Game of the Year 2019

Best Looking Game

This isn’t best or most graphics. These are just the games that I liked looking at the most. Some of them are on the more realistic, technical showpiece side of visual design, while others lean in a more artistic direction. Either approach qualifies for this list — I just want to highlight the games that deliver best on what they’re trying to achieve visually. To me, these games are the best combination of artistic idea and technical execution.

Honorable Mentions

Ape Out
There’s way more chromatic variation in Ape Out than you might expect.

Neo Cab
Neo Cab’s animations are simple but I’m a sucker for cyberpunk.

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
It’s a pretty, colorful, good looking Mario game. That’s still enough for me.

The Outer Worlds
There’s great visual variety between worlds, but open spaces can look empty.

5. Borderlands 3

Playing through Borderlands 3, it’s easy to toss off the visuals as just an enhanced version of what we’ve seen before. But having played the original game on PS4 earlier in the year, the visual upgrade to Borderlands 3 is actually quite amazing. The level of detail provided by the new horsepower is put to great use with plenty of varied environments. Driving around the larger areas in a vehicle still highlights some of the blandness of the open world, but the more focused, on-foot sections are almost all visually interesting.

4. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

The fidelity of Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order isn’t particularly amazing, but it’s solid. The game also suffers from some major framerate dips, which bring down the ranking quite a bit. But I’m just a sucker for everything Star Wars, and Jedi Fallen Order gives me that grungy original trilogy look that I can’t get enough of. The game also manages to buck the “snow world, forest world, city world, etc” trap that Star Wars stories fall into far too frequently.

3. Control

Most of the appeal of Control’s visuals come from the excellent world and art design (and it’ll get more props in the Best Setting category). There’s a surprising amount of variety considering the game primarily takes place in an office building. While the facial animations are expressive, they have that uncanny valley thing going on that make them kind of unsettling. It fits the style of the game but it isn’t what I’d call “nice to look at.” But even things as simple as the font work and FMV recordings establish an amazing sense of place.

2. Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus would win “most graphics” in a landslide. I’m sure things are even more bonkers on PC, but playing on my PS4 Pro was still jaw dropping at times. And with the world opening up compared to previous games, you get far more visual variety than just subway tunnels and snow. The water sections are particularly detailed. I’ve always enjoyed the broken down, post-post-apocalypse visual aesthetic of the series, and the guns and enemies have never looked better.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

In may ways, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was such a breath of fresh air for me in 2019 — and the look of the game is a huge part of that. I’m not a big “chibi” person, but it’s hard to ignore just how cute everything is in this remake. And compared to the other games on this list, Link’s Awakening does the most with color, which is always something worth lauding. The game doesn’t always run great on Switch, especially in handheld mode, but it never hampers the gameplay experience.

Continue onto the next page for Best Setting!

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