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The best video game art of 2021



The graphics in the game have come a very long way over the past decade, but graphics alone don’t make a beautiful game. The style, vibe, and emotion can all be conveyed through the artistic direction of a game. game, and can be seen in everything from characters and environments to level design … and even menus.

Here are our picks for the best video game art of 2021:

Artistic escape

The Artful Escape presents an incredibly realistic yet simplistic environment, with a paper feel, fully punched with stunning colors. It’s the kind of art style that supports itself and the story perfectly, but in a totally unexpected way. The eccentricity hidden in the ordinary is a common theme, and you instantly feel like you’re part of a Wes Anderson-Tim Burton mash-up movie from the start. But The Artful Escape’s brilliant use of bright colors and design isn’t all the wow factor – it’s in the details, too. Particles of dust that you see floating in a quiet room. A top-to-bottom shot of a disc being played. The culmination of art styles with storytelling and music makes The Artful Escape the best in-game art design for 2021. -Jessie Wade

To learn more, check out IGN’s Artful Escape review.

The Arkane Studios design team have a habit of giving a classy twist to familiar genres and aesthetics – from the grubby “whalepunk” streets of Dishonored’s Dunwall to the Art Deco rooms of Prey’s Talos 1 – and Deathloop doesn’t contradict. this trend. Its cutscenes are a chic combination of its spy show intros and exploitation cinema inspirations, and every inch of Blackreef Island seems to have been pulled straight from the mid-century modern lair of a so-called Bond villain or 60s movie posters or pulp fiction book cover. Watching these environments evolve over the course of each day’s loop is also a fascinating pastime in and of itself, as Arkane’s addition of PopArt flair to the world only makes his descent into complete anarchy all the more colorful. . Even the bulky design of (most of) his weapons and the jury-rigged nature of Cole’s technology all come together to create a singularly unique world that may not redefine an entire genre, but will undoubtedly be there. one of Arkane’s most memorable creations. – Jon Ryan

For more, check out IGN’s Deathloop review.

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts was a Saturday morning cartoon in video game form when it first hit the scene in 2005. 16 years later, the psychedelic artists at Double Fine Productions have given it their all with Psychonauts 2. Spy Madness does not unlike any other game released in 2021, fully engaging with the crazy Double Fine vibe produced over a decade ago. Advances in technology have only improved the trippy aesthetic of Psychonauts, and its secret mod-inspired spy bases, nervous mental asylums, and a particularly disturbing dental nightmare are some of the most memorable visual pleasures of 2021. . – Matt Kim

To learn more, see IGN’s Psychonauts 2 review.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift apart

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is, without a doubt, one of the most technologically beautiful games of the year, with the skilled Insomniac team working their next-gen muscles and already providing a benchmark for all PS5 games. But Rift Apart’s visual style doesn’t just succeed through technical prowess – Insomniac’s art and design teams have created a candy-covered visual feast that brings so many distinct alien planets to life. Everything from Old West-style mining towns to the Rift Apart Battle Arena opening lobby bar, destroyed labs and more – Rift Apart’s levels are bursting with life and detail. And delightfully, we get to see two versions of many locations, as some levels see Ratchet or Rivet leaping through rifts to different iterations of the same planet, each feeling separate but part of the other. It’s a tough ride to pull off, but Insomniac makes it 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 undergrounds, Returnal is both oppressive and magnificent. Your lonely and secluded trek through the dangerous and dark planet of Atropos is constantly counterbalanced by striking bursts of color, giant alien life forms, and mind-blowing fireworks of lights and laser beams. There are constant moments of vibrant, euphoric chaos swirling around the player in a heated firefight, rewarded with the poise and calm of barely surviving the battle. Returnal is one of the prettiest sites to see 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

To learn more, see IGN’s Returnal review.

All IGN Best Of 2021 Game Categories

The IGN Best of 2021 awards were designed by:

Lead Design + Artistic Direction: Julia Rago

Animated Graphics: Will Batchelor