When you look at some trailers, you instantly identify the games in question, right? Most of this is due to the art style, which can totally make the difference and save a game from drowning in a sea of clones. In this top 10 we praise those games, the ones where the art isn’t merely a second thought, where the looks are a very important part of the game.
We’re not praising high graphical quality here; no, we’re going for the clever touches, the style that makes a game stand out. Soul Worker or Closers Online look awesome and full of style, but they’re pretty much just perfect representations of anime graphics. They’re stunning, sure, but they’re not as imaginative or original as some of the artwork created for the games below.
And so, let’s begin with our Top 10 Games With Impressive Art Style.
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10 – TROVE
Trove is one more take on Minecraft but it’s made with gusto, with a personal style that somehow makes it stand out from the rest of the pack. We’re not saying that it looks amazing, or that it’s the best looking voxel game – Skysaga: Infinite Isles manages to look better. However, you know Trove when you see the screens and that is one of its greatest strengths: it has this identity, this peculiar color palette, this balance between inspiration and personality that is so difficult to find in a Minecraft-style game.
9 – MAPLESTORY 2
When you think 3D isometric chibi style MMORPG, which game comes to mind? MapleStory 2, most likely. In a risky move that very few studios are willing to take, Nexon decided not to play it safe and drastically changed the approach to the sequel of one of the most popular old-school online games – we commend them for that alone. While there may be some similarities to this or that game, such as EA’s MySims, it’s another thing entirely when we’re talking about MMOs. MapleStory 2 is different, it’s a pretty decent game and while a western release was vaguely mentioned, at this time there’s no official confirmation of that happening. We’re confident it will happen though.
8 – DUELYST
There are a few pixel art online games out there, but Duelyst is one of the most recent, making some waves after a successful Kickstarter pitch. A turn-based strategy game, Duelyst blends stunning, dreamlike artwork with pixel-art characters that look amazing, colorful and perfectly animated. This is pixel art used in a way that benefits a game, not just to jump in one of the latest fads in videogaming, and will probably capture the attention of players who otherwise weren’t willing to try a tactical game.
7 – BATTLECRY
At the time of making this top, Battlecry is in a very doubtful position. Bethesda has revealed that it isn’t happy with the game, so it’s likely that it will take some time before we see if the project is revamped or if it ends up being canceled. It would be a shame though, because as far as visual identity goes, Battlecry looked like it had it perfectly nailed down. It’s no wonder, actually, considering that the art was directed by Viktor Antonov, of Half-Life 2 and Dishonored fame. The sad thing is that it is looking like the visuals are lacking a good game to go with it, but hopefully this will change soon enough.
6 – WARFRAME
There’s nothing quite like Warframe in the free-to-play scene. This is sci-fi done right; it looks and feels so slick, so smooth, it’s almost like every single detail works in perfect sync with the rest. It’s pure visual style that is pretty much unrivaled by any other free-to-play shooter, and oddly enough, it manages to have more personality with its faceless Warframes than countless shooters have with their own heroes, such as, let’s say, Dirty Bomb or LawBreakers.
5 – TREE OF SAVIOR
When everyone is going 3D and trying to achieve the most realism possible, virtual reality stuff included, IMC Games is going the opposite way with Tree of Savior and we feel like giving them a big, strong pat in the back for that. Tree of Savior reminds us why we fell in love with RPGs in the first place – it wasn’t the millions of polygons in each character, it was the art style, the wonder that the discovery of every new location gave us. There was something magical about PlayStation and Amiga RPGs that we somehow see in Tree of Savior, with its tiny characters filled with detail and plenty of bosses that look so different and in tune with the game world. Tree of Savior is shaping up to be the best new old MMORPG ever made, if that makes sense to you.
4 – BLADE & SOUL
We’ve praised Blade & Soul’s art style so many times before that by now you’re probably a bit tired of listening to us yap about it. But do cut us some slack, as we think that there are very few games that look like it, MMOs or not. If you put all those martial arts MMORPGs next to each other, including Age of Wushu, Swordsman and Revelation, you won’t find one that looks as accomplished as NCsoft’s baby. In fact, Revelation Online even looks a bit too much like Blade and Soul – we’re not saying that’s a bad thing, but we also don’t think that is a coincidence. Don’t even get us started on Dragon Sword, another Chinese MMO that looks so much like Blade and Soul that it’s almost crazy. Anyway, the testament to the visual quality of Blade & Soul is that even a few years after the original Korean release, it still looks fresh and stunning for its North American and European launch coming in January 2016.
3 – GIGANTIC
We’re absolutely in love with the art style of Gigantic. We can’t remember a free-to-play game that looks quite like it and even if we look a bit further, the first thing that comes to mind is Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. No matter what was the inspiration, this is a game clearly designed by extremely talented artists and that is seen in everything from character design to animations and above all, the gigantic bosses that are truly a sight to behold. Our only and very slight concern is that some of the effects look a bit too much chaotic, sometimes obscuring the action, but I guess it contributes to the cartoon aesthetic of the game – let’s just hope it doesn’t get in the way of the competitive ambitions of the game. All in all, Gigantic’s character design is stunning and while the environments don’t share the same striking quality, they look functional and above all, cleverly designed and filled with intricate details that benefit the MOBA-like gameplay.
2 – PERIA CHRONICLES
Underneath Peria Chronicles obvious anime skin beats a heart that is filled with ideas, bravery and everything else that makes it so different from other anime MMO games out there. It looks familiar yet at the same time it is completely unlike all the MMORPGs that we’ve seen before and it is deserving of its own TV show or manga – we’re betting that Nexon has some cool merchandise in the making for this game. One of the greatest strengths about Peria Chronicles is just how the devs placed this sweet blonde girl in every trailer, instantly turning her into a recognizable face and the poster girl of the game. However, Peria Chronicles is a sandbox with a Pokémon twist and so far, the creatures we’ve seen look just as good as every other piece of art in this game. Stunning is an understatement for the art style in Peria Chronicles. This could be our number one, but that honor is going to a timeless classic.
1 – TEAM FORTRESS 2
When Team Fortress 2 was re-unveiled, the drastic visual style change surprised many players who weren’t expecting it to go from a realistic military look to a stylized cartoon-like approach that managed to stand apart from everything else in the shooter genre. The classes display a distinct personality that pretty much turns them into actual characters, with an instantly recognizable visual style that works perfectly, both in terms of artistic achievement as well as of gameplay effectiveness. Team Fortress 2 is a visual achievement that remains unsurpassed after so many years and this is a significant part of the reason why this shooter looks and feels just as fresh today as it was when it released in 2007. Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years already.
There you have it, ten games that you can recognize from a mile away. In all of these games there was a clearly talented art team thinking every detail behind the characters and environments and it paid off. Of course, there are other visually striking games and we’re sure you have a few in mind, so let us hear about it in the comments. Until next time!