Bronze: Neverending Nightmares by Infinitap Games
I always found psychological horror to be much more effective than slasher nonsense, and Neverending Nightmares sets the stage with this beautifully with its grim black-and-white artstyle which references the works of children’s book illustrator Edward Gorey. The simple aesthetic is utilized for everything its worth, rendering some of the most shocking and disturbing moments that I've ever encountered in a video game. While there are myriad of games that use an achromatic artstyle after the debut the seminal Limbo, Neverending Nightmares is the first since Playdead's seminal title to really fully develop and earn it.
by: Isaac Wagner
Silver: The Banner Saga by Stoic Games
The old-school cartoon visual design of The Banner Saga at first seems in direct contradiction to its incredibly dire atmosphere and grim tonality. But in actuality, The Banner Saga's gorgeous artstyle and animation serves to build a beautiful, dying realm full of heroes, villains and common folk just trying to get by. With other fantasy games like Dragon Age: Inquisition sadly moving back to boring, realistic aesthetics, The Banner Saga creates a believable, resonate world without having to rely upon millions of polygons to render it. The Banner Saga creates a unique world which successfully separates itself from not only every single fantasy universe out there, but every single entertainment experience.
by: Isaac Wagner
Gold: Destiny by Bungie
Destiny is an interesting example of being both really great looking technically and artistically. However, while Destiny has really good looking models and effects, the game's excellent artstyle makes it all come together in a way that you rarely see in big blockbuster games. Usually when we think of the stereotypical AAA game, we think of gritty, realistic games that are smeared in brown and gray colours that come across as being rather drab. That just isn't the case in Destiny. Destiny actually manages to take browns and grays and makes them pop thanks to the game's excellent artistic sensibilities. All of the different character classes look cool, the weapons look fierce and the vehicles are ugly and bulky in a way that gives the universe a degree of believability. Exploring each of Destiny's locations for the first time is also such a delight, shame there are only four of them. Destiny is fantastic looking game overall but I do have to stress, it is the game's combination of a fantastic art direction with great technical graphics that help make the game look as good as it does. I challenge you to find another first-person shooter with better skyboxes than this one.
by: Ross Hartley