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Idle animations refer to animations within video games that occur when the player character does not do any action (hence being idle). These sorts of animations are largely popular with action games, where players may rarely be idle and thus serve as easter eggs. Some of the first games ever to introduce idle animations on a mainstream basis were Door Door and Maziacs; the sprite taps his feet, blinks, and sits down. This trend spread to many other action genre games, becoming more complex as allowed by the advancing hardware. For example, in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, Diddy Kong juggles a few balls if the player offers no controller input for a few seconds.
Idle animations in modern 3D games are used to keep them realistic. In general, games meant for younger audiences are far more likely to have complex or humorous idle animations, while games for older people tend to have more basic idle animations. For example, in Super Mario 64, Mario will occasionally look around, and eventually fall asleep, while in other games, steady breathing suffices as an idle animation.
- Battlefield 2: if the vehicle mine is selected but no action is taken, the player flips the circular mine several times; each weapon has an animation.
- Command and Conquer: Red Alert: infantry do pushups when left idle for a short period.
- Commander Keen in Goodbye, Galaxy: Keen becomes impatient, tapping his foot then sitting down to read a book. There is also an easter egg: the first time Keen becomes idle when standing on one of the moon symbols in the Pyramid of the Moons, instead of the above sequence he "moons" the player.
- Crash Bandicoot: Crash sometimes plays with a Wumpa fruit or a yo-yo.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns: Donkey Kong sits down and plays on the Nintendo DS.
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: Same as above, but with the Nintendo 3DS.
- Duke Nukem 3D: Duke cracks his knuckles and comments to the player, "What are you waiting for?"
- Future Knight (ZX Spectrum version): The hero starts to get annoyed and, after a while, will start losing energy until game over occurs.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: Niko Bellic yawns, inspects his gun, stretches, and scratches his head. If outside in the rain he catches the rain and shakes off his soaked clothes.
- Grand Theft Auto V: The view switches to first person, with the camera moving automatically and zooming in on NPCs and cars.
- Half-Life: If one is holding a Snark, it attempts to bite the hand holding it. Gordon then admonishes it with his left index finger, almost getting bitten in the process. All other weapons have an idle animation as well.
- Halo series, Master Chief inspects his gun, along with other things after standing a while.
- Just Cause: Rico flips his dual wield pistols.
- Kirby: Squeak Squad: Kirby falls asleep and dreams of Strawberry Cake until he wakes up, when he swallows the dream cloud.
- Mass Effect: Commander Shepard shrugs his/her shoulders and stretches
- Metal Slug: Marco Rossi drinks from his bottle (Tarma Roving does the same), Eri Kasamoto eats her bubblegum and blows a balloon with it, and Fio Germi sits and eats a sandwich akin to a picnic. When wielding their powered-up weapons, Marco and Tarma briefly play with what appear to be a snake while Fio and Eri get exhausted and flick their wrists out of fatigue.
- Pokémon Black and White introduces idle animations for all Pokémon during battle. If the device is left alone for a while during a battle, the camera will zoom in on a Pokémon as it does its animation.
- Rayman 2: Rayman takes his body and bounces it like a basketball.
- Red Dead Redemption: John Marston takes off his hat and wipes the sweat from his forehead.
- Resident Evil: Chris crosses his arms and waits. Jill puts her left hand on her hip and pats her gun against her leg with her right hand.
- Ristar: the character performs a unique idle animation depending on what stage he is on. For example, on the snow-themed stage, he makes a little snowman and on the music-themed stage he will start to dance happily.
- Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku: Jack will begin to weave a straw hat like the one he wears in certain episodes of his eponymous television series. If the player allows him to finish making it, he will wear it until he takes damage. The hat is cosmetic and does not change gameplay in any way.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic impatiently taps his foot.
- Super Mario 64: Mario lays down and takes a nap while dreaming about pasta.
- StarCraft: The images for the units look around after a given time.
- The King of Fighters: Ralf Jones hops, Ryuji Yamazaki flicks his left arm before beckoning his opponent (the beckoning was removed in The King of Fighters 2003 and the flick wasn't introduced until The King of Fighters '97), Billy Kane twirls his staff, and K' stands straight with one hand in his pocket and falls asleep without returning to his usual stance unless he moves, attacks, or is attacked.
- Uncharted: Nathan Drake does numerous animations, such as crouch and look around.
- 'Splosion Man and the lost art of the idle animation, Ashley Davis, Destructoid, 2009-7-27, retrieved 2010-2-24
- Vacheron, Griffin (April 23, 2017). "16 Idle Animations Worth Dropping your Controller For". Games Radar. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- Irwin, Mary Jane (March 23, 2004). "Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku - PS2". IGN. Archived from the original on April 28, 2016. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
- "What Makes a Good Game?". Next Generation. No. 31. Imagine Media. July 1997. p. 46.