Best Tattoos in Videogames

Being a tattoo artist myself, I can't help but fixate on them in videogames. Tell me your favorites!

The obvious favorite: Yakuza series ( especially Majima)
This one is undoubtedly the best. They consulted and worked with Horitomo on their designs, who is a legitimate modern day master of the medium. I appreciate that Sega allocated a chunk of their budget to getting this part SO right.

Considering the sign/signifier/mythology complexities of Japanese tattoos, they did an absolutely amazing job. One scene in particular in Yakuza 0, a detail identified an opponent as chinese, not Japanese. The detail ruined a plot twist! Their dragon had 5 claws, not 3, which is a dead giveaway.

-The Witcher 3 had amazing tattoos. Their graphic qualities reflect what tattoos would resemble considering the technology available and they arent pitch black! Alot of games get this part wrong.

-Sleeping Dogs captured the aesthetic of 2008-2013 neotraditional asian tattooing to a frightening degree. It's a very specific look that you only really see happening during that period. I've seen plenty of those in person, even here in Canada!

At least Yakuza brings tattoos back to their roots as identifiers of criminals and lowlifes.

Tattoos in games have been almost universally awful, haven't they?

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are suggesting, but disagree that at their roots they soley serve as identifiers of criminals and lowlives. Historically in Japan, firefighters, tradesmen, roofers and soldiers had them more then criminals. Check out the anime Miss Hokusai to see amazing tattoos on Firefighters. Punitive tattoos did exists, and yes eventually they become synonymous with gangs in Japan, but it would be irresponsible to ignore their history prior to that association. I would suggest reading “Tattoos in Japanese Prints”.

Overall I would agree, they've been pretty awful. Im glad you posted that because it reminds me of Kou from THE BOUNCER. It's so bad it's good. Not to mention the villain in that game. Yikes.

It doesnt help that most studios hire artist with seemingly no experience in the medium, so you end up with alot of designs that work great on a flat piece of paper but don't work with the 3 dimentional aspect of the body.

Judy from Cyberpunk had a pretty awful collection of tattoos that were badly curated, but that's actually pretty close to how alot of people collect them. Collage without consideration to composition. My only gripe with their designs is that the size/detail ratio is really off.

Additionally, Gan Ning from Dynasty Warriors was pretty special for the time.

I‘m pretty sure this doesn’t count as you seem to be asking for realistic tattoos but SMT3's protag design is pretty iconic.

Oh sorry I didnt mean to suggest I'm looking for realistic. I think this is an amazing design!

I also love the weird and terrible.

@Tygertyger#12617 let's say I wanted the demi-fiend IRL. What am I looking at cost-wise?

@yeso#12622 Ahh that can be difficult to guess. To have it done really well I would suggest reaching out to Hanumantra in London Uk. He is one of the only people I can confidently recommend. As with most things, simplicity is hard to master, and packing that much black consistently takes a master of the craft. Im unaware of his rates, but I could imagine a conservative range of between 10k to 20k USD but could be much more. This is not the kind of work you want to cut corners with. Any inconsistencies in the application and it would be glaringly obvious, since there are no details to catch your eye.

Recently a bill was passed that essentially decriminalized tattooing in Japan, but I havnt heard how it would affect what you've mentioned. Il have to look into that! Thanks for sharing!

I thought CP2077 has some cool options for the PC‘s tattoos, especially when you combine them in interesting ways with the different haircuts and cyberware implant things. I agree that Judy’s tattoos strike me as fairly realistic when I think of some friends who have collected tattoos over the course of decades without thinking seemingly at all about how they relate to one another.

This, of course, is a ludonarrative commentary on how a game where you can have someone cut off your arms and replace them with robot arms _does not allow you to get a haircut._

16K on a credit card to get the SMT nocturne tattoos would be a cool “grounds for divorce”

I like the crop circle designs on some of the Besaid Aurochs members

Too bad they're all trash at Blitzball.

I think it's a great callback to the fact that the Aurochs suck when, later in the game, you can recruit any five hobos off the street and they will, no question, be better.

I'm with OP, those Sleeping Dogs tattoos are incredible. I was a mixed Asian/Latino teenager in that era of like quasi-pan-asian neotrad tattoos so all the cool older kids of my youth had those & it really made an impression on me & it was just really nostalgic to see when I played Sleeping Dogs for the first time after its definitive release came out.


These pictures don't even do them justice. The attention to detail in the gradient & the fading, you can see which tattoos are aged & which ones have healed & been added recently. Fresher tattoos are blasted over more faded ones. All the tattoos are able to obscure so well into each other on any individual character. I think oftentimes in video games & animation, character designers try to use tattoos as singular prominent statement pieces but in many cultures & subcultures, that's just not how people get tattooed.

Meanwhile we have Wei. Most of his tattoos are not visible in his default outfit. All of them could be ignored entirely depending on how you style him. Yet, he has the head of the larger dragon & wing of a larger eagle on his chest which are the only tattoos you can really see in his standard outfit right above the neckline of his tank top. This is super intentional. I think tattoos as narrative symbolism is kinda played out, but I enjoy how they angle in on his eagle when he's doing american cop idealized justice hoorah shit & on the dragon when he's going back to his childhood neighborhood roots & getting nostalgic with his triad homies. When he is conflicted, dun dun duuunnnn, he's of course got a nice center close up where you can see both.

Kinda wanna play this game again just talking about how much I love the tattoos in it.

My general grievance with tattoos in video games, as someone who is not an artist but worked in an American traditional tattoo shop for a little bit & has that mostly that style on my body, I'm so annoyed how they just look like stickers on people in most games. The colors are always too bright, the lines are never thick enough, & the designs are just a little too much like those fake gangster looney toons memes your cousin or uncle share on Facebook.

Is there a game with a tattoo art-style? Like a 2d platformer mapped onto 3D bodies? Kind of like the moving tattoos in Moana I guess.

twelve year old me once started a countdown until I could turn 18 and legally get Jin Kazama's tattoo myself

no tattoos to this day myself, though I always always think about getting them. one day!!

@jaws#12643 Jackie‘s forearm tattoo in CP2077 is a great example of everything you’ve mentioned is bad interpretations of the medium. A friend booted up AC Valhalla and I was impressed with how remarkably realistic they were in their grittiness and lived-in quality. Worth checking out!

@espercontrol#12669 I wonder what it is with so many japanrse characters having “Neo-tribal” tattoos. Also I recently watched Kill Bill and the scene with the yakuza fearured some very Jin-like flame designs. Some Guy Fieri, Smashmouth Mason energy in those pants.

@Syzygy#12631 for sure! I"ll post them in the intro thread.

The two that come to mind right now, although I'm pretty sure I could find others if I really put in the effort: