There are plenty of games that pushed their respective consoles to the limit, showcasing remarkable visual capabilities and massive open worlds. Some of these games, like StarFox, ran poorly on their respective consoles but still impressed players with their ingenuity and technical achievements.
The ingenuity of old systems, like using cartridges to add extra features like modems, was fascinating, and it’s still impressive to see what developers could achieve on limited hardware. Perfect Dark required a RAM pack to work, and I fondly remember moments of smooth, gorgeous gameplay in Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64.
Best Games That Pushed Their Consoles to the Limit
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus was a technical marvel when it launched on the PlayStation 2, showcasing impressive environments, and detailed, realistic characters. It was also a massive undertaking for developer genDESIGN, requiring significant optimization to run on the system. The game was so demanding that Sony reportedly tried to block its release on the grounds that it would damage the PlayStation 2’s reputation.
Halo 4 remains one of the best FPS games, and one of the most technically impressive console games, to this day. The scope of Halo 4’s multiplayer maps, and the visual fidelity of its single-player campaign, is still unparalleled on the Xbox 360. The warthog chase sequence, which sees Master Chief pursued by an enemy Scarab, showcases some of the best graphics the console can offer.
Skyrim is a technical marvel on the PC, but it’s also impressive on the Xbox 360. Bethesda Softworks achieved a level of environmental detail on Microsoft’s console that, at the time, was unmatched. Skyrim’s sweeping vistas, and detailed forests, showcase the best of what the Xbox 360 is capable of. It’s still a stunning game upscaled on the Xbox One.
Oblivion is a technical marvel on the PC, but it’s also impressive on the Xbox 360. Bethesda Softworks achieved a level of environmental detail on Microsoft’s console that, at the time, was unmatched. Skyrim’s sweeping vistas, and detailed forests, showcase the best of what the Xbox 360 is capable of. It’s still a stunning game upscaled on the Xbox One.
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX looks like a game from the next console generation when upscaled on modern TVs. The PS1 RPG may not be as technically impressive as Final Fantasy VIII, but its lush environments, and detailed character models, still hold up well when displayed at higher resolutions.
Skyrim Special Edition
Skyrim Special Edition is technically impressive on the Xbox One, and an impressive feat of optimization. Bethesda Softworks manages to squeeze an enormous open-world game into Xbox One’s limited storage, creating a rich, detailed world, with gorgeous vistas, incredible effects, and a vast cast of characters.
Uncharted 3 and 4
Uncharted 3 and 4 both pushed current-gen hardware to its limit, showcasing impressive environments, and detailed character models. These were two of the best-looking games on the PS3 and PS4, and they remain so when upscaled on the Xbox One.
Metal Gear Solid 2
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty pushed the PlayStation 2 to its limit, resulting in some of the best in-game cutscenes ever. The game’s developers, using unconventional methods, also managed to optimize storage, and create a richer gaming experience. Metal Gear Solid 3, and Final Fantasy XII, also looked like games from the next console generation when upscaled.
DOOM 3 was a technical marvel when it launched on the Xbox, the first game to showcase the power of id Tech 4. The game’s high settings required a top-spec PC at the time to run, making it a benchmark for years. Its legacy continues on the Xbox One X, with the recent DOOM Resurrection update offering native 4K and 60fps support.
Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a technical marvel on the Xbox, a showcase for what the console is capable of. The game’s rich, atmospheric world, and detailed character models, remain impressive all these years later.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a technical marvel on PS4, still one of the best-looking games on the system, but it was also impressive on the PS3. Developer Naughty Dog pushed the hardware to its limit to create a rich, detailed world, and stunning visuals. These efforts were reflected in the game’s trophy design.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Conker’s Bad Fur Day, while technically impressive on the Nintendo 64, is a game that pushed the limits of its creators. The game’s developers, Rare, had to come up with creative solutions to overcome the N64’s limited memory, and poor external storage options.