They say that life imitates art, but often enough art is perfectly good at imitating itself. From depictions of literature and architecture to movies and music, many of the best creations are derived from pre-existing forms of art. And one form that’s resonated particularly well with street artists is video games. While the debate around whether they should even be deemed art rages on, more people than ever consider them an artform and, like the other types listed above, video games offer endless opportunities for creative re-interpretations. From transposing classic characters into everyday scenarios to simple depictions of the games themselves, video game-inspired street art has really taken off in the last decade or so. Below are some of the best pieces of all time.
Invader – Pac-Man mosaic
French street artist Invader has based his whole identity and artistic style around video games. Deriving his name from the 1978 arcade classic Space Invaders, ArtLife note that he is known for his “ceramic tile installations inspired by the pixelated characters of 1970s-1980s video games”, chiefly Space Invaders, as well as the likes of Kung-Fu Master, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario. But his magnum opus is arguably his Pac-Man mosaic, which was located near the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Using his signature mosaic tiles to imitate four of the game’s 8-bit ghosts, Pac-Man’s main antagonists in the game, the street art piece was strikingly similar to the game’s original pixelated images.
Banksy – Mario and Cop
Banksy is one of the most famous street artists — if not artists working in any medium — in the world and is best known for his satirical images created in his distinctive stenciling style. That said, the anonymous English graffiti artist has also produced many playful, more lighthearted works, and this is exactly the category under which his Mario and Cop piece falls. Featuring the iconic eponymous Super Mario character being scolded by a British police officer for carrying a Super Mushroom, an in-game item that turns the titular character into Super Mario, the piece is a tongue-in-cheek take on the UK’s strict drug laws.
Michael Johansson – Self Contained
Back in 2010, Swedish artist Michael Johansson paid an incredibly inventive homage to the 1980s video game classic Tetris, a puzzle premised around moving different shaped and colored pieces called tetrominoes into vacated spaces. Johansson decided to recreate this in real life by stacking multi-colored objects of various sizes together (including cars and storage containers) in perfect symmetry to form a Tetris-style block. His Self Contained installation was one of a series of Tetris-influenced pieces he created, with Johansson commenting that: “For me creating works by stacking and organizing ordinary objects is very much about putting things we all recognize from a certain situation into a new context, and by this altering their meaning.”
David Flores – Sonic 25th Anniversary Street Art
Nineties classic Sonic the Hedgehog enjoyed its 25th anniversary in 2016, and to celebrate, creators SEGA commissioned David Flores to produce a street painting of the classic character. Situated in Los Angeles, the piece illustrates Sonic in his standard running pose and was part of an anniversary collection that included an art book showing Sonic’s journey through the years. However, fans were quick to point out that, in Flores’s depiction, the hedgehog has blue arms, which is more like his appearance in the 2014 TV series Sonic Boom, rather than the original iteration, in which he has light brown-colored arms. Nevertheless, the image was broadly well-received.
Columbus College of Art & Design students – Super Mario Bros. Interactive Mural
Another piece paying tribute to Super Mario, we couldn’t include this imaginative, interactive mural from back in 2010. Portraying a typical level from the game, including standard components like balls of fire, turtles and mushrooms, the painting allowed individuals to physically put themselves in the world of the game. This made it look as if they were playing the level from the perspective of onlookers. Created as part of a project to advertise the school’s first town hall meeting, the 16 feet tall by 38 feet wide mural took 12 students eight days to create.