What are some of your favorite polygonal models from 5th gen games or prior?

I find there are really not enough threads out there that discuss early 3D polygonal models and how good they can look. I’m specifically referring to 3D models on console/arcade hardware that pre-date the Dreamcast (where many people arbitrarily think that 3D games started looking “modern” by today’s standards).

I thought this would be a great thread to post some of your favorites examples of 3D characters, objects, environments, effects, etc. that pre-date the Dreamcast because there are a lot of great examples out there. It’s fascinating to see how developers grappled with new technology that was very limited given the scope of what they were able to do.

Here are a few of my favorites:

^ Link from Majora’s Mask is a perfect rendition of the character in my humble opinion. The texture work on the shield, hair, belt, and tunic are particularly great considering how bad the N64 was supposed to be for textures. Sure, they look “blurry” by today’s standards, but I’m currently playing this game on OG hardware and find the texture work to be fantastic in context of the game world where everything sort of has the same look.

This dude from FF9 always stood out to me too:

The level of detail here is astounding. Where many characters on the ps1 were solidly-shaded geometric shapes, by the time FF9 rolled around, Squaresoft really took texture work to a whole new level. With the exception of his hands, every single polygon in this model has nicely drawn textures and makes for a very coherent looking character when viewed up close. I also really dig the “chunky” proportions of the character and it’s a cartoony style that you’d expect to see in a game like WoW in today’s world.

What are some of your favorites?

Those look like uprezzed poly’s from an emulator but your point still comes across.

I’ve always loved Lugi in smash 64. Look how smug this MFr is!

I always loved the character models from Legend of Dragoon, especially the transformations!

Metal Gear Solid. While the characters are pretty primitive by even later PSX standards, it was the combination of lighting and animation that really made them stand out. I’d never seen a 3d game before that had cutscenes at this scale rendered in real time, it ansolutely blew me away when it came out.


I loved the original MGS1 style. So charming. It’s also why I was meh on Twin Snakes.

Sega was really good at this, for arcade and home.

Burning Rangers (Saturn)

Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)

Virtua Racing (Arcade)

Sonic The Fighters (Arcade)

Im a huge fan of the look of the original MGS too. Great game!

Got to be the character models in Dead or Alive (Saturn/PS1) or Tekken 3 for sure.

Fighting games are kind of cheating though, since the game only needs two objects.

An undercut to the private parts ftw!

I really liked what they were able to do with the art style in Megaman Legends 1 and 2.
PLAYSTATION--Mega Man Legends _Jul30 20_43_00

I will never not be mads over no more MML

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I absolutely LOVE Megaman Legends art style. Texture warping aside, I think it holds up extremely well. The texture work on the faces is particularly amazing, they’re so expressive.

Although not arcade perfect, I was so impressed with the T3 port. I still need to rebuy it. Today, fighters have anemic single player options. T3 was a revelation.

Tekken 3 character models was on a new level at that time.

I did like what AM2 finally achieved with their SGL on Fighters Megamix

I also really dig Soul Blade’s character models. Sorry I can’t find a gif with a higher framerate:

Virtua Racing, Daytona USA and Sega Rally all have this nice colourful and chunky polygon look I love. Especially Daytona and Sega Rally both did so much with so little when counting polygons.

Hornet from Fighters Megamix. Just such a goofy character for a fighting game, in a genre full of goofballs.

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Don’t have any screenshots as it’s the PSP version without capture, but I’ve been playing Rockman Dash/Megaman Legends lately and I’ve been really impressed with the visual design of the whole game.

It’s clearly been smartly designed around the PlayStation’s limitations and the pixel art textures in particular make for character and object models that communicate far more detail than their simple low-poly and low-res textures would have you otherwise believe.

Apparently Rockman Dash 2 is even better, can’t wait to move on to it eventually.

Animal Forest on the N64 is another game. I only played the GameCube version back in the early 2000s but I was surprised to find out it was originally an N64 title, simply because the texture design was so, so good, and the models communicated a lot of charm as a result.