There are some games with extraordinary graphics and visuals that impress us to this day. Here are 10 old games with outstanding graphics. In this list, I included great-looking games released before 2012 that still hold up today. The entries are games that have a beautiful art style or high visual fidelity for the time, and also games that combine both those aspects.
Another note: we focused on 3D games, so while many 2D classics hold up well, they are not included here. Finally, we recommend playing most of these games on PC so that you can max out their settings, although all are available on consoles. We’ll also point out any remasters.
The brilliant BioShock was originally released in 2007 and it was a landmark of gaming. The underwater dystopian city of Rapture was an unusual yet welcome change from the conventional world design of games. There are multiple features of the game that are really impressive. The atmospheric lighting effects and of course, the wet surfaces and water effects were particularly beautifully done. If you want to play the BioShock games in the present, the remastered BioShock: The Collection is the way to go, but it’s undeniable how magnificent the original game looked back in 2007; it definitely holds up well even today.
Far Cry 2
One can say that 2008’s Far Cry 2 is more of a tech demo than a game that emphasized how good the DUNIA engine was. Granted, the gameplay and gun mechanics still hold up very well to this day, and it’s definitely a fun game. But what’s really impressive is its impressive visuals.
The game is set in Africa, so the lighting and color palette are gloomy and dry. In my opinion, it suited the game very well. The textures, physics, effects, and shadows are also worth mentioning here. The textures and shadows were especially impressive for the time; they were sharp and crisp and clear. And of course, the effects and physics of Far Cry 2 haven’t been outdone in any other games of the franchise.
2007’s brilliant Crysis is an obvious pick for a list like this. It takes place on a tropical island and the map is open-ended. Other than the vibrant and beautiful lighting, the game’s textures, effects, and especially the physics still hold up very well to this day. Like Far Cry 2, one can consider that Crysis is also kind of a tech demo to show off the CryEngine. But the gameplay was really good too. Crysis Remastered was released too, but its reception was less positive than the original.
F.E.A.R. is a game I talk about a lot in my articles, for good reason. For a game released in 2005, F.E.A.R. still is an extraordinary horror FPS game. In fact, it has one of the best villains in video games.
While most games can look beautiful because of lush woodlands and sunlight, F.E.A.R. utilizes technology that makes darkness and shadows so impressive. Basically, it is a dark and gloomy horror game, and the way it handles lighting and shadows is just magnificent. The effects and the quality of particles in the game are also very praiseworthy. When a gunfight takes place, it’s chaotic and the amount of debris and destruction is impressive to this day.
2009’s Mirror’s Edge is still one of the best parkour games ever. The sequel, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, failed to deliver up to its expectations but the first game still holds up very well. As you’re moving fast through the rooftops of the futuristic city, you hardly stop to appreciate the clean and detailed textures. But the lighting and the colorful nature of the game are very noticeable and that’s the best visual aspect of the game.
2008’s original Dead Space was a remarkable horror game. It’s safe to say that it’s the best sci-fi horror game yet. This is another game that utilizes dark shadows and atmospheric lighting to immerse the player. The futuristic design of the game setting coupled with the grotesque enemies was a sight to behold back then and it’s totally worth playing in the present as well. The Dead Space Remake was announced in 2021, and its release date is January 27, 2023.
Red Dead Redemption
2018’s Red Dead Redemption 2 is simply put a masterpiece. But when talking about the first game which was released in 2010, it’s undeniable how great it looks. The game is very Western and the setting is dusty and bright. This suits the game’s story and premise very well and it truly feels like the Wild West. I believe that Red Dead Redemption’s version of the West is better than that of RDR2. The textures and shadows are still impressive, and it’s totally still worth playing.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
2010’s Bad Company 2 is one of the best linear FPS games ever. It’s thanks to the destructible environments and of course, the super impressive graphics at the time. As you can see in the screenshot, the game doesn’t even look bad by today’s standards. But the best details come out when the gunfights take place. Everything is destructible and the amount of debris and ruin that flies around is insane. It’s an underrated Battlefield game. If you haven’t played it yet, you definitely should.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum was the game that started the Arkham franchise. To this day, Arkham Asylum is a near-perfect gaming experience. The graphics hold up extremely well; the atmospheric and dark lighting really suits the game and it’s executed perfectly. The game is set in the titular Arkham Asylum and it’s probably the best setting in an Arkham game. It was not as open as the other games, but it’s ridiculous how great it looked back in 2009. You can find the trilogy as part of the Batman: Arkham Collection.
Mafia II is an underrated gem and it has a special place in my heart. I can guarantee that you’ll love it as much as every other player who played this brilliant game do. The game is set in the open-world region of Empire City. While it doesn’t have many side missions, the world is so immersive and beautiful for its time. Even though this got remastered, the above screenshot is from the original version.
At the start of the game, it’s the month of December and there’s snow everywhere. It’s so beautiful in the winter and it only gets better after the thaw. There are countless realistic details all around the map. Mafia II will forever stand as one of the best crime games ever.