With the current generation about to come to an end not long from now, developers across the industry have been pushing the PS4 and the Xbox One to their absolute limits. And as is the case at the tail end of every console generation, that has resulted in some truly excellent looking games, and groundbreaking feats in achievement.
2019 has been a year that has seen many games showcase excellence in this area, and here we’re going to recognize what we feel have the fifteen best-looking games of the year, before picking a winner out of that group that stood head and shoulders above all others.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
The Gears of War franchise has never failed to be visually impressive, and with Gears 5, that trend continued. From frozen lakes to red deserts, the game took us across some truly striking locations- locations that were excellently brought to life by a combination of strong art and an impressive technical base to back it up. Gears 5 is yet another example of a first party studio excelling at getting the most out of a console.
RESIDENT EVIL 2
Recreating the iconic locations of the original RE2 must have been a daunting task, but Capcom did it with great success. The dark and claustrophobic corridors, the immaculate level of detail in the environments and on the zombies, the excellent lighting, the expressive facial models and animations- all of it came together to deliver one of the best looking games of the year.
Not once has Hideo Kojima worked on a game that hasn’t pushed boundaries with its visuals, and though Death Stranding is very different from his other works, that much, at least, has not changed. Taking Guerrilla Games’ Decima Engine and optimizing it even further, Kojima delivered a visual beast in Death Stranding. It’s a game that is not only technically impressive, it’s also got – in true Kojima fashion – some of the most striking imagery we’ve seen in a game in a long time.
MORTAL KOMBAT 11
It’s hard to believe that NetherRealm Studios made Mortal Kombat 11 using a generation-old engine- a heavily retooled version of it anyway. Because Mortal Kombat 11 is absolutely stunning. Every inch of the game is brimming with detail, sheen, and polish. The fighter takes every opportunity it gets to proudly display shattered bones or shocking fountains of blood, and its visuals constantly ensure that those things are done proper justice.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 (PC)
Red Dead Redemption 2 launched on PS4 and Xbox One last year, delivering one of the best gaming experiences we’ve had in years, and this year, PC players got their hands on it as well. Now, this is a game that already had some of the most impressive visuals you could hope for when it came out on consoles- so it’s no surprise that on much more powerful PC hardware, it’s flat-out one of the best looking games to date.
Leaving behind the claustrophobic underground setting of the first two games in the series, Metro Exodus took us on a journey across post-apocalyptic Russia. Thankfully, it retained the series’ penchant for pushing boundaries with its visuals. From harsh deserts to snowy areas to eerie forests and more, Exodus brought its desolate and harsh setting to life wonderfully.
A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
It’s hard to believe that a game that looks as good as A Plague Tale: Innocence was made by such a small team. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that A Plague Tale’s visuals can stand toe-to-toe with the best of the best in the AAA space. From the crisp detail in the environments to the detailed facial models, not to mentioned excellent art design, A Plague Tale impresses with its visuals from beginning to end.
RAGE 2 has problems in many areas, many of which are too prominent to ignore, but the one area where the game achieves nearly unequivocal success is its graphics. Its colourful and vibrant post-apocalyptic world – in sharp contrast to the dull and monotonous brown hues of its predecessor – add a real spark to the game’s visual identity, while combat always looks explosive and chaotic, in true Avalanche fashion. Up close, things such as facial models don’t look quite as good, but by and large, RAGE 2 is a very good looking game.
STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
It’s been a while since we played a legitimately good single player Star Wars game, but Respawn Entertainment finally delivered the goods this year with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a game that looks just as good as it plays. This is a series that has taken us to countless wondrous locations throughout the years, and Fallen Order did that as well, with each of these locations brought to life with impressive visuals. Most importantly, it managed to nail that unique Star Wars visual aesthetic, which made it feel like a truly authentic experience.
THE DIVISION 2
The Division 2 brought about a change in scenery, as we moved away from the snow-covered New York to the much greener and more summer-y Washington D.C., and just like with the first game, Ubisoft Massive recreated the location excellently. Full of inventive indoor locations and immense attention to detail everywhere you looked, The Division 2 really stood out from a visuals perspective.
We expect Remedy games to show us some bizarre sights and sounds, but they really outdid themselves with Control. The Oldest House was full of some truly striking imagery, with every new room having something unique to show. Even during combat, Control’s telekinetic mayhem was a sight to behold. The game did take significant hits in the performance department, but from a pure visuals viewpoint, it’s a truly impressive achievement.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
Resident Evil 2 wasn’t the only game to showcase the wonders of the RE Engine this year. The long-awaited Devil May Cry 5 also brought the series back to the limelight, wowing audiences in nearly every way possible- including with its visuals. From the demons to the environments to the animations, Devil May Cry 5’s graphics truly represent Capcom in top form.
MAN OF MEDAN
Supermassive Games have garnered a bit of a reputation for developing great-looking games, and though Man of Medan might not have been quite as well received as Until Dawn, its visuals were unanimously praised. It captured the aesthetic of the sort of horror it was going for very well, and the fact that the game’s impressive graphics contributed to that hugely cannot be ignored.
NEED FOR SPEED HEAT
Need for Speed Heat was – after a long time – a step in the right direction for the franchise. But while Need for Speed has had various issues over the years, graphics have never been one of them- and Heat did not buck the trend. The car models look great, Palm City is pretty and visually diverse, and driving around the city at night is a real visual treat. It won’t take your breath away, but it still deserves a lot of praise.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
Kingdom Hearts 3 was a wonderful celebration of all things Disney, with characters from Toy Story, Frozen, Monsters Inc, and many others all crossing over into a single experience. It’s a wonder that each of these properties – with their ow distinct looks and visual personalities – looked equally excellent in a single game. From the chilly world of Frozen, to the colourful one of Toy Story, to the contrasting realism of Pirates of the Caribbean, Kingdom Hearts 3 was consistently impressive in the visuals department.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 PC
Red Dead Redemption 2 had a lot of problems on PC at launch – it still has a few – but no one can say that from a purely visuals perspective, it’s an absolute beast. Taking an already excellent-looking game and putting it on much more powerful hardware is an exciting prospect, and Red Dead 2 shows why. Whether you’re camping in the wilderness under the stars, or walking through the bustling streets of Saint Denis, whether you’re galloping across a vast, rolling green plain, or trudging across a mountain through waist-deep snow- in the big moments and the small, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC constantly delights and surprises with its stunning visuals.