Jet Grind Radio
The art style of the original Dreamcast game was, and still is, unlike anything I have ever seen or played.
Please understand, I am not talking about remakes or HD re-releases here. I am talking about the original, Jet Grind Radio for the Sega Dreamcast. When I first played this game, and saw my avatar, in crazy Japanese-graffiti style, I just about shit my pants. I know that is intense, but it’s true. It literally made my intestines twist with glee. There I was, cell-shaded (first time in my life I had ever seen it, and fell in love with it immediately), the music was frantic and amazing, and the fact that, in the actual game, I was tagging walls and running from cops was just so badass to me. I mean, for a few years in my life, that is what I did. I was obsessed with stickering and tagging everything (and there are various pieces of art between the Northeast, California, and even Mexico that stand as proof of this) and here, that lifestyle was being represented, to a tee (although, ofcourse, exaggerated) and to me, that was Heaven.
And just like Okami and Bioshock, it was a three attack process that made this game a living, breathing piece of interactive artwork. The sound matched up with the visual style, which matched up with the gameplay. I can still vividly recall how it felt when I got to the final levels of that game and I was trying to put up tags as swat team members were dropping in and tanks were trying to take me out. It was hyper-active, gorgeous fun.
And honestly, I have been in love with cell-shading since.
Shadow of the Colossus
Hey, maybe in the sequel, I can play the big guy?
Scale, people. In this case, it is all about scale. Outside of some STUNNING scaling in the God of War series (which also deserves a HUGE nod in the graphics department), I have never seen or felt scale like I did when I played Shadow of the Colossus. Those moments, those long, quite moments between battles were as much a part of the game as the game itself. Because it was those moments that you bonded with your horse, and you wondered what marvelous beast would you be trying to topple next.
And then, the moment when it came into view, and you heart stammered for a second. Yes, that is art. That is art, and storytelling, and every single aspect, working together to pull you into a world that doesn’t even exist, yet, in those single moments, it does. That is what is awe-inspiring about all the games on this list. Any time I played any one of these games, I was IN those worlds, completely. Yet, those worlds are just coding. You see, nerds and artists, they work together like mad scientists to build these worlds. And in so many cases, it feels like a game. But in these five cases, atleast for me, it felt like a crawled into a framed painting that somehow just kept evolving.
Star Fox: Now it looks jagged and out-dated, but when this game came out, we had never seen anything like it.
Once upon a time, this was enough to drop our jaws.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Say what you want, but the first time I played Sonic, I looked over at my best friend and said: This IS playing a cartoon. Games will NEVER look better than this! Boy, what a stupid child I was.
Out of This World: Wow, looking back, I apparently had a thing for polygons.
Also, shameless, out-of-context plug.