. For instance, while 3D characters in video games are more dynamic and effectively represent movement, 2D animation is still regarded as the more conventional approach.

The characters generate emotions and engagement in the story. Through character design, the artists need to ensure the characters belong to the video game’s fantasy world, leading to a recognizable interaction between players and the video game. At the same time, artists must establish an exclusive personality and a visual aspect that expresses their character’s physical attributes. The job is done best by seasoned gaming animators, whereas plenty of animation software is available for beginners to create first-rate characters.

Functions of Animation in Video Games

Animation has been a fundamental part of video games since the 1950s. The popularity of this type of entertainment medium has expanded rapidly. Today, video games boast detailed and exciting animations that enthrall players of all kinds.

Video games are fundamentally a sophisticated form of communication. The player has expectations, which are expressed through an input device. A game responds to inputs by communicating a response and directing the player to the next expected outcome – the more transparent the communication channel, the more immersive and fulfilling the experience.

Finding creative solutions to address the conflicts is unique to gameplay animation. Below are some things to keep in mind.

Accurate Body Mechanics

Adding weight and accurate body mechanics is a difficult thing to achieve. It comes from practice and is not something you can learn from a book. It is because of two challenges. First, finding who the character is and creating animations that match the feel of the character. The second is the supporting workflow and the animation rig itself. When designing the character and the speed with which they move, the project’s tone inspires the animators.


Readability is critical because it is one of the most prevalent and expected methods of communicating with the player in every game. It is vital for all character-driven games. Again, games are all about communication, and a difficult-to-read character represents poor communication.


Contrast is essential! Knowing the tone and tempo of all the animations you’re creating makes emphasizing contrast simple. For instance, a punch begins with quick action, holds after the strike, and then resumes immediate action for the return. As the pause following the impact indicates what happened in the last punch, that contrast conveys the story of the action.

Top Six Animation Types for 2D Games

2D animation is used in several creative industries and is still a popular option despite the rise of 3D animation. For example, video games, full-length features, Japanese anime, and animated cartoons all are produced in 2D. What makes 2D animation a common medium for anything from entertainment and multimedia to broadcast video is its adaptability to be done on a variety of platforms.

Some of the best 2D video game hits of all time include:

  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Hollow Knight
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Super Mario
  • Cuphead, etc.

Every game should have some fundamental animations that game animators can make for its characters. Here are six main animation types for creating 2D games.

1.      Idle Animation

In video games, idle animations are extremely common. These animations appear while the player is not hitting any buttons, causing the controlled character to remain motionless.

2.      Walk Animation

Every animator needs to be familiar with the walk cycle. A walk cycle in animation is a collection of sequentially rendered frames or images that produce an animation of a walking character. To avoid animating each step again, the walk cycle is repeatedly looped.

3.      Run Animation

The run cycle, used to animate running, is a common technique in video games. It is analogous to animating a walk. When a character runs, both feet leave before one touches the ground, followed by a passing step and a kickoff at the very end.

4.      Fighting Animation

Fighting games are pretty common and can be played by a single player or by a group of players who square off. Fighters of equivalent strength engage in one-on-one combat in these video games.

5.      Jump Animation

Jump animation is yet another type used in almost all animation video games. They are often combined with other cycles, such as the run cycle. In jump animation, it is essential to use the Squash and stretch animation principle as the body compresses and extends more significantly. Besides, there are several scenarios for jumping: jumping onto the box, jumping on and off a box, jumping off a box, etc.

6.      Death Animation

The death animation is an animation type that every game animator must know to make. It plays when the enemy kills a character during the game, when the character explodes, or in any other situation where the character dies.

The Best 2D Game Animations Software

After knowing the most common 2D animation types for video games, it’s time to choose an animation software where the animators can begin practicing their skills. Here is a list of some interesting 2D animation software:


Pencil is a free program with a ton of capabilities for 2D game animations. Although it’s a basic application, it offers all the features you’ll need for an animation. It supports vector and bitmap pictures and numerous layers and runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems.

Toon Boom

Toon Boom is a popular 2D animation software. It includes a plethora of fantastic tools that will assist you in creating professional animations. Since it contains many tools, the interface isn’t very user-friendly, and it may take some time to get used to. It runs on Mac OSX and Windows, and the Premium version costs $1.100 per year, which is pretty pricey.


Spine is another popular software among animators, programmers, and others. Meshes, free-form deformation, graph editor, inverse kinematics, weights, and other tools allow animators to create more lively and advanced animations for their 2D games. Spine Professional is $299 and comes with all features.


Spriter is a gaming animation software designed specifically for gamers. This software helps animators create professional animations for 2D games. The Premium version costs $59.99 and includes all the latest features, such as advanced easing curve options, onion skinning, full IK support, sound effects, and more.

Animation and Gaming Market Share

The use of 2D and 3D animation in video games have risen exponentially and is expected to grow continually in the upcoming years. The animation and gaming industries are major growth drivers, while online gaming will likely become a medium for marketing and promoting films. As per the latest reports, the animation and gaming market projects growth of 103.03 billion USD, registering a CAGR of 22.76% from 2021 to 2026.

However, whether 2D vs. 3D animation is appropriate depends on each video game’s needs and demands.

Final Thoughts

In recent years, video game animation has become increasingly popular due to the rising demand for video games. The game animators have total flexibility to create characters from their wildest imaginations, but only if players relate with them and find them intriguing.

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Adam is a copywriter and content strategist with years of experience covering the latest trends in technology and digital industry. Adam brings a fresh and creative approach to his writing. With his passion for writing as well as amazing research skills, he shares valuable knowledge on multiple trends.