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).