Mar 30 2012

The 10 Most Visually Stunning Games of the Last 10 Years

Published by at 12:00 pm under Images,Lists,Video Games

(click to enlarge)

A few years ago, I made a post that is still one of my favorites to this day. It was the ten most visually stunning movies of the last ten years, and it was a joy to put together. I decided that games have advanced to the point where a similar list is possible for that type of media, and here we are.

I racked my brain to come up with the titles that have stood out the most from a visual perspective over the last decade. Yes, sometimes that means amazing graphics, skewing the list toward this generation, but sometimes it can be a game having a visual style all its own.

These are my ten picks, and I’m sure you’ll have a few of your own by the end. Let me know in the comments.

1. Red Dead Redemption (2010)

There are many open world games these days, but few as consistently breathtaking as Red Dead Redemption. From forests to deserts to snow capped mountains, the game constantly made your jaw drop each time you played.

2. Mirror’s Edge (2008)

A fantastic game that not only had striking visuals, but made them a core part of gameplay as well. Here, red meant go, and and the cityscapes you ran through were modernist masterpieces of primary color art.

3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007)

Yes, it’s true that the two subsequent Modern Warfare games (and Battlefield 3), might have technically better graphics, but this was the first time in a game that the visuals made me actually feel like I was in the middle of a warzone.

4. Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

The first game had sweeping  landscapes as well, but the moving the game to Italy produced what might be the most gorgeous city environment ever in a game, with classic landmarks digitally rebuilt with an insane amount of detail.

5. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)

If this was a ranked order list, Skyrim might just be on the top. Quite simply it’s the best the open world genre has ever looked, and you could explore for a hundred hours and still find new areas that were worth taking screenshots of.





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31 responses so far

  • Quade

    What about Cysis 2?

  • Rob J

    Ten most visually stunning games of the last 10 years? Seriously off the top of my head I would say your missing Crysis and Battlefield 3 on the pc and Uncharted on the PS3

  • Xarocs

    I know its not the best, but Twilight Princess I think had awsm graphics. For its time I mean. Its kinda old but i still find it better looking than sum games today…

  • Emma

    To be honest, I play Skyrim on Xbox360 and the graphics are surprisingly bad.

  • Demonic

    I have to say there wasn’t really much from the nintendo catergory. I am not saying the games really were centered around visual effects, but you are missing a few games that were surprising for what the could do, both Twilight Princess and its predecssor Skyward Sword. The Final Fantasy series, which has joined the nintendo club, and so forth.

  • Josh

    @Emma: Skyrim on the PC is a sight to behold, much like the differences for BF3 are night and day.

  • Covalent

    Mmm, no BF3 and Crysis? These two games had my jaw drop. Other than that I agree.

  • Howard

    (Cough) OKAMI

  • Paul

    I have to admit, I’m a little sad to see that only 1 last-gen game made the list. I mean, yeah, newer games will be by definition better looking, but some great looking games came out before these. So really, a better title would be, “Visually Stunning games of the past half decade.” Bummer that games get forgotten or overlooked just because they’re last-gen.

  • trashcanman

    Those on the list are all technical and critical darlings with insane detail, but for pure eye candy I’ve got Final Fantasy XIII. I thought the first few levels were going to melt my eyes. Just gorgeous.

  • GrimReality

    Good call on Limbo. Stunning game. Where the heck is Uncharted 1/2/3? The latter 2 especially. Gorgeous games.
    This seems focused more on technical than artistic merits. There are some games with amazing art direction, but lack in the technical department. The above mentioned Okami comes to mind.
    Or how about Journey? I just played through it, and thought it was amazing in both aspects.

  • Uncoolaidman

    Extremely solid list. I’d maybe add Uncharted 3, but I wouldn’t say it could replace any of these choices.

  • Bernardo

    @ trachcanman

    Totally agree. That game was just beautiful from beginning to end.

  • Nick

    There seens to be a mix of games with great graphics and games with great art direction in this list. Perhaps choosing one or the other would have given a more cohesive list.

    Couple of my faves in terms of art direction:

    Jet Set Radio Future
    Blinx: the Time Sweeper
    Far Cry 2
    Minecraft
    Psychonauts

    and in terms of graphics (at time of coming out):

    Crysis
    The Witcher 2

  • Fing

    Crysis and Metal Gear Solid 4, both were leaps and bounds ahead when they were released and for sometime after. Battlefield 3 is also something to behold on maximum settings.

  • Wite Boy

    stopped reading once you said CoD:MW. those graphics are shit.

  • Andy

    So, it looks like I’m gonna have to be that guy that says the third pic on the Modern Warfare entry is actually from Modern Warfare 2.

  • Amy

    Any of the Final Fantasy games? What about Journey?

  • zero

    I’d say the first Ninja Gaiden on the xbox was AMAZING. It was on par if not better than most 360 games even a few years after it’s original release.

  • Jason

    UNCHARTED 2 anyone??

  • http://86gramos.blogspot.com Gary Ramos

    great post paul!!!

  • CrazyBlue

    That is a great list. Can’t complain about any of those choices.
    But I do just want to add a couple of my additions:

    Killer 7, it’s the cel shaded simplicity that makes it so stunning.
    Mass Effect (any one), primarily scenery shots from the citadel are simply beautiful.
    Also Just Cause 2, finally blue’s and green’s!

  • flash1049

    My posts are few and far between, and I agree with most of the ones on this list, but seriously OKAMI had the most distinctive and stunning visuals I have ever seen, even if it was on the PS2. Seriously check it out if you haven’t already. Even now, the game is a joy to play and the brushwork mechanic is so completely and thoroughly realized that you will wonder how no one thought of this before. Even with the wonderful gameplay, stunning soundtrack, great story, etc., it’s the visuals that stand out.

    Please Paul, do one of those “Paul plays…” routines and check out OKAMI.

    Ash

  • Sams

    Need to add Journey to that list, it looks outstanding when you’re in it.

    great list though. Agree with all of them. Red Dead blows my mind everytime I return.

  • Mudfish

    No Twilight Princess?

  • David

    How about the Avatar game?

  • amr

    doom3?

  • amr

    doom3 shoud also be there

  • Blake

    I think we can all agree that nothing beats a Red Dead sunset.

  • Pingback: Five Video Games That Visually Redefine The Medium As Art |

  • Fox

    I think some of you are playing on consoles, and say some of the graphics in these games are terrible. Well I’m sorry to say that Consoles don’t come close to PC gameplay. Why do you thnk more than 60% of gamers are migrating over to PC? It may be expensive, but it’s well worth it to see every detail and every fine quality in the games mentioned. Even though I would add a few because it’s the last 10 years.

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