What are the best looking games on PC? We’re a bit spoiled for choice, aren’t we? It’s gotten to the point, now, where the ambitions of developers are exceeding the hardware most players have crammed into their rigs. And even multiplatform games, be they ports or titles redesigned specifically for PC, have the potential to make eyes pop out of skulls.
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It’s not just graphical fidelity that’s becoming increasingly impressive, either; there are an abundance of PC games that leverage the skill of artists to get us drooling all over our keyboards. You don’t need a fancy new GPU to treat yourself to some eye candy.
Below, you’ll find a mix of 20 games that are striking, gorgeous, and technically notable, from ports to PC exclusives.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara’s latest archaeological-but-really-it’s-about-killing-lots-of-dudes-and-saving-the-world adventure is a rather excellent reminder of how much games have advanced, in terms of fidelity, in a short space of time. The last Tomb Raider was visually arresting game, but Rise of the Tomb Raider demolishes it. And the places you can explore! Byzantine ships trapped in underground ice caves, ancient forgotten temples, even dingey Soviet military bases – they are all eye-wateringly beautiful. Also, Lara has lovely hair.
Want more? Here’s our Rise of the Tomb Raider review.
Space is a bit of alright, isn’t it? And it’s looking particularly dapper in Elite: Dangerous, one of the few games where you could conceivably feel like you’ve made good use of your time after just getting from A to B and taking several hours doing it. Who cares if you missed an important deadline? Think of all the handsome screenshots of suns and black holes and rings and planet surfaces that you’ve taken. There’s a lot of other things to do, of course, but simply travelling across the stars, lonely though it may sometimes feel, is impressively rewarding when the sights are this noteworthy.
Want more? Here’s our Elite: Dangerous review.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher series has always delighted squishy orbs of sight, but the third and most recent installment, Wild Hunt, has proved to be the most striking, helped in great part by a mostly open world that allows players to explore its gorgeous nooks and crannies at their own pace. From haunting marshes to intimidating mountain peaks, the Northern Realms is one of the most beautiful fantasy realms that you should definitely explore, and it’s full of memorable and often hideous beasties to slay, to boot. It’s also a bit of a treat if you give two hoots about videogame fashion, because it boasts an exceptional selection of absurdly detailed armour.
Want more? Here’s our Witcher 3 review.
The Crysis series is cursed to be the thing we remember as very pretty and not much else, which is a shame, because the first Crysis is flipping amazing. Its sequels, less so, but damn does Crysis 3 look wonderful while not being all that impressive elsewhere. The setting offers a lot of variety, with urban, post-apocalyptic or gorgeous wilderness environments, and all of them benefit from stunning lighting that manages to make even a simple scene leap out of the screen and make sweet, sweet love to your eyes. And afterward, you’ll just want to lie down in that lush, wild grass.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Hey, it’s another Crytek game that will only really be remembered because it looks incredible. It really does, though. Ryse is a mediocre action game with a plot that makes Xena: Warrior Princess seem historically accurate, but the game looks so delicious, the battlefields so alive and the enemies so lifelike that you’ll forget that it’s complete nonsense. Bonus points for Crytek going above and beyond in creating Marius Titus’ armour, which not only looks real enough for you to pluck out of the game and wear, but was actually forged by a real blacksmith.
Total War: Attila
This one was a toughie. Shogun II’s extremely strong art style and elegant samurai duels made it a strong contender, so let’s just cheat a little and say that you can imagine that it’s in the list too. Total War: Attila is actually in the list, though, because it’s a marriage of style and a level of fidelity that is yet unmatched in the genre. Where Shogun II was all cherry blossoms and noble warriors, Attila is beards and blood and savagery and fire. It’s an apocalyptic game of dirt and brutality, where even the campaign map gets burned down.
Want more? Here’s our Total War: Attila review.
Grand Theft Auto V
It took blooming ages to come out on PC, but all that extra time made GTA V one of the finest looking open-world games. Everything from the animations of the masses of NPCs to the cars and buildings makes it feel like you’re a tourist in a real city, assisted by the surprisingly immersive first-person mode that comes with its own animations and visual magic, like sunglasses changing the screen tint. The difference is so dramatic, it makes buying it twice almost completely justifiable. Simply wandering the streets of Downtown Los Santos, chilling out on the beach, or taking a trek up Mount Chiliad becomes almost as compelling as stealing a chopper and going on drug-fuelled murder binge.
Want more? Here’s our Grand Theft Auto V review.
The cars look real, and it looks like they’re sliding, speeding and screeching down real racetracks during gorgeous sunsets and striking rainstorms. Even in a genre that prizes realistic, high fidelity graphics, Project Cars stands out, particularly when you’re viewing it from behind the wheel. If you’re banned from racing high performance cars on famous tracks, then this is a pretty good alternative.
Ori and the Blind Forest
It’s hard to imagine a 2D platformer more soulfully beautiful than Ori and the Blind Forest. Every second of it is an absolute treat, where each level is rich and lively with a kaleidoscope of colour, each scene blessed with a depth that makes you want to dive through your screen, each area another fantastical realm, diverse and memorable, stitched together with a rare and exceptional eye for composition.
Want more? Here’s our Ori and the Blind Forest review.
Doom and gloom and unrelenting grimness can sometimes look quite nice, when you’re not stuck in it. That’s what the Metro series teaches us, along with: don’t wander down haunted post-apocalyptic subway tunnels, don’t get captured by Nazis, and try to stay away from monsters. The remastered versions of the two shooters, 2033 and Last Light, combine a rich but oppressive atmosphere with incredible fidelity and chilling scenes of a unique post-apocalyptic setting. It’s not somewhere you’d want to stay, but it’s nice for a visit.
If you’re going to give yourself a stress disorder by spending your days in a tense, incredibly detailed military sim, it might as well be a very pretty one. Arma 3 has you covered. The game’s fictional Greek islands are frighteningly realistic, making the conflict within them feel unnervingly real at times. This isn’t the jingoistic, cinematic flashiness of the American military shooter, but rather a calculating, cold sim set in a paradise where the sound of a single shot echoing across a field creates just as much tension as a Bay-inspired set piece.
Want more? Here’s our Arma 3 review.
Star Wars Battlefront
It’s paper-thin and quite expensive and probably a bit cynical, but bloody hell does Star Wars Battlefront look shockingly authentic. Playing Battlefront is like admiring the best Star Wars replica that you probably shouldn’t have bought because you’re only going to stare at it, but gosh you’re glad you did. Everything from the sparks crackling out of explosions to the analog tech that serves as window dressing in X-Wing hangar bays has been recreated with obsessive levels of detail. It’s a beautiful thing to admire, even when you tire of the unimaginative gameplay.
Want more? Here’s our Star Wars Battlefront review.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Poor performance and a mountain of bugs unfortunately marred Assassin’s Creed Unity at launch, and for quite some time after, and that’s a shame, because though it’s one of the weaker Assassin Creed games, its facsimile of Paris is one of the most breathtaking, ambitious game spaces ever created. The city is a gargantuan, sprawling, lively place where even the mud on the streets and the dust lingering in the air within grotty little alleys is given an absurd amount of attention. Ubisoft Montreal even saw fit to lavish it with plenty of interiors, making it feel more like a tangible place than the backdrop of a goofy play. It was too ambitious, unfortunately, and its sequel, Syndicate, was scaled back, though the latest game is undeniably an improvement almost everywhere else.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux
Photogrammetry is wonderful, and it’s what makes The Vanishing of Ethan Carter look eerily tangible. Boulders, statues, trees – almost everything in the game world is actually a real object or based on a real object, photographed and measured and then transposed into the adventure game. Coupled with the lonely, haunting atmosphere and the juxtaposition between the magical and the mundane, this hyper-realism can even be a bit disconcerting, evoking confusing dreams and playing into the game’s intriguing themes.
Every BioShock game is laden with exceptional art direction and stop-in-your-tracks fidelity, but BioShock Infinite‘s Columbia, the floating all-American city in the sky, with its vibrant colours, jaw-droppingly beautiful skies and incredible set pieces is the most alluring. It’s also more conventionally pleasing to the senses compared to the more claustrophobic, derelict art deco environments of Rapture, though perhaps less cohesive. The good news is that, thanks to the Burial at Sea DLC, Infinite gives you both cities, and together they offer two of the most fascinating game worlds you could hope to explore.
Want more? Here’s our BioShock Infinite review.
Homeworld Remastered Collection
Homeworld Deserts of Kharak might have been a looker, but the space setting of the original Homeworld games, now remastered, is just too hard to forget. Those tiny little ships suspended in that vast abyss, the quiet elegance of the way they shoot through the infinite void, the engine trails! There’s this sense of scale and vulnerability, but also the romance of space, and it’s hard to imagine another RTS evoking as many feelings through art and atmosphere.
Want more? Here’s our Homeworld Remastered Collection review.
Child of Light
In between the multitude of open-world sequels, Ubisoft have quietly been releasing some truly imaginative, playful adventures with strong, memorable art, from Valiant Hearts to Grow Home. It’s Child of Light, however, that stands as the prettiest of the bunch. With a handcrafted, children’s book aesthetic, this unconventional fairy tale RPG is a sumptuous feast for hungry eyes; a floaty dreamscape of achingly beautiful backgrounds and creative character design, from the delightfully whimsical to the nightmarishly monstrous.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Even when Final Fantasy is rubbish, the art stands out. It’s the most consistently beautiful RPG series you’ll lay your eyes on. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, however, is not rubbish, and it’s no slouch in the art department either. Everything is Eorzea is ridiculous and huge and designed to make you drool. Enemy designs, cities, the countless zones where you’ll slaughter probably innocent animals and monsters – it all makes you wonder why you’re getting busy fighting when you could just be taking pictures. Oh yeah, it’s because the combat is spectacularly flashy as well.
Want more? Here’s our Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn review.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
With the Fox Engine firing on all cylinders, Kojima’s final Metal Gear is also drop-dead gorgeous. Photo-realistic details; inspiring, wide vistas; day and night cycles and weather than dramatically change the world; Snake’s sexy stubble – it’s nice to have all this to stare at while you’re memorising enemy patrols and waiting for the right time to strike. While the series was, for years, restricted to consoles, there’s no doubt that the ultimate version of The Phantom Pain is the PC edition.
Want more? Here’s our Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain review.
Whimsical and dreamy, Broken Age might not have as bold a style as, say, Grim Fandango, but it sure is easier on the eyes. The puzzles might be forgettable, but the places you find them in certainly aren’t. From a spaceship that looks like a giant toy to a wispy land of clouds and strange shoes, Double Fine’s Kickstarted adventure game is a delightfully silly place to explore, abundant with striking, hand-drawn art.
And that’s your lot! 20 treats for the eyes. Do you think we missed any? Let us know in the comments.
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