This answer go all over the place– from high poly to low poly and back, with variable lighting and color, as each brings out certain details and moods in the gameplay, and I'd like to highlight a variety of them.
Answer by David Metcalfe:
Oh man, I've been chewing on ideas for this post for the last day and a half now. I play games for story and scenery explicitly, so we'll see if I've got some taste in the matter.
This will go all over the place– from high poly to low poly and back, with variable lighting and color, as each brings out certain details and moods in the gameplay, and I'd like to highlight a variety of them.
So, sit back and enjoy.
And uh– sorry for the load on weaker Internet connections. Seriously.
Alice: Madness Returns
The vast amount of change through this game is incredible, and I really loved being pushed into uncomfortable territory with the story, as it went on to really creepy, and twisted visuals.
The Elder Scrolls series
I pretty much grew up on this series in terms of coming to know quality role playing games with massive open worlds. I say massive, because I started out on Morrowind in 2002, and in real world terms, the map is 10 square miles, Oblivion was 16 square miles, etc. You can literally just point yourself in a direction, and walk for a long time. Below, I'll be showing off Skyrim.
In my opinion, Eve Online is the only game that has really truly injected a sense of beauty and awe into space. I was never big into the combat elements, and was perfectly context just cruising around the incredible expanse inside the game. The game is so big that it's host to over 7,500 star systems, each of which can contain moons, planets, asteroid belts, etc.
The Uncharted Series
The perfect modern adventure/treasure hunter game. I was never into these kinds of games until Uncharted came about, but it's a beautiful series, particularly the water physics.
Red Dead Redemption
Much like Uncharted, I never imagined I'd be into Western games until I got my hands on this one for a birthday and gave it an honest try. The dialogue and scenery with the story made for a favorite in console games.
Jet Set Radio Future
The greatest cel shaded game I've encountered, and the first game I ever bought the soundtrack to. Hideki Naganuma composed it and I still play the songs a decade later. Unfortunately, it's a game of motion, and there are no quality still shots, so here's a gameplay video instead.
Note: The video is 2h long, so just grab a few chunks to get an idea of what it's like.
Of the younger games that take a more interesting spin on the visual elements, LIMBO really struck a chord with high contrast, desaturated visuals while holding a really dark and interesting mood over the gameplay.
Sword & Sworcery
What list of beautiful games would be complete without S&S? Low poly art is just as great in the right areas, and pixel art is no difference. If you haven't played this game and love a rich story, you owe yourself this one. Also another game soundtrack I own.
Since we're on pixel art, what say we get in some Minecraft? And I know, I know! Some of you are rolling your eyes. But truly, it's a beautiful game. Between the amount of mods out there to change the visuals and function of the game, and the amount of things built, it's beautiful if only in its versatility. On top of that, I have a few visuals to share that might turn any naysayers around.
And if that's not enough, how about a timelapse to the tune of mindthings?
I'm a sucker for dreamy atmospheres in games, and the cinematic quality of Journey hasn't failed me in all the times I've played it. Worth the go at least once, for the small cost.
Guiltily, I'm also a sucker for most any game that haselements in it, but Mirror's Edge in particular was an incredible take on it, both stylistically and in the raw story elements. Very simple color scheme, great layout… I love this game.
I really enjoy photorealism in games. This usually makes me a bad teammate as I'd rather ogle the landscape than shoot people in the face, but when you have images like this, it's hard to argue.
The mother of all game visuals that bring many a gamer to their knees in frustration. What gamer hasn't gotten video card envy over sliding every setting to Full and actually being able to play? Well, this one isn't for Crysis, so much as #3 in the series, but I'll finish off the list with this video. I'm sure it'll be just as jaw dropping for you, as I.
Oh, and do yourself a favor: Play it on 1080p, full screen.