Finding the “best” looking game is always difficult. Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a good looking game. However, it’s not hard to recognize artistic achievement, especially in an industry which can mesh so many different styles from so many different eras into its creations. Let’s take a look at the nominees for best art direction in a video game for 2016.
Gearbox’s iconic cartoon madness turned up to 11, Battleborn featured a bombastic array of colours that mixed sci-fi and fantasy relentlessly. The game began with a sleekly rendered animated sequence and each of its heroes is distinct in their animations, attacks and personalities. However, for all intents and purposes, it’s the purveying dark humour and self-conscious rambling that dominates the art style.
Imagine a Pixar film but more mature and lore-heavy. Now throw in every influence you can think of from Call of Duty and Quake to Team Fortress 2 and mecha anime. Overwatch’s visuals have been lauded for their crisp and clear flow, evidenced by the breath-taking environments with their various nuances. However, the character design is the sole winner, delivering heroes that feel like cultural icons alive beyond the confines of a video game.
The Last Guardian
Ruins, thick fog and an eerie atmosphere dominate genDESIGN’s The Last Guardian. This lends to the game’s mysterious nature and further reinforces an air of solitude (which places more focus on the leading pair). Trico’s mannerisms are arguably the highlight. The beast’s fur ripples realistically and his animations are uncannily animal-like, crossing an uncanny valley we weren’t sure was possible.
Hyper Light Drifter
Inspired by the likes of Zelda and 8-bit action adventures, Hyper Light Drifter is a neon-dripped hallucination set in a forgotten civilization in ruins. Flashbacks that literally bleed onto the screen with their animated splendor is accompanied by retro-like animations that are nonetheless nuanced and lifelike.
Like Hyper Light Drifter, D-Pad Studio’s Owlboy goes retro but in a different direction. The action platformer takes a more measured, dreamy approach with lovely sprite work and wonderful character expressions. Bright visuals mask a world full of danger and challenges but the sheer expressionism crafted into every aspect make Owlboy worth exploring without fear.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Vanillaware’s classic action RPG has been resurrected in HD, making its aesthetics even more fetching than ever. The sheer grandiose nature of the visuals, despite their 2D nature, is accompanied by memorable character design and background art. All these years haven’t dulled Odin Sphere’s art style and Leifthrasir is a textbook example on accentuating the positives.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
From the influences gathered, whether it’s the fairy tale nature of the narration or the Norse-inspired characters and deities, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a special game. It’s not simply enough that the 2D art, incorporating “hand-shaped” visuals, looks great – it animates amazingly as well, whether it’s Gwendolyn leading her Valkyries into battle or a clash between two titans. The entire affair is modeled like a stage play, the performers living and dying dramatically as heroes should but living forever in history. Nine years later and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir proves that in the gaming industry, some artistic visions truly never die.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.