This year’s selection of games for Art Direction showcase the wide range of styles capable in the medium. Whether hyperrealistic or cartoony, 2D or 3D, these games impressed us with their distinct worlds and characters which left a lasting impression on us.

Here are our picks for the Top 5 Best Art Direction in 2022 Video Games.

– Ashley Hobley

5.) Neon White

Angel Matrix, Joel Cheetham

Neon White is often lauded for how approachable and addicting it made speedrunning. Its art direction and design are a huge reason for achieving this. Within Neon White’s levels, the art direction successfully communicates information to you quickly and efficiently so that you can engage in speedrunning and process all the information you need to succeed. It also does this while representing the dreamy heaven levels and the character’s personalities and emotions. 

– Wil James

4.). Horizon Forbidden West

Guerrilla Games, Jan-Bart van Beek

Horizon’s journey has gone from strength to strength, including the art, from the original game’s amazing graphics. The team at Guerrilla ramped it up with this instalment. From the world to facial features, there is a definition that goes unmatched in many games—seeing emotions nearly perfectly replicated on screen while interacting with the tribes and friends. The feeling of journeying from location to location and seeing realistic changes amongst the landscapes, from barren snowy mountains scapes into rolling desert plans to the far-out tangled forests and everything in between.

The detail placed into each environment is monumental; the mixture of old and new can be seen across each environment. Climb the mountains to witness aging infrastructure and observatories nesting large flying machines. Picturesque forests with vines grappling their way up trunks or across faces of long abandoned structures. Entering structures to find old computers with holographic overlays barely functioning and giving the world a mysterious hue. Trotting and sliding through the desert or snow and seeing footprints or trenches being dug out by Aloy as she moves while seeing the dust or snow be spun up and around by the wind.

The tribes and individuals in the game share in this majesty, each tribe having their designs. From the mountain tribes to the desert clans, there is a massive emphasis on the tribe’s way of life that designs the practicality and the design around their clothing, face paint and dwellings. The art team have put real thought into each aspect of the world and given them all a place.

– Jacob Hegarty

3.) Stray

BlueTwelve Studio, Colas Koola, Vivien Mermet-Guyenet

Throw a rock, and you could easily hit several games with dystopian cyberpunk settings filled with neon lights and the waste of a world that no longer exists. Stray explores this like no other, from the eyes of a cat, which allows it to go beyond other titles in the setting. From the sun-filled outer walls down to the depths of the robotic slums, Stray is filled with character that helps the audience connect and feel immersed in the world beyond many expectations. Cats are said to have nine lives; Bluetwelve Studio found a way to fit the beauty of all nine into a well-paced experience that will leave you with plenty of memories. 

– Ciaran Marchant

2.) Cult of the Lamb

Massive Monster, James Pearmain

The characters in Cult of the Lamb may look like they could fit in Massive Monster’s previous game, The Adventure Pals, but the dark aesthetic takes the initial cute tone in a unique direction. The juxtaposition between the cute and violent is what’ll draw you into the world of Cult of the Lamb if you walk past a screen it’s being played on. A lot of the game relies heavily on the art style to work, as what you do in Cult of the Lamb would be heavy subject matter and very horrible. Still, thanks to the adorable art style, it gives it all a carefree attitude and the ability for you, as the player, to laugh along with the horrifics that may be happening on screen. 

– Dylan Blight

1.) God of War Ragnarok

Santa Monica Studio, Raf Grassetti

With new hardware, Sony Santa Monica could further push the environments and art direction of God of War Ragnarok. Coming leaps and bounds from their initial outing in God of War 2018, the team were able to tackle larger environments brimming with finer details of Norse Culture that could not be found previously. Norse culture is often known for the destructive Vikings, but the subtle side of art and history of the culture shine to fruition under the director of the Santa Monica team. With Kratos travelling to more realms than ever, the whiplash of environments could create an excuse for some to be less distinct from others, but this would not be the case for Ragnarok. From the long winter of Midgard, the Mountainous ranges of Asgard or the luscious jungles of Vanaheim, players are given a feast for the eyes to explore and devour the Norse world in ways never done before. 

– Ciaran Marchant

Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley, Ciaran Marchant, Wil James & Jacob Hegarty compiled this Top 5 list. The Video Games nominated must have been released or had a sizable update between December 13th 2021 – December 13th 2022 and have been released in Australia.