There are a lot of visually stunning, photorealistic games around right now (here are a few of our favourites, incidentally), but equally there are a ton of amazing games with art styles outside the norm. Whether it’s beautifully hand-drawn animation, worlds that look like they’ve been crafted out of fuzzy-felt and cardboard, comic books brought to life, or monochromatic masterpieces, there’s a wealth of amazing art styles in video games for you to feast your eyes upon.
So without further ado, here’s a selection of some of the most unique and visually stunning works of art in gaming from the last few years.
1. Paper Mario: The Origami King
The whole world looks like it’s been crafted by hand, from the individual bricks in Peach’s castle to the folded origami soldiers of the dastardly King Olly. You also get to fight against evil office supplies, which is something you can’t say every day. Who knew pencils and staplers could be so terrifying?
Not only does Cuphead have 1930s style artwork and music (seriously, that soundtrack is phenomenal), it was actually animated the old-fashioned way too – which means every frame of animation was done by hand, with pencil, paper, and pen, while the backgrounds were done with watercolour. Take some time to admire it, because the tiny details are stunning.
3. What Remains of Edith Finch
Technically we’re cheating a little bit here, because What Remains of Edith Finch actually contains multiple art styles all packed into one game, as well as a mind-bogglingly emotional story. A couple of our favourite moments include a section made to look like a comic book come to life, and a deeply emotional scene in which a realistic world is slowly eclipsed by a character’s fantastical dream of kings and castles.
4. Return of the Obra Dinn
Imagine that your eyes have been somehow replaced with the insides of an original Game Boy, and now you’re looking at a detailed 3D world in pixellated monochrome. Be prepared to be blown away by the sheer amount of detail that can be achieved with just black and white. Oh, and the story is exceptional too.
5. Little Nightmares
We got serious Tim Burton vibes from the creepy creatures inhabiting the world of Little Nightmares. Don’t look too close at their designs, because they’re some of the creepiest things we’ve ever seen (we’re serious, don’t look closely at the Janitor unless you want actual nightmares). This isn’t a story for the faint of heart, because for the most part you can’t fight back, and the upcoming sequel looks like it’ll be just as unsettling.
If you’re going to play a game based on Japanese mythology, you might as well pick one with an art style that looks like an inkbrush painting brought to life. It’s a little meta, but you also get your own Celestial Brush and get to paint on top of the world too.
7. Untitled Goose Game
You’d think a game about the most evil bird in video game history would have an art style more akin to something like Doom, but no: there are pastel colours, a cute little to-do list in delightful cursive handwriting, and a pleasant piano soundtrack. It’s all utterly charming.