Anything that makes me give a damn is a masterpiece yet no masterpiece is ever perfect.
I can't really think of a game that's equivalent to the masterpiece of movies: Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. That may be either Saints Row 3 or one of the Shadow Warrior games, which in turn would make one of those my ideal masterpiece. But, I find using words like "masterpiece" and "superior" for games is too nerdy for my blood, so my head canon of the thread title will be "What do you consider to be your favorite type of game?" of which I don't have a definitive answer for, though I've noticed that I've been putting thousands of hours into action RPGs since 2012, and I do appreciate games that have a sense of humor.
For video games I would have to say:
Mario Galaxy 2
I would struggle to give a good justification, due to the previously discussed difficulty in defining what a masterpiece is, but the are what come to mind.
Despite being a huge MGS fan I would certainly not call MGS2 a masterpiece purely for the fact that it's an unfinished game and it's themes miss the mark for the majority of people that play it.
3 is as close as that series gets to a masterpiece IMO.
a masterpiece, you say?
Anyway, I can't think of any game that I would call a masterpiece. Maybe the first Super Mario Bros and Pac-Man? They resisted the test of time and you could give them to kids who never played them before and they would probably have a fair amount of fun from it. But I'm still not sure if I would call them masterpieces.
There's some games that I really love and are my favorites like Grim Fandango, Vice City and The Last Of Us, but I wouldn't call them masterpieces either.
I feel like ironically the bigger the game more "AAA" the further away from a masterpiece it gets just because the more it increases in scope the more flaws start to pop up. Meanwhile alot of smaller more focused titles "Indie" are masterpieces in my mind. Because they pull off what there going for so much better. -Bastion, Transistor, Pyre -Limbo, Inside, Little Nightmares -Hyper Light Drifter, Furi, Axiom Verge, Ori and the Blind Forest -Journey, Abzu -SMB, Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac -Undertail, Darkest Dungeon
I think of all the games mentioned I would probably only agree with Journey. I don't really know how you can improve upon that.
Other than that probably Thumper. See the simpler the mechanics get and the more cohesive it is with audio and visuals and input the more confidence I have in calling them masterpieces. Maybe it's unfair to other games that try for much more, but their quirks just make me hesitant to commit to calling them masterpieces.
@cyrusraven: Yeah. E.g. The Witcher 3 as it has been mentioned here. Combat is just ok, the main quest is to long and most quests are repetative. Those are the three main points to why The Witcher 3 is far from a master piece in my opinion. (It is far from a bad game!)
The closest we can get is probably Super Mario Bros. It is something more or less everyone know what is. Show people a picture of Mario, and they know who he is. It has stood the test against time for now and is still being played to this day. It has been elevated to something more than a game by now, and in 50 years people will still know what SMB was, but the great games of today are probably gone and forgotten.
To me a masterpiece has to be something that is not only great at the time, but stands the test of time. With this in mind, the only games I could really consider to be masterpieces are
Games that are excellent, but haven't been around long enough to fit into the masterpiece category would be games like
After talking to another person about this, it seems like Bioshock could be a game that would fall into this category. I do not know if it stands the test if multiple plays feeling fresh is a requirement, but the first play is pretty amazing. Also I want to add a vote to Super Mario World making the masterpiece tag.
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.
I think this points out that any definition of masterpiece needs a basis of comparison. Genre? Year? Developer? You hear phrases like "graphical masterpiece" in reviews all the time, so it's no wonder we've diluted the word from the traditional sense of "an artist's best piece of work".
That said here's a list of a few masterpieces for various reasons:
-Sonic the hedgehog 2
-Super Mario World
-LoZ: Ocarina of Time
-Half Life 1
-Grand Theft Auto 3
-Silent Hill 2
-Resident Evil 4
-Metal Gear Solid 3
-Mass Effect 2
-Dark Souls 1
Most of these captured the imagination of everyone who played. They set new standards and had to be considered by anyone making similar games afterwards.
-It might be too early to put "The Last Of Us" on here, but I think the DLC cemented its place at least in terms of story telling.
-Personally I feel that "Papers Please" is a masterpiece, because I don't think it can be improved upon. It accomplishes everything it set out to do.
-And while I haven't played it, it sounds "Lone Echo" could go on this list.
A masterpiece cannot be narrowly defined and continue to hold its meaning over time. As such, sometimes a masterpiece is an artist/studio's greatest work and sometimes it is a perfect example of a genre, an art form, a peak moment in a trend or movement, etc.
To illustrate the necessary but open-ended contextual argument for any masterpiece claim:
Half-Life , carefully crafted/influential piece that changed FPS
Final Fantasy VI , peak of an era/defining JRPG
Bloodborne , creative team's perfection of concept
The Last of Us , peak of studios efforts/storytelling/voice acting "their masterpiece"
Metroid: Prime , era specific masterpiece reimagining of genre concept
I don't mean for the interpretation to give license to say: "Bubsy 2 is the masterpiece of the Bubsy lineage" but the context allows for greater freedom in use of "masterpiece"
Pure gameplay masterpieces outside of retro classics:
@brunothethird: That's a good list. I would definitely agree with F.E.A.R, REZ, Cave Story, SotC and Morrowind as gameplay masterpieces.
Other games I would consider masterpieces in my mind:
Duke Nukem 3D, Doom(original), Dragon's Dogma, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.
I started thinking about this in the context of Bioshock because some other people have brought it up and then I realized the question is kind of impossible.
I just finished Bioshock on a second playthrough as part of the remastered collection. Is it a great game? Yep. Does it hold up over time? Not really. The weapons feel weightless and ineffective. The enemy dialog is hopelessly, and almost laughably, repetitive. But here's the thing - the ask is to define what a masterpiece is on a medium that is constantly evolving. I can't objectively take myself back to 2006 where Bioshock was a literal game changer, though it certainly was, because game technology has come so far in the 11 years since its release.
A work can only be a masterpiece if the medium it was produced on has limits. The best example I can think of in the context of gaming is Super Mario World, but even then, I would maybe say Super Mario World is like the gold standard of platforming games, I'm not sure I would or even could call it a masterpiece.
all of these games are pretty much the pinnacle of their own genre of gaming, and have surpassed everything before it, truly all masterpieces.
+1 for the HITMAN 2016 post above! totally agree, such an under-appreciated work of art
Tetris is the end-all of this conversation. There is no other game more deserving of the title. There are a few other games that might fit the bill:
Portal - This is interesting because I actually prefer Portal 2, but I find that the first game more fully realizes its goals and executes its (gameplay and story) mechanics with greater precision.
Fez - I don't really like Fez that much, but it's so concise and meticulously constructed. Also fits Abby's very good (but not absolute) definition.
Bioshock - This is the only game in my all-time top 10 that I think fits this description. I'm probably blinding myself a bit on this one, but I can't think of any problems I had while playing it.
The Last of Us, I guess -
I can't easily identify a flaw with this game Friendly NPC AI is baaaaaaad, but that's small in the grand scheme of things. I also don't feel the need to ever revisit it, so I'm hesitant to apply the label.
EDIT: Super Meat Boy is also a perfect example. You don't even have to like it, but that game executes flawlessly.
I think a masterpiece stands out above the greats, in every aspect. Sound, level design, character, difficulty balance, etc. It doesn't mean perfect, but it's in a league of its own. The immediate examples that come to mind are Super Mario World and Red Dead Redemption.
Because of the nature of video-games as both a deeply-rooted commercial enterprise but also a medium for artistic expression, I'd probably say there's two definitions for 'masterpiece' - a masterpiece of production ('a technical masterpiece' for lack of a better word) or a masterpiece of heart. Jak 2 is the best example off the top of my head of the former - It's, in my opinion, an masterfully well-crafted game that basically hits every note it tries to. Fun open world, fluid platforming and combat, a lot of level variety and a really engaging narrative. But it's also very clearly a product - there's no 'auteur' here really, it's a mish-mash of all the things people love about 3D platformers, all the things people love about shoot/beat-em-ups and all the things people love about open-world crime games. It also doesn't really have a singular and personal message to it, as far as I can tell. Portal 2 might be another example, a game so finely-tuned but only coming out that way through years of play-test moderation shaving off any particular sharp edge or 'weird' note. As to the latter, I might bring up something like Braid, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, INSIDE, or Kentucky Route Zero - these are games that don't so much feel like the product of a calculated team of commercial production but rather the result of specific visionaries with specific ideas that they feel an overpowering desire to see made real. While they might not impact everyone the same way (I don't even like Braid or Brothers that much), they feel like the perfect evocation of talented people with striking and personal ideas.
Obviously there's a huge amount of crossover, and these things are very subjective, that's just generally how I think of these things.
Please Log In to post.
Log in to comment