Good list... very subjective topic and my list would be nearly completely different but there are some good choices here. My list would have a lot fewer console games (most of the pre-ps3/360 consoles couldn't make stunning graphics to save their lives)... except maybe in the racing genre (where consoles have GT and Forza, both prettier than any PC racing game). It would have one of the early fps's (Quake probably... stunning in it's dynamic/interactive quality) and may even include the odd Amiga game (which had STUNNING graphics for it's day)
@d_kuhn, Thanks for your comment! It is a pretty subjective topic but I stand by my list
That said, you make a good point about racing games. An Amiga game would be a good choice too, if just to get some 80s gaming on th elist.
While Jill points out that graphics being stunning is subjective I feel the list or approach is too broad. If you are over 30 and grew up on atari 2600, when you upgraded to a nintendo super mario bros would be visually stunning. Upgrade to a SNES or Genesis and again almost any new game is mind blowing. Maybe the list should be top 10 graphically stunning games since the year 2000. You know sort of limit yourself to the past 2 or 3 generations of consoles or 8 or 10 generations of DX and/or GPUs on PC. Like compare jak and daxter or banjo kazooie with crysis (all 3 made the list but you cant say that the first 2 are stunning if you have the third in there as well). Might even be a better idea to limit it to consoles or pc Because if you dont set a limit to it everyone will argue over ones you forgot. How about this do a list called "top 10 visually stunning games of current gen consoles". Or do one for "top 10 pc visually stunning pc games since y2k". Something to carve out a small niche to be able to compare games to other games in that same time frame due to that subjectivity. Like Blppt pointed out unreal was mindblowing when you first saw it... unreal tournament 1, UT 2003/4, and UT3 are all amazing graphically and were a huge leap forward in gaming graphics compared to the games that were out at the times. Compare ut1 with quake3. Hell quake 1 was amazing because it was one of the first true 3d FPS games people had seen. So you see there's too wide of an array to just say these are the top ten most beautiful games of all time. There's an entire channel on youtube dedicated to top tens in gaming and they have to limit themselves to things like "top 10 NPCs" or "top 10 bad ass chicks" or whatever.
Only three games have ever made me stop for a moment while playing to enjoy the world / art and stand in awe.
1 - World of Warcraft in the dwarven kingdom where the statues stand guard over a valley (I had been playing mostly stragedy games, it was the first modern 3d game I played and I was just stunned, that probably was due to me avoiding fps at the time. I was just stunned by how much 3d modeling in games advanced
2 - Battlefield Bad Company 2, one of the first missions where you come over a hill and look at a forest canopy covered base. The view on a 1920x1200 monitor looked so much like a picture I was stunned. And then after playing the level you realize nearly everything ya saw at the start was destroyable, absolutely unbelievable.
3 - Skyrim... A lot...
When I saw the title of this article, my first thought was "I bet Myst is on there". Not because I think it should be, in fact, this is a point of contention between other gamers and myself. The difference between them and I, is that I am a graphic engineer (senor actually). Myst was not "so intricate", as you've said, it was pre-rendered, which takes up WAY more space than procedural, can appear incredibly more advanced (it's just a picture, after all - as much post processing as you like), however, are so static (non-dynamic), that most experiences are guaranteed to be "on rails", or limited. With dynamic graphics, you can expect more freedom of game play because anything can change, and space requirements are exponentially lowered. For example, newer games that use in-game video rendering for movie sequence, instead of pre-rendered, as Myst did, can show different weapons or outfits on your character - different genders, or creature types. Rain, snow, night, day, what ever dynamic affects - so the story can be more fluid.
Having the played nearly every AAA PC title released since the mid 90's, the only game I could think of that is conspicuously absent from this list is Doom 3. Not only was the game stunning when it was released, like Crysis today, for several years after its release in 2004, Doom 3 was considered a benchmark for PC performance. Doom 3 also re-established iD Software as a relevant force in PC development, something they sadly squandered with Duke Nukem Forever. Only time will tell if iD can someday recapture their title as the preeminent PC game developer.
Defenders of the Crown on the Amiga in the 80s...hello anybody? You really don't remember how superior the graphics of that game to anything else in that period? My at the time provider of counterf...ehm...perfectly legal games kept selling me on games for years with the premise "same graphics as Defenders of the Crown but a better gameplay". Ah, how najve I was...