Top 5 Video Games as Art

This month, a video game studio called Ignition released screen shots of their next project: a game called El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Game play details and plot are sparse, but one thing is certain. It looks beautiful.

Players dance across floating platforms in polarized purples and greens. Texturally the graphics resemble pastel drawings more than commonplace cel-shading.

All this graphical overload got us thinking about other games that go beyond pushing buttons to give players a look at something beautiful. Submitted for your perusal are our picks for the top 5 video games as art ...

1. Okami

Okami shares a great deal of game play concepts from the Legend of Zelda series, but it becomes its own beast when it comes to visual style. Every aspect of the game appears to be illustrated by a dip pen and brush. Not only does Okami resemble Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, it actually involves players in its art style by forcing them to "paint" symbols to overcome the game's many obstacles.

2. Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy was originally released for the PS2 in 2004. It's old. While future iterations of the game have graced the Xbox 360 and PS3, the basic graphical style has remained the same; it's filled with simplistic yet instantly recognizable objects ripe for rolling up into a massive katamari. It can not be denied that Katamari Damacy has its own quirky, visual style that has contributed to the game's success just as much as its core game play mechanics and ridiculously catchy soundtrack. Yeah, it looks like an acid trip, but it's a beautiful acid trip.

3. Shadow of the Colossus

Sometimes less is more. No game presents this idea better than Shadow of the Colossus. Since the earliest bleeps and bloops joined forces to eat quarters, games have religiously given some sort of heads-up display to let players know how close they are to the high score or a game over. Shadow of the Colossus says "no" to that notion (for the most part) and in doing so preserves the illusion that the player is actually in a mystical land hunting down massive creatures. From the inky black jets of blood that pour out of the wounded colossi to the elegant movements of running your horse across a plain, Shadow of the Colossus is visual ecstasy.

4. The Another World (Ninokuni)

When the same studio that created Spirited Away and Ponyo starts to work on a video game project, it's hard not to take notice. Studio Ghibli and Level 5's The Another World (translated from Ninokuni in Japanese) is a visual feast for the eyes. Trailers (like the one above) rely heavily on the animated cut scenes to impress its fluid animation upon potential players, but the slick movement of the characters continues into the actual game play as well. RPG players used to rely on their imagination to build the fantastic world they were experiencing in their heads. Now we hire Academy Award-winning animation studios to do that for us.

5. Anything by Suda 51

Love him or hate him, there's no denying that game creator Suda 51's visual style is built for looking cool as hell. No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle may not have the best graphics on the Wii, but the artistic direction of both titles is full on with contrasting colors and flourishes of detail that transform of the world of Santa Destroy from a background to a surreal illusion. However, Suda 51's artistic style is alive and well in some of his older games as well.

Without the harsh shadows and minimalist colors in Killer 7 the psychotic world of Garcian Smith would not have seemed half as creepy. Even Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked (a complete bomb of a title for PS2) benefits from the wacky, artistic renderings that are synonymous with Suda 51's game direction.

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