25 Years of Best Styyyyyyyyle (1993 - 2017)

1993 - Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
1993 - Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
1994 - Blackthorne
1994 - Blackthorne
1995 - Comix Zone
1995 - Comix Zone
1996 - The Neverhood
1996 - The Neverhood
1997 - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
1997 - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
1998 - Grim Fandango
1998 - Grim Fandango
1999 - Outcast
1999 - Outcast
2000 - Jet Set Radio
2000 - Jet Set Radio
2001 - Advance Wars
2001 - Advance Wars
 2002 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
2002 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
2003 - WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!
2003 - WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!
2004 - Feel the Magic: XY/XX
2004 - Feel the Magic: XY/XX
2005 - Psychonauts
2005 - Psychonauts
2006 - Ōkami
2006 - Ōkami
2007 - BioShock
2007 - BioShock
2008 - Braid
2008 - Braid
2009 - Zeno Clash
2009 - Zeno Clash
2010 - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
2010 - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
2011 - Alice: Madness Returns
2011 - Alice: Madness Returns
2012 - Hotline Miami
2012 - Hotline Miami
2013 - Proteus
2013 - Proteus
2014 - Lovely Planet
2014 - Lovely Planet
2015 - Snakebird
2015 - Snakebird
2016 - Superhot
2016 - Superhot
2017 - Cuphead
2017 - Cuphead

Styyyyyyyyle! It's not just a game's look; it's also the music, the setting, the voice acting, the character designs, the pacing, the smell! Definitely the smell.

Ultimately, this is a list that is filtered through my brain; it's not meant as an 'objective' best of list.

I've tried to only list the first game of a franchise that includes a particular art style. Also, the listed year is the game's first release date in any region.

Also, um, sorry about the weird layout, blame Giant Bomb!

List items

  • 1993: At the time, I remember this looking like no other game I had seen. Everything about Day of the Tentacle is so damn stylish! The first of several Peter Chan games on this list.

  • 1994: I love the commitment to the bleak heavy metal style; hair cuts are forbidden in the world of BlackThorne!

  • 1995: For better or worse, Comix Zone is among the first games I can think of where its aesthetics clearly informed all other aspects of its game design.

  • 1996: Sure, there were a handful of other claymation games before The Neverhood, but this game really nailed it.

  • 1997: It's not called Oddworld for nothing; Oddworld is really odd. It's the kind game that makes you realise just how bland the settings of most other games are.

  • 1998: This era of polygonal games was real rough. Thankfully, Peter Chan and the rest of the LucasArts team decided to embrace the lowpoly limitations of the time and produce an amazing Día de Muertos-styled game.

  • 1999: Surreal voxel environments!

  • 2000: I believe this was actually the very first game to have a cel-shaded style.

  • 2001: Back to pixel art. It bums me out that I never played this; I absolutely love the vibrant aesthetic, especially the chunky vehicle sprites.

  • 2002: ...and now we're back to cel-shading! While I'm not the biggest fan of the look, Wind Waker undeniably has styyyyyyyyle.

  • 2003: In some way, it feels disingenuous to mention Warioware, given that each microgame essentially has its own style. Despite that though, I think the game as a whole still has a cohesive feel. There's always a feeling of frantic zaniness - a 'Warioness', if you will.

  • 2004: I think this is the first game I played on the DS. Not exactly a good game, but it sure has one helluva distinct look.

  • 2005: Yet another Peter Chan joint. Kind of like Warioware, there's multiple styles, but those multiple styles gel together in a cohesive way.

    In terms of individual stages - the Milkman Conspiracy and Black Velvetopia stand out as being extraordinary.

  • 2006: Just look at that sumi-e!

  • 2007: I feel like BioShock is one of those games where its shortcomings are so much easier to put up with simply because of how incredible its setting and world-building are.

  • 2008: David Hellman's beautiful painterly artwork provides Braid with a dreamlike and almost magical feel. Not to mention the game's enchanting soundtrack.

  • 2009: The wild cast of characters, the bizarre locations, the weird weaponry, Father-Mother; it all adds up to being, what I consider to be, a video game surrealist masterpiece.

  • 2010: I feel like every part of this game's style fits together perfectly - The smooth animation, the colour palette, the jaunty music, the character designs. If I were to actually rank my favourite styles in video games, this would probably be in the top two or three.

  • 2011: I'm just going to say it - the original American McGee's Alice looked straight-up bad. Thankfully, things changed over the previous decade and Madness Returns really delivers on the first game's promise.

    Madness Returns not only has stunning environments and set-pieces, but also Alice herself is stylish, with numerous thematic outfits.

  • 2012: Hotline Miami's grimy pseudo-80s style felt revolutionary to me. I think this might be the one game on this list where the music is actually the main component of its style. Sure, the neon-drenched visuals are a key factor, but the music really sells it - particularly the tracks from M.O.O.N.

  • 2013: There's something really entrancing about existing in Proteus' HD Atari 2600-esque world.

  • 2014: It was a tossup between this and Heavy Bullets, both feel like unique takes on first-person shooters, but Lovely Planet really felt like something else. Never before have I seen such a cute and charming first-person shooter.

  • 2015: Look at those colourful creatures with their adorable, expressive faces!

  • 2016: The original game jam version looked great, but the full version looks fantastic. I absolutely love its bold, minimalist style. Guys smashing into pieces when you shoot them was a real inspired choice.

  • 2017: Not only would I consider this the best style of 2017, but just generally, one of the most stunning-looking games I've ever seen. It pulls of its style flawlessly. You can really tell how much time and effort was put into every aspect of the game.