For as long as I can remember, I haven’t been one to prioritize flashy graphics in video games. To me, the quality of gameplay—as well as some ancillary aspects like breadth of content—should be the primary focus at all times.
That being said, I can’t deny the unrelenting allure high-resolution, polygon-pushing, jaw-dropping, cutting-edge graphics. I can praise gameplay to the highest heavens and back, but even I sure do love pretty arcade games.
That’s why, despite my strong gameplay convictions, I wanted to use today’s article to highlight a handful of lookers from the past to the present.
Let’s take a trip in the WABAC to observe the positively stunning I, Robot, designed by Dave Theurer and released by Atari in 1984. Wikipedia bills it as the first commercially produced game to feature 3D polygon graphics, flat shading, and camera controls—accolades that blow my mind as an observer from the year 2020. Watching gameplay footage feels unreal.
The ‘90s brought forth some bonkers graphical prowess, best summed up, in my opinion, by the sheer beauty of games released on the Neo-Geo MVS. To this day, I’m rendered speechless by the intricacy of character models and animations and the scope of parallax-scrolling environments presented on this platform.
I also have to give props to the various innovations of 3D games from the time, always striving to beat what was being done on consoles. The Cruis’n series, Mortal Kombat 4, Rush 2049, and The House of the Dead, and many other still hold up visually regardless of age.
I personally feel that the 2000s brought forth fewer powerhouse polygon-pushers, but that doesn’t mean the decade was devoid of artistic awesomeness. The House of the Dead 4 showed gamers what the next generation of consoles would look like before all the consoles had fully rolled out. I still dig that game’s vibe.
I’d say the prettiest arcade games in recent years are Halo: Fireteam Raven and House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. These two rail shooter titles push polygons to heights previously unreached in the coin-op space, and I’m glad for it. I salivate at the thought of even greater graphical improvements in future releases.
If we’re looking past raw power, I have to give a few arcade games particular praise for their gorgeous art styles. The unique visuals in titles like Skycurser, Black Emperor, and DeathBall drive me wild (in a good way) despite their comparatively simple aesthetic approaches.
And I simply must give credit to Japanese developers, most of whom are still pumping out heaps of eye candy. Bandai Namco, for instance, has done amazing work with Tekken 7, Maximum Tune 6, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Last Survivor. Seeing Tekken 7 in person at Pac-Man Entertainment in Schaumburg, Illinois was an experience I surely won’t forget.
Before I wrap things up, I want to give special mention to the Exa-Arcadia platform, as the company behind the machine previously promised graphical fidelity beyond what’s been done on even the PlayStation 4. I’m practically salivating over this notion.
While I know it’s quite difficult to push hardware specs in the current arcade landscape, I sure do appreciate the companies who try. What can I say? Maybe I am a sucker for pretty graphics in arcade games.
I hope you liked today’s article! It’s my renewed attempt at voicing opinions in a truly positive light. I’ve spewed too much negativity on my blog—and I refuse to cut people down any longer. We stan arcades in this house.
Until next time, have a beautiful day. Consider joining my Discord server, too!