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In Search Of Gaming Beauty

Gaming beauty is a rare pleasure that gamers enjoy once in a while as they discover a new game. When you’ve been playing games for years, you begin to become a little bit more discerning. While it doesn’t mean that you’re always going to make the best choices – we all have played more terrible games than we care to admit – you start looking for gaming beauty. 

What the heck is gaming beauty? 

Gaming beauty refers to the positive, satisfying, and somehow moving experience the game takes you through. It could be that a particular game has a deep and complex narrative that keeps you awake until the middle of the night, as you explore, desperate to solve the mysteries behind your character. For some players, the emotional journey is all that makes a game worthwhile. It’s at the heart of their engagement with the plot. It’s fair to say that when you’ve been through a series of one-player shooting games and platform oldies, you’re dying for a meaningful connection that will elevate your gaming night to an artful experience. A game that touches you is a rare thing, and a thing to cherish, for sure. 

Regardless of your definition of gaming beauty, experienced gamers research gems that can be part of their gaming sanctuary. When a game delivers more than entertainment, it is always a magical moment. Here are some of the best examples of video games that have made gaming beauty a reality. 

The sensation that the world never ends

Ah, who doesn’t like a good open world game? Admittedly, the concept of an open world that you, the player, can explore when and how you wish is nothing new. Anybody who has played Grand Theft Auto III, back in 2001, has a sense of what open worlds should be. By definition, your character should be free to explore their surroundings in an as much nonlinear manner as possible. Game developers tend to rely on plot devices to keep specific areas of the world hidden or out of your line of interest without interfering with your freedom to explore and play. 

GTA 3 showing Claude in a black leather jacket shooting.

One of the most satisfying and successful open world games in recent years is Horizon Zero Dawn, which takes you through the story of Aloy in a post-apocalyptic world. Aloy’s mission is to uncover the past, but as you explore different areas on the map, you can up her hunting skills and find side quests. Even regions that were not accessible in the first release became playable in the Frozen Wilds expansion. It’s hard to beat the sense of complete freedom you get from the game. The more you look around, the more there is to find! 

The discovery of an entirely new universe ready for you to explore

Some games keep on giving because they introduce you to a new artistic universe you didn’t even know existed. This would be the case of the little-noticed Nintendo DS game, Death Note. The game was released in 2007, and it would have gone completely unnoticed if not for its fantastic quirkiness. You can also find the game in a playable online version via an emulator if you want to give it a go. Death Note was inspired by the manga series, beautifully illustrated by Takeshi Obata and written by Tsugumi Ohba. Mark these two names because they are the geniuses behind the story of Ryuk – a god of death – and his infamous notebook that can kill anyone you write their names in. If you love manga, you will be keen to explore the series.

Alternatively, you can also find an anime online on ani.me. Netflix currently runs the dubbed and original anime as well as a US film inspired by the story. Do yourself a favour and ignore the film altogether for the anime. You need more of Ryuk’s slander and moody aesthetic in your life.

Making a new friend that never leaves you

There are characters in games that stay with you forever. Not because they make you laugh or because they are iconic of your earliest gaming memories – anyone still dreaming of Donkey Kong? – but because they appeal to the child in you. Trico, the cat-bird creature from The Last Guardian, is one of those that you can’t forget. The game was almost 10 years in development, so it’s fair to say that the developers had plenty of time to get the winged creature just right. And, boy, they nailed Trico to a tee! 

The game lets you control a young boy who learns to tame Trico to explore new areas and escape. You can only progress in the game if you make friends with the giant creature. For anybody who has a pet at home, you will recognise the clumsiness of a growing pup in Trico! But, ultimately, your success and survival rely on your relationship with the creature, which you get to feed, pet, and heal. It’s the kind of game you don’t want to finish because it’s hard to say goodbye to such a realistic animal friend. 

A narrative that evokes classic arts

Some games elevate simple designs to an art form. If you are looking for simplistic designs that carry the entire narrative, look no further than Inside, a puzzle-platformer game designed by the team who created Limbo. The aesthetic in Inside is very similar to what you already know from Limbo, using monochromatic tones. You get to control a little boy in a dystopian world. Like in Limbo, the character has no facial feature. You only identify him by his red jumper, which, for cinema lovers, is reminiscent of the simple aesthetic behind The Red Balloon, a short 50s film that follows the journey of a boy and his red balloon. As plot devices go, this one is childish in its simplicity. But it is also brilliantly effective and injects a sense of poetry to the narrative. 

An emotional rollercoaster that unfolds under your eyes

With the much-anticipated release of the sequel, it’s impossible not to talk about The Last of Us. The Last of Us is one of its kind zombie survival game where you, as the player, become the spectator of an explosive and emotional plot. Tear-jerking moments are frequent in this adventure where you play as Joel and Ellie. The world has experienced a zombie apocalypse, and the population is divided between safe quarantine zones and areas where you need to fight for survival. One teenage girl, Ellie, is immune to the infection, and your character is tasked with smuggling her outside of the quarantine zone to find a cure. Throughout the game, you get to learn more about Joel and Ellie, and you watch as the father who lost his daughter 20 years ago begins to bond with the young girl. 

When in the end, Joel discovers that Ellie is prepped for an operation that could save humanity but will kill her; he doesn’t hesitate. And you are all the way with him. It doesn’t matter that the mutation inside Ellie’s brain could cure the infection. You can’t bear the thought that their father-daughter like relationship is coming to an end. You know that Joel needs Eliie in his life as much as she needs him to survive. And you are ready to sacrifice humanity in the process. Few stories push players to make such dramatic decisions without a second thought! 

A place where you can decide who you want to be

How long does it take to identify with a character? Most gamers develop a bond as the game progresses. But very few games give you the opportunity to create your very own character – unless you like to play simulation games and The Sims, but that’s a story for another time. Outer Worlds is one of those games that starts with an apparently blank canvas. Do you want to be a man, a woman? How old will your character be? Will you be black, Asian, or white? Will you be strong or weak? You are in charge. The game is not a 100% open world, but it offers a variety of scenarios for you to play. Depending on the allies and enemies you make, you can transform the ending. So, it’s a game to play again and again without ever getting the same result. 

A simple principle that keeps you sharp

How about the everyday games that keep you entertained when you are stuck in the tube or waiting for a doctor’s appointment? Smartphone games have changed a lot since the old Nokia snake game! But very few hit the right mix of satisfaction, fun, and a sense of achievement. Simple rules and simple designs go a long way on the phone. And games that keep you sharp and entertained are rare. Dots, a sweet dot-connecting challenge, offers a relaxing and soothing environment to escape everyday worries. You’ll find yourself going back for more! 

This is a brief review of some of the games that deserve a place in the gaming beauty sanctuary. They take us through an unexpected journey, and, in their own ways, they make us a little better for it. What are your gaming beauty favourites? 

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Written by Dorothy Jones