Games as Art

Yeah, I’m not actually going to discus or argue about whether games can be considered “art” or not—they obviously can—but I will tell you this: There are a whole lot of games coming your way that are artistically gorgeous. And I’ve posted a bunch of them below for your viewing pleasure:

Abzu

ABZÛ is an epic descent into the depths of the sea, where players will explore beautifully rendered ocean environments with fluid swimming controls. The experience draws inspiration from the deep innate narrative that we all carry within our subconscious: the story of ABZÛ is a universal myth that resonates across cultures. The name references a concept from the oldest mythologies; it is the combination of the two ancient words AB, meaning ocean, and ZÛ, meaning to know. ABZÛ is the ocean of wisdom.” – website

Cuphead

Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930’s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e. traditional cel animation (hand drawn & hand inked!), watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings. Play as Cuphead or Mugman (in single player or co-op) as you traverse strange worlds, acquire new weapons, learn powerful super moves, and discover hidden secrets. Cuphead is all action, all the time. Do you have what it takes?” – website

Donut County

Donut County is a whimsical physics toy that explores negative space by giving players control over a hole in the ground. Every time you swallow something, the hole grows a little bit bigger. Play with the characters and objects (all driven by physics) to devour everything in the scene, combine objects for surprising effects, and solve puzzles by launching objects back out!

The game centers around a teenage girl working at Donut County, a Los Angeles inspired coffee mug-shaped donut shop. One day the girl gets a mysterious delivery from some raccoons: a box of irresistible donuts that open holes all around the county.” – website

Firewatch

Firewatch is a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

In Firewatch you play as a man named Henry who has retreated from his messy life to work as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. Perched high atop a mountain, it’s your job to look for smoke and keep the wilderness safe. An especially hot, dry summer has everyone on edge. Your supervisor, a woman named Delilah, is available to you at all times over a small, handheld radio —and is your only contact with the world you’ve left behind.

But when something strange draws you out of your lookout tower and into the world, you’ll explore a wild and unknown environment, facing questions and making interpersonal choices that can build or destroy the only meaningful relationship you have.” – website

Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D Action RPG in the vein of the best 8-bit and 16-bit classics, with modernized mechanics and designs on a much grander scale. – website

Inside

Not a lot is really know about Inside, other than it’s the next game from the talented team that gave us Limbo, but it sure looks nice.

Necropolis

Necropolis is a game of brutal combat and survival, set in a magical deathtrap that shifts and reconstructs itself around you. Will you find the exit, or die trying?” – website

Ni No Kuni 2

Ni No Kuni 2 follows the story of King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who is usurped from his castle, and sets out to reclaim his kingdom. He is aided by Roland, a visitor from another world.” – wiki

Rime

Rime tells the story of a boy who must use his wits and ingenuity to survive, and ultimately escape from, a mysterious island and a terrible curse.”- website

Shantae: Half Genie Hero

Shantae is roused from a deep sleep, suddenly alert. She plunges into the moonlit forest in search of answers. In nearby Scuttle Town she discovers a mysterious trapdoor, and beyond that, a luminous subterranean cavern. A familiar voice calls out, drawing Shantae to a beautiful fountain. Touching its waters she is immediately spirited away to the fabled Genie Realm. At her feet a magical seal swells as some powerful evil seeks escape. The chamber trembles with a deep, bellowing roar and everything goes white. Shantae sits upright, back in her bed. Was it just a dream? Or a vision of things to come?” – website

The Witness

The Witness is inspired by Myst and has the player explore an open world island filled with a number of natural and man-made structures. The player progresses by solving puzzles which are based on interactions with mazes presented on panels around the island. The rules and outcomes of solving the individual mazes are part of the puzzles that the player will have to come to learn themselves through both visual clues around the island and through audio logs that the player can find.” – wiki

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan

Nothing is really know about this game yet but it has a great comic art style, it’s from Platinum Games, and it has the Turtles in it—so it’s off to a good start.

Unravel

“Unlock a heartfelt story re-connecting the memories of a long lost family. The tale is told completely without words, and Yarny is the bond that ties everything together.” – website

What Remains of Edith Finch

“What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short stories about a cursed family in Washington State.

Each story offers a chance to experience the life of a different family member with stories ranging from the early 1900s to the present day. The gameplay and tone of the stories are as varied as the family members themselves. The only constants are that each is played from a first-person perspective and that each story ends with that family member’s death. It’s a game about what it feels like to be humbled and astonished by the vast and unknowable world around us.

You’ll follow Edith Finch as she explores the history of her family and tries to figure out why she’s the last Finch left alive.” – website

Sorry if I missed out any obvious examples. And, just to be clear, I wasn’t choosing games that are technically impressive for the current-generation—I don’t really care about tech. Rather, I chose games that I believe have gone for the kind of artistic approach and visual design that when we look at them again in twenty years time they will still look gorgeous. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Games as Art”

  1. Nice read! Ori and the Bind forest is my go to when the “games are art” discussion comes about. My first play through of that game was 18 hours solely because I kept getting distracted on the landscape.

    1. Yeah, that’s another great looking game.

      I’m actually really happy to see so many developers (mostly indies) going down this artistic route over the just shoving a bunch of tech on the screen and basically turning on loads of computerised shader effects in the hope of impressing people. For me, that trick only works in the short term, whereas great artistry can last basically forever.

      Also, I’m extremely happy to see so many games that don’t look all gritty and “realistic”. Sooo happy.

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