Some games just have great style, I think all gamers will agree on that. Not just video games-- there are plenty of board and card games with appealing, even iconic styles.
I certainly don’t want to open the “are video games art” discussion, at least not in this thread. And I also want to discuss the style separately from the “graphics”. Discussion of graphics tend to turn technical. That’s reasonable, because graphics are a technical issue.
I started thinking about this while writing about the game Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile. Most of the time it’s not really impressive to look at. The cut scenes are nothing much, IMO. Here’s one. Looks like he’s saying HEY GUYS WE SHOULD TOTES BUILD A PYRAMID THERE AMIRITE? Most of the time you’re in an overhead view, which doesn’t hurt the eyes, but is also nothing special. Like this. Not bad.
When the style gets impressive to me, though, is when you have a developed city and start moving the camera around. I used to try to get a screenshot of the sun rising over my temples, stuff like that. Something like this. That’s not a cut scene. It helps how the ground slopes and how buildings and roads adjust to elevation. Some city building games only use elevation as a barrier to where you can build.
I wish I still had my screenshots. The ones I could find with image search don’t really get it across.
I picked up the THQ Humble Bundle and I’ve been playing Titan Quest. Again, not a technical wonder for graphics-- I’d guess they’re similar to those of Diablo II. Titan Quest, if you’ve never played it, is a Diablo-like, with an Ancient Greek setting. But while Diablo’s style seems to have been drawn from Frank Frazetta-- you can see for yourself by googling “diablo 3 concept art” for images-- Titan Quest plays off its setting by borrowing from Ray Harryhausen.
I can’t really get it across by linking screenshots. Part of it is how the monsters are animated. They move like they were filmed in stop motion. Before the obvious Harryhausen link occurred to me, I was thinking they looked a bit like claymation. It was unsurprising to find out that Titan Quest’s animators watched his films while developing the game.
Several others come to mind, but I’ve gone on long enough already. Interested to see what others like when it comes to art style.