Honorable Mention – Gravity Rush 2
The first Gravity Rush looked great on PS Vita, but Gravity Rush 2 really ups the ante to be one of the most visually stunning games of the entire year. Gravity Rush 2 continues the story of the mysterious gravity-defying girl, Kat, as she and others get sent to the city of Jirga Para Lhao. The game has some truly massive and stunning environments, which you can easily fly around in with the games’s gravity mechanic.
Gravity Rush 2’s visual style and aesthetic make it look like an anime in motion while playing, and in cutscenes. Like its predecessor, the comic book panel-style story moments return as well, giving the game a unique flair. Gravity Rush 2 is bigger and bolder than the first game, and the sheer scope of everything is impressive. Its unique aesthetic is really one of the strongest points of the game, making it one of the most attractive titles of the entire year.
Second Runner-Up – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There have been some pretty unique visual styles for the Zelda series, like Wind Waker’s gorgeous cel-shaded world. Breath of the Wild is very much the same way, and its fantastic version of Hyrule is just as stunning to look at as it is charming. Hyrule in Breath of the Wild is by far the largest version we’ve ever had, and for good reason as it matches the open world game’s focus on exploration. However, there’s a strong unifying aesthetic to everything about Breath of the Wild’s world, and the cel-shaded style, while not as distinct as Wind Waker’s, is still gorgeous.
There’s a sense of ruin to much of the world as Guardians lay strewn about fields overgrown with grass and weeds, and crumbled ruins dot the landscape. Going into towns and villages is a different story, and Breath of the Wild has the most vibrant of these in the entire series. Each town and village feels lived in, as villagers go about their daily tasks, but will react to Link if he does something extreme, like strip down out of his clothes. Every location in Breath of the Wild feels rich and varied, and there’s so much variation spread throughout the game. It’s still one of the best examples to show off the capabilities of the Switch, and probably the best looking Zelda game ever.
First Runner-Up – Cuphead
Cuphead’s visuals are completely unlike anything that has ever come before in video games, and it’s truly an impressive achievement. The game focuses on Cuphead and Mugman as they make a deal with the devil and have to fight a series of increasingly surreal bosses to hold up their end of the bargain. For anyone that doesn’t know, Cuphead is done in the style of 1930s cartoons, with all the weirdness you’d expect. The animations in the game are hand drawn before being translated into the game, giving everything an authentic feel.
In fact, the animation of the game is also essential to gameplay, as you’ll need to take advantage of animation loops to avoid attacks and learn patterns. Cuphead is an absolutely gorgeous game that perfectly emulates the rubber hose style of animation it’s going for. It’s completely unique in what it does, and hopefully we can see even more from the talented team at StudioMDHR.