What's not to like about video games? They've got compelling stories, engaging gameplay mechanics, and increasingly cool prizes (especially with the growing popularity of e-sports). But let's face it, there are a lot of #AAA titles that employ somewhat of the same general art style.
Don't get me wrong. Games like Resident Evil and Fallout boast impressive aesthetic design. But I'm talking about unique, stylized visuals in video games. Games that look nonconformably beautiful get me every time. What follows is a list of the video games that have me drooling over their visuals for days.
1. Ori And The Blind Forest
I'm kicking this list off with one of my favorite side-scrolling games to come out of 2015, because honestly, what isn't there to love about this game? #OriandtheBlindForest tells the story of Ori, who fell from the Spirit Tree during a storm and was found and cared for by Naru (the big fuzzy gal holding Ori) before being forced to leave his home and restore the three elements that will bring life back to the forest of Nibel: Waters, Winds and Warmth.
The bright, bioluminescent colors radiating from Ori and contrasting with the surrounding flora offer up beautiful dark blues and greens, with the Studio Ghibli-like characters and statues tying the earthy theme together. The whole game resembles a more surrealist version of James Cameron's Avatar.
2. Don't Starve
So this game is almost the complete opposite of Ori and the Blind Forest's kaleidoscopic color scheme and rich, 3D graphics. In #DontStarve, you play as Wilson, a gentleman scientist who is sent by a demon to a mysterious, unlivable hellscape where you must survive long enough to find a way back home.
I like the sketchy 2D style, as if the characters and environments just up and walked out of someone's sketchpad. The character design and the enemies also offer up a creepy, Tim Burton-esque aesthetic, and that's always a huge plus.
Believe me when I say that the #Abzu devs spared no expense at making this game look like something out of an aquatic heaven. It has no clear plot; you play as a scuba diver swimming through a gorgeous ocean, riding large fish and avoiding an aggressive shark to restore life to different areas of the sea. (Are you getting Ori vibes? 'Cause I am.)
Each area seems to have its own color palette, which is very easy on the eyes, and alternates between open ocean landscapes and ancient ruins depicting a mysterious bygone empire. And if the visuals aren't enough to sell you on this cinematic experience, just listen to the soundtrack. Austin Wintory spent three years composing this surreal masterpiece. I promise you, it's worth a listen.
#Detention is an atmospheric horror game that combines Taiwanese/East Asian culture with deeply unsettling visuals to create a unique horror experience. The game is set in 1960s Taiwan, when the country was set under strict martial law that went so far as to execute citizens just for reading unapproved books. You play as Ray, a high school senior piecing together the events of the past that led to her present-day nightmare.
As a longtime fan of #indiehorror, let me just say that this game is not for the faint of heart. The visuals straddle the line between photorealistic gore and nonsensically nightmarish environments, while the haunting narrative will stay with you in a way that no Freddy Fazbear jump scare can.
Basically, take everything you loved about Until Dawn's snarky dialogue and teenage melodrama, then replace the psychopath and the Wendigos with a way cooler, more mysterious villain, and you've got #Oxenfree. You play as Alex, the blue-haired outcast who's just brought her stepbrother Jonas to the yearly overnight island party that may or may not also be attended by some extraterrestrial "guests."
Oxenfree is a side-scrolling mystery/horror game that features both muted and bright colors as well as camera shots and sound design that tends to glitch and pop in a way that goes hand in hand with the theme of Alex's handheld radio. The layered atmospheres and hand-drawn Polaroids will leave you feeling like the whole game was made in somebody's colorful, haunted scrapbook.
6. Super Mario Odyssey
I know this game is technically yet to be released, and I know it's not an indie like the other games on this list, but you've gotta admit that the art style for this Mario installment is next level. #SuperMarioOdyssey not only promises innovative gameplay to fully challenge the new #NintendoSwitch, but the attention to detail in the trailer alone is phenomenal — even more so when you remind yourself that this is a Super Mario game!
I mean, seriously! Look at those colors! Look at the light variation and texture on those crystals! Look at the rust detailing on the fire hydrant in the first picture! Look at the detailing on the stitching of Mario's clothes! And what about the individually brushed hairs in his mustache! Honestly, I never thought I'd be writing about Mario's mustache, but here we are.
Basically, I'm geeking out over Mario Odyssey not only because it promises to be unlike any other Mario game before it, but the attention to artistic detail rivals any other exclusively #Mario title to date. I can only hope that the real game is as cool as the trailer.
So, after everything I've ever seen and/or played, these are my top picks for visual art design in games. Are there any that you feel I left out? Leave me some suggestions in the comments below!