Many strategy wargames have a bright and colorful look and feel. Units are painted in bright, cheery colors, the soldiers' faces look vaguely chibified, the tanks look like ice cream scoops on treads, and the warzones wouldn't look out of place in a Sugar Bowl, though Ludicrous Gibs isn't out of the question. "Cute" wargames often have little plot, focusing strictly on gameplay and visually appealing designs. They also tend to be on the Idealism side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and on the silly end of the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness.
For the Shoot 'em Up version, see Cute 'em Up. See also the Sugar Apocalypse for a more graphic way in which war can come to the Sugar Bowl. See also A Million Is a Statistic, which is related, but the issue there is more one of scale than of style. Not to be confused with War Is Glorious.
Examples from video games
- The Nintendo Wars series started out this way, becoming less so as time went on. Days of Ruin removed this completely.
- Earth Light. Seriously, just look at the units.
- While it's not strictly a wargame, Spore's combat sections end up a lot like this.
- Though it's a First-Person Shooter rather than a wargame, Team Fortress 2 qualifies. Its art style is often described as 'like a very dark Pixar movie'.
- Cannon Fodder is the Trope Namer, as well as a gigantic piss-take of the entire concept. Your soldiers are teeny-weeny, cute, practically chibi things (though not very colorful) that all have individual names. Then they die, incredibly bloodily while they're at it, and every mission is followed by a look over a graveyard that shows you how many people have died for your fun so far while new recruits keep on lining up to be fed into the meat-grinder.
- Gadget Trial, in which the player's units are cute cyborg girls.
- Battle for Wesnoth, though it's a little bloodier than most examples.
- The Metal Slug games aren't wargames (they're platformers), but they qualify due to the extremely cartoony nature of the enemies, combined with the often Family-Unfriendly Violence in the series.
- The Worms series are a cross between platformer and turn-based strategy, and everything is played for ridiculous absurdity.
- Space strategy games as a whole tend to go pretty far in this direction, since they're played on such an enormous scale, and entities have to be scaled up so much to be visible, but Spaceward Ho! probably deserves special mention for its cowboy hat-totin' planets.
- No dark tones in Battlefield Heroes. Everything is colorful and cel-shaded with troops using strange powers and guns with funny names.
- Downplayed with the introduction of the Bad Company weapons, which, oddly enough, are realistically named and proportioned (rather than a wacky name, the weapons are referred to by their real-life designations [M16, M249, M89, AK-74, PKM, and SVD] and look like the weapons they're modelled on.) Granted, they look somewhat stylized, but they look quite out-of-place compared to guns with names such as Rudolf's Rescue or Bernie's Bone Chewer.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
- Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 3 tends towards this; the faceless, stylised soldiers, humour dialogue and wacky design philosophy completely gloss over the absolutely horrific weapons in service on all sides. It's easy to laugh when you suck a tank into space with a magnetic satellite, until you start thinking what that might mean for the crew... or when you stop and think about how pants stainingly terrifying a battlebear charge must be...or tank being shrunk to the size of child's toy by a cryocopter, or Tesla weaponry in general as it lights up you enemies skeleton like a Christmas tree. The fact that you can later use one of the oribital bombardment powers to drop said tank back onto its own side. Especially satisfying when done with Aircraft Carriers.
- Red Alert 3: Uprising: Taken to new heights in "Commander's Challenge" mode. Each mission has you racing around the world, taking on specific enemy units and adding them to your arsenal in appropriately-themed missions. But the dialogue and characterization of your rival commanders is practically sitcom fodder, featuring Oleg's relentless fatalism, Giles and Vera's on-again, off-again relationship, Shinzo tutoring Kenji in the art of battle command, and Takara sneering at everyone in sight. Not mentioned? The dozens of live-fire battles taking place across the world as a backdrop to this mild drama.
- Dynasty Warriors. Never mind the numerous over-the-top fantasy elements (which actually isn't too far from the source material). Look at the clothing and weapons, very little of which would be practical for any kind of full-scale war (Nunchaku? Seriously?), and have just gotten more and more over the top over time. And of course, the character designs themselves, which, given that most of these people have no surviving portraits, definitely skew toward the "dependable anime archtype" side (hello, Sun Shang Xiang!). The violence is seriously downplayed: except for a single cutscene in 3, there is no blood whatsoever, and the American port even calls the fallen "KOs". In all, far more flashy and colorful and (yes) cute than any era in Chinese history has been.
- Plants vs. Zombies: You stave off hordes of Ugly Cute zombies with help of bunch of colorful animated plants. The zombies still want to eat your brains though.
- Valkyria Chronicles as a series shifts back and forth between this. The first game is far from the darkest war game out there, but still manages to avert this by introducing some unsavory themes related to war. The sequel, however...not so much, particularly in the early parts of the game. Later parts of the game subvert this, despite still largely being set in something similar to a boarding school and staring a dopey yet brave and kindhearted hero. The third swings right around and gets far darker than the original. The fourth installment largely averts this with realistically goofy camaraderie contrasted by some vile villains and grimness of war.
- Played straight by Brütal Legend. Heavy Metal, Heavy Mithril themed armies fighting to the death as a Command & Conquer Economy infinitely respawns troops with The Power of Rock. Where can I sign up? It helps that the characters and fighters in the game are clearly having fun (well, everyone not in Drowning Doom anyway).
- Applies in the three Patapon games. Brightly colored backgrounds, absolutely adorable critters as your army and your enemies, defeated units melt into the ground instead of collapsing in pools of gore. The Patapons's ultimate goal is to reach Earthend. Aww, look at the cute little eyeballs with swords and spears go at it!
- The Toy Soldiers series seems to invoke this trope. Your troops are literally toys and when they die they broke like actual toys with no blood whatsoever. What makes the application of this trope miraculous (at least for the first game) is that it's a Lighter and Softer version (and not to mention the Theme Park Version) of World War I.
- Paro Wars, a Turn-Based Strategy game based upon the world of Parodius, wherein the player controls armies of penguins, Moai, octopi and all the wacky denizens of the Parodius games.
- General Chaos, a tactical-action war game that pits two squads of 5 soldiers against each other in cartoony melees and firefights across several battlefields. Its spiritual predecessor, Pigskin, had much the same atmosphere, despite being (nominally) a Sports Game.
- Pokémon Conquest is Pokemon duking it out... on a war field.
- Combat Choro Q Advance Daisakusen for GBA, which is a strategy RPG with Super-Deformed talkative tanks with everything in the game in light colors.
- Relatedly, the PS2 action game Seek and Destroy (2002) stars the same chatty SD tanks, adding some additional odd and comical features such as Jevons, your chronically injured AAV ally who has no idea how his brakes work.
- Not a strategy RPG (also platformers), but pretty much any Super Mario Bros. game or fan game with war themed levels and areas comes under this. It's especially noticeable in Mushroom Kingdom Fusion and Super Mario Fusion Revival, where the stages mix Mario with Metal Slug, Halo and Gears of War and the characters/places are also done with cartoony looking sprites and tilesets, with often bouncy and upbeat music playing in the background. Cue the somewhat strange scene of Mario and co killing cartoonified versions of enemies from sometimes M rated games with vegetables and jumps.
- In contrast to the 2 games preceding it, Fire Emblem Awakening has more stylized, chibified graphics for units on the map, and even the models used in battle aren't fully proportionate (though you wouldn't notice it unless you payed attention to everyone's feet). The tone of the game is just as serious as any other game in the series, but it wouldn't look out of place if the game stopped taking itself seriously, which several DLC maps can attest to. Lissa may be wearing a party hat, the music might be festive and made up of grunts from Chrom's Japanese voice and Lon'Qu may be trying to deal with being Mistaken for Gay, but you're still trying to fight off the an army of zombie solders.
- Splatoon is a Third-Person Shooter, with a bright, colorful, cute style. The gameplay involves hitting people with ink. However, the backstory is fairly dark.
- Hogs of War pigs out on this trope (pun intended), albeit with a bit more Black Comedy than usual.
- Wargroove, being a Spiritual Successor to Advance Wars, takes every bit as light-hearted a tone to its setting.
- Tooth and Tail intentionally juxtaposes colorful characters and goofy weaponry (since each side intends to eat their foes, we get such things as literal "mustard gas") against a drab backdrop and a realistically horrible Russian Civil War stand-in for the sake of Black Comedy.
- The Bloons Tower Defense series includes a wide variety of war-related imagery, ranging from numerous military weapons usable by the player (such as sniper rifles, missiles, and nuclear bombs), to tracks such as "Military Base", and the Bloons Monkey City event "Warmonger" (during which the player gains more rewards when pillaging other players' cities). The games are also brightly colored, heavily stylised, and centered entirely around popping balloons. Weapons which don't automatically fire on their own are typically wielded by monkeys or other cartoon creatures, and available defenses also include such bizarre things as magic, glue, banana peels, and pterodactyls wearing Cool Shades.
Examples from other media
- The Awkward Zombie comic "No Fighting in the War Room" is, as a direct parody of Advance Wars, basically about this.
- Erfworld is a deconstruction of the concept
"Everything's like a weird joke... everything is cute. Like it's been made safe for children. The people even look like children... Except that then they die."
- Real Life example: Peter the Great's Toy Army. Essentially a more serious, real-life version of playing war for a child emperor. They became an actual army later on, though.
- Most soldiers prior to World War I dressed in rather colourful, elaborate uniforms to make them stand out in the smoke of battle. Subsequently, most toy soldiers are based off of this period.
- In South Park, Vietnam veterans go on and on about how fun 'Nam was.
- Dog Days: War is held to settle actual disputes, but it's essentially all one big RTS or Fantasy War game to everyone joining in. In addition, all battlefields are protected by the magic of a god, and whenever they receive a blow that would normally kill them, they turn into a small animal corresponding to the ears and tail that they have.
- The comedy of fanimation How Applejack Won The War is its jaunty tune as it describes war crimes and PTSD. Since it's based off of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, this is to be expected.