Things and stuff and things.
Published on December 9, 2021 By Tatiora In Stardock Blog

As a general rule, most everyone thinks of Pong as the first actual video game (it isn’t technically, but it was the first one commercially available).We’ve come a long, long way since then - both visually and technically. 

I have grown up on video games, starting back in the 1980’s with Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers. At the time, I don’t recall being particularly enamored with the graphics of even the technological marvel that it was for its time period - largely, I suspect, because why would a 5 year old think of those things?

Nowadays, I’m in constant awe of how far this hobby I love has come. Games are pretty much instantly accessible on any platform now, and the advances they have made visually, narratively, and mechanically continue to thrill and excite me. 

While I personally believe that intensely realistic and beautiful graphics are not required for a game to be strong narratively, I would be hard-pressed to argue that a game’s fidelity and visual appeal don’t have anything to do with whether it’s successful or not. 

As evidenced by games like the original Super Mario Brothers, the actual gameplay being enjoyable certainly supersedes the visual quality; but in a game like, say, Skyrim, which focuses largely on exploration and discovering amazing parts of this vast world, something would probably be lost if it wasn’t as visually appealing as it is.

I know that I have definitely, on at least a few occasions, been swayed on whether or not to buy a game based largely on how it appeals to me visually. While I tend to purchase games based on whether or not they have a compelling story, the visual component of storytelling is something that is just as interesting to me.

It’s honestly amazing. Every few years, I think “Wow, that’s gorgeous! They can’t possibly make that look any more real.” And yet, somehow, the industry continues to design and to innovate so that a few years later, I find myself saying the exact same thing all over again.

There are still some mainstays from my childhood that, in 2021, just don’t hold up to the newer games graphically, but I love them anyway. Almost anything from my N64 days holds a special spot in my heart, and while Banjo Kazooie’s boxy visages may not have kept up with the times, that hasn’t deterred me from revisiting those games once every handful of years or so.

And then there are some game franchises that have endured the ages and have developed visually over time. Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers or Pokémon series are excellent examples of that, as well as Sony’s Tomb Raider games.

Are graphics a huge selling point for you when you're choosing whether to buy a game or not? At some point I'd like to take a deeper dive into how video games have evolved - not just visually, but in many other ways - through the years, and I'd love to hear your feedback.

Share with me!

on Dec 09, 2021

I think Mario Bros. ability to still be played today showcases that not all game genres need the best graphics possible. In my opinion, I think every game genre runs better on a certain level of graphics. I will list off some games to illustrate.

I think super Mario Bros for the snes is the best Mario game ever made, some may say Mario 3 was the best, but their concept and time frame are still close. We can also throw Sonic the hedgehog in with this since it was also made in the same time frame. Side scrolling games are just better at this graphics level, later iterations of these had graphics ambitions ruin some of the scope and design these games thrived on. Don't get me wrong, Mario still had some good games, Sonic tried to but struggled and the more it pushed for graphics the more it failed.

The biggest ever graphics evolution in my opinion and the current staple of what graphics need to at least be in this generation of gaming was the release of the ps2. When this console was first released I even remember saying to myself I don't think graphics need to be any better. This opinion was further solidified when the PS3 came out with superior graphics and Nintendo released a new console, the wii, which only had ps2 level graphics and ended up being the best selling console of its time in spite.

Back to games. Lets see the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy 10 to some extent and Final Fantasy 13 to a bigger extent. These are two games that really pushed graphics as far as they could and it really did come at a cost. So much was lost at the cost of a pretty game, if you step back a bit they probably didn't need to go all out on graphic and should have instead gone with scope but instead everyone has been wanting older Final Fantasy games that did have the larger scope.

If you go with a western based rpg like skyrim though, you are definitely going to need just a little more graphical power still. A xbox 360 level is enough in some cases, see fall out new vegas, if you are able to really focus on scope. However, Skyrim is the staple of the genre as of now, masterful scripting that makes the world feel alive really is the key here, and that has beat out graphically superior games.

Strategy games could be a fun one to work with, in particular the rts genre. This is a genre crying for innovation more then it is for graphics and a lot of the times innovation has completely killed itself off. See Command and Conquer 4, the sad death of a favorite series. In my opinion, maybe the rts and strategy genre could learn a little by borrowing some of the innovation that is working currently on phones. See games like King of Avalon, a lot of people paying a lot of money probably looking for something better to come along that has a similar level of addiction to keep playing that is cheaper to play.

And then there are games like FPS's and action adventure type of games. With this I think people will be expecting really high level of graphics. 120 fps for better response, good lighting. And the genre has always spoiled with the best graphics in the past so this is usually expected and these are the games people buy when they have high end pcs


edit -

Clearly I demonstrated difficulties games have had evolving. I thought I would share a game that has evolved really well.

Zelda. This is one of the rare games that has been good in almost every game era starting all the way from the nes. It is a game that has really benefited from graphical enhancements and has used good art designs so it never has to push the graphical limits too far. On top of that it has always expanded upon its core scope rather then making sacrifices to have better graphics. The worlds have always felt bigger and the games have always felt like zelda.

on Jan 07, 2022


I think Mario Bros. ability to still be played today showcases that not all game genres need the best graphics possible. In my opinion, I think every game genre runs better on a certain level of graphics. I will list off some games to illustrate.

I very much agree! While pretty graphics are a pull toward a game and can go a long way toward creating a complete package, fundamentally the enjoyable gameplay has to be there to support it. I absolutely adore Super Mario Brothers in any and all of the forms they've come in over the last 20+ years.