In general, there's this idea in video games that better graphics always means that it will be a good game. Make no mistake, we're just as big of a fan as visual fidelity as the next person, and there's no denying that there are a lot of pretty games that aren't just all looks. However, prioritizing graphics over story, depth, and gameplay is no fun at all.
With that said, we've decided to pay homage to the best games with bad graphics. Mind you, these aren't games that were purposely designed to look "bad" or "different". We've got an entirely different list for that.
No. These are games that really looked bad at launch. Yet, despite their bad graphics, these games are well worth your time and money.
2000's Deus Ex definitely isn't a looker. The graphics haven't aged well. The same goes for some of the game's aspects, like the level design. However, back when it was first released, Deus Ex was considered a revolutionary title and received so much praise that many of its future better-looking installments ended up living under its enormous ugly shadow.
When we say that Deus Ex looked bad, we're not joking. Even when you consider that it was released at the turn of the century, there's a severe lack of depth in the environment and JC Denton looked fairly plain with no added details.
While the FPS and RPG elements, as well as the narrative, were enough to keep gamers occupied at the time, there's just no denying that audiences had to put up with a lot to really enjoy Deus Ex.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
If we're being honest, any of the older Star Wars Jedi Knight games could make a case for our list. All five of the Jedi Knight games, including Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, really captured how it would feel like to play and fight like a Jedi. Unfortunately, these games turned off a lot of people because of how bad the graphics were at the time of their respective releases.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, in particular, was arguably the best at making you feel like a Jedi.
From the number of Force abilities that you can use to down enemies, as well as optional first-person perspective combat using a lightsaber, Dark Forces II came the closest (before the recent Star Wars games) to replicating the magic of watching Luke and Obi-Wan on the screen by letting you slice through Stormtroopers like they were nothing.
Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun
Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun was released in 1999 and, even by the standards at the time, the graphics weren't considered good.
Compared to its contemporaries like Starcraft and Warcraft 3, Tiberian Sun's graphics aren't anything to write home about. In fact, even the most hardcore of RTS fans will tell you that the game's graphics were its weakest point. But, where Tiberian Sun dropped the ball on its aesthetics, Tiberian Sun made up for in gameplay.
Just like most of the Command and Conquer games, Tiberian Sun revolves around building a base and capturing enemy bases. Strategy is key here. Both you and your opponent have multiple ways to accomplish the same objective. If you take too long, you could find yourself giving up your advantage because there's no more tiberium left on the map. On the other hand, this gives you a reason to hold out and try to fight your way back against an overwhelming number of enemies.
As a bonus, EA has made Tiberian Sun (and other Command and Conquer games) available for free for quite some time now.
Nier: Automata was released in 2017 and wowed audiences with its unique mix of awesome gameplay with tons of variety, as well as a convoluted journey that has a total of 26 different endings and epilogues. However, for all the praises that NieR: Automata received, you'd have a hard time finding anyone telling you that it's a beautiful game.
Does it have bad graphics? Not necessarily. You'd expect better though. Even when the settings are cranked up, NieR: Automata doesn't look special. It looks a lot like a game that belongs to the PS3 and Xbox 360 era than the PS4 and Xbox One.
Then again, when a game starts as a side-scrolling shooter before morphing into a twin-stick shooter only to become a third-person action RPG and 2.5D platformer next, the studio probably had its hands full to have enough time to make the game look pretty.
RuneScape was first released back in 2001, making it one of the oldest MMORPGs still running right now. However, even back then, nobody really played RuneScape for the graphics. Most jumped in because of the free-to-play model that doesn't really require you to spend much money on it to enjoy if any at all.
Once you get past the eyesore and you start getting used to how bad RuneScape looks, you'll realize that it's the perfect example of the phrase "more than meets the eyes."
Amid Evil is part of the latest series of shooters that are trying to recapture the level design and graphical styles of the 90s shooters, Quake and Doom.
Not that it's any excuse not to include it on our list though. Amid Evil really nails the 90s aesthetics down pat, complete with epic axes and swords that, for some reason, can shoot out green laser beams and wands that act as grenade launchers. However, while the design stays faithful to its inspiration, Amid Evil does change up few things, including adding far more variety than shooters of the past did, which gives it its own distinct personality.
Having said that, Amid Evil definitely isn't for everyone.
Bethesda Softwork's games are almost always expected to look bad. Or, at the very least, worse compared to their contemporaries.
Mind you, it's not for the lack of effort. Most Bethesda games have a stunning amount of detail with high-resolution models and polygons. The only problem is that the janky animations and odd character design tend to detract from the overall beauty of the games. However, while a lot of previous Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim could make this list, we decided to give the spot to Skyrim's post-apocalyptic cousin, Fallout 3, instead.
One could argue that Bethesda nailed the setting with Fallout 3. The excessive shades of brown and gray do a great job of painting an ugly picture. So does the endless stretch of barren wastelands that are filled with horrific creatures and worn-out weaponry that have no business being used by people to defend themselves.
However, Fallout: New Vegas proved that wastelands need not look as drab as Fallout 3's did, and for all the entertainment value of the game, we'd be lying if we told you that you should play it for its graphics.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile's excuse for looking mediocre is simple: it was designed to attract those who still can't let go of their attachment to Diablo 2.
The only problem is that Diablo 2 has since had a remake, with Diablo 2: Resurrected looking a lot better than Path of Exile does and ever did. Then again, this isn't necessarily a problem. Path of Exile remains one of the best dungeon crawlers available right now.
Path of Exile is more of an acquired test and it's not necessarily for everybody. The worst-case scenario is that you just tried out a free game that you didn't like. If the opposite happens, then we wish you good luck getting out of the rabbit hole.
Does PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds look bad? Yes. Relative to its performance demands, PUBG, as it is often referred to, looks a lot like a low-effort title cobbled together using generic art assets for the sake of a quick cash grab.
Although the developers have done a great job in making PUBG look better, the game still relatively looks ugly compared to other battle royale games like Apex Legends and Fortnite.
Nioh was one of the best games released in 2017. It's been described as one of the few Soulslike games not made by From Software that actually feels like a step-up or evolution rather than being a more copycat. However, for all the praise that it received for its combat system, Nioh was criticized for being downright ugly.
Not that this stopped players from playing NioH and it probably wouldn't stop you too, especially if you like Soulslike games.
If it's any consolation, Nioh can be played on the PS5 with enhancements to make it look a bit better.