Maybe the ray tracing in Control, Metro Exodus, or Minecraft RTX particularly blew you away. Maybe it was the the water in Sea of Thieves, the facial detail in Black Desert Online, or the horses in Red Dead Redemption 2. Maybe it was the entire planet Earth being recreated in Microsoft Flight Simulator, or standing in City 17 in Half-Life: Alyx. People who like cars have good things to say about the cars in each new Forza Horizon?
What’s the last game whose graphics wowed you?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Mollie Taylor: It’s not a new game, but I revisited Final Fantasy 13 a few months ago and was genuinely floored by how good it still looks. Say what you will about that game (and its shoddy PC port), but I’ve always been a fan and the graphics have held up fantastically over a decade later. Irritatingly, my external hard drive with all my capture packed up recently, because I ended up taking a butt-ton of gorgeous screenshots. Each character is so visually interesting and areas like the Sunleth Waterscape and Nautilus are still a joy to look at. Seriously, just go and look at how pretty it is!
Jacob Ridley: In recent memory, it has to be Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Hunt: Showdown. I’m just a bit of a sucker for sunsets, and these two games do them incredibly well.
I will also say that I briefly played some of The Ascent and, like, damn. That game is gorgeous. I just haven’t played enough of it yet to get the full wow factor, though.
Christopher Livingston: I was lucky enough to get a chance to play Dean Hall’s upcoming survival game Icarus a few times before it goes into beta at the end of August, and it certainly is lovely in there. The landscapes are beautiful, the storms are terrifying, and when a lightning strike sets trees on fire the impulse isn’t to run but to stand there staring at how awesome it looks. It’s the sort of picturesque place where you want to settle down, build a cabin, do some fishing and hunting, and then rebuild your cabin because it caught on fire and burned down.
Morgan Park: Hunt is underrated for a lot of reasons, but maybe the biggest crime against this gem is the little recognition it gets for being so damn beautiful. These are the people that made Crysis, so I shouldn’t be too surprised, but Crytek’s commitment to the tiniest details across its 19th-century guns and 1km X 1km maps is unprecedented in this type of game. It’s easy to forget to stop and smell the roses in competitive FPSes, but Hunt’s thick vegetation, swaying trees, and shambling meat monsters demand your attention. This has never been more true than in the game’s latest map, De Salle, which finally moves past the Louisiana bayou setting and into a rocky, Fall-soaked region ripe with burning oranges and larger compounds.
Jody Macgregor: I didn’t notice how long the cutscenes were in Death Stranding because I spent so much time being impressed by the faces. Also because you can pause the cutscenes whenever you want and go make a cup of tea, but the face thing definitely contributed. I haven’t seem videogame characters emote like that since L.A. Noire, and this time I didn’t have to ignore the fact nobody’s hat fit their head.
Death Stranding has great-looking ordinary stuff, like the rocks you see up close when you take another tumble down a hillside, and the real wild stuff looks amazing too, like when a death whale from another dimension breaks through the oil-slick veil separating realities. It’s good shit.
Colif: Dune 2 on Mega drive… yes, it does look bad NOW but back then, it wasn’t bad. I may be jaded. I am not impressed by graphics, its what game is like under surface that counts to me.
YOLO_So_PlayGames: HD Overhaul of She Will Punish Them! Definitely wow for the skin details and all other stuff!!
Brian Boru: Far Cry Primal. Ubisoft make great Far Cry & other worlds and wildlife, but Primal is special. The lighting, the human & animal expressive animations, the immersive gorgeous world—the most beautiful game I’ve played… and the bar is pretty high these days.
Whitelynx: 3 years ago I was really amused by heavily modded Risen.
DXCHASE: Red Dead Redemption 2. I had put off buying it until I got an RTX card capable of playing it well over 60fps at 1440p. When I did I was just blown away and spent a couple hours just riding my horse around in different terrain and weather and then immediately installed new mods that completely enhanced the game. I’m still amazed by it.
mainer: I won’t buy a game based solely on graphics, as graphics are only a secondary concern for me (not that I don’t appreciate astounding graphics), as games promoted on their graphics, often end up being a bit of a shallow experience (opinion). I usually buy a game based on the story, the interactions of the PC with others, of variable choices, gameplay, & combat. I’m pretty old-school when it comes to games, and I play a lot of older games, modded games, and remasters.
One game comes to mind that I bought at release (which I don’t often do), was Greedfall. I was greatly impressed by the graphic fidelity that a such a small studio like Spiders could produce. It was a game that almost hit on all cylinders but not quite, though still a great experience.
McStabStab: I drool over games made on the Frostbite engine, and Battlefield V was the first game I played with ray tracing enabled. At the time I didn’t have my 30 series card, but they released the driver for my 1080ti that unlocked the settings and I was able to try it out at around 30fps. Now that I have a 3070 I can run it much better and it looks incredible.
RedEyeOO7: I play FH4 and it’s amazing, the graphics of drifting and driving is amazing.
Johnway: Recently it was Shadow Warrior 2. Zilla City to be exact. The large amount of Neon, the reflective surfaces, zen architecture and the many shop fronts in a rain slick environment was amazing. The tv station foyer was an impressive highlight to the entire area.
That said, the rest of Shadow Warrior 2’s locations shouldn’t be ignored as they were also amazing to hack and slash my way throughout.
XoRn: I think it was Battlefield 3. I was pulling a flank and as soon as I crested the hill the sun hit my face like a cream filled pie tin. Manfred Mann played in the background as I was gunned down by an army of not-blind enemies and I said, “Wow. The sun f@#$ing sucks in this game.”
On a more serious note, I haven’t been wowed by realism in games a long time now. If anything, I feel like graphically, games haven’t gotten much better in the past five years.
What has gotten better though is the artistic design of games. Monster Hunter World’s lush Ancient Forest and vibrant Coral Highlands are some of the most beautiful environments in games, and I would visit them more often if I didn’t have to murder dopey lizard birds and puffy cats for marginal gear upgrades every time I went.
MrShadow: its got to be watching the latest released videos for Forza Horizon 5 on youtube, I was watching it on my big tv, and a support staff who was on with me and was most definitely not a gamer thought I was watching the news or something else on tv, I’ve caught her out before when watching drive club game play in 4k on youtube as well.
It did look very close to realism though I was wowed by it and almost in sheer euphoria but a sudden wave of sadness came over me, knowing my entry level gaming laptop will not be good enough to run it-here’s hoping the third/biggest Steam Deck will run it as I do have a deposit down on one of them.
Zloth: Control. She’s just standing there with over-done rays coming from the projector. Duuullll!
The way her hair shows up on the screen is nice, though. The way the floor is lit from the screen is also well done. The reflection in the left side window is very good! And there’s another on the ceiling light! And another on the white board that is rougher, as is befitting for a white board reflection! Now I’m really impressed!
A shame she’s just standing there while cliché science guy talks. (And a pity I didn’t notice the white board until later – I could have swung the camera around.)
P.S. I haven’t ever seen water done well unless it’s flat. For whatever reason, waves always look wrong. Especially near the shore!
Face Hugger: Red Dead Redemption 2, 1440p, 75Hz, HDR, all settings ultra / highest. The environments and lighting look cooler and more vibrant than real life. And the biomes run the gamut from deserts to forest logging towns with streams running beneath main street. It’s a joy just riding your horse across country as it changes from day to night, or sunny to windy or rainy. And that’s all on top of how detailed all of the models are and how strong the animations are.
Pifanjr: It’s been a while since I had a high end PC, so I haven’t been able to enjoy any recent games on high resolution. I did get to switch from playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance on a laptop to playing it on a second hand PC, which did make it look a lot better.
Alm: I think it was probably Star Wars Battlefront 2. It wasn’t quite a Wow, but I was impressed at how they made the Star Wars universe look.
The Best Gaming PCs In 2021
The 25 Best PC Games To Play Right Now