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Top 10 most visually impressive games of the decade (2000-2009)

Posted by: Ahmed Al-Dajani 29/Dec/2009
You need more than amazing graphics in order to make a great game. But at the same time, no one can deny the fact that great visuals do make a good game even better. As we march into the next decade, games are getting prettier and the demand for better graphics are becoming stronger. I have constructed a list of the best looking games of the decade with choosing one game for each year:  
10. Shenmue: Release Date: 2000. Console: Dreamcast.  
 
 
 
It was the game that showcased what the Dreamcast was capable of. A huge amount of resources were spent in order to make the game's visuals reach the highest standards. In fact, there was nothing like Shenmue at that time; as the game had great looking environments, detailed character models and some of the most realistic facial expressions in a game, real time shadowing, impressive lighting effects, amazing Weather System, and much more.  
Shenmue pioneered how games should look like in the future. Shenmue is easily one of the best looking games of this decade. We are hoping to see a fitting conclusion to this magnificent series, maybe in the next decade? We hope so.  
9. Metal Gear Solid 2: Release date: 2001. Console: PS2, and Xbox.  
 
 
 
When Sony launched the PS2 console at the beginning of this decade, there wasn't a single game that offered something out of the competition at that time. But all of that had changed when Hideo Kojima released the next iteration of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty.  
Do you remember the amazing rain effect from the Tanker chapter of this game? Do you remember the huge amount of little details the game had? Do you remember the great looking cut scenes? If you have played this game, I don't think that you can forget how good MGS 2 graphics were. The game was like a long hollywood movie with the best visual effects. Metal Gear Solid 2 was a stunner.  
8. Metroid Prime: Release date: 2002. Console: Gamecube, and Wii.  
 
 
 
Metroid Prime beauty came from two major components: the amazing art direction and a technologically impressive engine at that time. The game visuals were too sharp and ahead of their time. The game's environments were varied and had lots of great visual details. Also, it was the first 3D game in the Metroid series, isn't that enough?  
7. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Release date: 2003. Console: PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and PC.  
 
 
 
Another great franchise that entered the 3D world this decade. The prince's acrobatic moves were fantastically animated that made Lara Croft movements look awkward in comparison. The amazing artistic design of this game and the extraordinary visual effects the game had at that time make The Sands of Time one of the best looking games of the decade.  
6. Far Cry: Release date: 2004. Console: PC, and Xbox.  
 
 
 
The game was born out of a technology demo called X-Isle: Dinosaur Island made by Crytek to showcase the capabilities of the NVIDIA GeForce 3. Crytek the creators of CryEngine developed Far Cry which was one of the first FPS games to take place in a massive/seamless environment. Far Cry was one of the first games to use HDR technique along side Half Life 2 and other games. Also, the game's huge and lavish environments, the game's ability to render long draw distance, and the breathtaking water effect at that time puts this game on our list of the most visually impressive games of the past decade.  
5. Resident Evil 4: Release date: 2005. Console: Gamecube, PS2, Wii and PC.  
 
 
 
Before this game was released, there were a lot of gamers who feared the fact that Capcom is revamping the Resident Evil formula in this game. Were they wrong? Absolutely yes. Capcom created one of the finest games ever made in Resident Evil 4. The game was gorgeous, lengthy, and had a lot of unique ideas that pioneered some of the greatest games of this generation.  
This game pushed the graphical capabilities of the Gamecube hardware to its limits. The game had some of the most detailed character/monster models at that time. Add to this one of the most dazzling fire effect we have ever seen, and you will get a recipe for one of the most impressive games to hit us this decade.  
4. Gears of War: Release date: 2006. Console: Xbox 360, and PC.  
 
 
 
The HD revolution started with this game. And if you don't agree with me, then you are fooling yourself. Gears was the first game to raise the bar visually this generation. The game had great textures, amazing visual effects, detailed character models, and lots of blood.  
Gears showed what next generation of consoles are capable of, and made Epic's Unreal Engine 3 the most used engine this generation. Can't wait to see what Epic games will do with the third game of the series, Gears of War 3.  
3. Crysis: Release date: 2007. Console: PC.  
 
 
 
A list about the most visually impressive games without mentioning Crysis would be insane. The game runs on CryEngine 2 that is the successor to Far Cry's CryEngine. Crysis was among the first games to use the Direct3D 10. How many gamers bought the latest graphic cards just to play the game in the highest settings?  
If you want to put your computer to the test, you have no other choice than: Crysis. What will Crytek improves in the sequel is yet to be seen, but we know that it will blow us away.  
2. Metal Gear Solid 4: Release Date: 2008. Console: PS3.  
 
 
 
Hideo Kojima is a perfectionist. That's why we love him. At the beginning of each console generation cycle, you hear him expose his disappointment of the consoles limitations. But don't take him seriously though because his games speak the opposite.  
How the game blended its cut senses with the gameplay so seamlessly is a feat in its self. The game is gorgeous technically and artistically. Metal Gear Solid is one of my favorites franchises because it always pushes the videogames industry forward. Keep it up Kojima san.  
1. Uncharted 2: Release date: 2009. Console: PS3.  
 
 
 
It's boils down to this: Uncharted 2 is the best looking game of the decade. This game is a piece of art. Seriously.  
This is our list. If you have another opinion, feel free to share it with us in the comment section.  
 
72 comments
Posted: 31/Dec/2009
Nice Article man, I wonder how ppl argue MGS4 visual quality! its still one of the best till now! and for the man who said "The textures in the beginning middle east level are really bad" I think he doesn't know the deference between low textures and blur effects - Kojima wont start his game with low textures Scenes!- anyways, keep it up man ;)
Posted: 31/Dec/2009
Uncharted2 had good graphics not great. Crysis yeah great, excellent even. Uncharted2 was given the best graphics of 2009 just because the Crysis2 out on 2010. Let see whether Uncharted2 engine can create something like this. google image: "blade runner cryengine 2" I'm not fanboys but i know graphics very well, oh have i mention that i'm a computer software engineer (fyi David Macphail, I think it was you that do not know graphics too well). HUH!
Posted: 01/Jan/2010
Obviously with all of this arguing, it's safe to say that people's opinions about graphics vary from the technical to the artistic or somewhere in-between. It's always a bunch of people spewing garbage and acting like fanboys trying to convince other people to agree with their opinion. The PS3 fanboy count here is pretty nauseating too. This is why I think we should only judge based on technical merit, meaning, how many polygons is the engine pushing, along with how high of a resolution are the textures and at what resolution is the game being rendered at and how well, etc. When you people start adding your opinion based on the overall "look" of the game and how it appeals to your taste, you often pick games that are low on the technical end of the spectrum. For example, MGS4. You are blind if you are pleased with the textures in this game on technical merit. They are a lower resolution than much of the competition, by far. This would be like saying that Little Big Planet has the greatest graphics because it looks almost photo realistic. Well, artistically they achieved quite a bit with this game. It DOES look almost photo realistic. However, they're only rendering objects made of cardboard and other limited surfaces that really don't demand a high level of computing power to create, which is why it does NOT have the greatest graphics on a technical level. The same would apply to games that are cell shaded or have a cartoon style like Ratchet and Clank. Artistically, nice, technically, not impressive. Arguing about the artistic end of things ultimately is a waste of time in the end because it's almost entirely subjective.
Posted: 01/Jan/2010
darksky is lying. He clearly doesn't know what he is talking about.
Posted: 04/Jan/2010
A list of best looking games with Crysis anywhere other than the top is wrong.
Posted: 04/Jan/2010
No Wind Waker - probably the best use of cel-shading ever? Fail.
Posted: 04/Jan/2010
quarreling over the order is retarded because they are ordered by fucking year. one game for a year.
Posted: 03/Jan/2010
far cry 2 was stunning, not just the best graphics used for fire but overall it was the best graphics of any game made ever
Posted: 04/Jan/2010
any game used unparalleled graphics except killzone 2???
Posted: 04/Jan/2010
Games I think should have been considered: Shadow of the Colossus, Left 4 Dead (2 in particular has some pretty impressive textures/character models), Half Life 2 (considering this was made in 2004 and is still up to par with a lot of recent game releases, I'm disappointed this wasn't mentioned.), and just about any of the recent Call of Duty games. The CoD series has produced some of the most photo-realistic games I've ever played. As much as I love the MGS series, MGS4 left a good bit to be desired, particularly in the textures department. It had nice graphics, but not the best of the year.