New consoles, improved graphics, lighting mods, advanced character creators — it’s all adding up to make video games prettier than ever. But even without the technology, a creative, well-implemented art style can make or break a game. I’m probably forgetting a few, but here’s a first post about the video games I’ve found beautiful.
Developed by thatgamecompany, Journey is an emotional gaming experience. It’s minimalist and pure — you place your own emotions into the experience, if you want. That’s what makes the game so beautiful.
However, Journey also showcases an art style I’ve never seen in any other games. It suits the minimalist theme. You play as a cloaked character with a scarf that flutters in the breeze, as you trip and leap your way across a landscape consisting primarily of desert sand.
You might feel alone in this world, but the game’s art strikes the perfect balance between isolation and true freedom.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the biggest and most beautiful of the Dragon Age games. I loved the locations you visit in the first game, Origins, but the second game had a very different art style — more modern, but not always pleasant — and reused a lot of environments.
Fortunately, Inquisition surpasses both as a nearly open-world game, with huge vistas to explore and some jaw-dropping scenery.
A sidescrolling platformer by Frozenbyte, the Trine series of video games is one of my favorites among indies. I’m not great at platformers, but Trine makes things interesting by giving you a set of characters to control, each with their own unique abilities for battling and navigating.
But what really makes the games shine is the lush art style that makes its world feel like a living, breathing place much more colorful than our own. Expect a variety of landscapes to keep things entertaining — even the darkest have a beauty to them.
The Witcher 2
The Witcher games have some of the most incredible graphics I’ve encountered in video games. The Witcher 2 is one of my favorites ever, not only for the gameplay and story but also for how beautiful the world is. The games are based on the fantasy books by Andrzej Sapkowski, so the way the world is put together is already a rich experience, and that includes the diversity of locations you find yourself in. Grimy cities, dusty dirt roads, and eerie forests shrouded in mist are all depicted in amazing detail.
However, I have to admit that even if it weren’t for the stunning scenery, I could spend hours just staring at how gorgeous characters’ clothes and hair are. The attention to detail extends to this level, and I love the colors and fabrics used throughout the games. You’ll recognize a very unique fantasy style as you begin playing these games by CD Projekt RED.
BioShock Infinite is one of my favorite games. I love it so much I’ve played it multiple times, and a big part of that is how much I want to re-experience the setting. It takes place in the city of Columbia, which floats in the clouds.
I can’t describe how awe-inspiring this setting is — you kind of have to see it for yourself, even if it is a virtual world. But what makes things more intriguing is that what starts off as a pretty, sunny spot can turn very dark at times. Some places even feel haunted as you battle in a graveyard and watch riots take place in streets that once felt like they could be home.
Wherever you are in the game, the city of Columbia is as unpredictable as it is beautiful.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It may be becoming a little dated — the game turns four this year — but Skyrim is still the most gorgeous game I’ve ever played. Mods have made the game even prettier in recent years.
But it’s not just about the graphics with this one, it’s about how vast the world is. That means tons of different kinds of scenery. Play Skyrim for just a couple of hours, and you could encounter ice wraiths on the outskirts of Windhelm, climb snow-covered mountains in search of dragons, explore tranquil forests where you can pick dozens of types of plants for your potions, or plunge into dark caves full of walking skeletons emerging from their tombs.
The scenery is one of the reasons I keep going back to replay Skyrim. And it’s not the scenery alone — everything fits into this rich, realistic fantasy world to make you feel like you’re really there.