6 Video Games That Are Worth Looking At
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
As I have described in another blog post, I prefer playing board games like Catan and card games like Unfair. However, the COVID pandemic has made it difficult to spend much time with other people. Perhaps you are one of the many people who have found themselves stuck staring at a computer screen for an increasingly large portion of their day. If so, then you might as well spend some of that time staring at something beautiful!
In this blog post, I share six video games with an art direction and style that will blow you away and transport you into another world. Even those these games span many different genres, their purpose is strikingly similar: to provide a different kind of game experience that places a strong emphasis on captivating, clean visuals. That alone is worth the purchase price.
However, if you are looking for some games with a little more depth and complexity (without sacrificing any of the visuals), check out this blog post about what makes a good video game.
Video Game Recommendation #1: Monument Valley
This gorgeous mobile game (and its sequel) can be downloaded for both Android and Apple devices. Despite being a puzzle platformer at its core, this app manages to deliver an excellent (and emotional) story wrapped up in a striking visual style. This game delivers hours of calming entertainment without distraction, paired with the satisfaction of solving increasingly clever conundrums.
The game's M.C. Escher-esque geometry allows players to stretch the laws of physics and test the limits of game mechanics in a total of 33 fully-realized chapters, each with its own world.
Video Game Recommendation #2: No Man's Sky
In contrast to my first video game recommendation, No Man's Sky is most certainly not a mobile app. Instead, it is a massive PC and console game requiring a powerful computer and fast internet connection. The reason for these steep system requirements is that No Man's Sky does not carefully curate the player experience like Monument Valley. Instead, players have a massive open-world universe to explore. There are no limits on where players can go, and it may take thousands of hours of gameplay to experience everything that that No Man's Sky has to offer.
Unlike most open-world video games which feature carefully crafted surroundings to guide players through a story, No Man's Sky substitutes a procedurally generated galaxy of planets that are generated by the game engine from a library of basic parts to instill wonder and discovery into every new location. Although this game's internet connectivity permits players to interact with other planet-hopping astronauts, the game's universe is big enough to ensure that players who want to spend some time along will be able to get plenty of elbow room.
Video Game Recommendation #3: LEGO Builder's Journey
Available on all gaming platforms, LEGO Builder's Journey is a touching story about a father and son. Told entirely through LEGO bricks and an emotional soundtrack, this game is remarkably similar to the other puzzle platformer in this list, Monument Valley. Unlike Monument Valley, however, this game is much better at tugging on your heartstrings.
The game engine utilized for this game sets the visuals apart from every other game on this list. The real-time renders manage to make the LEGO bricks look better than real life, wrapping everything in the gorgeous and realistic reflections of simulated light. Even if you haven't played with LEGO bricks in years, this game is worth getting.
Video Game Recommendation #4: Firewatch
Published by Portland, OR-based Panic, Inc., Firewatch is a mystery adventure game that pits players against the elements. While it was originally only available on PC, Firewatch is now available on a wide variety of gaming platforms, including OS X, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, and the Nintendo Switch. In other words, the only place you can't experience this game is on your smartphone. And that's a good thing, since the game is at its best when you are swallowed up in its lush environment on a big screen.
You play as a young man named Henry who has been hired as a summer fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. As the summer progresses, you will have to venture out of your isolated tower to investigate a series of increasingly bizarre occurrences.
Firewatch is deceptive. At first glance, the game looks gorgeous--and it certainly is. But underneath its calm, tranquil surface is a dramatic mystery that will get your heart racing in its final chapters. I don't want to spoil the game's plot for you, but you should be warned that some adult language and shocking imagery is used. If you find this concerning, I would recommend you try a very different game with very similar graphics--Satisfactory. In short, this single-player, first-person game is a clever blend of exploration, self-reflection, and survival. It's not for everyone, but that's what makes it stand out from the rest as an exceptional piece of entertainment.
Video Game Recommendation #5: Alto's Adventure
Who doesn't love llamas? In this gorgeous take on the side-scrolling game genre, players perform snowboarding tricks to work toward goals and earn upgrades. While the game mechanics may be simple, this endless snowboarding adventure for smartphones and Windows PCs features some of the best graphics and sound design of any game.
Despite its advanced weather effects, day-night lighting cycle, and laid-back soundtrack, Alto's Adventure is essentially a 2-D arcade game in which the player slides, glides, and jumps to earn a high score. The sheer simplicity of its one-button gameplay ensure that players will find Alto's Adventure a remarkably relaxing experience. Much like Monument Valley, this game has also receive a sequel. The twist: players must complete challenges before time runs out.
Video Game Recommendation #5: Alto's Adventure
If the art style of Land's End looks vaguely familiar, it's probably because this game was developed by ustwo games, the same game design studio that developed Monument Valley. Unlike Monument Valley, however, this game is a Virtual Reality experience. While VR hasn't become fully mainstream yet, Land's End may be a good reason to finally invest in a VR headset.
Land's End is an exploration of the possibilities of virtual reality with an intriguing design sensibility. Since the human mind is exceptionally good at detecting the difference between reality and non-reality (known as the "uncanny valley"), ustwo games has steered away from hyper-realistic surrounding and gone with a more abstract art style instead. Perhaps counterintuitively, this actually permits players to feel more immersed in the world, as they are able to suspend disbelief and accept the world around them as real. The smoothness of the motion tracking in-game is partially accomplished by sacrificing realism for the low-poly look that reduces the amount of work the game engine must perform.
However, the real virtual reality breakthrough here is that players (alone, but free) roam through the world without ever touching a button. Unlike nearly all virtual reality games that requires players to press buttons on hand controllers or the headset to provide input, Land's End simply requires a steady gaze. Looking in one direction for a specific length of time allows a player to "teleport" in the direction they are looking. Players also interact with elements of the environment and solve puzzles simply by looking. It's not as simple as it sounds, but it's a clever system that never breaks the illusion of immersion in a gorgeously illustrated world.