It is often frowned upon by the gaming elite to hold graphical ability as the sole factor in determining a video game's quality. However, it is undeniable that graphics are an important issue. Sheer polygon power is not enough though; artistic inspiration can be just as important, and this list details some games that are artistically brilliant.

Oblivion's setting of the Cyrodil province is stunning, but it also boasts a wide range of different artistic inspirations. The character models of each race are vastly different, ranging from the human Imperials to the beastly Orcs. The game itself is so huge, and thus sports a wide range of environmental styles. The icy mountains of the Valus range, the woods of Chorrol and the fiery gates of Oblivion itself are but a few.

An old Genesis/Megadrive action game recently revived on the Wii VC, Comix Zone has you litterally fighting your way through a comic strip. As you move through the comic, you actually get to jump through the squares on each page. Other comic touches, such as exaggerated "POW!" signs after an attack, are present, and you really are given the sense of being inside a comic book.

Wario was always an obscure character in his Wario Land platform outings, but the birth of the WarioWare franchise took obscurity to a new level. The latest iteration of the game takes inspiration from so many different sources. Among them are classic Nintendo games, cooking and nose-picking. These obscure game play ideas are hilarious in their own right, but the visual design of the games themselves are like nothing before. 2D, 3D, colour; its all used to great effect.

Joe is a film-addict who ends up getting trapped in a movie, and he ends up fighting his way from film to film to save the world and save Sylvia, his girlfriend. The variety of backgrounds and environments is great thanks to the movie theme, and it can be best described as an explosion of colour. The VFX powers are equally impressive, allowing you to speed up Joe's movement until he's on fire, or slow time for enemies and deliver a beating.

Also known as Broken Sword, Circle of Blood is one of the classic point-and-click adventure games of the past. Its intriguing plot and (protagonist) George Stobbart's fantastically well-written script are part of the game's appeal, but its hand drawn environments are marvellous to look at. George's adventures take him across the world, in locations such as France, Ireland and Syria. The clean, crisp hand drawn art style bring these places to life in a way that no number of polygons could.

Also known as Jet Set Radio, Jet Grind Radio was one of the ill-fated Dreamcast's most popular game. A game that exudes coolness, its all about racing around on jet-powered roller skates, and tagging the city with graffiti to mark your territory. Jet Grind Radio was one of the first games to use the cel-shading graphical technique, and it could be argued that the other cel-shaded games on the list owe a lot to Jet Grind Radio.

Nintendo caused a wave of controversy when it revealed the first screens of The Wind Waker, so much so that Nintendo admitted it almost caused the downfall of the series. Controversial or not, The Wind Waker brought with it a daring cel-shaded style. The vibrancy of colours, the expressions on faces... It was a real joy to look at then, and it still is. Brandished as "childish" by some skeptics, you really need to see The Wind Waker in action to truly appreciate its flowing visuals.

The original N64 version of Paper Mario showed the gaming world that 2D still has a place in console gaming. A generation later, The Thousand-Year Door reminded people all over again. Playing as paper-thin characters allowed for some hilarious game play elements, such as becoming a paper plane. The environment makes equally impressive use of the paper theme. One example that stays with me is activating a bridge early on in the game; the bridge appears part-by-part as paper is flipped like the pages of a book.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game driven by deep themes and emotion, and this is echoed in its artistic style. The world you travel in is beautiful, but it is sorrowfully quiet. No one lives in these lands, and galloping through the plains on horseback is a surreal experience. The only things that inhabit the land are the towering colossi, which sport diversely different looks. Minotaurs, phoenix and even man himself is an inspiration for these beasts, and many different surfaces such as fur, rock and steel coat the colossi.

Okami's visual style is quite simply stunning. You play the role of a goddess possessing the body of a wolf, and use a mysterious paint brush to navigate the world and vanquish your foes. If you look at a still screen shot of the game, you could be fooled into thinking a master artist pained the scene himself. Okami is an example of a beautiful game, and just goes to show that with skilled art designers and good use of colour, a last-generation game can look just as beautiful as a next-generation game.

And there you have it... As you may have guessed from the list, I believe artistic brilliance can be more than the just the look of a game. A brilliant style tied in with innovative game play, an intriguing story and strong emotional themes serves only to accentuate its greatness, and I sincerely hope that game developers continue to find ways to make games artistically brilliant.

List by SpellSword89 (03/20/2007)

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