First impressions last, and video games perfect them best through their visuals.
While some games focus on delivering a particular artistic style, others concentrate on photorealistic environments. Over the years, several visually striking titles have graced consoles and PCs. Each release of the best-looking video games looks more beautiful than the last, pushing the boundaries of what players deem possible.
1. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora (2023)
Dense vegetation, flashy effects, and Ray Tracing help Pandora shine as best as ever. The visual fidelity in this game never fails to stop impressing players, no matter how much time they spend playing. Players must notice the reactive fauna in this game. Every leaf, bush, and tree moves alongside the wind.
2. The Last of Us Part II (2020)
It's rare for a video game to invoke feelings of uncomfortableness in players. Yet, The Last of Us Part II does precisely that with its true-to-life gruesome nature.
Naughty Dog once again propels the industry forward. This time, with a state-of-the-art animation system that many cannot distinguish from real life. The believable dialogue and realistic artificial intelligence help make the game more immersive.
3. Battlefield 1 (2016)
Players must play Battlefield 1 with the HUD (heads-up display) turned off to fully appreciate the gritty and realistic visuals that make it one of the best-looking video games.
Few games feel as immersive as Battlefield. The developers made sure to capture the feeling and cruelty of battle. By the end of multiplayer matches, entire maps transform to rubble. Mud, in particular, looks exceptionally lifelike in this game.
4. Forza Horizon 5 (2021)
In Forza Horizon 5, players race various photorealistic vehicles in expansive environments. Many players praise the game engine for perfecting the look of cars. They look identical to their real-life counterparts. The environments fit perfectly with the vehicles and match the high visual fidelity. Each vehicle sounds unique, adding to the level of detail Playground Games crafted into Forza.
5. Control (2019)
Control pushes Ray Tracing to the extreme. This game has beautiful reflections and a robust particle system. Combat not only feels smooth but looks visually pristine. Arguably, Control looks its best during the absurd sequences in between normal gameplay. These sequences, such as the Maze, have players experience visual fidelity in a way like no other game. Not only does it rank as one of the best-looking video games of all time, but also as one of the most innovative.
6. Horizon Forbidden West (2022)
Guerrilla Games once again pushes the industry's visuals forward with Forbidden West. Players roam around a sentient, machine-infested world that is as beautiful as deadly. The separated islands, in particular, look fantastic. The Burning Shores‘ extra content further adds to the raw natural beauty of the world. Clouds have never looked as good as they do in this game.
7. Resident Evil Village (2021)
Resident Evil Village nails character design and distinctive architecture. The environments in this game stand out from others for their incredible attention to detail and uniqueness. The Castle, in particular, visually excels in all of its labyrinths. The Werewolves and Ghouls look horrifying, which means Capcom deserves praise for crafting one of the best-looking video games to date.
8. Demon's Souls Remake (2021)
Elden Ring may have the most visually distinct artistic design, yet the Demon Souls Remake has the best graphics. The Remake uplifts the original's visuals and animations in many ways. The lighting system gets revamped, resulting in several god rays passing through broken structures. Other changes include smoothing out the various character and enemy animations.
9. Stray (2022)
What more could players want than to be a cat exploring a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk-esque city populated by robots? Humanity has perished with sentient robots as the only beings left. Neon signs and dimly lit alleyways make for an impressive atmosphere. As a Cat, players also explore claustrophobic sewers and tunnels with overgrown fauna that look incredible.
10. Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)
Running Cyberpunk 2077 at the maximum settings requires a beefy computer yet delivers excellent visuals. Night City looks true to life and features a stunning atmosphere. Even the Badlands have a unique Cyberpunk look to them. Few cities feel as immersive as Night City during the nighttime. Everything from the in-game advertisements to the vehicle interiors has love and dedication poured into them by the developers.
11. A Plague Tale: Requiem (2022)
Requiem significantly bumps up the visuals from its predecessor. This game treats players to breathtaking visuals and photorealistic textures. Everything from how the walls look to the dirt on the ground resembles real life. Even without Ray Tracing enabled, the visuals stand out. Keep in mind that enabling Ray Tracing requires powerful hardware.
12. The Callisto Protocol (2022)
The characters in Callisto Protocol look like real humans. It's almost confusing how realistic the faces are. In most games, players can nitpick and pick apart uncanny facial features. However, this game does a great job masking those with its concentrated animation system. The high-quality lighting also makes sure each scene stands out. The visuals really come into their own as soon as players find a way outside the Prison.
13. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 (2023)
Web slinging across New York always looked fantastic, but the latest Spider-Man entry ramps the speed up. As players swing or fly across the city, no detail is lost in the surrounding environment. The power of the PlayStation 5 shines through with the instantaneous loading of the environment and textures. Flashy combat and on-the-go scripted sequences never fail to impress with their visual fidelity.
14. Alan Wake 2 (2023)
Releasing many years after its predecessor, Alan Wake 2 improves upon the base game in almost every way. To put things into perspective, this game's Low Graphics preset beats many others' Ultra presets. The Path Tracing mode requires some serious hardware yet ultimately delivers. Remedy has future-proofed Alan Wake 2's visuals for many years, as they did with Control before.
15. Metro Exodus (2019)
Metro Exodus has always looked great, but the Enhanced Edition pushes the visuals further. The Ray Tracing mode completely revamps the lighting and global illumination systems. Entire scenes get transformed into more realistic and accurate depictions. The high-quality weapon models make sure players never holster them. The Mutants themselves look amazing, especially up close.
16. Uncharted 4 (2016)
The Uncharted games consistently present visually striking scripted sequences, but the fourth game excels above the rest. For the visuals, Naughty Dog focused on a photorealistic approach. Tiles, walls, doors, and even faces look true to life. By all means, this game's visuals pushed the PlayStation 4 to its limits. Even today, the graphics more than hold up and look better than most recent titles.
17. Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)
For many years, players considered Red Dead Redemption 2 the king of visual fidelity in open-world games. The attention to minor details that Rockstar puts in their titles rarely gets overtaken by other publishers. Many years after release, players discover new details surrounding the world and gameplay systems. The existence of this game singlehandedly builds up hype for what the next Grand Theft Auto may look like.
18. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
At a time when players were tired of Call of Duty titles, The Modern Warfare Remake rekindled the spark. Besides significant gameplay changes, Infinity Ward significantly pushed the visual fidelity. This game shies away from arcade-like graphics towards photorealistic textures and weapon models. Lighting also receives a bump up to the big leagues. The Clean House mission, in particular, shows off the new graphics engine at work.
19. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (2021)
Many players harbored low expectations from Guardians of the Galaxy after the Live Service Avengers fiasco. However, the developers knocked it out of the part with a gripping storyline and some of the best-looking video game visuals ever. This game takes players to various foreign planets with expansive landscapes. Several setpieces treat players to towering views, perfectly conveying the sense of scale and marvel of these alien environments.
20. Half-Life: Alyx (2020)
Valve rarely makes video games, but when they do, they make sure it breaks industry standards. With Alyx, Valve gives longtime fans a sequel and a virtual reality technical triumph. They accurately port over the advanced physics systems of the previous games to virtual reality. Players can pick up objects, throw them, reload their weapons, and even draw on surfaces with great precision.
21. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (2023)
Despite a rocky launch, Jedi Surivivor takes players on Cal's next journey in photorealistic graphics and masterful animation. Many environments players traverse feel alien yet familiar due to true-to-life textures. The characters' faces look nearly lifelike, matching their fluid animations. Jedi Survivor improves upon its predecessor in every way but one: the performance.
22. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021)
Insomniac's Rift Apart further blurs the line between CGI (computer-generated imagery) and gameplay. The PlayStation 5 renders almost everything in this game in real-time. Apart from the excellent quality of the game, the instantaneous loading between entire planets impresses, too. Real-time Ray Tracing ensures the visuals pop out and surfaces accurately reflect light.
23. Ghost of Tsushima (2020)
Few games have as many beautiful vistas as Ghost of Tsushima. Despite being set on a war-ridden island, the game still has environments largely untouched by humanity. The developers limit the HUD and steer players toward the objective via the wind. The weather and the reactive fauna generally stand out from other titles.
24. Sifu (2022)
Sifu might not implement photorealism but has a distinct artistic design that fits the theme. The super smooth animation system makes combat and traversal a treat for players. Never before has a punch felt as satisfying as it does in this game. Players regularly praise the different levels for their unique change of scenery and theme.
25. Subnautica (2014)
The natural beauty of Subnautica lies below the surface, way below the surface. In this game, the shallow water teems with life and unfamiliar fauna for players to collect and examine. However, venturing deeper down the darkness takes over, leaving limited options for light. It is rare for a game to feel this immersive, primarily because of the clever utilization of lighting.