Few can deny just how exciting this past decade has been for the gaming medium. Technology has advanced to an almost ridiculous degree. It seems almost insane that Nintendo’s juggernaut franchises were 8-bit legends in their own right on the NES just three decades ago. This is an industry that can change considerably in the span of a few years.
It goes without saying, but technological improvements naturally lead to more polished video games on the market. Never before has there been such a high level of polish in the industry — or so it seems. Polish is more than looking pretty; it’s playing well, it’s being designed, and it’s presenting as cohesive an experience as possible. The best games aren’t always polished, and the best polished games aren’t necessarily the best — but they’re worth acknowledging.
10 Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
The Phantom Pain is the better value as far as game purchases go, but it’s hard to deny just how insanely polished Ground Zeroes is. Sure, that’s because it’s on the very light side when it comes to content, but judge games for what they have— not for what they don’t. Ground Zeroes is drowning in detail on a level that rivals even Metal Gear Solid 2.
Camp Omega is easily one of the best designed areas in the Metal Gear franchise, and Ground Zeroes’ level of stealth is just as in-depth, but with better level design to accompany the core gameplay. One needs the patience to play through the same area multiple times, but Ground Zeroes is worth diving into for the polish alone.
9 Red Dead Redemption 2
This is a living, breathing world on a scale that Rockstar hadn’t accomplished before. Quite frankly, this is the best open world of their career if only due to how cohesive everything is. RDR2 is still susceptible to Rockstar’s history of bugs, but it’s nonetheless the most polished game to be released in quite some time.
8 Kid Icarus: Uprising
For Kid Icarus: Uprising, polish comes not from how technically well made it is, but from its stellar sense of style. Above all else, Kid Icarus: Uprising presents itself well — almost like a high-quality television show. Its actual HUD is typical Masahiro Sakurai (of Kirby and Super Smash Bros. fame), and the menus are fun to navigate.
The actual in-game content is also refined superbly. The unique control scheme might be off-putting to some who don’t already know what to expect beforehand, but it’s amazing just how well put-together Kid Icarus: Uprising is. Especially considering how Nintendo didn’t bother capitalizing on any franchise potential here.
7 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
General fan consensus seems to be that each new Mario Kart is better than the last, and why shouldn’t they be? Each new iteration logically and intelligently builds upon the last game, making Mario Kart a series that’s continuously improving. Now, this might not actually be the case, but it’s certainly close.
Few fans of the franchise can or should deny just how good of a game Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was. It was already one of the most polished games of the last ten years on the Wii U, but now it’s crisper and bursting with even more base content than before.
6 Portal 2
It almost seems wrong to call the original Portal a sleeper hit, but that is kind of what it was in hindsight. Rarely does a game release with such a consequential cultural impact. The first Portal helped shape modern video game discussions for better or for worse. Even more startling, it had a sequel that put the original game to shame.
Portal 2 was never going to have the same impact as the first game — how could it? — but Valve understood this. Portal 2 is a bigger, more cohesive game with smarter content. It isn’t as tightly paced as the first Portal, but it’s pretty damn close. As far as co-op games go, this is the most polished gamers will find.
5 Dragon Quest XI
Very rarely does an RPG so traditional release at such a high level of quality. In a generation where Final Fantasy feels anything but traditional, Dragon Quest continues to shine as a beacon for the art of the turn-based RPG. With film-quality levels of CG animation at times, Dragon Quest XI is the franchise’s apex.
It’s by no means ridiculous to call Dragon Quest XI one of the greatest games ever made; it’s so bursting with care and love. The only downside is the music, but the Nintendo Switch port does fix that. Either way, every version of Dragon Quest XI is worth playing solely for the polish.
4 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
Quite possibly the only open world in the medium where every little detail matters and has a clear purpose, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a revolutionary game. It brings the franchise’s earliest philosophies back into play, evolving them so naturally and effectively. The sheer scope of Hyrule is at times overwhelmingly breathtaking.
It’s not often that a game manages to fill itself so competently with engaging content. Even the Divine Beasts, the game’s obvious low-point, are well designed and interesting conceptually. That over 900 minor actions result in Koroks also proves that Nintendo really understood what players needed in an open world.
3 Super Mario Odyssey
It’s downright shocking that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were both released in the same year. 2017 will go down as one of the best years for Nintendo’s libraries thanks to these two titles alone. Super Mario Odyssey’s consistent level of polish is amazing, but shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
The Super Mario franchise has always had an amazing level of polish. Think back to Super Mario World’s secrets and presentation; Super Mario 64’s aesthetic, presentation, and gameplay mechanics; Super Mario Sunshine’s water physics and visual. It’d be surprising if the next major Mario game doesn’t blow Odyssey out of the water.
2 Devil May Cry 5
Who could have guessed that Capcom would not only revive Devil May Cry, but revive the franchise with a game that rivals its greatest entry? Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t seem real — it doesn’t even look real. It’s on such a higher level of quality than just about any other game this decade as far as polish goes.
Every aspect of the game is good. That’s a bold claim to say of any game, but it’s the truth here. Some parts are better than others, but nothing in Devil May Cry 5 is outright bad. It plays well, it looks great, and it has a surprisingly good story, all things considered.
1 Persona 5
All that said about Devil May Cry 5, this decade has one undisputed king when it comes to polish: Persona 5. The game’s rough around the edges in terms of pacing and story, but everything else is as high quality as it comes. With The Royal right around the corner, Persona 5’s bound to get even better.Not that The Royal invalidates the base game by any means, though. Any version of Persona 5 will be worth playing for the polish — which is crazy considering that P5 was a PS3 game initially. A sense of style and a good aesthetic can do a lot for a game’s polish.