We’d buy an art book for any of the games below, not only because they’d be pretty to look at but also because we want to appreciate the direction and design of the art within every game listed below.

Here are our picks for the Best Art Direction in Video Games from 2021.

5.) Psychonauts 2 – Lisette Titre-Montgomery

Colourful is a word that is effortlessly understated when it comes to the Psychonauts Aesthetic. But Psychonauts 2 goes beyond colourful with the playground of the mind at the artist’s disposal; the worlds explored range from a disjointed Barbershop to a Hospital Casino. The world of Psychonauts 2 is a feast for the eyes that is also used expertly to further tell the stories of its characters. Speaking of character, each design is memorable from the Aquato Family to the members of the Psychonauts themselves. It’s great to see such an absurd style used to its fullest to further the fantastic experience of Psychonauts 2.

– Ciaran Marchant

Psychonauts 2 Review

“With environmental storytelling, each new location visited, there are plenty of hidden details”

4.) Death’s Door – Frits Olsen

The dark fantasy setting of Death’s Door combines macabre elements with fantasy seemingly inspired by Studio Ghibli. Even a showdown on a pure white backdrop feels like it was ripped from an anime. Each of the characters and bosses is a unique creation; I mean, it’s a game where you play a crow; where can you say you’ve seen that before? Although I’ll always have a soft spot for the first castle and Pot Head, even the winter wonderland in the later parts of the game, the mystical hallways and showdown with the final boss all have such well designed and exciting choices in any frame. 

– Dylan Blight

Death’s Door Review

“A beautiful video game that invites you deep inside its world.”

3.) Rachet and Clank: Rift Apart – Gavin Goulden

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was pitched as one of the first games that should us what the PS5 was capable of graphically, and it did not disappoint. The latest entry in the beloved Playstation franchise looks on par with anything Pixar or Walt Disney Animation Studios put out this year. The large worlds make photo mode a necessary tool in the game with how fantastic and interesting they look as well as being full of creative characters and enemies.

Then there are the character designs for the other-world versions of characters like Emperor Nefarious and Captain Quantum which are a delightful twist on characters we know and love. Add the amazing designs of Rivet and Kit and you have one of the best looking games of the year.

– Ashley Hobley

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – PlayStation 5

2.) Deathloop – Sébastien Mitton

While it may not be obvious at first, with your focus on the action of Deathloop, but there is some amazing art direction in this game. The four districts of Blackreef each have their own unique look but fit together as not to feel like four totally separate places with the game’s 60s aesthetic. Plus you can see each of these regions a four different times of the day, each with its own special tweak depending on when you are visiting them. Then there are the Saul Bass inspired animatics which are beautifully animated in their own right. With the look of the game, the beautiful put together levels featuring villain’s lairs inspired by classic James Bond adventures and the impressive-looking slab abilities, Deathloop is a game you can admire, at least when you’ve killed everyone around you.

– Ashley Hobley

Deathloop Review

“Exciting locations filled with Arkane’s trademark style of retro-modern devices that always seem inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien”

1.) The Artful Escape – Arden Beckwith, Johnny Galvatron, Mikey McCusker, Tessa Monash, Harry Truman

The art design in The Artful Escape is a mix of sci-fi inspired alien creatures and planets and the trippy 70’s album covers that made for windows into the psychedelic minds of the artists behind them. Before getting to the space trip and alien planet rock sessions, there’s a beautiful design to each character in the game that gives them such a sense of personality. Everything in The Artful Escape, each detail, seems like it was thought about ten times over. And when you do get to those alien planets, there are so many times you could save a screenshot and plaster it on your computer or bedroom wall and preserve it as a fascinating piece of art to start a conversation. Of all the games released in 2021, The Artful Escape is the one I want the big art book from to sit on my coffee table.

– Dylan Blight

The Artful Escape Review

“Skyboxes that all feel like they’ve been pulled from a Jimmy Hendrix album cover.”

Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley, Ciaran Marchant & Wil James compiled this Top 5 list. The Video Games nominated must have released or had a sizable update within December 13th 2020 – December 13th 2021 and have been released in Australia.