6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

I like to think I’m not a superficial person. (So do we all.) I’m not technically-minded, so conversations about frame-rates and resolution et cetera sort of float by me.

But I am definitely guilty of occasionally buying a video game purely and simply because of its looks, especially in that “magical” window around a console launch when you’re desperate for something to show off your new toy. Even if the game is deeply, deeply average in all other respects.

Here are six superficial purchases I’ve made over the years. How about you?

Beyond: Two Souls

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

I had a bad feeling about Beyond – I saw it a few times before release and it seemed like Quantic Dream was going a bit off the rails with it. But it’s so good-looking that I bought it anyway (and also, Ellen Page). It is the most preposterous and self-indulgent game I have ever played, but it does look pretty.

Perfect Dark Zero

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

An Xbox 360 launch game. Man, launch games are always dangerous. People almost expect them to be empty graphical showcases. Perfect Dark Zero didn’t even look THAT good in the flesh, and it was also far a worse game than I’d been led to believe. One of the few games I’ve traded in just a few days after I bought it.


6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

This is going to be difficult to believe if you weren’t there at the time but, seriously, Otogi was stunning to look at for its time, especially in motion. Sadly, it wasn’t especially fun to play.

Shenmue 2 on Xbox

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

There was no good reason for me to buy this. I’d already played Shenmue 2 on the Dreamcast, but I had it in my head that it would look so much better on the Xbox. As it turned out that wasn’t even true; Dreamcast games actually looked better than most later Xbox, Gamecube and PS2 games, if you ask me. On the plus side, playing it a second time opened my eyes to the homoerotic nature of the Ryu-Ren subplot, and the Xbox version’s photo scrapbook let me lovingly document it.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

This one was next-level: I bought it just because of the box art, after seeing it in the new releases section at a local game shop when I was living in Japan. Happily, it turned out to be an amazing game, and still one of the most beautiful I’ve ever played. Plus, it’s still the most mouth-watering food porn ever committed to… disc.

Final Fantasy XIII

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

I had never played a Final Fantasy game when XIII came out (I know, I know), but after seeing endless trailers showing off how amazing it looked I thought, brilliant, this is the perfect time to jump in.

After five hours in a corridor, it turned out that I was very, very wrong about that.

How about you? What games did you buy on looks alone, and how deeply did they disappoint you?

6 Games I Bought Purely Because Of Their Graphics

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


  • I’ve bought the later FF games because of their graphics…and I still haven’t played them, and probs never will, I have a problem.

    • FF-XIII I think was the point at which graphics just went ballistic. Pretty good game too.

      • I seem to be alone in thinking this (which means there are a ludicrous number of people who agree with me but don’t like to spurt vitriol as much as I do), but I find 13 to be a goddamn ugly game (and did so at the time of release). 2/3rds of its levels are simplistic corridors that look like crap. Its character models have great faces and clothes, but their arms and legs are blocky as hell. The pop-in when you actually reach the open part of the game is egregious.

        Hell, there’s a bit maybe a third of the way through the game where there’s a tree sitting in the middle of an area you can run around, and it’s a sprite. Can’t remember if it billboarded or was just 2 sprites sitting at 90 degree angles, but I remember being offended (to a relative degree).

        The game is so obviously a product of its extended development (the reason some walls look like they’re from a PS2 game with a specular map shoved over them is more or less evident), and it’s just so goddamn inconsistent.

        13-2 though was much much better in basically all these regards, and I’m a snob so what I say doesn’t really matter.

        • I have XIII-2 sitting on my shelf as yet unplayed. I’ll have to remedy that!

          I can’t disagree with you about the in-game graphics but boy, those cut scenes! I’ve always loved Square Enix’s CGI going back to Spirits Within, Advent Children and FF-XIII.

        • 13-2 still has a terrible story and characters that are just, just, argh, I think I’d rather read a 13 year olds short story.

  • I’ll often buy smaller indie games based purely on the art style
    Limbo is one of the most obvious times this has occurred. Tiny bang story and contrast are another couple I can think of straight off the top of my head

  • I bought Blast Corps mainly based on the box. That was a very wise investment. I really want to go back and play it all again. I’m sure my toddler would love watching it.

    • I second Crysis 2, back when I bought my PC I used it as a testing ground to see what it could do. Thankfully I bought the right setup since it’s still going strong today. Crysis was okay though.

    • Fair call. For a few years there the benchmark of any PC was “How well can it play Crysis?”

        • Nice. I built a rig a few years ago early in Core I7 days. I7 920, high-end gaming board, mild overclock and watercooled, lots of RAM, 4870×2 x2! Monster. It played Crysis reasonably well.. until the last battle. Powerpoint time. Had to turn down every graphics setting to get it even vaguely playable.

          Upgraded the CPU to a 980X and the graphics card is now a GTX680 (faster than the quadfire 4870x2s!), and Crysis 3 ran beautifully. Most games do. I’ve never been game to go back and see how Crysis runs on it since.

          • I’ve always been the in the habit of building stupidly overkill PCs.
            Reasoning is that if I spend $1500-2K up front & then another $1K over 4 years to keep it up to date, I might be better off spending $2.5K up front for a beast that will last the 4 years without any extra upgrades. Worked so far.

            After 4.5 years, my current PC is finally dying though, so I’m starting the savings process again so I can have a new machine in time for FO4… I’m excited 😀

          • I’m going to do a very minor refresh on the current PC (mainly replacing some of the fans and trying to make the thing a bit quieter), with a view to building a completely new rig when this one stops being useful. I’ve had 7 years out of it so far. 😮

    • The original Unreal is the perfect example of a game being elevated by its graphics.

      The minimalist story, the game world, the use of dark areas…. without the engine it’s decidedly average, but with the engine it’s suddenly an atmospheric and interesting title.

  • Child of light was purely on graphics. So was ‘Thomas was alone’.. It was retro without blistering my eyes pixel retro. Very happy with my purchases

  • Soul Calibre on the Dreamcast, it made me want to throw my playstation out the window, the graphics were just stunning at the time.
    The game actually turned out to be good too, so it was a keeper.

    The only other game was probably The 7th Guest.

    • The barrage of near-perfect reviews didn’t do Soul Calibre’s cause any damage either, although the graphics went a long way to getting me to buy a game from a genre I don’t normally enjoy.

      To this day it’s the ONLY fighting game that I’ve ever truly loved. To me it’s the perfect mix of interesting characters and smooth, well-paced combat with just the right balance between offence and defence.

      What a showcase for the Dreamcast too! Goldeneye might be the only other game I can think of that came out and stood clearly, head and shoulders above everything else available in the console market at the time. Even then I’d say the leap between Soul Calibre and everything else was the largest.

    • I loved Soul Blade on the PlayStation but yeah Soul Calinur was this weird moment in time where I was playing the best looking game on the planet!

      I’ve never bought a game for graphics alone though the closest I got was the first assassins creed – that game and GTA IV sold me a 360 – they both looked amazing

  • I bought the Order 1886 for the Graphics, but honestly I think the game is good too, maybe a little basic.
    I’m tempted to buy Until Dawn for the Graphics, but I just have too much to play right now.
    I actually had Perfect Dark Zero a week before the 360 launch, and was looking forward to playing it so much. It might be one of my biggest gaming disappointments ever.

  • Perfect Dark Zero was very average, but I’m surprised that you bought it just because of how it looked.

    People bought it because it reviewed better than it deserved, yes.
    People bought it because it was one of only a handful of launch games for the 360.

    Mostly though, people bought it because it’s the sequel to PERFECT FREAKING DARK! I mean the game has a Metacritic score of 97. It’s near-universally beloved.

    I don’t think it counts as being a purchase for the sake of graphics if you’re a massive fan of the games predecessor. That’s more a case of looking back with hindsight and realizing that the best things about the game was the graphics.

    • I actually liked the multiplayer, and it must have been the first game I owned which let me bring a buddy online with me.

      Skeleton matches were fun, the decapitating frisbee of doom was good, and two people chaining the cloaking gun on ctf was stupidly easy.

      Story was arse though.

      • It certainly wasn’t an entirely bad game.
        It had some cool weapons and the online play was pretty good.
        I think the cover system was probably the most revolutionary aspect of the game. Correct me if I’m wrong but can anyone else remember a 1st person shooter with locked cover before it? It was a bit clunky but went on to be used in several great games last generation (Rainbow Six, Deus Ex).

        The story was lame though and the controls felt terrible. That was the worst part for me, aiming accurately just felt much harder than it should have.

  • This is going back a ways, but..

    Quake & Duke Nukem 3D – came for the graphics, stayed for the excellent gameplay
    Lighthouse – The Dark Being. Sure, it was a shameless Myst clone… but it was so damn pretty!

    More recently: Transistor (everything about the game is beautiful, but I decided to buy it as soon as I saw a screenshot)

  • I remember seeing Banjo Kazooie in the flesh and being super impressed.

    Also Goldeneye blew me away for a FPS as it was one of the first of it’s genre that I saw that was proper 3D and not muddy.

  • I bought bioshock for the graphics.

    Every gran turismo game.
    Dark side on the Amiga, for the 3d.
    Nano assault neo
    Super mario kart

    • Oh that reminds me, Weird Dreams on the Atari ST, definitely a just-for-the graphics experience. That and Captain Blood.

    • You bought GT for the graphics? I guess the first couple were ahead of their time but the more recent ones have looked horrible.

  • I don’t know if I’ve ever bought anything just for the graphics, though back in the day pretty much every purchase was based purely on box art ’cause we didn’t have a collective of angry people to poll about every single decision we made.

    Tombi (PSX) I bought based solely on the intro video. It was a most excellent purchase. The store I got it from had a PSX demo unit, but they didn’t have any controllers, so all they could do was stick the disc in and show me the attract loop.

    Mario and Yoshi (Gameboy) I bought based on the name, cover art, and an unfounded belief that it would play like the Mario/Yoshi stages from SMB. Holy crap that was a sly bit of marketing covering a super dull game.

  • Crysis – solely for performance benchmarking.

    Which oddly enough it what it is first and a game some distance further down.

  • Never bought a game based on graphics alone… Actual gameplay just always seemed like a far smarter reason to do so.

    • Rubbish. I liken this to statements like, ‘I’ve never picked my nose.’ or ‘I don’t pee in the shower.’

      • Liken it to whatever the hell allows you to sleep at night.

        Doesn’t change the fact that buying a game PURELY based on graphics is absurd.

  • Almost every WayForward game.

    Especially A Boy And His Blob. God damn that game is gorgeous.

  • Beyond: Two Souls… It is the most preposterous and self-indulgent game I have ever played… A + + + God, that game was terrible.

  • Project Cars. Such an amazing looking game and I thought I read somewhere back in the day it was going to have a “proper” damage system. Boy oh boy was I wrong…. Such a dull uninspired and boring arse game.

  • Despite having a lot of other things going for it, Skyrim was one I bought purely for the graphics. I was never much into the Elder Scrolls games prior to Skyrim.

  • I’ve bourt all the Call of Duty games cos they have pretty surperior graphics. Black Ops 3 looks like their stepping up again and will deliver above and beyond for next gen.

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