The Museum of Modern Art in New York City recently began building a collection of video games, such as Pac-Man and The Sims, that it considers "outstanding examples of interaction design." Most of them are older titles, dating as far back as 1980. Inspired by the MoMA, we've assembled our own collection of 10 recent games that are as fun to watch as they are to play — taking you everywhere from an artistically recreated Japanese village to a haunting underwater city.
"Journey" presents a dazzling desert world for your mute hero to travel through, either alone or in co-op on PlayStation Network. It's filled with the kind of imagery in an inspired desert painting, with miles of sandy terrain to cover and huge, looming structures to float across. The underground caverns are a sight to behold as well, with shimmering light gleaming through the cracks.
First introduced several years ago on the Sega Dreamcast, "Jet Set Radio" innovated with its luscious cel-shading stenciling — a bold black border around characters and structures that emulates an old-style cartoon. The game brings to life a futuristic neo-Tokyo with a great sense of wackiness that includes Professor K, a DJ with a spazzed-out hairstyle. Sega has taken great care with this game's high-definition transition, bringing this virtual world to life better than ever before.
Long-time producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Q? Entertainment put their neon-inspired talents on display with this music-focused shooter. In "Child of Eden," players shoot enemies while following the rhythm to a song playing in the background. One brilliant sequence involves a transparent floating whale, with light-up points that you need to shoot in order to convert it into a striking star-lit display. This game is nothing short of a dazzling foray into a colorful universe – and it looks even better in 3D (supported in the PS3 version).
Taking place in the Steampunk-inspired underwater world of Rapture, "Bioshock" also includes 1930's and 40's décor, complete with advertisements in the style of the era and a radio soundtrack including The Pied Pipers' "Dream." Seething underneath is a brilliant first-person shooter with shocking revelations.
This little boy's journey into a nightmare world is memorable, not only because of the unsettling black-and-white aesthetic, but also because of the enemies he faces, including a vicious, giant spider and giant saw blades. This effort from PlayDead Games remains an independent favorite – and for good reason.
Previously released for PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii, "Okami" has gorgeous Japanese-inspired art design and cool paint blur effects. And its high-definition reconditioning on the PlayStation 3 has even brighter visuals. The game is like a traditional Japanese art painting brought to life, as it focuses on a magical wolf god named Amaterasu, who fights off demons using spiritual powers. (As it attacks, you can see flowers sprouting out of the ground.) A celestial brush lets you paint objects — like sunshine or a sword — within each level.
Team Ico's efforts, originally for the PlayStation 2, present fantasy-based worlds filled with danger and also a sense of wonder as you explore each one. The high-definition revivals of both "Ico" and "Shadow of the Colossus" are dazzling (especially in 3D, if your TV supports it). "Shadow" is particularly stunning, as you'll face creatures a hundred times your size and they slowly lunge at you while you ride around to their weak points.
Working alone, Dean Dodrill spent three and half years making sure that every element of the side-scrolling adventure — in which you control a powerful animal warrior who tries to keep his land safe — was perfectly balanced. Featuring hand-drawn animation and backgrounds, "Dust" shows its inspiration from classic 16-bit platforming games, but outdoes them with magnificent animation that looks like a fantasy cartoon brought to life.
At first, "Fez" looks deceptively simple, like a classic 8-bit game you'd see on the Nintendo Entertainment System. But the development team at Polytron has added a technique that stands out from other games, allowing you to rotate the world that the main hero travels through so you see it from a different perspective. The end result is nothing short of incredible, as it manages to look classic and yet new at the same time with its pixilated characters running through a huge assortment of complex interior and exterior levels.
Queasy Games' simple yet enthralling side-scrolling adventure has a cute hand-drawn design. In "Sound Shapes," enemies and platforms follow rhythms within the music that plays. The soundtrack flows with elegance, featuring tunes from the likes of Deadmau5 and Beck. What's more, you can actually create your own worlds within it, using items you unlock over the course of your game. Art is fun to look at, but it's way more engaging to create your own.