Before we begin, let me clear the ruling criteria. All of the top 10 games chosen have not been released yet. All of them have a tentative release date of 2016 (since some of these titles have been delayed in the past, it is worth noting that they can be delayed further). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it goes without saying that this list is relative. That said, I will be looking not only at the graphical quality of a game, but also at the scale. I.e. impressive graphical quality but not enough scale =/= win and vice versa.
To judge the graphical quality, I have taken into account the art style, environment detail, post processing, atmospheric effects, asset detail, character detail and also the general perception of eye candy. Note that only the media that has been released to the public has been used to judge. It is entirely possible that the real deal falls short of the mark portrayed here. All the screenshots and images have been scaled to 1920×1080 for comparison purposes. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
The Top 10 Upcoming Games of 2016 with the Best Graphics – In Descending Order
Number 10. Firewatch
Firewatch is an upcoming game by Camp Santo with a release date of February 9, 2016. Based on a painting by Olly Moss, the game has highly creative roots in an age-old medium. Built to exacting specifications, it boasts not only beautiful visuals but a story-driven gameplay as well. Firewatch is all about the atmosphere that the player gets to experience while playing. The visuals and the supervisor’s voice through the walkie-talkie are pretty much all the input the player is given throughout the game. While the scale of the game by the developer’s own admission isn’t that much, the aesthetics were enough to land it the no. 10 spot in our list. It is being made for the Windows, Mac, Linux and PlayStation 4 platforms.
Number 9. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky by Hello Games has become an iconic name in the upcoming games of 2016. Firstly, the art style of the game is very distinctive and unique, but here is the actual kicker: according to the developers every single atom of the game is created via ‘procedural generation’. Every single graphical aspect of this game is derived from procedural generation. Meaning that no play through is even remotely the same and there is an infinite number of planetary exploration, deep oceans, space-based battles. You could be buzzing through the sky and crash-land on an ice planet or it might be a lush green one for all anyone can predict. The game will be arriving for Playstation 4 and Windows with a tentative release date of June 2016.
Number 8. Mass Effect Andromenda
Not much is known about the upcoming Mass Effect but the media revealed so far features a very high level of graphical acuity and scale. The universe is set a “long time after” the effects of the original Mass Effect trilogy and pretty much all we know so far is that the player will be able to play as either a male or female lead and drive the Mako. It will be powered by the Frostbite 3 engine and will support the Windows, Xbox One and PS4 platforms. The game has a tentative release date of Q4 2016.
Number 7. Far Cry Primal
Farcry Primal is one of the more anticipated Farcry titles coming out this year. Forgoing the multiplayer component to perfect the single player mechanics, FC Primal is getting ready to dazzle players with immersive visuals and a brand new setting. I would like to take a moment to point out here that all the screenshots you see here are almost certainly target renders, which means that the real deal will be slightly off the mark here. However, even after accounting for that fact, I think the game deserves the number 7 spot on our best graphics list.
Number 6. The Division
Tom Clancy’s The Division has a release date of 8 March 2016 and is expected to launch on Microsoft Windows PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It is also one of the most eagerly awaited ‘Massively Multiplayer Online Third Person Shooter / Role Playing Game’. It features a beautifully crafted post apocalyptic world where the player is equally likely to run into AI enemies as well as human players. In the graphics department, the Division is perfectly balanced. It features perfect character detail as well as asset and world detail. It neither lacks in post processing nor in atmospheric effects as the situation demands and features several innovative techniques (including a new weather system). It has more than earned its spot in our best graphics list for 2016.
Number 5. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to the acclaimed Tomb Raider reboot by Crystal Dynamics. It will be timed exclusive on Microsoft Windows on January 28, 2016 and will arrive on the Playstation 4 sometime later in 2016. One of the reasons we gave it a relatively high spot on our list was because this game will feature some of the cutting edge visual techniques – including VXAO (which is a form of voxel based global illumination). The media revealed in trailers and screenshots so far looks very promising and a very worthy successor to the 2013 hit.
Number 4. Horizon Zero Dawn
Interestingly, one of the games that are rather high on our top 10 list is a PS4 Exclusive and landing sometime in 2016. This title is Guerrilla Games first attempt at a role playing game and will also be their first IP after Killzone from 2003. The game is fairly innovative as far as the mechanics of the visuals go – I mean what can possibly be better than fighting giant robotic dinosaurs? That’s right, fighting giant robotic dinosaurs with bows. While we aren’t really sure about the scale of the game so far – and it couldn’t really be more than say The Division – we were blown away by the ‘eye candy’. The game looks like “Skyrim on mods” as a colleague puts it, and considering the fact all of this is happening on a console just makes it even more impressive.
Second Runners Up: Mirrors Edge Catalyst
Mirrors Edge is a name that is synonymous with eye candy. The original had graphics that are still better than many games today and what little we have seen of the prequel, it will be no less mind-blowing. The screens look something out of cut scenes and the entire game feels like a target render. Textures? So high you can see the skin pores. Post processing and Atmospheric Effects? Chock full. Character detail and environment detail are both pretty high, too. The game runs like a tech demo with an amazing gameplay and (probably) a good story, which is exactly what was appealing about the original Mirrors Edge. The game will be released on May 24 2016 and will come to Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and Playstation 4.
Runners Up: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Landing on August 23, 2016 on Xbox One, PS4 and Windows is a game that is thought to be the “next-Crysis” in terms of performance intensive graphics. Built around the DirectX 12 API and powered by the brand new Dawn Engine, this is one game that promises to knock the socks off its users (in terms of absolutely stunning looks). Developed by Eidos Montreal and set two years after the events of Human Revolution, the title will see the return of Adam Jensen with new tech and augmentations. This is one game that will not only be incredibly rich in terms of graphics, but have a well-developed story line as well and more than deserves the runners-up spot on our list.
The Upcoming Game of 2016 with the Best Graphics: Star Citizen
Chris Robert’s Star Citizen is one game that I think is aiming to be the pen-ultimate in gaming immersion. Featuring an insanely huge scale and even crazier graphical requirements the game is all set to take the top crown of 2016. Single ships have higher polygon counts than games had in total a few years ago. In fact, they had to use a modified Cry-Engine with polygon-culling techniques just to make sure the game can even render all the assets on-screen. It features both space-sim and FPS elements and boasts a budget to match its scale. Did I mention it also has procedural generation, on the planetary scale? I have to admit though that one of the reasons I was hesitant to give it the top spot was because the game has been delayed in the past and could be delayed more. So far, it has a tentative release date of sometime in 2016.