12 Video Games With Jaw-Dropping Graphics

All gamers enjoy an engaging, fun video game, but let’s be honest: For many, graphics are all that matters (or at least what makes the biggest impression). Most of us remember the games whose next-level graphics made our jaws drop. Today, we celebrate those games. Here’s a handful of video games that still make us sit up and say, “Wow.”

1. Donkey Kong Country 

Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Image Credit: Nintendo.

The year 1994 was a crazy time to be a gamer. With the looming release of the 32-bit Sega Saturn threatening to cut into Nintendo’s market share they were enjoying thanks to the success of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo released Donkey Kong Country featuring arguably the best graphics a 16-bit system had ever offered. Utilizing some of the same technology that would be the focus of their eventual Nintendo 64 console, Nintendo reimagined the Donkey Kong franchise into a stunning and joyful sidescroller with immersive 3D-modeled graphics. It blew away 11-year-old me in 1994, and the game still affects me in the same way 30 years later.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2 

Red Dead Redemption 2
Image Credit: Rockstar Games.

As someone who is just now jumping into the cultural phenomenon of Red Dead Redemption 2, saying I’m impressed by the game’s graphics is an understatement. Everything from the texture quality to the atmospheric effects to the lighting is top-notch, and the title is widely regarded by gamers worldwide as one of the best-looking games ever made, regardless of platform. Some gamers post screenshots of the game online as digital art pieces; that’s how good the graphics are.

3. Microsoft Flight Simulator 

Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
Image Credit: Xbox Game Studios.

Graphics don’t get any better for lucky PC gamers with high-end hardware than firing up a session of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Microsoft has fine-tuned and perfected its iconic flying simulator for decades, giving gamers a feeling that closely mimics flying a plane or helicopter without leaving the comfort of their homes. Of course, that level of immersion is only possible if the graphics are up to snuff. Luckily, the game’s engine allows for photorealistic depictions of countless airports, cockpits, and wide-open skies that define the genre.

4. Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo 7 (2022)
Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The original Sony PlayStation set the bar for many aspects of modern video gaming, and titles like the 1997 racing simulator Gran Turismo took racing games to new heights. The game is beautiful — there’s no other way to describe it. Being able to race accurate, photorealistic versions of famous sports cars worldwide was something gamers didn’t know they so desperately needed in the 90s. Thankfully, Sony was there to provide it. The Gran Turismo franchise is still going strong in 2024, and if you think the 1997 edition was gorgeous, wait until you see the more recent games.

5. NFL Quarterback Club 98


As a hardcore sports fan, no Nintendo 64 release got my motor running faster than NFL Quarterback Club 98. I’ll be honest: it was no Madden, but its gameplay wasn’t what drew me to it. It was the impressive graphics. In 1997 (when the title was released), sports fans were relegated to pixelated, low frame-rate titles that didn’t capture the beauty of football. With NFL Quarterback Club 98, everything changed. I spent too much time using the game’s instant replay function; it was that gorgeous to watch.

6. Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn
Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Originally released in 2017 for the PlayStation 4 before enjoying a stint on PC, Horizon Zero Dawn is cited by countless gamers as one of the best-looking titles ever created. Do yourself a favor and go down the rabbit hole of game reviews found online. Men and women are in awe of how this game looks. The action-role-playing game combined state-of-the-art graphics and superb gameplay to give gamers everything they needed. The title’s breathtaking locales and landscapes still hold up today, years after its release.

7. Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64
Image Credit: Nintendo.

Even non-gamers know how influential, revolutionary, and gorgeous Super Mario 64 was. Released in 1996 as a launch title for the highly-anticipated Nintendo 64 console, the game redefined how to play video games. Using a fully 3D environment, Mario was no longer constrained by the limits of scrolling side-to-side in 2D; gamers could explore in all directions. Accompanying this paradigm shift in gameplay were awe-inspiring, colorful graphics that only Nintendo could produce in 1996. Everything came together to form one of the most timeless video games ever produced. Many gamers believe Super Mario 64 is the best video game ever.

8. Cyberpunk 2077

Image Credit: CD Projekt Red.

Modern games must push the graphic envelope as much as possible, and Cyberpunk 2077 was no exception. Released in late 2020 and eventually reaching all major game consoles, Cyberpunk 2077 was so graphically intensive that any rig not equipped with the latest graphics card struggled to keep up. From the ray-traced lighting to the dizzying number of on-screen characters you can interact with, it remains the high-water mark for graphics in a video game, even in 2024. Unfortunately, only a tiny segment of gamers rocking high-end PCs can take advantage of its graphic prowess.

9. Wipeout

Image Credit: Sega.

Adrenalin junkies welcomed Wipeout with open arms. Released shortly after the U.S. debut of Sony’s PlayStation console in 1995, Wipeout made racing games like Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart look like kindergarten. Wipeout’s frenetic, jaw-dropping speed was only possible thanks to its impressive graphics engine; frame rates stayed high even when the entire screen was a blur. This futuristic racing game was all about speed, and without its stellar graphics, it couldn’t have served as one of the most memorable games in the PlayStation’s early existence.

10. Wave Race 64

Image Credit: Nintendo.

As any 80s kid will tell you, one aspect of owning a Nintendo 64 overshadowed all others. The water in Wave Race 64 was absolutely mesmerizing. For the first time, gamers were treated to a water-based racing game that didn’t treat the water itself as an afterthought. Thanks to a divine physics engine and an unreal level of detail, the crafts in Wave Race 64 cut through water and waves that (at the time) looked indiscernible from the real thing. It was a jaw-dropping landmark moment for gamers everywhere. The game ushered in an age where developers didn’t treat water physics as just a nice addition.

11. Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III
Image Credit: Rockstar Games.

Admit it: Aside from possibly Super Mario 64, no game gave gamers more of an “I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-playing” moment than Grand Theft Auto III. The game defined a generation and introduced a new era of open-world exploring. Of course, it was only possible because of its next-level graphics. From the immersive cities to the clever cinematic cutscenes (and everything in between), GTA III ushered in a new era where games finally had the graphics horsepower to match ingenious storylines and gameplay.

12. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart
Image Credit: PlayStation PC LLC.

Released in 2021, this PS5 instant classic combines classic 3D-based platforming with graphics that can only be described as jaw-dropping. The game’s visuals rival anything Pixar can put up on the big screen, and the introductory cinematic cutscenes immediately introduce gamers to the game’s stunning graphics quality. Fortunately, the quality never dips throughout the experience, even with impressively high frame rates. It’s one of those titles gamers must see in action to appreciate.

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