No matter how much anyone tries to argue otherwise, graphics matter a lot. I’m not saying that they matter more than the gameplay here, no. That’s a topic for another, more controversial argument altogether. I’m just saying that the importance of a game’s graphics cannot be understated. After all, all our interaction with the game’s world and characters is facilitated by its graphics, and a good artstyle can make or break a game’s immersion, especially in those ones that rely on atmosphere a lot. Even in those ones that don’t, it is incredibly important to remember that our first impression of a video game is always made by how visually appealing a game looks- we are naturally predisposed and inclined to like a game which we find graphically attractive, and we are prejudiced towards those that fail to impress graphically from the get go.
Clearly, graphics are important, then. After all, one should remember that they are called video games. If the gameplay was all that mattered, then we would still have been playing tabletop role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons today.
Having established the importance of graphics irrefutably in everyone’s mind then, we here at GamingBolt believe that it is important to take a step back and put this importance in a historical perspective. For as much as we know that you like to compare the difference in the pixels in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Crysis 2, I think it’s nice to remember just how we got to where we are. So, let’s have a look in the following (unranked!) list of eight games that absolutely set graphical benchmarks and kickstarted new graphical eras upon their release. Without further ado, then-
Stop looking at the image above. No, seriously. Stop judging the game by the image, and stop contesting its inclusion in the list. That image up there is useless, and the only reason it’s here is because I’m supposed to be putting an image for every game. But seriously, that image is not representative of the game’s graphical quality, nor of why the game set a graphical benchmark in the first place.
I’m sure you guys all remember the E3 2001 reveal for Metal Gear Solid 2. This was the first time that a game truly appeared next gen, the first time that the Playstation 2 looked set to make good on the promises of ‘super computing’ that it had made pre release. Jaws dropped worldwide as gamers gawked at the outstanding quality of Kojima’s visceral masterpiece. And while Sons of Liberty has aged very badly graphically, at that time, it was groundbreaking, more so for the absolute quality of its cinematic cutscenes than for anything else. Few games have had an impact on cinematic storytelling like Metal Gear Solid 2 did, and it was this game’s graphical prowess that not only firmly cemented the MGS series as a graphical showcase, but also made it the pallbearer of storytelling in videogames.
Look at that magnificent piece of art up there, and marvel at its beauty. This monochromatic pseudo 3D game that you see up there is Monster Maze 3D, a 1981 video game that also holds the distinction of being the first 3D game ever created. Because of this, we must also unfortunately credit it for kickstarting the 3D games revolution, even though later games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Star Fox, F-Zero, Final Fantasy IV, Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario Kart were all more important in actually making 3D an industry standard. The stuff that actually matters, you know?
No, seriously. The gaming industry is not 3D because of Monster Maze 3D. Other games listed above were more important in that regard. However, pioneers have always been credited by history, and thus that shall be the case here too. Congratulations, Monster Maze 3D. For having impacted arcade and home computer gaming by making way for several pseudo 3D games (that admittedly did not set standards even then), you get a place on this list.
Half Life 2 is a beautiful game, there can be no doubt about that. It has also aged wonderfully, compared to some of the other games on this list here. However, I think people tend to forget why this game was so acclaimed and deemed so groundbreaking when it was first released. Yes, it had had insane hype leading up to it. Yes, there was that entire episode with the game being leaked online. And oh yeah, this was one of the most expensive games ever produced at the time of its release. But the reason that the final game lived up to it all was that it set the mold for future shooters to come because of the incredibly realistic physics interactions that its Source engine enabled. In this game, things behaved like they were supposed to, making the world all the more realistic. You wouldn’t see a crate bouncing off the ground into the distance in Half Life 2- you’d see it exploding, with splinters flying in all directions realistically. The importance of this cannot be understated or undermined.