Games With The Best User Interfaces In The Biz Highlights Good UI design in games can enhance player empowerment and clarity, delivering a satisfying gaming experience. Immersive and cohesive UI design can contribute to the overall atmosphere and artistry of a game. Effective UI can enhance gameplay mechanics and communication, making it easier for players to navigate and interact with the game world.
When done correctly, User Interfaces, or UI, go unnoticed. Or at least, if not overlooked, the work done behind their implementation goes largely unrecognized. UI is a bridge between the gameplay and the player, and without it (or with bad UI), any given gaming experience can leave players totally in the dark.
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That said, stylish or funky UI design can deliver to players empowerment, clarity, and that tingly feeling whenever someone pushes a big red button or flips an electrified switch. Whether for immersion, good information delivery, or just being iconic, these games have UI handled.
10 The Fallout Series
This UI is so durable it would still work after being hit with an atomic bomb: the older Fallout perfectly captures a sense of “skeuomorphism,” which means experiencing an object (or, in this case, menus) that retains an essential essence from the original. Old-world tech, built to withstand the bomb, rusted over with time and damage, complete with thick, pressable buttons all over the screen.
Since Fallout’s 3D iterations, the series has been treating players to an immersive Pip-boy-based UI system, in which the character navigates the game’s menu from their wrist device. The Pip-boy is clunky and weighty, as described in the lore, but it also feels stripped down enough for ease of access, ensuring that the player never feels too lost in clunky item lists.
Ruffling parchment, the clang of rusty iron on smooth steel, the Dishonored menu UI owes as much to its immersion-minded sound designers as it does its visual UI designers. That aside, the Dishonored series is an excellent example of good user experience (UX), as everything is clean reading and easy on the eye.
Shattered glass, stylish gashes, and blood blots speckle the screen, but the cohesive art style helps hold it all together and never loses the player on their journey around the game’s options or power-ups. It perfectly captures the feel of a soot-soaked world. Even the pause menu is a work of art in itself, blending the dynamism of cloak-and-dagger gameplay with the weightiness of the setting.
8 Ocarina Of Time
While other entries in the series have hardly shied away from trying out something new, The Legend of Zelda’s first 3D outing pulled a lot of innovative tricks in its day, including inventing brand-new ways to communicate its controls to the player seamlessly. From the all-important, context-specific action button to the camera lock-on (or Z-targeting system).
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Originally, the team wanted Navi to replace the camera lock-on system, but through playtesting, they realized that it wasn’t always clear what Link was looking at, so they added the classic four-arrow pointer. The equipment screen, too, seems to be screaming excitement about being set in 3D, being set in the internal space of a cube, making the player feel as though they are in a portable armory. And who could forget the iconic play-your-own music mechanic? Ocarina of Time wrote, printed, and bound the UI rule book single-handedly.
7 Persona 5
Glitzy, picaresque, and stunning. Full of charm and character, Persona 5’s anime and pop-inspired interface design captures the core themes of the game brilliantly and is a work of art itself. Like all works of art, digesting it can also be challenging.
Newcomers to Atlus games (or newcomers to the Persona series) may find the fifth entry’s UI design to be a bit much, even a little UX-unfriendly. But once the player gets used to the high style and punchy chic, every other dialogue box or menu will look practically bland by comparison.
6 The Sims
Asking players to keep track of every single human need, relationship, skill, attribute, and more sounds like a lot. Asking them to do that for a whole family of simulated people seems insane. Luckily, Maxis took what could have been a cluster-plum of information and laid it out in a way that wasn’t just accessible, but easy on the eye.
Each interaction available in The Sims is also laid out in a brilliantly thought-out wheel to avoid giving one choice (the one at the top) more weight than any of the others. The buy/build menu is a delight to behold with each item cleverly sorted into a variety of common-sense categories with recognizable symbols, all while leaving the canvas highly visible so the player can get building their dream home.
5 Disco Elysium
The core members of the team behind Disco Elysium were formed out of an artist collective, so it’s no wonder that the menus and game-to-player information are so gorgeous. However, the game did something very interesting with the UI responsible for delivering its core gameplay: its dialogue window.
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Players with a high, real-life Perception skill might notice that the window shares a resemblance to X / Twitter’s thread display format. Lead designer Robert Kurvitz went on the record saying that dialogue was purposely designed to resemble social media with all its eyeball-grabbing bells and whistles. As a result, the right-hand-side text looks punchier and crisper than if it took a more traditional bottom-middle position.
At first glance, this indie space crafter might look as though it did away with UI entirely, besides a few contextual prompts. However, Astroneer cleverly weaves all the information a player needs to know about (health, energy, oxygen, etc.) either onto the player or in the player’s pack, ensuring that the player’s eyes are always on the funky and crunchy environment of Teheran and beyond.
When the player opens up their pack or gear, they are presented with UI mapped directly onto their in-game equipment. Everything, from crafting to exploration, is indicated through autos-snapping lines or unobtrusive bars, making for an incredibly immersive excursion into the alien landscape.
3 Dead Space
Besides excellent environmental storytelling and groundbreaking corpse-dismembering mechanics, Dead Space is probably the game to jump into the heads of gamers when they think of effective UI. Whereas other games have put an ammo count on guns before or displayed health in an immersive way, Dead Space pulls it all off from a third-person perspective.
Even the map is projected directly ahead of Isaac as he engineers his way through the Ishimura (or, more accurately, through piles of undead). Without such an ingenious game-to-player language, Dead Space would have likely lost a great deal of the atmospheric horror drip that it became famous for.
2 Assassin’s Creed
The minimalist stylings of Assassin’s Creed’s UI, which leaves most of the screen’s real estate for the beautiful vistas found in the game, is no accident. Neither is the fact that all the UI can be customized (switched off) in the menu. This is because the game was apparently meant to be played without any UI at all, and instead relied on the intuitive control schemes. Control UI and the minimap were likely late features in development.
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Playing Assassin’s Creed (especially the first game) is viable (if not a little tricky to get used to) without any of its UI. Altair will signal the player’s chosen weapon-button press with a quick animation, and climbing to the top of buildings will allow the player to map the city with their own eyes rather than provide a GPS-like overview in the mini-map. Later games would drop this HUD-less approach but were still artful with their menu and overlay designs.
Being opposed to sleek, flat UI design, the Hearthstone developers wanted something that might appear in reality with a “feel over efficiency” mentality. They set out to capture the excitement felt when opening a pack of cards in real life. Bounciness and dynamic tilting movement, something that felt physical-feeling, magical, charming, and ultimately “constructed.”
Despite recent store additions, Hearthstonefeels very much as if it were a handcrafted game made by a master of the “craft.” It’s less about “words and numbers” with an emphasis on bright, popping animations with lots of non-match objects to fidget with.
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