Weekend Hot Topic: The best graphics ever seen

Readers discuss the most graphically impressive video games ever made, from the early 16-bit days to modern next gen consoles.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader pete216state, who asked what’s the best graphics you’ve ever seen on a particular console? It doesn’t have to be the best graphics ever, just the best graphics on that format.

We had plenty of suggestions from decades past, with many pointing out that video game graphics can age quickly and it’s the ones with distinctive art styles, or the best gameplay, which last the longest.

Short term appeal
I have had a lot of ‘How can graphics ever get better than this?’ moments in my life and every example more than a few years old is laughable now, except Zelda: The Wind Waker, as graphics always continue to improve.

The most recent example was Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut on PlayStation 5, which admittedly coincided with buying my first 4K television. I was almost questioning the point of the PlayStation 5 as what was essentially a PlayStation 4 game looked prettier than I could ever imagine. How on earth could a game look better than this?

Surely this was as good as we could ever get, as it is both technically impressive and also artistically appealing? Then I started the DLC and somehow the start of that was an order of magnitude prettier than the main game. Things suddenly looked convincingly wet in a way I hadn’t realised was missing previously.

I do like pretty games and enjoy seeing what is now possible, but the appeal of fancy graphics dulls very quickly. There is a reason why the opening bit of the Ghost Of Tsushima’s DLC stuck with me more than the rest of it. Gameplay will always be king, and it is incredibly rare I will play a game purely because of its graphics. The last time I did that was probably The Order: 1886 and that was only because it was short and I borrowed it off a colleague.

Mind blown
I remember being awestruck at the graphics in GTA 3.

On the first island there’s a flyover bridge over a road.

I stood on that bridge and the flare from the sun just made me gawp.

On a side note, Rockstar packaged maps with the game, and I had it by my side working out where I was.

I remember finding orientation really difficult; that was mainly due to having the map upside down and not checking the legend.

Took me a bit to work that out.

May not slowdown
I own the original, VHS style Xbox One. The best graphics I’ve seen on it has to be from Devil May Cry 5. I admit the locations in that game are a bit samey and bland, but still look pretty good, but the character design and animation, and especially the faces, are stunning, looking lifelike without entering the uncanny valley.

Plus, the fact that the game looks so good, can have a lot of enemies on screen, and still runs at 60 frames per second without chugging on the base Xbox One is extremely impressive. Given that many games released after it with less impressive graphics that chug a lot on it (looking at you Doom Eternal).

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Impossible port
Here is a deep cut for you, and one that doesn’t strictly speaking fit the question as I have never ‘seen’ this game run on the console with my own eyes, but does anyone remember when there was going to be a remake of Resident Evil for the Game Boy Color?

It looked ridiculously good (for a Game Boy Color game) and they’d obviously employed loads of trickery to make it look 3D. I remember it just sort of came out of the blue and the magazine previews at the time were a bit dubious it would actually work, and so it proved as Capcom canned it when it was apparently 90% complete. Just an odd footnote in gaming history really, but it did look good.

GC: We’ve seen it running, it was a British developer making it and it was very impressive.

Changing standards
In terms of the best graphics ever, I was thinking that we could easily say that each gaming generation brought its own pinnacle of graphics standards, like God Of War on the PlayStation 2 and Halo on the Xbox.

So, that got me thinking that, perhaps, it’s not the best graphics ever but rather the best evolution of graphics through time and the best example I could think of was Super Mario.

With the advent of the Super NES, I recall being wowed by the clean beauty of Super Mario World, and moving forward every game has led to an improvement in the quality of what is on the screen.

Super Mario 64 looks very basic now, but, once again, I looked upon it as if it were the best graphics ever when it came out and bought an N64 immediately with that game.

Moving beyond, Nintendo hit a stride of 3D quality and animation that I have continuously admired ever since. In fact, I was playing Super Mario Sunshine just the other day and it still holds up today and, if they scaled up the resolution, would still look fantastic.

And that game is 20 years old. How many other games can people say they can go back to and play, and still appreciate that wonderful clean look, married to fabulous animation and – don’t forget – sublime gameplay?

Rock master
I remember being absolutely blown away by Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. It was so far ahead of its time I remember just standing around looking at the textures on rocks, because they were so realistic.

It stayed top of its game for a long, long time but it’s still good enough that they’re using it without many changes for VR games. That remake has an awful lot to live up to…

Jurassic larks
I remember seeing the original Jurassic Park and being overwhelmed with the CGI dinosaurs and the technical skills used to wow everyone in the cinemas. Just being a wee school kid back then, to see a game of Donkey Kong Country’s graphical capabilities using similar technology to Jurassic Park’s creations, was definitely mind blowing for sure.

When I stuck in the game’s cartridge and switched on, it was literally gob smacking to see the 3D looking models of the game characters against such lush jungle backgrounds, with a pretty decent funky opening theme also.

The gameplay was your usual side-scrolling jump-on-enemy type of affair, but you did not get bored of these styles of games back then as they all felt different based on their own merits. The best thing about the levels was experiencing something new and unique. Barrel canon firing to reach the next part of the level and the light on/light off levels!

When the player encountered a snowstorm there were about six odd layers, or more, of perfectly crafted snowflakes moving in different directions and obscuring your view. Also, the amazing underwater levels with the very realistic movements of the sharks and fish.

Whatever you say about Donkey Kong Country’s simple gameplay, the graphics made it an all-time classic, which seemed to improve with Diddy’s Kong Quest and Dixie’s Double Trouble, introducing more Kong family members and enemies with more awesome music soundtracks to keep you entertained and engaged.

The series really showed off the Super Nintendo’s capabilities and just how far this extraordinary console could be pushed. A great era to be a part of.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader pete216state, who asks what’s the best graphics you’ve ever seen on a particular console?

It doesn’t have to be the best graphics ever, just the best graphics on that format. So, for example, the best looking SNES game or Xbox 360 title. What impact did the graphics have on you at the time and what games have since surpassed it?

Is your choice made primarily from a technical or artistic perspective, and if it’s the former how long did it stay on top?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

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