Graphics are everything in the world of videogames - the capabilities of a graphics engine can completely change everything about what a game will ultimately be. The greater graphical abilities of the Playstation is what brought Square and Final Fantasy to Sony, the Mode 7 capabilities of the Super Nintendo allowed F-Zero and Super Mario Kart to exist at all, and the chunky graphics of the N64 captured James Bond's weird square hands for the first time ever.
But sometimes graphics can seemingly hold stuff back too. After all, each generation of videogames has their limits, and the developers are stuck working within those limits. But sometimes those limits can help define a character perfectly, in a way that more advanced graphics would have messed up. These are a few of those.
1. Crash Bandicoot looks the way he does because they didn't have any more polygons to flesh him out.
You only need to take one look at Crash Bandicoot to know why the wumpa fruit loving marsupial was a huge hit with fans from the start. His goofy grin, ungainly gait and big dumb shoes all combine into an instantly endearing character you can't help but want to go on an adventure/twirling backhand island natives with.
However, almost everything that makes Crash, well, Crash, is the result of the creators of the game simply not having enough polygons to work with. For starters, Crash's face was intentionally made as large and goofy as possible so that we could actually see it, this resulted in the character being designed with no neck, which resulted in his signature way of moving and turning to the camera. Speaking of movement, Crash's shoes are a result of the poor resolution of the screen making it difficult to make out his limbs when he was moving. Hell, the only reason that Crash Bandicoot is orange is because that was literally the only color that didn't make him look like shit in contrast to the stages he appeared on. It's also the reason no stages containing lava appear in the original game.
So maybe "graphics got too good" is the reason we haven't seen a new Crash game in so long. Yeah, that's probably it.
Source: All Things Andy Gavin
2. Samus Aran's Power Suit was redesigned for a black and white game
Even though Samus invariably loses it at the start of every game she appears in, her Varia suit is still the most recognisable and unchanging element of the character. Weirdly though, it was never supposed to look the way it does now, in fact, in the original Metroid game collecting the Varia suit just used to turn Samus' currently equipped suit a bitchin' shade of pink.
As fabulous as that was, it wasn't an option for the second game, aptly titled Metroid II: The Return of Samus, because the console it was being developed for, the original Game Boy, only displayed in black and white. So, in order to show that Samus had obtained the varia suit without using color, her suit was redesigned to include shoulders that could level an entire city block. I'm guessing that the look struck a chord with someone because Samus has been rocking that look for at least the last decade.
Source: Metroid Database
3. Mario's look is based entirely on a lack of pixels
Characters don't come any more iconic than Mario, they also don't come any more ingenious. You see, almost everything about Mario's design, from his hat and moustache right down to his freaking profession is a direct result of Shigeru Miyamoto having only a handful of pixels to play with while designing the character.
Giving Mario a moustache meant that Miyamoto didn't need to give Mario a mouth, his signature hat meant that they didn't need to animate hair and his overalls allowed them to show where his arms were without too much effort. The end result was a short, squat, but more importantly sort-of-humanoid looking character that didn't take hundreds of pixels to animate and approximately billions of future dollars for Nintendo.
4. Aerith's dress was designed to reduce the polygon count on screen
When she isn't taunting us from the afterlife, Aerith Gainsborough enjoys a reputation as one of the best known characters in the Final Fantasy series. Now I don't know about you, but I've always assumed that Aerith's design was an intentional effort to create a character who was the total opposite of the sassy, mini skirt rocking Tifa, Aerith's main rival for Cloud's affection.
But according to the development team behind the game, Aerith's dress was actually a sneaky way of lowering the polygon count on screen, since burying Aerith in fabric meant that they no longer needed to bother animating her a pair of legs or something. Which might explain why she didn't try to get away when a long-haired nut-job descended from above wielding a sword.
5. Lara's movement was the result of a choice between realistic animations and fast ones
Though many people like to suggest that Lara Croft's most recognisable trait is her huge, bulbous, ridiculously large... personality (whew, close one), I prefer to think that it's the way she moves that has defined her as a character. There was just something different and fresh about the slow, deliberate way she flung herself across the environment while shooting tigers in the dome that set her apart from other characters.
Well the reason for that is Toby Gard, who, while developing the character made the intentional decision to focus on making her movements as realistic as possible. Limitations in the game engine though meant that Lara's movements could either be fast, or fluid but not both, Gard opted for the latter, which has universally gone down amongst gamers as a good move.
Source: The Guardian
6. Lack of memory led to the creation of some of the best Mortal Kombat characters
Unless you're one of the weirdos who thinks Sonya Blade is a total beast, it's almost guaranteed that your favourite Mortal Kombat character began life as a palette swap of another fighter. Hell, even the game's two flagship characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, were literally played by the same guy in the original game.
Though I'd like to chalk up the amount of ninjas present in the series to "ninjas are boss" the real reason the MK roster is filled with primary colored ninjas and robots is because they took up less space than an original character. For example, removing Sonya and Kano from MK II actually freed up enough space to add Reptile, Jade, Mileena and Smoke. Giving the game a bigger roster and more importantly, more fatalities. Having more options for brutal ways to disembowel your opponents is always a plus, especially when it rustles the jimmies of parents worldwide.
7. Mew's secrecy was because it wasn't meant to be in the game
Mew and the innumerable futile attempts players embarked upon to somehow catch it after learning of its existence are probably the cause of more childhood distress and heartache than parental divorce and puberty combined. Today, Mew is one of the most recognisable legendary Pokemon in the entire series.
Weirdly, Mew would have never had this legacy at all if Shigeki Morimoto hadn't have noticed that there was space for exactly one more Pokemon on the original Pokemon Red and Blue cartridges after he deleted the debug features from them.
According to the man himself, he noticed that deleting the debug features left around 300 bytes of space on the cartridges. Spying a chance to be an unthinkable to dick to millions of future children, Morimoto opted to fill this space with Mew but then failed to include any method of actually catching the Pokemon (without taking advantage of glitches, that is). So there you have it folks, the reason we all spent countless hours trying to fruitlessly use strength on a truck was because there was room in the game to include Mew, but not a place to catch it.