The lights are on
This last generation was many gamers’ first step into the world of HD graphics. It was an incredible leap; games were more detailed and shined visually. But along with the good, there was some bad. Super-detailed and visually impressive does not always equate to appealing to the eye. While we saw our share of grays and browns this generation, certain games kept the sights interesting with distinct and cool art styles.
Borderlands (360, PS3, PC, and Mac)
Borderlands looks like a comic book come to life, but it wasn’t always this way. Gearbox originally intended for Borderlands to launch with a more realistic art style, similar to other shooters at the time. Thankfully, Gearbox decided to change its tune as it closed in on the game’s completion, opting for an art style that set it apart from other shooters. Imagining the world of Borderlands without its current style is hard, especially since it’s used to reflect the absurd universe.
No More Heroes (Wii)
This last generation saw Sony and Microsoft venturing into the world of HD visuals with their consoles, but Nintendo’s Wii didn’t boast the same capability. Despite this, a few Wii games made up for the graphical gap with stunning art design. No More Heroes is a great example. Suda51 is well known for his hyper stylized games, but No More Heroes’ cel-shaded visuals, complete with heavy use of shadows, really stood out.
Limbo (360, PS3, PC, Mac, iOS, Linux, OnLive, and Vita)
Indie games started to rise in popularity during the last generation – proving that you don’t need HD visuals to make an interesting game – but few games managed to do what Limbo did with its art. The entirety of Limbo is presented in black, white, and all the shades in between; everything looks more like a shadow than anything else. Light also plays a central role by adding textured distortion or being blinding at times.
The Unfinished Swan (PS3)
The Unfinished Swan starts in a unique way: a completely white screen devoid of anything. But when you start throwing paint and splashing it over the hidden environment, the world starts revealing itself. Seeing your surroundings brought to life with the rough splashes of paint is a cool moment from last generation that few will forget.
AntiChamber (PC, Mac, and Linux)
The assets making up AntiChamber occasionally look like bad art made in Microsoft Paint. They’re about as minimal as it gets for a first-person perspective game, but when thrown together they make craft a mind-bending, complex puzzle game. This is likely the best example of environment being worked into a game to form puzzles. It’s basically the video game equivalent to an optical illusion book.
Up Next: colorful piñatas, the lack of color, and anime.
Email the author Isaac Federspiel, or follow on Game Informer.