Well to be fair, there's no way something as epic as mass effect 2 or 3 could be made without a big budget. Even if you didn't like the ending to 3, you gotta admit that the game had great graphics, voice acting, and writing/dialog. It doesn't make EA any less evil, and I still refuse to purchase the third game on Origin.
Games with relatively high budget and graphically look good. These are guaranteed to sell well depending on the marketing even if the gameplay sucks. An example would be Dead Island, almost everyone who played it hated it, yet it sold more than 5 million copies not including digital sales.
Is it solely develop cost and marketing cost based? Nintendo doesn't spend nearly as much either but I would still consider their games top tier quality and AAA. Should it instead be based on ratings and how good a game is perceived to be by most?
so, lets say mass effect or cod was released with ps2 era graphics albeit very clean with tight gameplay n story nowadays, would it still have a chance to be as revered?
same with bioshock, last of us, tomb raider, dishonored, x-com etc? are we at the point where graphics really are the selling point? although these games are praised for story, mechanics etc, if they were graphically dialed back to a ps2 hd re-release would they still get that respect or would they be just average or less