Game graphics have come a long, long way in the last decade, but graphics alone don’t make a beautiful game. Style, mood, and emotion can all be conveyed through a game’s art direction, and can be seen in everything from its characters and environments to level design.. and even menus.
IGN’s best video game art of 2021 winner is…
The design team at Arkane Studios has a history of putting a stylish spin on familiar genres and aesthetics – from the grimy “whalepunk” streets of Dishonored’s Dunwall to the Art Deco halls of Prey’s Talos 1 – and Deathloop doesn’t buck this trend. Its cutscenes are a chic combination of its spy show intros and exploitation cinema inspirations, and every inch of Blackreef island looks like it was pulled either straight from the midcentury-modern lair of a would-be Bond villain or a 60’s movie posters or pulp fiction book cover. Watching these environments evolve over the course of each day’s loop is a fascinating pastime in itself, too, as Arkane’s addition of PopArt flair to the world only makes its descent into complete anarchy that much more colorful. Even the chunky design of (most of) its weapons and the jury-rigged nature of Cole’s tech all tie together to create a singularly unique world that may not redefine an entire genre, but will undoubtedly be one of Arkane’s most memorable creations. – Jon Ryan
For more, check out IGN’s Deathloop review.
The rest of our nominees are…
The Artful Escape
The Artful Escape features an incredibly life-like yet simplistic, paper-feeling environment, fully punched up with remarkable color. It’s the kind of art style that supports itself and the story perfectly, yet entirely unexpectedly. Quirkiness hidden in the ordinary is a common theme, and you instantly feel like you are part of a Wes Anderson-Tim Burton mash-up film from the moment it begins. But The Artful Escape’s brilliant use of vivid color and design isn’t the entire wow factor – it’s also in the details. Dust particles you see floating in a quiet room. A top-down shot of a record playing. The culmination of the art styles with the storytelling and music, makes The Artful Escape stand out as Best Art Design in a game for 2021. – Jessie Wade
For more, check out IGN’s Artful Escape review.
Psychonauts was a Saturday Morning Cartoon in video game form when it hit the scene in 2005. 16 years later, the psychedelic artists at Double Fine Productions have gone all out with Psychonauts 2. The demented espionage caper looks like no other game that was released in 2021, committing fully to the madcap vibe Double Fine produced over a decade ago. Technological advancements have only improved Psychonauts’ trippy aesthetics, and its mod-inspired secret spy bases, nervy mental asylums, and a particularly distrubing dental nightmare are some of the most memorable visual treats of 2021. – Matt Kim
For more, check out IGN’s Psychonauts 2 review.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is, undoubtedly, one of the technologically prettiest games of the year, with the skilled team at Insomniac flexing their new-gen muscles and already delivering a benchmark for all PS5 games to meet. But Rift Apart’s visual style doesn’t succeed just because of technical prowess – Insomniac’s art and design teams have created a candy-coated visual feast that brings to life so many distinct alien planets. Everything from Old West-style mining towns to the opening lobby bar of Rift Apart’s battle arena, to destroyed laboratories and so much more – Rift Apart’s levels are brimming with life and detail. And in delightful fashion, we get to see two versions of many locales, as some levels see Ratchet or Rivet hopping through rifts to different iterations of the same planet, each feeling distinct yet of a piece with one another. It’s a difficult trick to pull off, but Insomniac makes it look so natural as you explore its many memorable worlds. – Jonathon Dornbush
For more, check out IGN’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.
From dense, Geiger-inspired tunnels to sprawling yet minimalist sci-fi subterraneas, Returnal is equal parts oppressive and gorgeous. Your lonely, isolated trek across the dangerous and dim planet of Atropos is constantly offset by striking bursts of color, giant alien lifeforms, and hallucinatory firework displays of lights and laserbeams. There are constant moments of vibrant, euphoric chaos swirling around the player in a heated firefight, rewarded by the calm quiet of just barely surviving the battle. Returnal is one of the most beautiful sights to behold on the PlayStation 5 and a stunning example of what a focused and visionary art team can do with powerful next-gen hardware. – Brian Altano
For more, check out IGN’s Returnal review.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
- Best Game of the Year 2021
- Best Console Exclusive of the Year 2021
- Best Action Game of the Year 2021
- Best Action-Adventure Game of the Year 2021
- Best Puzzle Game of the Year 2021
- Best Racing Game of the Year 2021
- Best RPG of the Year 2021
- Best Shooter of the Year 2021
- Best Strategy Game of the Year
- Most Accessible Game of the Year 2021
- Best Music in a Video Game of the Year 2021
- Best Ongoing Game of the Year
- Best Performance of the Year 2021
- Best Story of the Year 2021
- Best Video Game Art of the Year 2021
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor
Source: IGN Video Games All