Do Games Need Good Graphics?

-Arron Ferguson

A sadly anonymous quote I caught drifting the rounds of the internet caught my attention.

“Playing a video game for the graphics is like watching porn for the story line”

This statement resonated with me. As it got me thinking, it made me backtrack over the games I personally have favoured with time. Inspired by the quote I sought to elect my top 5 games of all time. They are as follows (not in any order).

1. Final Fantasy 7
2. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
3. Beyond Good & Evil
4. Tombi
5. Super Mario Bros. 3

Not a game among them is a graphical masterpiece and none of them go anywhere near photorealism. All bar PMTTYD could arguably called dated in presentation and PMTTYD only escapes this declaration on grounds of its utterly unique presentation.

Yet there is always so much focus it seems on pushing the boundaries of graphical capabilities. I am of course not saying that game developers should abandon all pursuit of photorealism, far from it. The art form of the game deserves to have as much variation as its many contemporaries. Perhaps it is all a massive coincidence that the more graphically superior the Final Fantasy games have got the more the narrative and gameplay themselves have (excuse my lack of interesting vocabulary) sucked. This may of course be personal opinion, but polls generally brings the favourite of the franchise back to either the 7th or 9th instalment.

This is of course all subjective for every classic piece of retro gaming that defies the needs for aesthetic perfection there is a modern classic proving its worth. That is why I want to take the opportunity in this article to highlight neither of these but instead the games that did their very own thing graphically.

A personal top three.

The first is the aforementioned Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Sure, it’s not the first in the franchise but for my money it’s the best. Taking the quirky look of the N64 original and capitalising upon it to an extreme, PMTTYD is a visual delight crafting its own unique world of bright colours and delightful trickery.

Many more “child like” looking games suffer from a kind of dating their cartoon cousins do not because of the attempts on 3D, but thanks to the drawn and flat style PMTTYD is one of the few games I truly feel will never date, at least on a visual level.

Second for me is a controversial installment in a favourite franchise. A game that took the previously more mature look of the others in its franchise and spun that on its head. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

An absolute masterwork of gameplay no matter what you think of its visual flare, Wind Waker spun off from the style of Ocarina of Time and Majoras Mask to give us a delightful shell shaded look reminiscent of a comic book. Luckily for fans of the previous look this actually split the franchise in two directions. In keeping with the original tone we got Twilight Princess and in keeping with Wind Waker we got the like of Spirit Tracks. Wind Waker truly proved how little graphics can have to do with a game. Ocarina and Twilight were both sublime and yet so was Wind Waker and infect the team did a fantastic job in marrying the respective games narrative tone without he look.

My third and final choice for game that took a truly unique direction for its graphical tone is Nintendo’s latest big franchise. (You may have noticed a bias here for the big N. Sorry about that.)

But that’s right. Professor Layton. More a storybook in appearance, games of its genre have had a similar look before but what I find so stunning about Layton’s visuals it it’s sheer dedication to the story book look. There is a great sense of steam punk running through every fibre that shows utter dedication to the visuals they aspired for. This is what good graphics is to me. Not the most accurately recreated looking face, but a game that looks so purely of it’s own craft. Like nothing else that has come before.

Would you agree with what Arron has to say on this topic?