It's safe to say video game sprites weren't meant to faithfully represent what the characters would look like in real life, game designers were just doing the best they could with so few pixels while trying to keep their characters visually interesting.
Sprites are better off in 2D, and as illustrator Scott Johnson demonstrates when you try to bring those 8-bit sprites into any sort of three dimensional space you end up with a total horrorshow:
It would have been mighty hard to root for characters that look like they just crawled out of a radioactive swamp, although there's still something cute about little misshapen Link.
-Via Nerd Approved
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