Concept artists have an important job, establishing the atmosphere, tone, and visual identity of a game before a single line of code has been written. Not everything they dream up will make it into the final game, but they have a huge influence on its look and feel. Here are some of our favourite pieces of concept art from old games, recent games, and games still in development.
Crystal Dynamics / Rise of the Tomb Raider
This painting captures the impressive scale of the latest Tomb Raider, and the muted colour palette of its cold, snowy setting.
Bethesda Game Studios / Fallout 4
A sleepy American suburb witnesses the beginning of the end. This was a concept image for Fallout 4's prologue sequence.
id Software / Doom
This striking painting is an homage to the box art for the original Doom, and was a reversible cover for boxed copies of the game.
Arkane Studios / Dishonored 2
Stylish concept art of Emily Kaldwin, a new playable character who joins Corvo Attano in Dishonored 2.
Ubisoft Reflections / The Division
This moody art of post-outbreak Manhattan captures the evocative environment design in Ubi's multiplayer shooter.
FromSoftware / Dark Souls III
FromSoft's beautiful, haunting games begin with art like this. This painting features the ethereal Dancer of the Boreal Valley.
Blizzard Entertainment / Overwatch
A concept painting for Overwatch's Egypt maps, setting the tone for their exaggerated futuristic caricature of the country.
Arkane Studios / Prey
We don't know much about the forthcoming Prey reboot, which replaces the cancelled Prey 2, but we're already in love with its artwork.
James Paick / Prey 2
A beautiful image from the original version of Prey 2 that was sadly cancelled. Click here to see more of Paick’s art.
ABC / Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Starkiller yanking a Star Destroyer out of the sky with the Force was one of this game’s most memorable scenes. You can see more of ABC’s Star Wars art here.
Paul Chadeisson / Remember Me
According to Dontnod’s 2013 action game Remember Me, this is what Paris might look like in the year 2084. There’s more art by Paul Chadeisson here.
Mathieu Latour-Duhaime / Thief
The dark, gothic city in 2014’s Thief reboot, known only as The City, is one of the highlights of the game. Check out Latour-Duhaime’s blog for more.
Brad Wright / Alien: Isolation
Ripley travels to Sevastopol on this ship, the design of which was inspired by the functional hard sci-fi visual style of the 1979 film. More here.
Frédéric Bennett / Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Eidos Montreal’s last Deus Ex game, Human Revolution, had gorgeous concept art, and its sequel is no different. See more of Bennett’s concept art here.
Nathan Stapley / Broken Age
The stylish paintings of artist Nathan ‘Bagel’ Stapley were the creative touchstone for the art design in Broken Age, Double Fine’s crowdfunded adventure game.
Ruan Jia / Guild Wars 2
This painting shows Lion’s Arch, one of the biggest cities in Guild Wars 2’s beautiful world, being rebuilt. You can see more art by Ruan Jia here.
CD Projekt Red / The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Countless pieces of concept art were produced to help realise the world of The Witcher 3, including this image of the city of Novigrad. You can see more here.
Ubisoft Montreal / Far Cry Primal
A great piece of concept art can transport you to the place it depicts, which this image created for Far Cry Primal does wonderfully. And here’s some more.
David Satzinger / SOMA
This artwork sums SOMA, Frictional’s sci-fi horror, up perfectly: beautiful, melancholy, and slightly terrifying. You can see some more images from the game here.
Ubisoft Quebec / Assassin's Creed Syndicate
The foggy streets of Victorian London make for an evocative Assassin’s Creed setting, and have been recreated beautifully by Ubisoft’s artists. More here.
BioWare / Mass Effect
This vision of a cylindrical space-city had been imagined by sci-fi artists as far back as the 1970s, and BioWare used the idea to create the Citadel. Click here for more.