What do you consider to be a masterpiece?

  • 80 results
  • 1
  • 2
Avatar image for clagnaught
#1 Posted by clagnaught (2136 posts) -

I basically wanted to create a thread based on one of the many great off topic discussions in this week's Blue Bombin' between Austin and Dan:

In short, what do you consider to be a masterpiece? Are there any videogame masterpieces?

In general, I think a masterpiece should be one of the standout works in their respective medium or at least era. For example, while I don't know that much about paintings, it might make more sense to showcase works in different styles (i.e. Say that Painting A is a masterpiece from the Renaissance era, while Painting B is one from the Modern era, as opposed to grouping everything together and saying "These are the masterpieces in all of painting). In that respect, it might make sense to group games based on genre. On some level, that seems practical, especially since a masterpiece first person shooter and a masterpiece puzzle game are going to bring something different to the discussion.

I think a masterpiece should also be a rarity to an extent. For example, in Blue Bombin', Dan mentioned how Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy are all masterpieces. While they are all different games, on different platforms, with different mechanics, it also feels like a waste to say out of all of masterpieces in videogaming, six are more or less the same type of platformer. If someone were to take out a couple of those Mario games and add Super Meat Boy, that creates more diversity. However, you are still listing off a bunch of really good platformers.

For me, I can only think of a few masterpieces in videogames. A part of this is because I think there is a difference between labeling something as a "masterpiece" and saying "I really, really, really love this game". Some of my favorite games are in the Persona series, however, I don't know if any of them are considered a masterpiece of the medium. Those games take mechanics and systems from a bunch of different games and have incredible stories and characters, but they also don't really push the ball forward or do something that is completely unique to videogames (except for maybe the end of Persona 3, but that's a discussion for another time).

With that said, the only games I can easily give that label to right now are:

  • Metal Gear Solid 2: For basically a lot of the reasons Austin, Dan, and other people have said over the years.
  • NieR: Automata: For how it communicates its themes and how it plays with the mechanics and structure of videogames.

There are a couple of games that are close to the edge, like The Last of Us and Super Mario World. In some ways it might be worth saying what are the peaks of each genre, even if they are not the absolute masterpieces in all of gaming (i.e. What is the closest thing to a first person shooter masterpiece? What is the closest thing to a platformer masterpiece? etc.). At least from my perspective, that would force me to commit a little more and name more games, as opposed to saying the only masterpieces in videogames are Metal Gear Solid 2 and NieR: Automata (which...doesn't seem true).

Avatar image for liquiddragon
#2 Edited by liquiddragon (3449 posts) -

The stuff I consider to be masterpieces tend to stand the test of time, it has to be in some sense timeless. It can feel aged but you'd still be able see why it was a big deal. So if I call something recent a masterpiece, I'm thinking we're gonna remember it for a long time to come or if revisited, still be impressed.

I played Hyper Light Drifter and Inside recently and those are masterpieces. NieR: Automata, I liked it and it does a lot of great things but that's not a masterpiece to me.

Avatar image for sinusoidal
#3 Posted by Sinusoidal (3608 posts) -

I recently played through ABZÛ, and while it's pretty great in its own right, it mostly reminded me of how incredibly, mind-bogglingly great Journey was. Journey went and gave us an experience like no other that could only be conveyed through the medium of video games. It's definitely a masterpiece.

Avatar image for bigsocrates
#4 Posted by BigSocrates (1966 posts) -

A masterpiece, literally used to be the piece an artisan created in order to prove they were a master (and no longer a journeyman.)

Therefore I think of masterpieces as games that couldn't be easily improved on. The thing stands for itself with very few flaws and accomplishes whatever it was trying to accomplish (after all you wouldn't dock a masterpiece painting for not being a good table.)

Because of that, I agree that all the Marios are masterpieces (with the exception of Japanese 2.) They accomplish what they set out to accomplish pretty much perfectly and couldn't easily be improved. Likewise I think The Last of Us is a masterpiece and so is the new Doom (single player.) They both do what they want to do pretty much perfectly.

I think your definition is unworkable, and frankly the games you chose to meet it don't make any sense to me. Metal Gear Solid 2 as the best representative of the medium? I don't even know where to begin with that.

I think trying to objectively define the best art in any medium is silly. Much of it can't really be compared (The Last of Us vs Tetris. Go!) And people strongly disagree with subjective opinion (Such as my not understanding why you would make Metal Gear Solid 2 the representative of gaming.)

I think my definition is more workable and easier to agree on (though of course there will always be disagreements.) Every medium has many many masterpieces. Thinking things like "The Mona Lisa is the greatest painting of all time" or "Beethoven's 9th Symphony is the best piece of music ever" is just outdated at this point.

Avatar image for huntad
#5 Edited by huntad (2407 posts) -

It's more difficult to qualify certain games as masterpieces as opposed to movies and books. Stories in other mediums can be interpreted in different ways, sure, but the plot does not usually change. Games rely heavily on an experience that usually cannot be felt the same by everyone. It makes them unique and also causes them to have to evolve with each entry in each genre.

Basically, games evolve and surpass their predecessors in certain ways due to their focus on interaction through gameplay. I don't think there is an older game that is not a 2D platformer that I would have a person, new to games, play over a newer game with more refined mechanics.

Avatar image for zeik
#6 Edited by Zeik (5203 posts) -

I can't say I've ever really considered any game a "masterpiece." Partly because every game I love has enough recognizable flaws that I can't really justify calling them "masterpieces", but also because that's such a loaded term that most people would tear me and said game apart for even suggesting it in normal context. Part of that is because I've never really gravitated towards the games others might accept as "masterpieces". Dan can call Mario a masterpiece and won't get too much resistance, but I have no love for that franchise, so I will never call any of those games masterpieces. RPGs are my bread and butter, and I know I could probably get away with calling Chrono Trigger a masterpiece, but even though I think it's a perfectly fine game, I don't love it nearly enough to call it that. (How can I when I love Chrono Cross more despite way more flaws?)

I know you said, and I agree, just really loving a game is not enough to consider it a "masterpiece", but I think it is also a requirement. You can't call a game you are not passionate about a "masterpiece."

That being said, I might be okay calling games like Nier and/or Nier:Automata "flawed masterpieces" though.

Avatar image for johnny_sailor
#7 Posted by Johnny_Sailor (118 posts) -

Probably the original Super Mario Brothers. I don't think it's the best, but the graphics for it are just so ingrained into us, and all these years later it controls so well, and just connects with everyone.

Avatar image for relkin
#8 Posted by Relkin (1197 posts) -

Here's another one of those terms that's too subjective to be of any use. Some people think it comes down to how significant the game in question is, others think it's all whether or not the game holds up as time passes; some think it's purely about gameplay, some think it comes down to the narrative or the aesthetic, others think it's about the whole package...and plenty of people just use it as a term to try and elevate some game they're really fond of as objectively great.

I guess I would be in the camp that says it needs to hold up, in all aspects. I'm of the mind that the number of "masterpieces" in the medium can probably be counted on two hands.

Avatar image for pezen
#9 Posted by Pezen (2384 posts) -

I think the easiest definition to work with is the one that Abby brought up, namely the 'best' work by any given artist. But we're all still going to suffer the subjective experiences of the player so there's probably never going to be a long list of agreed upon masterpieces. I think history is going to decide which games are worth remembering though, but that's also fickle because there's so many variables to why certain things are remembered and not. I would, as said, go by developer and have their respective masterpieces and limit it to one. For example, I think Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is Infinity Wards's masterpiece. The Witcher 3 is CD Projekt Red's masterpiece and so on. The same developer can make a handful of great games but I think they will always have one that stands above their other ones. Saying all Mario games are masterpieces deludes the term. But I would listen to an argument that said Nintendo may have more than one Masterpiece based on being around long enough that narrowing it down to one is a lot more troublesome than with developers who cut their teeth mainly in the last generations of polygonal graphic consoles.

Avatar image for odinsmana
#10 Posted by odinsmana (982 posts) -

@relkin said:

Here's another one of those terms that's too subjective to be of any use. Some people think it comes down to how significant the game in question is, others think it's all whether or not the game holds up as time passes; some think it's purely about gameplay, some think it comes down to the narrative or the aesthetic, others think it's about the whole package...and plenty of people just use it as a term to try and elevate some game they're really fond of as objectively great.

I was going to say something similar, but you formulated it better than I can, so I will just say that I agree with this. Masterpiece is also such a loaded term in such a subjective medium. It feels the same to me as saying something is perfect and I can`t think of a single game that is completely without flaws. Some of my favorite games of all time that I would say are the best in each of their respective genres all have flaws.

Planescape: Torment has bad combat.

Okami drags near then end and repeats bosses too many times.

Shadow of the Colossus has some bosses that are kinda weak.

If I had to make a list of gaming masterpieces those three would probably be on it, but non of them are flawless and I can totally understand if someone just does not like them even though I love them.

Avatar image for stordoff
#11 Posted by stordoff (1362 posts) -

A part of this is because I think there is a difference between labeling something as a "masterpiece" and saying "I really, really, really love this game". Some of my favorite games are in the Persona series, however, I don't know if any of them are considered a masterpiece of the medium. Those games take mechanics and systems from a bunch of different games and have incredible stories and characters, but they also don't really push the ball forward or do something that is completely unique to videogames (except for maybe the end of Persona 3, but that's a discussion for another time).

This is where the discussion gets difficult IMO. Personally, I have a different interpretation of "masterpiece" - it is a piece of work that could ONLY have been completed by (a) master(s) of the field. That can either be pushing the boundaries of the field, or it can be more intangible - it can be a work that has a certain je ne sais quoi about it that makes it stand out despite leading on familiar themes and mechanics (arguably that's just as difficult).

As such, I'm entirely willing to put Persona 4 the Golden and Steins;Gate is that group, as they are masterful executions of what they are trying to do.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is an interesting one. It certainly has ideas worthy of a masterpiece, and it pushed the medium forward, but I hesitate to call it a masterpiece. As a piece of work, I feel it stumbles a little too much, and comes across as being a somewhat ham-fisted execution - it doesn't have the subtlety or elegance befitting its themes. Thus I hesitate before calling it a timeless masterpiece - it's an excellent game, and certainly important, but I'm not it quite makes it to "masterpiece" for me.

Avatar image for theht
#12 Posted by TheHT (15870 posts) -

Well designed, well crafted, and yet somehow still more than just the sum of its parts.

Something that comes the closest to perfection in a way that feels distinct from being a personal favourite. Distinct as well from just being really fucking good. I think those Mario games are all really fucking good (except Sunshine and Galaxy, which I haven't played), but that only Super Mario World stands apart as a masterpiece.

Another example: Fallout 4 is a personal favourite, but Portal 1 is a masterpiece.

I think it's also fair to accept something as a masterpiece even if it wasn't personally affecting. Journey was mentioned, and for me it was a fine experience, but nothing particularly special. I glided over sand, met a few strangers who behaved quite differently (the most interesting part), and saw some pretty landscapes. But I can respect considering it a masterpiece, even if it personally failed to elicit even an ounce of the emotion I felt when I escaped a 4000 degrees Kelvin death. Would it be one of my personal favourites? No.

Story doesn't have to be a factor. Something can be a masterpiece in game design. What matters most is that it's exceptionally well made, and resonant.

Avatar image for bondfish
#13 Posted by bondfish (145 posts) -

For me its gotta be the Rock Band series as a whole, its too hard to pick one with somehow a still expanding setlist and the ups and downs of the "campaign" stuff, but once you have a full band playing (including more than one mic) maybe a few drinks (not needed), and put that together with you will get better at the game the more you play it's still the most fun and simple yet complex gameplay of any video game. Truly a masterpiece.

Avatar image for odinsmana
#14 Edited by odinsmana (982 posts) -

@pezen said:

I think the easiest definition to work with is the one that Abby brought up, namely the 'best' work by any given artist. But we're all still going to suffer the subjective experiences of the player so there's probably never going to be a long list of agreed upon masterpieces. I think history is going to decide which games are worth remembering though, but that's also fickle because there's so many variables to why certain things are remembered and not. I would, as said, go by developer and have their respective masterpieces and limit it to one. For example, I think Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is Infinity Wards's masterpiece. The Witcher 3 is CD Projekt Red's masterpiece and so on. The same developer can make a handful of great games but I think they will always have one that stands above their other ones. Saying all Mario games are masterpieces deludes the term. But I would listen to an argument that said Nintendo may have more than one Masterpiece based on being around long enough that narrowing it down to one is a lot more troublesome than with developers who cut their teeth mainly in the last generations of polygonal graphic consoles.

I think that is a good definition that works well in other mediums where we can talk about a person and their masterpiece, but I feel that is more difficult in games. Especially if we are switching person with developer. People leave studious and new people come in all the time. How many people that worked on Wolfenstein 3D worked on Doom (2016). By giving each developer a single masterpiece it means that because let`s say Doom 1 is a masterpiece Doom (2016) can`t be even though probably only like 4% (or something like that) of the staff also worked on the original Doom. There are also such a wide variety in developers based on size and projects they work on at once. We have huge studious like Nintendo and Platinum that work on multiple projects at once and have multiple teams inside each studio (and those teams then only get one masterpiece between them even though they might be largely separate). Then you have gigantic studious that only work on a single game at a time like Infinity Ward and small studious that work on a single game at a time.

Avatar image for fezrock
#15 Posted by Fezrock (732 posts) -

I'm not exactly sure how to define a video game masterpiece, though I think this thread has some good ideas. I do think that no game made in the past 5 years (maybe 10 years) can be considered a masterpiece, yet. Masterpieces need to stand the test of time I think, and while some recent games I think will succeed on that count, I need to see it actually happen. I also think masterpieces can be relatively similar to each other (e.g. you can always tell when looking at a 16th/17th century Dutch master, but many of their works are amazing), so I think it's fine if multiple games in a series, like Mario, are all considered masterpieces. Likewise, great artists have always been able to have multiple masterpieces, so one game director/developer with more than one also seems fine.

But in terms of what actually makes a masterpiece, that I'm less sure of. I don't think it necessarily needs to inspire other work or drive the medium forward; but I think it does need to be something acknowledged as being at the pinnacle of it's field. I hesitate to say it needs to be flawless (is anything?), but I think its flaws need to be unnoticeable to laypersons. So it doesn't need to be fantastic at everything, but everything it includes does need to be fantastic (so a game that doesn't have a story can be a masterpiece, but a game that does have a story and it's terrible I don't think can be a masterpiece). I think there's more to it than that, but I'm having trouble putting words to it.

Also, being a masterpiece is not the same thing as being hugely influential and likely to be remembered for as long as we have games; e.g. I would not call Pac-Man or Pong masterpieces.

Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1
#16 Edited by deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1 (1777 posts) -

GTA V is a masterpiece the game has amazing flow through gameplay story telling, music, comedy,satire, and over all atmosphere it's a game when I'm not playing it I always think about reinstalling it. There's a euphoric feeling I get from the game like when I'm really immersed in it. It gives me a summer vacation feeling the water looks refreshing the sunsets are gorgeous. Not many games has this top level quality everything in the world feels so well crafted for me it's a masterpiece.

Avatar image for katygaga
#17 Posted by KatyGaGa (628 posts) -

Games that stand the test of time and change what you want out of games going forward.

In other words, Mass Effect 2.

Avatar image for monkeyking1969
#18 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7610 posts) -

I think with all art the artistic masterpieces is not in the art itself getting its 'one time' stamp of approval. A true masterpice has constantly refreshing arguments about why it has been, is, and will be important. (It like a tree falling in the woods, it only matter if someone comment on it. ) Masterpieces are not just valued "because it got 10" or "because it was the best one of [that] to be made". A masterpieces is a thing that is constantly re-assessed from different perspectives in different eras, it is spoken about as to "WHY" it is important against other things. A piece of art or game ceases to be a master pieces when people stop talking about it or referencing it.

People still take about Asteroids. People still talk about Tetris. People still talk about the first Super Mario Bros, Mario 64, and Super Mario World. Any games that is constantly re-examined or constantly referenced to other games is likely a masterpiece. In most cases it takes time, but as with art there are games that are instant masterpieces - I think The Last of Us was an instant masterpiece.

But, hey, the above is just my opinion.

Avatar image for goboard
#19 Posted by Goboard (293 posts) -

During that stream someone mentioned Spelunky as an example of a masterpiece and it's the only game I've played that comes close to embodying the idea. Nearly every aspect of it's design is so well conceived and implemented to create emergent situations from it's systems that I've managed to play it for over 200 hours over several years and still find myself surprised by what can happen when I play and how easily any idea I have for how to handle a given situation is possible to execute. The game is so flexible and expressive in it's gameplay I'm surprised more games haven't tried to employ the parts of it that make this possible. The only way I see it as deficient and not meeting the qualifications of a masterpiece is that it doesn't have much to say or communicate to the player on anything other than a gameplay level. If the mechanics and systems it presents were used to communicate an idea the way Papers Please does It would have met the mark.

Avatar image for tobbrobb
#20 Posted by TobbRobb (6585 posts) -

The only one that really comes to mind is Journey. If you add or subtract anything from that game I think it'd only be worse off. It's basically perfect for what it tried to be.

Avatar image for viking_funeral
#21 Edited by viking_funeral (2881 posts) -
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Mario 64
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • The Witcher 3
  • Civilization IV
  • BioShock
  • Portal

I'm just throwing out games from the top of my head. Each of these games has very few flaws, with the possible exception of Witcher 3's combat (I liked it), but holy crap was that game developed with a lot of love and care. Even with some people disliking the combat, open world RPGs are going to be compared to that game for years to come.

_______________________________________

Anyway, fun fact: Citizen Kane is considered a masterpiece of film making, if not the best film ever made. However, the plot isn't amazing. The key aspect most people come to film for - the story - is above average but slightly slow and forced. The real reason people keep citing that movie is that the cinematography, blocking, lighting, all those little tricks that go into making a film were so far ahead of their time and influenced nearly every movie that followed. (Well, eventually. See below.) It's a masterpiece for being masterfully crafted, not being an incredibly enjoyable experience.

The funny part is, Citizen Kane was a critical failure and nearly forgotten until it was released on television in 1956, fourteen years after its initial release, and by being one of the first films regularly shown on television. It was also aided by critic Andrew Sarris finally wrote a glowing review calling it "the work that influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation." Then a bit of a follow the leader effect started to take shape, and now it is consistently voted one of the best movies of all time, though many people miss the fact that it's called such for almost all the ground breaking work in every aspect of it's creation except the story.

My point is that what makes a masterpiece isn't necessarily what we come to games for: enjoyment. A masterpiece could very well be a spectacularly well made and assembled game that can only be enjoyed by people that notice the little details that go into making a game that casual audiences may miss.

I'm not sure what game would really fill those shoes. It wouldn't necessarily have to be unpopular upon release like Citizen Kane was (false equivalency is a curse), so it could just be a popular game that changes most of what followed. Something like Super Mario Bros., Doom, or Grand Theft Auto III maybe. Tetris? Each of those games are fun in their own right, even if they haven't aged spectacularly well and may be difficult for modern audiences to enjoy without having played them back in the day.

Avatar image for flashflood_29
#22 Edited by FlashFlood_29 (4444 posts) -

@monkeyking1969 said:

I think with all art the artistic masterpieces is not in the art itself getting its 'one time' stamp of approval. A true masterpice has constantly refreshing arguments about why it has been, is, and will be important. (It like a tree falling in the woods, it only matter if someone comment on it. ) Masterpieces are not just valued "because it got 10" or "because it was the best one of [that] to be made". A masterpieces is a thing that is constantly re-assessed from different perspectives in different eras, it is spoken about as to "WHY" it is important against other things. A piece of art or game ceases to be a master pieces when people stop talking about it or referencing it.

People still take about Asteroids. People still talk about Tetris. People still talk about the first Super Mario Bros, Mario 64, and Super Mario World. Any games that is constantly re-examined or constantly referenced to other games is likely a masterpiece. In most cases it takes time, but as with art there are games that are instant masterpieces - I think The Last of Us was an instant masterpiece.

But, hey, the above is just my opinion.

This is really good. As someone that was always familiar with the definition of a journeyman transitioning to master, I've always considered a masterpiece to be the artists best piece of work, but this seems to fit video games better. Well said.

Avatar image for luchalma
#23 Posted by Luchalma (546 posts) -

I think this is a discussion that could go on and on forever arguing semantics and getting really pretentious. When it really just comes down to game that is very, very good. The only thing I'd say distinguishes it from other very, very good games is that it stays very, very good. Super Mario World is still a joy to play, 27 years later, and I'm willing to bet it will still be a joy to play 27 years from now. The Witcher 3 I feel like is a masterpiece. The parts of the game that make it so special won't age. People in the future could say it is janky to play, but people say that now and it's still the best video game I've ever seen.

Spelunky is a rare example of a game that is, for all intents and purposes, perfect.

Avatar image for hamst3r
#24 Posted by Hamst3r (5480 posts) -

For me masterpieces are whatever I like the most, I don't do the objective thing. They're my favorites and that's it.

Avatar image for nevergameover
#25 Posted by NeverGameOver (902 posts) -

Velvet Sundown

Avatar image for gkabooz
#26 Posted by GKabooz (46 posts) -

Okami. Never finished it though. RIP my PS2.

Avatar image for bassman2112
#27 Edited by bassman2112 (1201 posts) -

If we are talking about the pure definition of a "masterpiece," then here is how I fall on it:

A masterpiece is either a piece of work, a collection of works, or a product which conveys the skill of the "master" who created it. Not only should this/these works be so skillfully crafted that no amateur could do it, but they must change the way we perceive all works in that medium which came before it, and those which come after. For an example, we can look at Bach as having been a master, and having multiple masterpieces. The Well-Tempered Clavier changed everything with regards to piano, and how we perceive our modern tuning system and modulation in keys. His Brandenburg Concertos are considered the ultimate culmination of the Baroque period. There are way more examples of Bach, but let's talk about another medium. We could also look at film, and see movies like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now, personally, I don't like watching 2001 at all; but it is impossible to dismiss how important it is for modern film. It set a standard, and inspired countless directors - it is, indisputably, a masterpiece. Back to music, I really dislike listening to the Beatles; but it is impossible to ignore how massively influential their catalogue is to modern music - it can be considered a masterwork, or masterpiece.

Now bearing those points in mind, I think it's safe to say that a masterpiece doesn't have to be a work of pure perfection. I don't like 2001 or the Beatles; but that does not mean I won't call them for what they are, nor give them the respect they deserve.

I think there are absolutely games which meet this standard. We would not be where we are today without games like Pong, Space Invaders, Mario, Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, etc. But if we want to talk about modern masterpieces, then I must be forthright in saying there is truly only one that I consider a sincere, modern, industry-defining "masterpiece."

NieR: Automata. I've not been able to stop thinking about this game since I finished it months ago. It is the ultimate culmination of our medium, and it is - undoubtedly - a masterpiece. It will influence countless creators to come, and I am willing to say that there has never been another game that compares to the impact it had on me - as well as many others, in talking with other developer friends. It is the perfect storm of having every hand who worked on it bringing their full expertise and creativity. The game could not work if all of each of its components were not working in tandem. The music, the gameplay, the story, the visuals, the character designs, the quests... Everything is in perfect balance. That's not to say it is 100% a perfect game. Sometimes the combat can be a bit boring, sometimes you accidentally die and lose an hour of progress; but remember what I said about 2001 and the Beatles? Not every moment has to be pure bliss. Ultimately, NieR is far, far, far more than the sum of its parts, and I will defend its masterpiece status wholeheartedly. Yoko Taro is a mad genius, and I will follow him wherever he goes.

Avatar image for liquiddragon
#28 Posted by liquiddragon (3449 posts) -

@gkabooz: Lol, can you really call something you didn't finish a masterpiece. That game is way too long. It's like 2 meaty games smashed into one, 3 perfectly decent sized games. It has a very sweet ending but god damn, does it over stay its welcome. Also the combat is just not interesting enough for a 50 hour game and you do soooo much of that combat. A visual masterpiece, I give it that.

Avatar image for babychoochoo
#29 Edited by BabyChooChoo (7092 posts) -

@monkeyking1969 said:

I think with all art the artistic masterpieces is not in the art itself getting its 'one time' stamp of approval. A true masterpice has constantly refreshing arguments about why it has been, is, and will be important. (It like a tree falling in the woods, it only matter if someone comment on it. ) Masterpieces are not just valued "because it got 10" or "because it was the best one of [that] to be made". A masterpieces is a thing that is constantly re-assessed from different perspectives in different eras, it is spoken about as to "WHY" it is important against other things. A piece of art or game ceases to be a master pieces when people stop talking about it or referencing it.

People still take about Asteroids. People still talk about Tetris. People still talk about the first Super Mario Bros, Mario 64, and Super Mario World. Any games that is constantly re-examined or constantly referenced to other games is likely a masterpiece. In most cases it takes time, but as with art there are games that are instant masterpieces - I think The Last of Us was an instant masterpiece.

But, hey, the above is just my opinion.

My thoughts almost exactly though I would say I personally don't subscribe to the notion of instant classics/masterpieces. I say that because, and this is just one example, when you look at something like Bioshock Infintie, the word masterpiece was thrown around all willy nilly like it was nothing. Everyone seemed to be on the same page. Cut to present day and if feels as if even people who were big on that game back then have sorta cooled on it now. A lot of people still look back on it fondly and consider it a great game, but I bet a lot less people are willing to call it a masterpiece now. Same thing could probably be said about GTAIV. There's plenty of games too.

I think you need time. as in years, before you can really say one way or the other. Not just to see what if any impact it has ("everyone is totally going to copy the nemesis system" Remember that?), but also just to see what that game means to you long after it's release. I feel as if every now and then a really, really good game comes out and people get swept up in the moment and suddenly there's a new best game of all time on the block. That's not to say opinions can't change or that they're objectively wrong or anything, but like you fast-forward even just a year or two past release and often the conversations have died down, the world has moved on, and the game, despite the fact it may still resonate with plenty of people, just doesn't move the needle in the way it once did.

All that said, I think I could get on board with calling TLoU a masterpiece.

Avatar image for ubernoobnth
#30 Edited by ubernoobNTH (2 posts) -

The problem with discussing stuff like this is people easily give into emotions and it clouds any discussion around it.

Take Uncharted for example. I strongly dislike Uncharted and The Last of Us, but if someone wants to call Uncharted 2 a masterpiece I can get behind that. It was a real shift of what games could be.

Same goes for other games, even if they don't stand up as strong over time (because bits and pieces of them got picked up here and there and refined.) Paradigm shifting games like Mario, Half-Life, Grand Theft Auto III, Final Fantasy VII. Those games would be masterpieces to me, because without them there wouldn't be barriers broken - or at least it would have taken some other game to come along and break them. In which case those games would have went in this list, but since this isn't alternate timeline these are the ones we are talking about.

That list isn't definitive by any means, just some of the games that changed the way things were looked at that came to mind. I don't think any of my favorite games would ever be called a masterpiece though.

Avatar image for mostlysquares
#31 Posted by MostlySquares (325 posts) -

Straight up Tetris is a masterpiece the way I see it. Not because of its universal appeal, but because it's a thing that is near perfect in its execution and design. It's not an artistic masterpiece, but it is one of the masterpiece of game design in the 80s as I see it.

I would also call Super Mario World a masterpiece. That game will likely hold up forever.

Baldurs Gate 2 is a masterpiece.

World of Warcraft is a masterpiece, but it's complex because of its continous changing. Sometimes that game is bad... Other times it's fantastic. At its best, WoW is a masterpiece. Like a rickety and unsafe but unimaginably beautiful cathedral.

Online
Avatar image for tgjessie
#32 Edited by TGJessie (463 posts) -

Look, as long as we thoroughly establish that the term masterpiece is very much subjective and that it's fine to disagree. Indeed, that disagreement is why there's a discussion to be had.

That said, I'm going to float one that will not be a popular choice, but I think i can justify it to myself as being a masterpiece.

Battletoads. (NES)

I think Battletoads exhibits by far the most variety of gameplay of any NES game I've seen, not to mention being one of the generally best looking ones. It came fairly late in the NES' lifetime, but really showed what that thing could do. Perhaps nostalgia is clouding my judgement, but it remains one of my favourite games to this day. It's a shame more people don't like it the way I do.

Avatar image for fredchuckdave
#34 Edited by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

A masterpiece is something that stands the test of time (usually for centuries) and opinion becomes irrelevant; Video Games aren't old enough to become masterpieces and also not enough of the intellectual elite plays video games yet to have anything be considered on that level. It would probably never be a gameplay game other than maybe Mario 1/Tetris; but something like the Witcher 3 and later CD Projekt games have a shot at sort of paving the way for literati respect and whatnot. However there are no masterpieces in literature anymore so I kind of just doubt that there ever will be entirely; people will still WRITE masterpieces but they will never be identified as such on a broad scale; and thus they will fail to have an impact beyond ~5-10 years of their writing. I don't even think something like The Lord of the Rings or Dune qualifies; the last masterpiece is probably Heart of Darkness (if you read Fitzgerald or Sallinger you can see they have the talent for it but it just never comes together in one work, Gatsby and the Catcher in the Rye don't hold up compared to Othello etc.). Cormac McCarthy's writing is on that level but no one sticks with any particular book he's written and says that's the one or whatever, and no one can be Shakespeare anymore.

Influence doesn't matter that much, because a masterpiece will be picked up and played and dissected over and over with nigh everyone coming to the same conclusion of it being exceptional. Even if you take the best gameplay games ever (i.e. Super Metroid, Vagrant Story) there will still be a significant chunk of the audience that doesn't enjoy them. VS' story is up there but its not FFT levels, FFT isn't really thought that highly of on the story front in general despite being the best non voiced. So again it comes down to a modern game with universal acclaim that actually has ridiculously good writing, there's one game that did that so far.

People in the thread don't seem to understand their individual opinion is almost entirely irrelevant when it comes to deciding masterpieces; that tends to be a universal academic consensus. There's little or no academic aspect to it yet.

Avatar image for fezrock
#35 Posted by Fezrock (732 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: I don't entirely agree about the need for outside respect, beyond the fact that a layperson should be able to identify a difference in scope between a masterpiece and something else. But beyond that, we rely on art experts to identify painting/sculpture/etc. masterpieces, music experts to identify musical masterpieces, and so; the video game masterpieces will be identified by video game experts, not literature or other experts looking in at video games from the outside. It's true that there isn't much in the way video game scholarship yet, but there are some developers and critics who qualify as experts.

Also, Toni Morrison is generally considered to have written multiple masterpieces; at the very least Beloved in 1988.

Avatar image for knifey_spoony
#36 Posted by Knifey_Spoony (223 posts) -

For me a masterpiece is greater than the sum of its parts. I think games like Stardew Valley, Braid, and the Witcher 3 all combine great gameplay, visuals, sound, and writing to make a great experience. This is not my full list btw, just a few examples.

Avatar image for awesomeusername
#37 Posted by awesomeusername (4645 posts) -

The Last of Us and Portal 2. My top two favorite games. Not going to explain why because I’m too tired to think but it should be obvious why if you loved those games.

Avatar image for novis
#38 Edited by Novis (296 posts) -

A masterpiece, to me, is something that you can revisit and still enjoy way after it's release, have an appeal that persists, allows younger people to be able to enjoy (despite it's age), is the best work of a particular artist/creator/director/studio/etc, and has an impact on the culture around the work. So, a lot of the time, whenever someone says "this thing is a masterpiece", I would have to disagree because not enough time has been had with the work.

Avatar image for chrispaul92
#39 Posted by chrispaul92 (149 posts) -

Tetris and the original Super Mario Bros. are the only games I feel comfortable calling masterpieces.

Avatar image for blackout62
#40 Edited by Blackout62 (2194 posts) -

Kentucky

Route

Zero

And I will fight this website. I don't care that it's unfinished. This is definitely the hill I'm willing to die on.

Avatar image for plop1920
#41 Edited by plop1920 (568 posts) -

I've played a lot of games, and nothing comes close to the enjoyment I had playing WoW from classic to WOTLK. Kinda cheating, because it was a living game with fresh updates / expansions that could fix any issues or content flaws, but never have I found another game so addicting that it's all I wanted to do from the moment I got up till the moment I went to sleep. Everyday. To some it probably won't fit the definition of masterpiece, as you cannot (without loopholes) play it from vanilla to wrath, and have the same experience as millions of other players did exploring / learning new stuff for the first time. But I'm judging this game based on how it consumed my damn conscious... it wasn't called warcrack for no reason

Runner up: Dark Souls for the way it subverted a lot of gaming norms- no handholding, deep lore only available if you piece together item descriptions, challenging but fair difficulty

Avatar image for memonk
#42 Posted by MeMonk (324 posts) -
  • Jagged Alliance 2
  • Dark Souls
  • Counter Strike
Avatar image for frodobaggins
#43 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2083 posts) -

Rocket League probably fits the bill. It executes precisely what it sets out to do with absolute precision.

Avatar image for soulcake
#44 Posted by soulcake (2811 posts) -

When it comes to world building and RPG's The Witcher 3 might be a video game masterpiece ( aside from the combat ).

Avatar image for theoriginalatlas
#45 Posted by Atlas (2739 posts) -

This question is just as tough as the "can there be a perfect game?" question. Subjectively, I'm perfectly happy describing my favourite games as masterpieces, even though I admit that they have flaws (Skyrim is buggy and the combat isn't world-class, Half-Life 2 has some pacing issues, Crusader Kings II has a ridiculous learning curve, BioShock isn't as tight of a shooter as others, and elements of Stardew Valley are under-cooked or unnecessary), but if one tries to be objective then it becomes much harder.

It's easy to forget that videogames are an incredibly young medium, and although games have been around for thousands of years - I've seen the board found at Knossos in Crete at the archaeological museum in Heraklion, for example, and the Royal Game of Ur is even older - it's only in recent times that we've started to think of games as being art rather than as a past time. The term masterpiece when applied to visual arts is indelibly linked to an artistic tradition that is truly ancient, and although films are much more recent they're tied to older storytelling traditions such as literature and theatre; modern videogames are only a few decades old and are still developing, as is a more academic criticism of the media as opposed to consumer-based criticism. Many other forms of art are made by one person, and are thus seen as a more pure form of personal expression, and that's just not true of the vast majority of games, so games that are the result of one person's vision, such as Fez or Stardew Valley, are easier to categorise as masterpieces. Games are also much more transient because they're linked to technological and mechanical advances, which isn't really the case with any other medium except maybe films. People in this thread have talked about games that stand the test of time, and that's obviously true in cases such as Tetris, but there are plenty of games that were considered revolutionary at the time but are almost unplayable now.

Right now, the games that I'm most comfortable attaching the masterpiece label to are Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Journey, original Doom, and World of Warcraft.

Avatar image for jaalmo
#46 Edited by Jaalmo (1750 posts) -

Pac-Man, Tetris, Space Invaders, Arkanoid, Galaga are probably the most obvious ones. Something that people still play to this day, that people who don’t play video games will instantly recognise.

Games that have revolutionised their genres or created entirely new genres such as DOOM, Mario, Zelda, Street Fighter, Age of Empires, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Halo, Call of Duty, Rocket League, Witcher 3 etc.

Avatar image for bloogsy
#47 Edited by Bloogsy (21 posts) -

I agree with the sentiments of many here, that the term masterpiece is subjective but best defined as games that still hold up years later. With that in mind The Last of Us and The Witcher 3 are too recent to be considered masterpieces yet, although TLoU is definitely the stronger candidate - I came to that game years after the original hype with a huge degree of skepticism and by the end I was blown away by how powerful an experience it is.

My list of definite masterpieces would be:

Super Mario World

Asteroids

Half-Life

Dark Souls

Doom (1993)

Tetris

Journey

Maybes:

Doom (2016)

TLoU

Halo

Diablo II


@fredchuckdave - The Road is McCarthy's masterpiece, hands down. By the time that book ended I was an emotional mess, and that final paragraph is one of the finest things ever written imo.

Avatar image for notnert427
#48 Posted by notnert427 (2268 posts) -

Halo: Combat Evolved is probably the best example I can come up with. It still plays better than many shooters that come out today, and it 100% holds up. Legacy-wise, it fits the bill as well, as it was the first console shooter that really felt fluid, in both single and multiplayer, and the genre took off from there.

I think some games like Super Mario 3, The Legend of Zelda, OG Doom, Dark Souls, Witcher 3, et al. probably also ought to be on there, and I like the arguments being presented for Rocket League.

I've got three to submit for consideration:

Red Dead Redemption - In the whole "video games as art" discussion, this is perhaps the best argument. That world was so well-realized, the narrative was great, it was fun to play, and you can just lose yourself in it. There are hardly any perfect video games, but this comes damn close. Sometimes I'll hop on just to school Herbert Moon in poker, or go chase down some wanted outlaw, or to go play survival of the fittest in Tall Trees. It's a Westworld sort of escapism that I'm totally on board with. Growing up in a region a video game is set in typically leads inevitably to some frustration with what they got wrong, but they truly nailed the country and atmosphere of Texas/Mexico/New Mexico and created a believable Wild West within it.

Forza Horizon 2 - I know Horizon 3 gets all the love (and for good reason), but Horizon 2 was the one that really blew me away. I think back to all the things I loved from older racing games, like the massive car lists from Gran Turismo games, the arcadey "kudos" fun from PGR games, the high-speed traffic-dodging of Burnout games, the spectacle of Need for Speed games, the vistas of Rallisport Challenge games, and the realistic physics of the numbered Forzas, and Horizon 2 managed to meld all of those things together for one amazing thing. Moreover, they set it in a gorgeous open-world playground and just turned you loose to play it the way you wanted. Feel like carving up the streets on a tight downtown circuit in Nice? Or how about tearing ass down the coastline in a ridiculous hypercar? Maybe you just want to let your artist out to spend hours on creating some awesome livery and go photograph it as the sun sets on Tuscany. It's arguably the most complete and best racer ever made.

HITMAN - Following an underwhelming entry in the franchise, in what is a largely dying genre, and making a last-minute decision to somewhat pioneer a bold episodic model had this game way behind the 8-ball from the start. And yet, it found fame and success anyway, because it was simply too good not to. HITMAN is chock full of silliness, from the dialogue to the opportunities and everything else. It owns it all so well, with some of the best humor that's ever been in a video game. What really puts it over the top, though, is that amidst all that, you can play it super-seriously as a very deep stealth game and still have a great time. It's as fun to unleash chaos by firing a can of spaghetti into a mime's dome in the middle of a town square as it is to spend hours carefully and methodically executing your flawless Silent Assassin run. Where the franchise goes from here is sadly in question thanks to some Squeenix dumbassery, and it remains to be seen if HITMAN revitalizes the genre, but at minimum, at least we got this one beautiful, memorable thing.

Avatar image for ravelle
#49 Edited by Ravelle (3310 posts) -

Blood Borne.

Avatar image for blurryw
#50 Posted by BlurryW (12 posts) -

Considering I think a lot of the games mentioned here have obvious flaws to go with their amazing strengths I am going to add

XCOM 2.

For anyone who really likes turn based tactical games, this is one of the absolute best that has ever been made. The customization, the randomized level designs, the constant tactical decisions on the map, the base and the tactical battlefield.... so satisfying!