Favorite User Interfaces?


The UI for the iPad version of FTL is stunning. I actually prefer it over the mouse/keyboard interface. Being able to manage the power to the various systems directly makes me feel like I’m in Star Trek.

Not my favorite interface, but maybe a solid series of lessons in what not to do with your UI. The original Mass Effect, whether you love it (I do) or hate it, had an atrocious UI. Krystian Majewski’s Massive Interface Fail series deep-dives on it.


Despite how underwhelming the last (final?) SimCity was, I thought the UI was really good. Maxis has often had strong UI but I thought they really brought it with SimCity, especially how they visualize the flow of power and water.


My feeling, as a person who has never played Destiny, is that it’s inoffensive to a fault. The style continued into No Man’s Sky, which is about the blandest thing I’ve played in a while.


In general, I love cheesy too-large UIs like MDK’s sniper mode. I feel like minimal UI is an increasingly safe/bland option and I wish more games decided to really go out there. I miss spinning pentagrams for menu option highlights from Diablo 2, and that dumb badass font where you couldn’t tell the 5 and 6 apart.


Coming from a web UI design background, a nice clean UI is always super appealing to me, but only when it fits. I’m a big fan of the Destiny UI, because it feels like a perfect fit for the overarching aesthetic; Unlike most Ubisoft games, which just lack any personality whatsoever. Although I must say the left-stick cursor, although visually appealing, does become tedious after a while.

It really comes down to what’s stylistically appropriate, I’m very fond of traditional fantasy RPG UIs, such as in Grim Dawn or Path of Exile/Pillars of Eternity. Unfortunately, sometimes these get a bit carried away with style over usability, becoming an unwieldy mess. UX is just as important for a game as it is in any other piece of interactive design.

Although saying that, what makes for good UX isn’t always the same. I love Hyperlight Drifter’s UI, however most of if it is not immediately clear - the map system in particular is pretty baffling to begin with, but it encourages you to think and interact more with the game.

I believe I’m just rambling now. I might have a think on this and come back if I think of any great examples.


I thought the UI in Watch Dogs 2 was excellent. The visual design i could take or leave but in terms of layout, function and readability it was pretty much perfect.

Conversely I think the UI for Horizon Zero Dawn was kind of a mess. A lot of unexplained icons. No key for the map. Tiny text (my eyes aren’t great so this can be real annoyance).


I found the cursor style control and hold-to-confirm pretty maddening in NMS. You don’t spend that much time in menus in Destiny so it was OK, but NMS was about 50% tooling around in the inventory so everything became horribly slow.


Oh wow oh wow I forgot about MDK entirely, and I feel a fool now.


It’s a really good kind of weird! I keep meaning to come back to it.


‘Diegetic’ UI is such an under-utilised design element. Although it mostly went away after games stopped being relentlessly interested in removing all interface elements (how do you put a skill tree in the game world?), stuff like the map system in Far Cry 2 is still effective at providing tactility and a sense of place.


Apologies for cheating a little, but my favourite UI is probably a heavily modded Skyrim. Modders have added everything from clocks, ‘immersive HUDs’ that hide health bars when you’re not in combat or crosshairs when you’re not using a bow, search bars to the inventory screens, sorting filters, additional pop-up information when you hover over an armour or weapon to pick it up. It’s highly customizable, informative, designed for mouse and keyboard, and unobtrusive.

Aesthetically, I’ve always liked the look and sound of Red Dead Redemption’s menus. I also like diegetic UIs, Metroid Prime had a very nice one and the pip-boys in Fallout are pretty good. Fallout also gets points for letting me change the colour of the UI, that’s such a great feature.


Bit of a cop out but the panels in The Witness are totally User Interface made real. It would have been so easy to have them feel separate from the world but the way they hum as you approach and you hear a faint donk of finger on glass as you click on them? Fab.

On a more conventional (but not at all) note, Duskers UI is all in-universe. The main menu and settings can be clicked on (making them one only ones that can) but they are also rendered in the same flourescent flicking constant width terminal text as the rest of the game’s interfaces and of course can be controlled through [H]otkeys. The game immediately drops you in to the world and doesn’t let go until you exit. This is helped by the fact that you never find out about the “Player Character” so it would totally make sense that you’re an AI running simulations or that you’re controlling multiple scavenger rigs strewn across the same universe between games. It even has a faked BIOS boot sequence as it loads the menu.

e. OKAY while trying to take a screenshot just now I pressed f12 during the fake boot and it opens up bios settings for the fake PC!! I didn’t know about that at all this is very cool.


Dead Space. Endless Space. The beautiful 3d in cockpit hud in elite dangerous. I likes the relatively lore appropriate menus and ui in watch dogs 2.


I’ve been really impressed with how Christine Love’s work—particularly Digital: A Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story—makes UI inextricable from the story she’s telling, even though on a basic level it hews to visual novel conventions. In the vein of the diegetic UIs mentioned above, these are games where the universe presented often is the UI, and so have a sort-of feeling of life that extends out from the story.


Two Words:



Oh yes! The Watchdogs 2 interface was real good. Obviously the Dedsec stuff was crazy fun to look at, but even all the phone apps were great for looking like convincing phone apps, but being able to be navigated easily by a controller.


Oh man I just remembered that Event[0] exists and has a super good UI. The keyboard sounds in that game are incredibly good.


‘Diegetic’ UI is so underutilized in games. I feel like devs often plaster on traditional UI elements like bars and radars/minimaps out of inertia, which I find frustrating. They diminish the weight of the 3D space; finding inventive ways to include stuff into the game world yields super satisfying results. Dead Space and Far Cry 2 are two great examples.


Another thing I really love in UIs is super old RPGs having interfaces heavily influenced/based on computer GUI design.