It’s not all about the specs.
In today’s day and age, people are much too concerned with things like frame rates and resolutions. And there’s no denying that those things are very important. But we also need to remember that there are other ways that a game can be just as visually impressive, if not more so. In 2017, we got a ton of games that made excellent use of art, in order to make themselves stand out in an industry that all too often makes use of visual palettes that have, by this point, become rather generic.
We’re going to take a look at games released this year that we feel had the best art style, games that had the kind of look you cannot simply put out of your mind. So without further ado, here are GamingBolt’s nominees for the best art style of a game in 2017.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
In Breath of the Wild, around every corner, there is something marvellous to behold- the ruins of an old castle, the glistening form of a snaking river, a massive volcano towering over the landscape, a vast open field dotted with forests and lakes. And all the while, thanks to incredible draw distances, in the distance you can see looming figures begging you to move in their direction, from towers and mountain ranges to dragons floating across the sky. Breath of the Wild is a game that wants you to explore its world, and it does so by presenting you with striking imagery everywhere you go. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Hyrule has never been this beautiful.
Cuphead is the kind of game that grabs your attention from the moment you lay eyes on it. That’s a testament to just how unbelievably amazing it looks. But while it has to be commended for how incredibly faithful it is to its 1930s animations influences, it deserves even more praise for how it puts its money where its mouth is. Cuphead pulls off its its desired visual look with great aplomb, from the boss and enemy design to the animations, from the way the titular character snaps his fingers to the way barrels explode in clouds of white plume. The sense of personality that the visuals imbibe in every aspect of Cuphead is, without a doubt, one of the game’s greatest strengths.
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
Throughout the course of Super Mario Odyssey, you visit all kinds of locations, from deserts and forests to frozen landscapes and ruins of destroyed kingdoms, and it is thanks to the game’s excellent art style that all these places are brought to life so convincingly. Every place you visit has its own distinct flavour and personality, every enemy you see is designed excellently, and the sheer imaginativeness of everything you feast your eyes on is frankly astounding. Super Mario Odyssey represents the good that can come out of a Nintendo that is unconcerned with abiding to any sane structure, and its visual style is the perfect illustration of that.
HORIZON: ZERO DAWN
The idea of a post-post-apocalypse is one that sounds intriguing on paper, but it is Horizon’s beautiful art that truly brings it to life. Everything from the overgrown forests to the snow-capped mountains, from the look of the machines that roam the land to the look of the cities and small settlements- it’s all just so imaginative, so beautiful. And then there’s the tiny little details, like the way the inhabitants of this world dress, to the way the remnants of the old world are just lying about, all of which sells the game’s setting so well. You don’t often find a game whose art style is as beautiful as it is technically impressive, but Horizon: Zero Dawn definitely falls into that sparsely crowded category.
MARIO + RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE
How do you bring the worlds of Mario and the Rabbids together? How do you mesh them into a single, cohesive whole? A vibrant and colourful visual palette, ingenious character design, and an incredible attention to detail- that’s how. The idea of properly bringing the two worlds together may have seemed outlandish a few months ago, but Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle handles that task expertly. It blends the two distinct worlds and their contrasting personalities so expertly, it’s now become hard to imagine why people were even skeptical about it in the first place.
Literally every nook and cranny of Persona 5 is jam-packed with visual flair. The bold art style of Persona 5 manifests itself in every pixel of the game, from its character design and dungeons to even things as simple as its menus or, hell, the fonts it uses for its text. Even something as basic as the screen you see every time a battle ends is like nothing we have ever seen in any RPG. This is a game that oozes funk and personality for the entirety of its 90 hour run, and it does so with supreme confidence.
Nioh is a game of contrasting tones. On the face of it, it’s a decidedly grim and gritty experience, in vein of a typical Soulsborne experience, but it’s also a game that revels in refusing to take itself too seriously. That contrasting nature manifests itself in the game’s art style as well. In Nioh, authenticity meets a fantasy-fuelled take on feudal Japan. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the gloriously memorable and over the top interpretations of classical Japanese monsters and mythological creatures. It’s a striking look, to say the least, and one that melds realism with imagination expertly.
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2
In true Monolith Soft fashion, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has the capacity to make you stare at your screen and the wonders being displayed on it for minutes on end. The world of Alrest is a breathtakingly beautiful one, and every location you visit stands out in memory long after you’ve moved on to the next one. The game is full of beautiful, sweeping vistas and majestic structures looming in the distance, making you want to explore, just for the sake of exploring- and a large part of that is thanks to its incredible art style. It’s semi-cel-shaded style does wonders too, because while it’s clear that the game is lacking from a technical point of view, you just know that its visuals are still going to hold up well years from now.
By this point, we’ve come to expect a certain standard of visual quality from games by indie developer Supergiant, and fortunately enough, Pyre doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it exceeds expectations. It’s a game that is full of life and colour, all of which is thanks to its sharp and vibrant visual style. It’s hand-drawn style assets are beautiful to look at, the character design is pleasantly unusual, while its more abstract style helps lend a certain distinct flavour to the game’s environments. Pyre a game that looks gorgeous and alien at the same time, in a manner that just sucks you in right from the moment the it kicks off.
There’s something about Hollow Knight’s clean, crisp visuals style that immediately attracts the eye. It doesn’t try to dazzle you with an explosion of colour, nor does it present you with ambitious scenes of epic scope in an attempt to make you gasp. It’s unconcerned with making any kind of an in-your-face visual statement, and that boldness and simplicity is exactly what elevates its art style to another level. The places you visit in the game are rendered with confidence, in a manner that is both subtle and effective at the same time. You don’t often find games that go down that route, especially not ones that do it well, and we cherish Hollow Knight all the more for it.
WINNER- PERSONA 5
This was a category that could have easily been won by any of our ten nominees, but ultimately, we just had to pick Persona 5. This is a game that can best be described as an absolute treat for the eyes, a game with a sense of style like no other. It’s like an masterfully illustrated comic book in motion, and perhaps the best use of an anime-like art style we have ever seen in any video game. Atlus have clearly worked incredibly hard on making sure that every aspect of the game is bound together by a cohesive and memorable artistic flair, even in things that other games in the genre so often choose to ignore, and that is something they deserve a lot of praise for. No matter what you’re doing in Persona 5, whether it’s dungeon crawling or roaming about a city or even looking at menus, you will be visually impressed. Persona 5 is a stylistic attack on the senses in the most amazing way possible.
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.