Pixelart Fan Art: Celebrating Gaming Icons

Pixel art refers to digital art created using raster graphic editors, where images are edited on the pixel level. It emerged as a popular art style in the 1970s and 1980s due to the limited graphics capabilities of early video game consoles and computers. Game developers had to work within severe technical restrictions, using very low screen resolutions and a limited color palette. This necessitated the use of pixel art to render characters and environments. Despite the limitations, skilled pixel artists were able to create immersive visuals and iconic characters that are still beloved today.

Many retro video game characters like Mario, Link, and Pac-Man are considered gaming icons, inspiring nostalgia in older gamers who have fond memories of these games. Their classic pixel art designs are a big part of their retro appeal. Modern pixel art continues this classic video game aesthetic. The style has seen a resurgence in recent years in indie games seeking a nostalgic retro look. Pixel art remains popular for its vintage charm and ability to convey complex designs in a minimalist fashion.


The Mario franchise, featuring Nintendo’s mascot character Mario, is one of the most iconic and influential video game series of all time. Starting with the arcade game Donkey Kong in 1981 and continuing through landmark console titles like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64, Mario has starred in over 200 video games over nearly 40 years [1].

Some of the most iconic pixel art depictions of Mario come from the earlier 8-bit and 16-bit era Mario games. The original Super Mario Bros. on the NES featured the recognizable sprite of Mario in red overalls and a red cap. This simplistic yet distinctive pixel art established Mario’s look and animations for years to come. Later Super Mario World on the SNES featured more detailed and fluid pixel art, bringing Mario to life with a wide range of expressions and smooth movements. Fan artists continue to celebrate classic Mario pixel art by reimagining and recreating it in their own pixel art tributes [2].

Link from Zelda

The Legend of Zelda franchise, created by Nintendo in 1986, is one of the most iconic video game series of all time. The games follow the adventures of the hero Link in the fantasy land of Hyrule as he battles the evil Ganon to rescue Princess Zelda. Some of the most popular and groundbreaking games in the series include The Legend of Zelda (1986), A Link to the Past (1991), Ocarina of Time (1998), and Breath of the Wild (2017).

Pixel art of the protagonist Link is extremely popular, given the franchise’s roots in 8-bit and 16-bit gaming eras. Some of the most beloved renditions come from A Link to the Past with its vibrant colors and fine details showing Link’s green tunic and cap, shield, and Master Sword (https://www.bitmapbooks.com/blogs/news/a-link-to-the-past-understanding-the-pixel-art-renaissance). Pixel art has also depicted Link as female, sparking discussions on gender roles in gaming (https://www.gamebyte.com/legend-of-zelda-female-link/). Overall, Link pixel art encapsulates the sense of adventure, heroism, and mystery that has made The Legend of Zelda so enormously popular over decades of gaming history.


The Pokemon franchise began in 1996 with the release of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue for the Game Boy. It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon with its catchy slogan “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” and lovable cast of monsters to collect. Some of the most iconic Pokemon games since then include Pokemon Gold and Silver, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Pokemon has grown into the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.

Pixel artists have created numerous renditions of popular Pokemon characters and scenes from the anime. Pikachu, the beloved electric mouse mascot, is by far the most common subject. Artists showcase Pikachu’s cute appearance and signature electric attacks. Other popular Pokemon to depict include the starter characters like Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur. Recreations of climactic scenes like Ash turning to stone and Pikachu defeating Onix demonstrate the dramatic storylines. The vibrant pixel art brings these moments to life while evoking nostalgia. Overall, Pokemon pixel art celebrates the games and anime through colorful, imaginative designs.


Pac-Man was released in arcade form in 1980 by Namco and became an instant hit. With its simple maze-chase gameplay and cute characters, Pac-Man appealed to a wide audience and helped expand the popularity of video gaming beyond just teenagers. The iconic pixelated characters were designed by Tōru Iwatani using simple shapes and limited colors due to the technical constraints of the era.

Even today, pixel art depictions of Pac-Man and the four ghosts – Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde – remain instantly recognizable. The simplicity of the original designs makes them ideal subjects for pixel art tributes and remixes. Artists leverage modern techniques and color palettes while still maintaining the 8-bit look. Such pixel art keeps the retro style alive and pays homage to an important part of gaming history (The Pixel Revolution: How Tiny Squares Transformed Art).

Space Invaders

Space Invaders is an iconic 1978 arcade game created by Japanese developer Taito. It popularized the shooting genre and had a major impact on the video game industry (source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/543598617526792844/). Players control a laser cannon at the bottom of the screen and shoot at waves of aliens overhead that move left and right while gradually descending. The simple pixelated graphics depict the player’s cannon, bunkers for shelter, and alien ships ranging from crab-like invaders to a large mother ship.

Pixel art renditions of Space Invaders spotlight the retro graphics in vivid color. The alien ships often resemble their old blocky designs in green, yellow, and orange hues, sometimes with added details. The player’s cannon stands out in shades like blue, pink, or purple set against the pixelated bunkers. This minimalist style captures the essence of the arcade classic while highlighting individual elements in bolder defined pixels. The iconic alien designs come to life in these pixel versions that pay homage to the original graphics and nostalgia of this highly influential game.


Tetris was created in 1984 by Russian software engineer Alexey Pajitnov. It became one of the most popular puzzle video games of all time. The game involves manipulating geometric shapes known as tetrominoes – made of four square blocks each – as they fall down the playing field. The goal is to clear horizontal lines by completing rows.

The pixel art style of the falling Tetris blocks, which have become iconic gaming symbols, emerged from the technical limitations of early computing hardware. The limited resolution and colors of those early systems forced developers like Pajitnov to use a simplified, geometric aesthetic in their gameplay visuals. Despite the constraints, Pajitnov was able to make the shapes like the ‘T’ and ‘L’ blocks easily recognizable.

Over the decades, pixel art versions of Tetris have formed the basis of countless tributes, homages and fan art depictions of the famous shapes and gameplay. Artists recreate the blocky Tetris pieces as pixel art gifs or images that convey the nostalgia and retro style of the early Tetris games. The vibrant, low-resolution pixel art ensures Tetris remains visually distinctive while paying homage to gaming’s early roots.

Final Fantasy

The Final Fantasy franchise first debuted in 1987 and has since grown into one of the most iconic RPG series in video game history. Spanning over 15 mainline titles and numerous spin-offs, Final Fantasy games are known for their rich stories, intricate battle systems, memorable soundtracks, and expansive worlds to explore.

Some of the most celebrated Final Fantasy titles include Final Fantasy VII, which popularized the series worldwide with its move to 3D graphics on the PlayStation in 1997. Other fan favorites are Final Fantasy VI with its dramatic storytelling, and Final Fantasy X for advancing the series’ graphics into the PS2 era. Recent entries like Final Fantasy XV have continued pushing the boundaries of real-time combat and open world exploration.

When it comes to pixel art, some of the most beloved Final Fantasy characters get reimagined in classic 8-bit and 16-bit sprite form. For example, the noble knight Agrias Oaks from Final Fantasy Tactics is captured in intricate pixel art that preserves her nobility. Black Mage and White Mage, the iconic mage job classes, are reduced to cute little sprites brimming with personality. And protagonists like Cloud Strife and Squall Leonhart are immortalized in pixel form, distilling their essences from complex 3D models down to SNES-style simplicity.

Pixel art allows Final Fantasy fans to celebrate the series’ roots while putting their own creative spins on beloved characters from throughout its storied history.

Street Fighter

Street Fighter is one of the most iconic fighting game franchises. The original Street Fighter released in 1987 by Capcom, set the template for future fighting games with special moves and combo systems. Some of the most popular titles include Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, and Street Fighter IV (https://www.pinterest.com/chappy3506/street-fighter/).

Pixel art has been a core part of the Street Fighter visual identity since the beginning. The limited graphics capabilities of 1980s arcades necessitated a pixel art aesthetic. As technology improved, the series maintained its pixel art style as a nod to its roots. Some of the most popular Street Fighter characters represented in pixel art include Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Zangief, and Akuma.

Ryu and Ken have emerged as the most iconic Street Fighter characters. As the protagonists of the series, their fireball and dragon punch moves have become synonymous with Street Fighter. Pixel art depictions emphasize their gi uniforms and headbands. Chun-Li is notable as the first female fighter in the series, represented in her blue qipao dress and ox horn hairstyle (https://www.pinterest.com/troncornelius56/street-fighter-pixel-art/).


In summary, pixel art fan creations are a wonderful way for fans to celebrate retro gaming icons and relive nostalgia for classic games. As we’ve seen in the examples of Mario, Link, Pokemon, Pac-Man and more, talented pixel artists can recreate and reimagine beloved characters in fresh, modern pixel styles. The popularity of pixel art game development has helped spark interest in pixel art fan creations as well.

Pixel art remains popular today thanks to its ability to evoke nostalgia and provide appealing retro aesthetics. Simple and symbolic, pixel art distills gaming icons down to their essence in a way fans find satisfying. While 3D graphics have become standard, pixel art offers a stylistic alternative that feels quintessentially game-like. The limited palette focuses attention on strong characterization and gameplay over technical flashiness. Fans will undoubtedly continue to celebrate gaming history through creative pixel art fan art for the foreseeable future.