Illustrative Games & Hidden Gems

Hi there! I’m new to Forums in general, even newer here to Waypoint, and a little overwhelmed by the numerous choice of threads and discussions, so I thought I would try starting my own thread?

Browsing through I couldn’t quite find an active topic on what I was thinking, but correct me if I’m wrong!

Here goes!

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Games being capital ‘a’ Art is undeniable, but visual styles in games can vary wildly in taste, mood, and execution; they can even often be the reason we pick up a game at all!

I personally love games that are heavy on painterly textures, low on polys, and try to make things look like illustrations come to life. As an artist myself, I get asked a lot about inspirations, and I end up pointing to a lot of unheard (or at least largely unplayed) games. So, my question to ya’ll is:

:pencil2:What are some games that have captivated you with their art styles alone?

:pencil2:Are there any games out there that you think have been passed over for their gameplay, but slept on despite their amazing visuals?

:pencil2:If you’re an artist, dev, or writer, what are some games that inspire you and your work from a visual, illustrative aspect?

Feel free to share screenshots of these games (I think?)! Also, this topic is meant to be inclusive towards concept art, graphic design and ui/ux design - anything visually inspirational!

Here are a couple of mine!

Magical Starsign is a pretty recent inspiration (I only just picked it up 2 years ago) but is an absolutely cute and amazing game that I never hear about!


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Tales of Vesperia (and Abyss and Symphonia) is one of the most apparent of my inspirations, and the only reason I bothered turning on my xbox360 for 6 years (I play this game at least once a year, bless mighty earth for the port).


Radiata Stories is the Most Slept On game of all time and I finally got my hands on a copy this year (lost mine a decade ago)

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I have a ton more I love but I don’t want to take them all… please list some of yours so I can agree :sob:

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I instantly thought of the walk and talk sequences in Oxenfree. I’d love to have a big print of one of these environments to hang in my home.

This link below skips to a good example of what I mean.

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Oh boy I nearly forgot about this game!! I think a lot of the devs are even ex-Disney artists? Alex’s design (and teal hair) speaks to me spiritually too lmaoo. I cant wait for more from these devs :sob:

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I know a lot of people talk about DONTNOD’s games for their plot, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the painterly textures they use on their models. Similarly with Disbonored—I think it makes the textures and the world pop in a way that most games don’t, especially with the more limited palette.

I also know this is a weird pick, but the acidic bright colors of Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance make it one of the most slept on in the series imo. It was a latter day GBA title, but I think the way it makes Castlevania feel kind of gonzo is really neat!

I’m also really excited for both Overland and Tunic, which are being published by Finji. I was lucky enough to gush to Heather Penn at a con a while back, but I love her art style and seeing it applied to a low poly post apocalyptic game is so neat.

(Thank you for creating this thread and welcome to the community btw!)

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DONTNOD’s and Dishonored’s stuff are so much fun! I love when AAAs lean into their stylization - I think it hides a lot of issues higher fidelity games have when it comes to things looking too Uncanny Valley. A little tangential, but reminds me of this awesome tech demo from Gearbox two years ago!

It’s a little technical and boring to listen to but scrolling thru there’s so much I can’t wait to see from more games.

HoDs color palette is My Absolute Shit. Any game that can make solid Teal, Magenta, Red, and Blue work in a single shot has my vote in the Primaries.

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(Like what???)

Overland and Tunic are coming together so beautifully… I’ve been following both on Twitter forever and seeing them develop in real-time is crazy inspiring!!

(Also thank you!!)

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even though i ultimately really enjoy its gameplay and it eventually kinda opened me up to “difficult” games* more generally, i probably wouldn’t have stuck with Hyper Light Drifter if it didnt have its whole aesthetic and music going for it. its just such an emotional place to be in, even when you’re messing up constantly like me.

(clunky term yes yes but u know what i mean)

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Games with rich aesthetics??? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU HAVE GIVEN ME LICENSE TO UNLEASH??? I’ll throw out a few beauties I know that I also think are extremely worth a look, and of course most of them will be point and clicks.

Sinking Island

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Broken Reality

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Killer7

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The Silver Case

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The 25th Ward

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Unavowed

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Lamplight City

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Memoria

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Tokyo Dark

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The Night of the Rabbit

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Silence

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Yuppie Psycho

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Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements

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Framed

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Detention

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Return of the Obra Dinn

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The Yawhg kind of cheats by having Emily Caroll drawings… But it’s so dang good. I wish their were more collaborations between games and comics artists, but maybe I just haven’t heard of them.


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The only big one I can think of is Akira Toriyama doing design work for the Dragon Quest series. Speaking of which. Dragon Quest 11 is a sharp lookin’ game and fits here, I think.

EDIT: Another huge example is Guity Gear Xrd. Like for real I think those games are the most impressive looking games ive ever seen. Looking at stills doesn’t do them justice.

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Gorogoa pretty easily fits in this definition.

I just wish it wasn’t an hour and a half long.

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Yess!! All these point & clicks also reminded me of the blackwell series… I got them all at once and it was cool to play through them and watch the art evolve

Dem Pix

First Game
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Last Game (of 5)

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God, imo DQ11 has perfected the 3D Anime Look (Or at least a big branch of what that’d even be considered) and Arc Systems Works in general has perfected Looks 2D But Is Actually 3D Look. These are totally different things to me. Both jingle my brain tingles.

Oh! This seems like a topic right up my alley!

While there are a lot of Beautiful and Powerful Aesthetics in games something that I will always glom onto is a heavy integration of the game’s music into the visual/game design or other outside relations, and my own personal associations, with a particular type of music as they relate to the game.

I’m gonna list some of the immediate, and hopefully lesser known, examples that always come to mind whenever I think about this sort of thing.

The quintessential DONTNOD game (for me, anyway) Remember Me will always be a favorite of mine for the gameplay and visuals but the implementation of the game’s orchestra-by-way-of-stuttering-electronics soundtrack was always fascinating to me. It would change during fights depending on the state of your character (full health v. low health) as well as what type of attacks you were using. There was a talk by the composer, Olivier Deriviere, that I remember watching on YouTube where he goes into detail on it but I can’t seem to find it!

Memory Of A Broken Dimension is a first person game with an overwhelming and heavily distorted glitch aesthetic. The entire game takes place in a constantly datamoshed digital space that is fun to look at but I cannot stress how incredibly disorienting and nightmarish it is to actually play.

There’s probably a direct line you can draw between the harsh visual design and noise music but I’ve always associated this game with the fluidity and morphed surging in some of DJ//PURPLE//IMAGE’s music (CW for flashing images).

There’re quite a few games from Arcane Kids (Makers of Bubsy 3D and Sonic Dreams Collection) that stand out but Perfect Stride was definitely the first game of theirs to catch my eye. Thing is… I’ve never actually played it! I also don’t think it’ll ever actually come out either but I will always remember watching Waypoint’s own Patrick Klepek (CW for flashing images) skate his way through low poly NEO LA to the externally provided (and unfortunately, now-incomplete) future bass Soundcloud playlist that was provided with the game.

The only Arcane Kids game I have played is the stylistically-adjacent CRAP! No One Loves Me (also not currently available anywhere) a game where you control a jet-propelled coffin/toboggan through the afterlife and complete levels by jumping into smartphones.

Hylics is a turn-based RPG where you play as a guy with a moon for a head and acquire skills from errant bunny-eared antenna TVs. Flesh in a stat and your abilities are performed by rotoscoped hands. Most of the environments and assets are made from actual scanned objects! It’s also made in the RPG Maker engine. There’s supposed to be a sequel for this game due sometime this year. Here’s a trailer!

The music connection for this one is a bit tenuous but the developer and artist for the game, Mason Lindroth, has done several album covers for 1080p (mostly those for Max McFerren and his projects/aliases MCFERRDOG and Complete Walkthru) where you can see the same clay style featured in the game.

Soft Body is a game where you control up to two different worm-like bodies at the same time that affect the world in different ways all while being accosted by various shapes and projectiles.

Soft Body’s often atypical and burning color palettes that change from level to level and use of lines always reminded me of Guy Featherstone’s graphic design work for Diagonal Records and the persistent soft drone and reactive sound design (in addition to its use of color, lines and simple shapes) is very similar to an audio/visual piece by Theo Burt called Colour Projections.

There are definitely lots more games that occupy a similar space in my brain (FOTONICA, Jazzpunk, El-Shaddai, FLYWRENCH, Thumper…) like this that I could go on about but I think I’ve already written way too much! Thanks for the great post and welcome to the Waypoint community! :slight_smile:

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I actually did a video essay series on the Wadjet Eye releases (apologies for the early episode audio issues, I ironed them out as I went along, genuinely proud of the last few episodes where my editing became not complete trash and I went on for like twenty to thirty minutes sometimes).

You can thank a lot of this on Ben Chandler, the studio’s main artist. He joined around the time of either the third or forth Blackwell game and became a regular with their releases and in helping out projects Wadjet Eye picked up to help produce with other studios. He was also the co-director with Francisco Gonzales on Shardlight, whom also directed A Golden Wake with Wadjet Eye and then went on to make Lamplight City under a different publisher. He’s friendly with them, though, does some work on their projects here and there and voices a reoccurring detective character in Dave Gilbert’s directed games.

Also worth noting said games are in the same continuity (The Shivah, Blackwell, and Unavowed).

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This is so COOL! I really love dives into small studios and their games like this!!

Thanks for the warm welcome!!

I still haven’t picked it up but Hylics blew my mind when I first saw it and need to pick it up someday. Gives me a lot of the same collage type feeling I get from some of the bgs/enemies from PuLiRuLa !!

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EDIT: Posted a vid of the game and it has some :grimacing: “Tribal” designs during one of the boss fights that I never reached while playing myself, and only just caught after leaving the audio on in another tab. Replaced w photos & edited for posterity.

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Thanks. Working on a look at some fantasy themed VN RPGs from a studio called Winter Wolves right now (I keep getting distracted by other projects lol).

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Totally not a cheat! And definitely same… I love the relationship that board games usually have with their artists? I wish game software did collabs like this more often!

Root was one of the reasons I got interested in board games, entirely for Kyle Ferrin’s art lmao. Played through some board games my roommate had to see if I could justify it and now i love board games!

Really need to play Yawhg tho, I def slept on it when it came out lolll

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Another one is Paper Sorcerer

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These are both really fantastic… I remember hearing about Gorogoa some time ago - it’s such a good intersection of visuals and gameplay… Paper sorcerer’s woodblock printing approach to portraits is really pushing all my art history buttons! (Particularly that mouse…)

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