Pretty self explanatory. Here I'm not looking for ZOMG graphics, but games that because of their art direction would be good on any system, regardless of specs.
SO, some my picks in no particular order.
Talk about breathtaking. This game relies on two things as far as gameplay and looks: Less is more. You can see the color palette is limited to a few colors, although the range in which these colors are used is very diverse./The vistas are breathtaking, but are mostly empty. It would have been very easy for a developer to screw this up, but somehow the mood, the environmental perspective, the perfect contrast between big and small made this probably the most entertaining game for people to watch you play and have just as much fun as you did playing it ... and thats one of the biggest compliments a games art direction can have.
This is one game that looks so much like a storybook that sometimes you just have to stop whatever you're doing and admire it. The color theory in this game is off the charts and it feels fresh, distinct and will no doubt pass the test of time. The textures are simple, yet detailed, the settings varied, the gameplay itself affects the look of the environment and when you put it all together it gives you a visual performance that indeed feels like your playing a movie.
Without a doubt, no other game makes me want to start texturing as soon as I see someone play it. This is the one game in this list that I would love see an HD version so that the textures could be bigger and not flicker. The amount of details and variety in this game is stunning. The models in the game used roughly half the polycounts of Final Fantasy X and it seems like they used that to their advantage by giving the texture budget a larger memory. Even without the detail though, this game is on this list because of the well designed characters, the very different styles each location has, its amazingly VAST monster library, with descriptions and background story for each one, no less and very smart use of colors for each location (Rabanastre, the main city, has very obvious Turkish inspired designs, colors and textures, giving it a very busy city look without being overwhelming)
Probably the least known game on this list. This was a SquareEnix RPG that came and went for the PS2 a couple of years ago, got ho-hum reviews and most people forgot about it. Recently me and Michelle picled it up due to good word of mouth and we were shocked by how pretty everything was. In most games today, cartoony or realistic, you find a troubling lack of good color schemes and values. True all the games in this list have all that, but its this game that I finally saw shadows that where not BLACK, which, a small a detail as it may be, carried with it a lot of weight in influencing all the other color schemes throughout the game, making it look really fun and likable.
Probably, other than Shadow of the Colossus, no games visuals match the gameplay better. In Rez you play a space shooter of sorts (think Starfox) but the gameplay is completely revolved around music. When you start a level a regular base beat starts up, and by either you shooting or killing enemies new sounds will appear that complement the initial beat. As you progress the initial beat becomes more complex until you reach the boss, thats when the song finally reaches its full complexity and by the time you realize it, you're in the middle of a boss battle with the music going absolutely INSANE which makes for a pretty damn entertaining experience. The art itself is simple, like next-gen Vector graphics really, but it holds onto you, it resonates with the music and allows you to really immerse yourself in the game without being detracted by the lack of overwhelming visual cues. If games were considered art by most, this game would be its abstract masterpiece.
So thats it for me for now. I wanted to hit some popular basics and a couple of lesser known ones. There are plenty more games to discuss though, so get to it and collaborate!