Welcome to a new segment where I give you my reflections on games through the lense of an artist. I want to bridge my knowledge of art making with my passion for gaming, and deliver a unique experience and perspective to you all. As such, I’ll open this segment up by outlining my top 5 aesthetic masterpieces in gaming. In no way does this reflect the entirety of all games- but rather, illustrates the games that come to my mind as visual masterpieces that artists, and those who enjoy art, will likely enjoy experiencing.
Ori & the Blind Forest
It deserves a spot on here because of it’s beautiful painterly-like aesthetic and atmospheric music, giving players a sense of wonder and mystique that is unique to the title. You play as a guardian spirit who explores a withered forest, and it’s up to you to restore life to the area. The way it blends the music, silky smooth animation, and vibrant colors is striking. There is no dialogue in the game- only interpretive motion, which helps the player craft the story together as they experience the game. This means that you’ll need to pay closer attention to the visual cues and sequence of events, but that in itself is part of the beauty. This is the most recent game on the list, but can’t be ignored, simply due to it’s strong artistic direction and lively palette.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Not only is MGS3 one of my favorite games of all time, but it has some of the most striking and visually stunning designs in gaming. The intro scene has a James Bond-esque vibe, with vocals from Cynthia Harrell and game direction from the legendary Hideo Kojima, with the artistic genius that is Yoji Shinkawa. The game explores different emotions a soldier may experience in battle: Fear, Pain, Fury, Sorrow, and Joy, and builds on that through visual themes and boss battles. It also touches onto philosophical ideology, and going into depth about what loyalty to one’s country really means, and questioning what the ultimate sacrifice is for the things that are most important to you. Without going too much into detail, I’ll just say this; there’s a scene in the game that is breathtakingly beautiful, and also painfully depressing. It’s a scene that occurs at the end on a field of grass lilies, symbolic of purity. I’ve not been able to forget, and will likely never forget this fight for as long as I live.
Okami is a cult classic, having players take control over the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (in the form of a white wolf), bringing life back to a world overrun by darkness. Once you restore light back into the world, its vibrant and whimsical nature expands with beautiful japanese inspired artwork and design aesthetics. While it’s premise is similar to Ori and the Blind Forest, it couldn’t be any more different visually. Your puzzle interactions and special attacks are performed with calligraphic brush strokes, which further echo the beautiful traditional Japanese artwork inspired theme. Anyone who craves playful or stylized visual treats will want to take the plunge.
Journey is an experience that encapsulates the definition of a gaming experience. Its simplicity of the character and creature designs, color choices, scale, and music make this title stand out and cement itself in the world of artistic master-pieces. It literally takes you on a journey of emotions without ever muttering an actual word. It’s the type of game that you can play once, and be completely satisfied, with a surreal and abstract multiplayer aspect that has players seamlessly dropping in and out of cooperative play.
Uncharted 2 is downright incredible. Not only is it a technical marvel, based on the fact that it ran on a complex system, but from an art direction standpoint it is just amazing at what it sets out to do. Taking place in China, Nepal, and Tibet, players get to experience a variety of settings ranging from crashing trains in a snow filled area to an extravagant and lush jungle environment. There is no shortage of amazing set-pieces, and this game set the bar for many iconic games to follow. Artifacts are rendered in staggering detail for the hardware it was on, and weather effects are a true marvel. The things you encounter in this game belong in a museum, even in their digital form.
So guys, what do you think? I could have gone into much further detail about each of these games, but perhaps I’ll save that for another time. There are plenty of other games that have recently come out that I will go into detail about, but these titles have left plenty of time to digest and determine if they really are visual masterpieces. Did I miss out an obvious choice that you’d rather have on the list? Leave your thoughts below and let us continue to discuss how gorgeous gaming experiences can be!!