Level-5 puts intricate amounts of detail into just about every game they make:
The Professor Layton games: Just look at Folsense◊ or St. Mystere◊. Their London◊ is pretty spectacular, as well. In fact, one of the first animated sections of the second and third games feature some gorgeous views of London.
The Inazuma Eleven games have quite detailed 3D textured models for every locale in the game plus 2D vistas of every region in the overworld map, all crammed onto a little DS card. Take, for example, Nara◊ from the second game. And Level-5 has outdone themselves with Inazuma Eleven GO on the 3DS - just watch the trailer.
Unreal might be Trope Maker for First Person Shooters. It starts you off in a crashed spaceship. After navigating through narrow corridors and smoky machine rooms, which were visually impressive but still just rooms, you'd emerge from the vessel, and your jaw would fall on the floor as you gazed at the most beautiful waterfall, replete with small lake, lush vegetation, local fauna hopping and flying about, and... my God, the sky... look at the sky! The clouds are moving!!! This sudden, breathtaking change of scenery is enhanced further by the presence of a change in background noise from malfunctioning machines to an ambient soundtrack.
Unreal Tournament III ups the ante in a very impressive way. Highly detailed buildings, mountains and ground; beautiful lightning (bloom effect is awesome), the air distorts whenever a strong heat source or energy is near (try it! Get your Stinger Minigun and look at the minigun's end while shooting some tarydium stings, or get your Orb, stand near a captured node and look at the node's base), and , of course, blowing up some vehicles with an AVRiL makes for some delicious explosions. Unfortunately, it also decided that Real Is Brown.
Epic Battle Fantasy, especially the third game. Parts like the Desert and the Snowland are prime examples. The fourth game is no slouch either, especially the Jungle, Crystal Caves, Ruins, Cloud Ruins area, etc.
Gatling Gears. The game takes place on a Floating Continent, and you will see many dynamic, breathtaking backgrounds such as the terrain crumbling away and falling down, especially in Chapter 1. Becomes Scenery Gorn in the last two sets of levels.
Super Monkey Ball 2 has incredibly intricate background scenery. The backgrounds are so elaborate that parts of them aren't even viewable in-game unless the player resorts to a cheating device that lets them float around the outer boundaries of the level. World 6 has HIDDEN TEMPLES in the background that are fully detailed even though they are completely obscured.
Alan Wake has some very useful camera angles whilst playing to show the mountains and forests around you. During cutscenes it'll also show you all the beautiful sights.◊
Aliens vs. Predator 2 had a scene where you, as a predator, reach a cliff with an awesome look while a scripted spaceship flies low over your head. Beautiful.
Adventure game Secrets of Rćtikon uses a strange geometric 2D art style for its environments and creatures, which makes exploring it and the ecosystem within all much more pleasant.
The two Baten Kaitos games. Yeah, the whole Floating Continent shtick has been done before, but this takes it to a new level. All the islands have their own unique visual style; Diadem is made out of dark pink and purple clouds, Anuenue is a beautiful, lush jungle, Alfard has a steampunk city and a ruined mining town (that manages to make Real Is Brownnot boring), and Mira...
The throne room in Wazn in the first game is a particularly Egregious example. It certainly looks impressive, but serves absolutely no purpose other than to look really, really, really pretty (there aren't even any cutscenes in there.)
The visuals of Braid are some of the finest for a 2D game.
Crysis. Yahtzee praised the graphics, as noted in the page quote. Coming from someone who says things like, "It's incredibly good-looking, but what isn't these days?" and "Can we just agree that modern games are looking plenty realistic already?" for other games, and who is an Accentuate the Negative critic in general, this carries extraordinary weight — if only for how beautiful it has to be.
The first game has a ton of Scenery Porn moments. Since it uses an earlier version of the engine that also powers Crysis (see above), this is not surprising. Just pretty.
Far Cry 2 does this every five minutes or so, but especially so upon reaching paraglider locations. If you don't stop and gawk for minutes on end before strapping in and flying off, then you're doing it wrong.
Just Cause 2, full stop. The draw distance is astounding, the environment colorful, and just wait until you get a view from the summit of the highest mountain in the game...
The first game in The Witcher series had mostly lackluster scenery, indulging in the Dung Ages version of Real Is Brown a bit too much, but the second is filled with absolutely stunning vistas, from a riverboat dock deep in the forest with fog rising off the water, to a multi-tiered Dwarven town in a windswept mountain pass.
The first game had its fair amount of gorgeous scenery, most of it appearing in Chapter 4 and invloving Lake Vizima or the large fields of grain.
Dante's Inferno, although it is regarded as a subpar God of War, had some damn good artwork. Seriously, being able to render Hell in that kind of gruesome, disgusting, revolting detail is just strangely beautiful. The way it smoothly intertwines 3D-rendered graphics with 2D animation in the cutscenes is enough to make a gamer realize just how much artistic focus went into this game's development. Also, Beatrice is topless throughout the entire game, so one could guess that this game really emphasizes the "Porn" in this trope.
The Devil May Cry games have a few such shots show up. It helps that most of the locales are distinctly gothic in nature.
Mission 18 in 3. Who thought that Hell could be so beautiful?
Ecco the Dolphin pulled off gratuitous scenery back in 16 bits. Defender of the Future, two generations later, even more so.
Such as the night sky of Morrowind. (Even today, the environment of Morrowind is serviceable, as long as one remembers that the game was made in 2002.)
Likewise, in Oblivion, one could simply wander around the land for days admiring the beautiful fields and stately architecture without even touching the main plot of the game. Although Oblivion is impressive enough in its own right, the real jaw dropping does not come until you play through the expansion The Shivering Isles. The improved graphical technology of Oblivion, combined with the originality of Morrowind, is positively incredible.
Skyrim looks to continue this tradition. The land of the Nords is absolutely gorgeous. If that picture at the top of the page didn't convince you, check out this video. And this doesn't even take Blackreach andSovngarde into account.
Eternal Sonata must have spent over half its budget on coding gorgeous 3D scenery. And of course, every time you walk into a new part of the world, it shows it off. But that's nothing compared to the second cutscene, where you have the narrator telling us all about Tenuto. Not to mention that the game has the prettiest sewers I've ever seen.
The earlier games in the Oddworld series have a tendency to do this, particularly Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus.
From Crisis Core, the scenery for the epic sparring match between Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal on top of the Junon Cannon, as well the game's intro and final cutscenes which both mirror the original game's intro cutscene.
Final Fantasy VIII had a number of these, from exterior shots of Balamb and Galbadia Garden, Deling City, the town of Balamb, to Esthar, the gorgeously futuristic city that appeared out of nowhere (well, out from behind a giant video screen camouflage) in the middle of a giant dry lakebed. Fisherman's Horizon: combine Crowning Music of Awesome with an environment where the ocean and technology mingles perfectly, the rust on the buildings adds more of a charm to it, so much that one would wish they could live there.
Final Fantasy IX had a lot of fun with the scenery: Alexandria's crystal-obelisked palace; the Steam Punk industrial metropolis of Lindblum; the eldritch branches of the Iifa Tree; Kuja's desert palace in all its stained-glass glory... arguably the most extraordinary are Terra (alien landscape with otherworldly blue sky dotted with mushrooms like skyscrapers) and Memoria (tangle of different environments and architecture manifested from the collective memory of the entire planet).
When Square (now Squeenix) upgraded to PlayStation 2 hardware, they really spent a lot of time making sure anyone playing Final Fantasy X spent the start of every new area smacking their gob, over and over. Even the blasted ruins of Zanarkand, abandoned for a thousand years save for monsters and the occasional questing summoner, somehow manage to look pretty.
Final Fantasy XI. Everything looks stunning, even the monsters that kill you horribly.
Final Fantasy XII also does this constantly, having multiple epic entrances to areas which serve practically no other purpose, as well as beautiful cutscenes of areas the first time you enter them. Occasionally, the cutscenes are pre-rendered FMV.
Final Fantasy XIII is Scenery Porn from start to finish. As with the seventh and tenth installments, Square Enix showed off the new hardware by creating a highly linear but astoundingly beautiful game.
Its counterpart series, Dragon Quest, started out with an elegant simplicity, then over the next few games proceeded to do things that didn't seem to care that they only had 8 bits to work with. Some of the later dungeons of Dragon Quest IV were almost SNES-worthy. Though it tends to be a little more loose and understated on the whole than Final Fantasy, the series regularly shows that it has taste in set pieces every bit as loving as its sister series — even if it's on a handheld with limited graphical power.◊
The other Square Enix games have their share of scenery porn, too:
Saga Frontier 2. The entire game - backgrounds, sprites, art, attack animations, text boxes, pretty much everything but the text itself - is done in an amazing watercolor style. Even the concept art is watercolor, which is pretty much the point of the game.
Legend of Mana is done in a similar art style. It still looks amazingly gorgeous.
The 2D World of Mana games as a whole have the best tilesets, bar none. Load up Seiken Densetsu 3 sometime, and just try to figure out where which tiles end and which begin.
Freelancer indulged in this hard enough to make its graphics not look dated even though the game is from 2003.
Several scenes in Half-Life 2 qualify. In the commentaries, the developers explicitly call these "vistas" rewards for the player. Perhaps the best example of this are the several long-range shots of the destroyed citadel from the radio tower in Episode 2.
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic had several examples, the arrival at Stonehelm, Skull island and the exterior of the Necropolis as the sun is setting.
The Secret World: All the maps show incredible amounts of detail. Grass waves as you walk through it, and sunlight, fog, and rain changes depending on the time of day. Fog, slime on the ground, gurgling from ponds, scum on water pools, snow on the ground, and desert sand under a baking sun are detailed enough to make you guess how it might smell, and what the weather feels like. For good measure, the wonderfully-detailed realistic settings- from the Templars' palatial headquarters in London to the lonely Caparthian mountains- are supplemented by a great many supernatural landscapes: the sprite-haunted lake and looming willow tree around which Anastasia and her wagon like to hang out; the mountain temple-settlement of Shambala where you and three other Secret Worlders duke it out over a stolen magical artifact; the monumental City of the Sun God, with it's imposing statues and temples surmounted by Akhenaten's Black Pyramid and the Sentinels keeping the sole occupant from escaping; the world of the Gaia Engines, a perpetually midnight beach dotted with giant hovering cubes and glowing ethereal prisons for Eldritch Abominations... Even the way of reaching these places involves visiting a beautiful setting- Agartha, the Hollow Earth, a glowing gold nexus level in which the portals to other areas are reached by travelling along the branches of The World Tree.
ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, full stop. Both games feature breathtakingly beautiful, large environments for the player to explore, often with the camera zooming all over the place to give players the best possible view of the scene. In the latter, the ENEMIES are this trope.
Metroid Prime 3 has about 2/3rds of its game worlds as Scenery Porn. Let's see, there's Bryyo, a planet where bits of the planet are literally chained to the surface. Giant war machines made entirely of stone litter the landscape; a brutal reminder of an ancient war that broke the planet. Elysia is almost quaint by comparison. Well, it would be if it weren't a gigantic city floating high about the planet's surface, filled with artwork and Steampunk machinery. Buildings drift on the wind, held aloft by large engines under them, and connected by tram systems. The scale of the view is absolutely incredible; you can actually go to buildings that, from a previous vantage point, looked like they were miles away. The Pirate Homeworld and Norion are pretty boring by comparison.
The first Metroid Prime isn't without its Scenery Porn; try climbing up to the top platform in the first open area of Phendrana Drifts and looking down at the environment. Oh and the background music! Crowning Music Of Awesome...
Not to mention Torvus Bog from Metroid Prime 2, which can rival Phenandra Drifts in both beauty and amazing music. Its theme, like that of Phenandra Drifts, does an excellent job of giving an idea of the climate of the area. Who knew so much tangible information could be conveyed through a song?
Torvus has nothing on Sanctuary Fortress. A massive blue city in the sky. It's every bit as gorgeous as it sounds.
Super Metroid also gives it a damn good go, especially right when you land on Zebes when it rains and head to the old Tourian. Often overlaps with Scenery Gorn.
Those familiar with the series will recall that with the first trip to any locale, there is a lovely moment of Scenery Porn to allow you a moment to get a feel for where you will be adventuring, touched off with the area intro tune. Those who have played the PS2 version, then the PSP upgrade port, have often been floored at how intact the Scenery Porn remained, in transition. Those who have played the Japan Only import sequel could say doubly the same for the later PSP upgrade/port of that game, as well.
Additionally, three different fights against dragons are lead into with Scenery Porn featuring the unique areas in which you fight them. Especially noteworthy when in the case of one particular battle out of those two: if you manage to successfully slay the monster, part of your victorious Crowning Moment Of Awesome is an especially epic shot of the Fort you are defending... and watching the dragon die an Oscar-equivalent-worthy death. The first time you witness it, you will be awestruck.
Monster Hunter Tri jacked that level up a notch by giving you scenery porn... underwater. Indeed it is not just reminiscent of the reefs' structures but you have to fight giant dragons while getting distracted by the underwater madness. The opening movie sealed the deal when it tracks the Rathalos from the sealine all the way across a plain, up a mountain and finally into the great beyond. This isn't scenery porn. This is a scenery orgy.
Every scene in Myst was lovingly hand modelled in StrataStudio Pro, packed onto CD, and then given a beautiful, haunting redbook soundtrack. Much of its sales were even rumored to come from people who bought their first CD-ROM drive just to marvel at the game's stunning visuals◊ rather than actually playing it. When Riven rolled around, they'd upgraded from Mac IIs to Indigos, and the sheer detail of its environment is still amazing.
The gameplay design in Riven was also specifically tailored to lovers of scenery porn. In Myst, you have to play the game or you'll never get off Myst island so you won't see most of the scenery. In Riven, you can reach 4 out of 5 islands without solving any of the game's major puzzles.
Exile. J'nanin's tusk-towers are beautiful, but the Lesson Ages themselves are just stunning: Voltaic is a giant power station built on red stone cliffs, Amateria is a giant roller coaster (which is mostly built over the ocean) in an Age when it's permanently sunset and there's a storm about to arrive, and Edanna is a 200+ feet tall tree… that grows inward. It's a jungle in a natural tower. The rest of the games continue this trend, all successfully (except for End of Ages, which disappoints by comparison and is around maybe Myst-level quality.) Revelation, in particular, is practically about having impressive vistas and incredible immersion elements everywhere — including blurring the foreground when the background is in focus and vice versa — despite the actual locations being shipwrecked lagoons◊ and pointy mountain ruins◊ orbiting stars.◊
The Nancy Drew computer games do this, with most of the games taking place in old mansions, Orient Express style trains, ancient castles and the like, and have others take place in real life Scenery Porn Locations, such as New Orleans, Paris, Venice, and Hawaii. Check out their website, they have pictures.
Nexus: The Jupiter Incident has several levels with extremely detailed backgrounds. The prize takes the last level, where the player's ship is in Hyperspace, which looks absolutely awesome, especially the effect it has on the camera.
Gothic's main selling point was its open world, and significant parts of that world seem to exist for no reason other than to be explored and look beautiful doing it. The changeable weather and rising and setting sun make the experience even better. A couple of characters in Gothic II seem to spend about half the game just gazing out to sea, and it's not hard to see why.
Quantum Redshift is an unfortunate side effect to this sort of thing. The graphics are probably the best on the Xbox, but it seems that they spent a lot of time on them compared to the game mechanics.
The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon is overloaded with this, especially on the Xbox 360 and PS3. In particular, expect to spend several hours just flying around Twilight Falls and the Valley of Avalar, completely ignoring your objectives list while you gawk at the lush forests and roaring rivers and, in the case of Twilight Falls, the HUGE glowing planets up in the sky, surrounded by twinkling stars. Even the later levels, which feature a lot of fire and war, fit this trope - the Burned Lands is comprised entirely of lava rivers and burned spires of rock but still manages to be highly visually impressive with the gigantic volcano looming over the level, and the Floating Islands are just gorgeous.
The original Spyro the Dragon trilogy was noteworthy for the unique and detailed backdrop in each level. Almost every level had its own unique "sky", circling the entire horizontal and vertical axis of the level. Backgrounds often have green hills or purple mountains or yellow (even acid green) sand dunes on the horizon, with the theme ranging from the a sunny day to a brightly moonlit night to a vivid red sunset to an overcast, snowy morning to a black, stormy evening to fit the level's environment. Spyro 2 and 3 continued this trend with only a couple of levels using the same backdrop and a few appearing to be based off a level from the first game with a few enhancements.
Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, though with less levels, also has impressive backdrops, and with the PS2's updated graphics one level even has a lightning strike lighting up the green night sky on occasion.
The developers of the Super Smash Bros. fangame Super Smash Flash 2 have taken a lot of time spriting stages for the game, and it shows. Particularly noteworthy is Clock Town.
The Halo games have this in droves. A good chunk of the rendered parts of the map are specifically designed to awe, and every map of every game has at least one vast backdrop setting that range from merely good to awe-inspiring. They particularly enjoy playing with objects of mind-buggering scale in the backdrop, coming to head in Halo 3 when, on closer inspection, the little glowy dot at the middle of the vast construct you're on the edge of is a STAR.
In Halo: Combat Evolved's famous opening, after the player navigates through a cramped corridor, they leave into a lush jungle, and the horizons just goes up, and up, and up, as the player realizes that the planet they're on is a Halo ring. In the final game of the trilogy, you start off again in a lush jungle, this time beautifully animated. Hopefully, Halo: Reach can pull off that beauty...
Now 343i are making the Anniversary Edition, which basically takes the campaign and adds more Scenery Porn than ever before, along with the option to toggle the new graphics on and off.
A memorable example is the Regret level in Halo 2, with its ancient-looking pyramidal temples on the lake.
Uprising/The Great Journey. The serene music in the former goes well with the scenery.
Lampshaded during the scene in which one of the marines accompanying Master Chief points out that the Milky Way Galaxy is hanging in the sky above you, and Sergeant Johnson basically tells him, "Yeah, yeah, it's pretty. Now pay attention to the aliens who want to kill you."
One scene in Halo 3 stands out. At the end of the Covenant level, you are on a balcony looking out over a vast pit filled with white clouds. And no, not the "vast" you're thinking of: this thing is the diameter of earth. And out of the pit, accompanied with the most beautiful video game music ever produced, rises the most majestic, breath-taking super-weapon of ultra-mass destruction ever made: Halo.
The season 4 DVD of Red vs. Blue, a machinima based on Halo, devoted one of its extras just on the scenery.
ODST. Sure, you spend most of the game walking around a destroyed city at night. But the two levels NMPD HQ and Coastal Highway? Let me elaborate: NMPD. What parts of it that aren't in the interior of the building take place on balconies outside that overlook a panoramic view of high towers, bathed in the setting sun. Coastal Highway? When you get out of the tunnels and come to the view of New Mombasa in the morning...
Scenery porn is said to be a design requirement for Halo: Reach, because everyone already knows the planet's going to get fried from the orbit. This is particularly evident in Forge World, despite the map being on a Halo ring, not Reach.
Halo 4 was designed to evoke memories of the original Halo and to that end, is full of sweeping and grand landscapes full beautiful scenes. The game world is utterly mesmerizing the first time you explore it.
The openings of Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time have flyby scenes showing off the first playable areas. Similarly, in Twilight Princess, you're treated to a flyby each time you enter a new zone—and again when you remove the Twilight from certain regions. There are even certain points of geography that seem to exist for no other reason than to provide scenic overlooks of other points of geography.
The Metroid Prime games do something similar to Twilight Princess when entering a new region.
Super Mario Sunshine. Say what you want about the quality of the games, the scenery was stunning. Everything gave the player the feel of a tropical paradise.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is still considered one of the best-looking games of all time, due to its unique use of cel-shading together with realistic elements. Sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, as well as the intermittent rainstorms that occur in the ocean.
One dungeon is located within an inactive but still hot volcano. The main magma chamber features gigantic fire fountains that that actually make the game lag when one magnifies the image with the Telescope item. Add to that the fact that the image distortion caused by the intense volcanic heat actually rises and falls according to whether a fire fountain is spouting or not. The dungeon also includes outdoor areas with beautiful panoramas of the surrounding ocean. The highest outdoor rooms of the dungeon are above the cloud layer.
Skyward Sword takes full advantage of the impressionist-inspired graphical style. The aforementioned fly-bys return and are more jaw-dropping than ever. Take a look at this,◊ for example.
Paper Mario. The entire N64 game is exemplary. The settings are quite detailed, the backgrounds are all water paintings, and there are far too many great moments to name. The snow levels were particularly well done, not to mention Bowser's Castle!
The sequel took the graphical qualities of the first game Up to Eleven. The colors were vivid, the contrasts sharp, and everything looked like it came out of a massive pop-up book.
Yoshi's Island has some of the best 2D graphics you will ever see on an SNES or anywhere else, assisted by its colorful, crayon-drawn art style. It also makes good use of the Super FX co-processor to help handle those beautiful visuals.
The dream sequence tutorial in Kingdom Hearts almost does this with using stain glass rose windows of the princesses as the floor.
The sequel's even better at this; every world has a unique art style for starters but the best is easily The World That Never Was: its a dark world filled with shadow, subdued blues, and glaring whites with the artificial Kingdom Hearts moon hanging overhead along with the enemy's stronghold and as you advance reality seems to warp as the "moon" becomes smaller as the castle grows larger. The castle is also a wonderful visual sight being mostly a white that'll blur you're vision and blend in with the enemies with the occasional splash of metallic grey and black.
BioShock and BioShock 2 could both, in their entirety, be considered Architecture Porn. If you're a fan of architecture... you will love these games.
BioShock Infinite seems out to continue the tradition. The cinematic trailer opens with the unfortunate viewpoint character getting thrown from a dimly-lit room through a window... whereupon the viewer is smacked in the face by glorious blue skies, impossible flying buildings covered in brightly-coloured posters, and green fields below reaching forever. It just gets prettier as it goes on, culminating in the character floating gently through a cloud of rose petals to reach the woman saving him.
Red Dead Redemption does a damn fine job of reproducing the frontier: every single inch of explorable land can be seen for miles, without any loss in quality (and it even helps justify John Marston's Super Drowning Skills; the game would simply become too huge if they let him explore the waters outside).
This is a major theme of the entire Tomb Raider series where almost once per level you are shown an impressive ancient structure of staggering size. The detail and lighting is particularly impressive in Anniversary.
God of War has extremely impressive vistas whenever you enter a new area, with an appropriate surge in music while this happens.
God of War 2, one of the last games made for the PS2 and with a team that had an excellent knowledge of the machine, takes this further; hell, you could even count the Colossus of Rhodes as a Scenery Porn Boss.
The .hack// video game series has some very gorgeous plot-important set areas. .hack//GU pushed the video graphics capability of the PS2 to its very limit: cathedral floors so polished you can see the character's reflection, giant ancient god-killer weapons in the background of the less impressive (but still pretty) playing fields... In fact, several characters in-game remarked how they just like to stand around and admire the view.
The Castlevania series is well-known for boasting some damn fine two-dimensional visuals.
Symphony of the Night combines 3D graphics and 2D graphics, like the later titles. It is arguably the most stunning, though later games all have gratuitous scenery porn — even Harmony of Dissonance for the GBA, which ended up sacrificing sound quality for it! This was because they got the less expensive cartridge which lacked space.
Lords of Shadow. One of the most notable examples is when Gabriel enters Pan's temple: The camera pans over the area and shows a path spiralling up the inside of a hollowed-out tree decorated with glyphs and lush vines and water falling from above. Yes, the "scenery" is just the inside of a tree and you can literally get through this area in 5-10 seconds, but the amount of work that went into it? It's breath taking. And the camera pan feels much like the game designers knew this and wanted to show off their work.
Rez, full stop. Really, are the insides of real computer networks that pretty? On top of that, the game would lose 95% of its charm without them. The sequel Child of Eden is even more beautiful.
Fallout 3 basically recreates the feeling from Unreal (see first example), only with a lot less cheerful color. It starts you off in an underground vault, where everything looks nice but nothing makes your jaw drop. Then you finally escape the place and find yourself on a small hill, overlooking the beautifully rendered Capital Wasteland with a skyline of destroyed buildings in the background. From the smallest houses to the big buildings, from the destroyed roads to the broken highway bridges, from the streets looking at what once was Washington DC to the top of the Washington Monument looking down at the ruined city, everything in the game gives the feeling that the designers wanted the players to continuously have their jaw welded to the floor. Make no mistake: Fallout 3is Scenery Porn. The gag was, directly at the edge of the hill you're standing on is a blue crooked sign with white letters: "scenic overview". Screw the fourth wall.
New Vegas continues this trend, from the look out of an abandoned gas station to the nearby town below, to standing on hundred foot high mountains and observing a herd of deathclaws move across an area, if you get more than 20 feet above the ground, you're likely to see something of this. And that's to say nothing of the glowing lights of the city itself lighting up the night sky, visible from all over the map.
Its sequel Among Thieves lives this, with ridiculously intricate and detailed environments. The train level in particular, in which you will see gorgeous scenery for about half a second or so before its whipped away by the motion of the train. Of course, you will probably be more busy with the helicopter, but it really is nice.
Ōkami, especially apparent in the scenes showing the restoration of cursed zones.
Hell, the whole game can be labeled under this. It looks like an inkbrush painting. In motion. Being Cel Shaded helps alot.
X3: Reunion certainly qualifies as this from the very first screen. Everything from the ship and station models to the planets and their moons that inhabit some sectors are jaw-dropping.
And then X3: Terran Conflict turned the scenery porn up to 11. It's hard to fly around Uranus or Saturn without going slack-jawed.
And if the trailers for X Rebirth are any indication, Egosoft's turned it Up To Twelve for the latest installment.
Shadow Of The Beast, at last for its time when it was released. The most central root of its success was its then-gorgeous video game scenery that had never been accomplished with such rich detail before.
Assassin's Creed I: everytime you ascend to one of the viewpoints in a city you get a cinematic panorama of the surrounding area. Also, some of the highest Leaps of Faith from these points are positively breathtaking. This is combined with Did The Research, as the designers spent months poring over maps of 12th century Holy Land cities to get the designs right. When you're looking at Jerusalem, you're looking at Jerusalem with every major piece of architecture blown up to 10 times its real size for extra effect and some slight anachronistic touches (like the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock) just so it'd look super awesome.
Assassin's Creed II does the same, with sweeping panoramic shots of the Italian architecture with the same attention to detail. It's absolutely gorgeous, even when everything's dark and gray. Venice in particular is absolutely breathtaking.
Brotherhood also does this. Just try climbing up on top of the Colosseum, or maybe the villa in Monterigioni and take a look at the scenery. It. Is. Beautiful. And in the final part of Brotherhood, the sequence at Colosseum is actually based on how Colosseum looks today, with some slight tweaks (such as a giant vault underneath, where a Piece of Eden is hidden. It's highly doubted that that exists.
Assassin's Creed III is continuing the tradition, only this time with the frontier. Just running through the trees alongside cliffs and rivers whilst various forms of wildlife pass underneath you is just beautiful.
The 2008 game takes the scenery porn from Assassin's Creed, slaps on some cel-shading, and goes to 11. Sure, you're only fighting a few named enemies, plus a few Mooks, but you just don't give a damn. It helps that the game is platformer at heart, and uses that to enhance the Scenery Porn; levels frequently end at the top of really tall towers to show off the landscape.
The Sands of Time trilogy does this as well; as you head through the games, you'll probably gawk at a lot of environments. The beginning of the final level stands out well: you're on a bridge in front of a really tall tower. Then you begin climbing it...
The Shin Megami Tensei games on the PS2 tend to provide scenery porn in the form of their final dungeons.
Nowadays it looks blocky and outdated, but when Pilotwings 64 originally came out it looked simply gorgeous. Half the fun was taking the vehicles out for a spin to look at all the different islands. The final hidden vehicle is just a Birdman outfit so the player can fly around without any restrictions.
Batman: Return of the Joker boasted with some of the finest graphics done for the NES system. Virtually every stage contained few special effects to show off what can be done with that primitive system, if tried hard enough.
Many Kirby games have highly detailed backgrounds, since they're often produced later in a system's lifespan than Nintendo's Killer App. You're welcome.
Kirby's Adventure has one of the most extensive color palette for the NES games and game demonstrating it constantly. This game had its own special effects too.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is one of the best examples in 3D. It managed to hide relatively low polygon count of fifth generation video games under bright colors and visual presentation.
Kirby's Epic Yarn uses stylistic solutions more than other games in the series with everything looking like it's made from products bought from a fabric store.
Gears of War and Gears of War 2. Are they grim and dark? Yes, but the city ruins have a definite air of majesty and beauty, somewhat emphasized by their destroyed state. Gears of War 2 adds in a lot of very beautiful scenes, particularly distant background art.
it all began with Tales of Phantasia who managed to squeeze detailed (albeit 2D) scenery and effects into SNES. The reflection effect is especially incredible.
While Tales of Legendia had awkward super-deformed character models and lots of bright colors, the dungeons were absolutely beautiful to look at, and the soundtrack is pure Crowning Music Of Awesome to the point of almost being able to classify as Scenery Porn itself.
Tales of Symphonia had moments very detailed, very gorgeous cities and cutscenes. Even the protagonist's house (complete with single parent) is beautiful, with lots of ivy climbing the exterior and a lot of potted flowers; the design is so well-done, you can even tell that the hero's second-story room (and his veranda) were added after the main part of the house was constructed.
The cities and towns in Tales of Vesperia were astoundingly beautiful. They obviously put a lot of work into the scenery in this game.
Tales of Xillia pretty much top all the previous games in term of visual beauty. There's the beautiful city of Il Fan, Shan Du, etc. Both anime cutscenes and in game scenes are beautiful. It helps that ufotable is the one doing the anime cutscenes.
In Pokémon Platinum, there doesn't seem to be any reason for the Breather Level Distortion World (well, except for capturing the Eldritch dragonmascot Giratina and having the final confrontation with the game's Big Bad) other than the M.C. Escher-inspired scenery and the experimentation with camera angles. Hell, they even zoom out so you can see more of the area.
And they're doing it again in Pokémon Black and White. Among the most breathtaking examples is Skyarrow Bridge (which includes a breathtaking shot of Castelia City's skyline). Also, N's Castle.
All of the bridges are very pretty, and include pull-back shots so you can get better views of them. Castelia City itself is also notable for being one of the biggest and most detailed cities in the series.
In Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, the top of the Bell Tower (Tin Tower in the original games) looks magnificent if you go up there in the evening, which is approximately between 4:00-8:00pm. It looks even better if you're playing HeartGold Version, and you happen to be going up there to face Ho-Oh with the Kimono Girls doing all their stuff.
SoulSilver's equivalent scene where the Kimono Girls summon Lugia in Whirl Islands also counts.
In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, you get to watch ocean-dwelling Water-type Pokémon swimming around you as you walk between two cities. It looks especially awesome in the daytime, when you run the chance of seeing the gargantuan 45-foot-long Wailord.
Pokémon X and Y, being the first main series installment in 3D, takes this up even more. You'll probably spend quite a bit of time just gawking at (and getting lost in) Lumiose City your first time playing. The Elite Four rooms in particular are breathtaking and include some Visual Effects of Awesome when you first enter, like the Dragon-type specialist being revealed by a pair of stone dragon wings and a stone dragon head opening with pillars of smoke rising as you approach her or the Water-type specialist having churning gears and clanking wheels unleashing bursts of water which come down to cascade down the walls and over the floor as you battle him.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is the first 3D entry in the series, and easily has some of nicest visuals out of any game in the franchise, whether it be the dungeons themselves, or the places you travel through between them. The game's introduction and ending both do an excellent job of emphasizing them.
Perhaps Primal's main motivation. King Herne of the first level is a stunning character model, especially for a non-player character in what is essentially a bit part.
Psychonauts has some very lovingly-designed levels, but... just get the first eyeful of Black Velvetopia. The Suburbia◊ level is also notable for this trope. While perhaps not as technically good looking as some other examples on this list, it is guaranteed to make you stop and gawk for at least a few moments.
Sure, the capital cities look pretty good. They ought to; they're a hub of activity. And then you go travelling and you get to see some really stunning vistas. Whether it's shadowy forests, vibrant jungles, tamed farmlands or open savannahs, the entire world looks gorgeous.
Scenery Porn is also the whole point of fan-made art replacement videos like Baron Soosdon's Unlimited Escapism series.
Just about every major flightpoint involves taking the scenic route in and out of wherever you are. Even just flying between the different levels of Wyrmrest Temple involves taking a spin or two around the tower before landing.
Taken Up to Eleven in Mists of Pandaria. New graphics, new animation skeletons, and new dynamic lighting have made this a reinvention of the graphics style instead of just an upgrade.
Lampshaded with the page's quote in the DLC Operation Overlord.
In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, the view from the hull of the Broker's ship in the middle of an eternal lightning storm definitely counts. Liara even makes a few remarks, like the developers wanted to make sure you looked around.
Phantasy Star Universe in its online version has some of the most stunning scenery, in places meant for the players to stay, chat and form parties.'
Just about anywhere in it. Best of all, the graphics specs were meant to be highly scalable from the start, so even without all the fancy lighting and effects, you can enjoy the distinctive terrain, features, and monuments in each area. And unlike some examples of this trope, the character and creature designs are equally elaborate and detailed, making for some truly exquisite screenshots.
Guild Wars 2 is heading that way as well. Watch a trailer. Any trailer. The first trailer, showing an artwork of Divinity's reach turning into a real sight of the in-game city, was particularly stunning.
The sequel also has little points called "vistas", sometimes just standing on the edge of a cliff/structure you walk past, usually with some form of jumping/wall-sliding puzzle involved. Click it, and not only do you get a nice little serving of XP and one step closer to 100% Completion, but you get a short, panning shot of the surrounding area, which was obviously crafted with a deeper amount of devotion and care than you would probably notice otherwise.
Infinity: The Quest for Earthlives on this trope. Thesevideos (skip to about 2 minutes in in the second video) are rather stunning, and these are from early in development, without fauna or elaborate texturing.
Vectorman on the Genesis used special effects on backgrounds in almost every level with examples being waving flags, lens flares, lightning flashes (looks cooler than it sounds), etc. In fact, it had better graphics than most of the Sega 32X games.
Odin Sphere features beautiful 2-D environments with shiny, shimmering things and organic backdrops aplenty, giving the whole game a warm and very appropriate storybook feel. The aurora seen in the mountain level is especially stunning.
William and Sly, despite being a free flash game, pulls this off beautifully. The second one is even better.
Even once the Pixar-on-drugs novelty of Team Fortress 2 has worn off, some of its maps are truly gobsmacking to look at. Dangerously so, in fact: spending too much time taking in the likes of Sawmill, 2Fort, and Badlands is liable to get your head blown off. To make things worse, some of the newer maps also have a Funny Background Event or two going on in the far distance.
Painkiller. Seriously, just play through it and you'll know what I mean. Some of the jaw-dropping settings include a cathedral, a fancy opera house, a castle, a Turkish-style palace, a Venice-like city on the water, a modern dockyard with towering cranes, a hilltop monastery, and an absolutely vertigo-inducing snowy bridge level.
Some arenas in Demigod are breathtaking beautiful to look at. In Exile◊ you fight on the body of a gigantic statue of a snake struggling with a gigantic statue of a man... in SPACE! Then The Brothers◊ is in an arena held on the titanic swords of 4 matching sized skeletons who look like they murdered each other at the same time. Then there's Levithian◊, which is fought on some kind of ornate pool area, on top of a gigantic oyster, surrounded by two water spitting fish statues, inside a glass globe... in the bottom of an ocean. Cataract◊ is on a structure atop a huge aqueduct, high in the clouds. Zigurat◊ is on the top of an immense, well, zigurat, in the middle of a jungle. Finally, Mandala◊ is on an intricate mandala chained to huge columns atop ice-white mountains.
Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren's games (not to mention most of the well-designed levels for Knytt Stories) have their fair share of eye-catching landscapes, combined with almost entirely ambient soundtracks and unobtrusive sound effects.
The Dig, pixelated or not, is absolutely glorious to look at (and listen to). What's that? You want me to explore this salivatingly gorgeous alien planet? Oh, twist my arm!
Wipeout HD is one of the relatively few games to run at 1080p, 60 Frames-Per-Second High Definition; and it uses it to wonderful effect. The entire series has shades of this, as each game packs in an incredible amount of detailing into the backgrounds (this is even more impressive given the 3 PS1 and 2 PSP titles in the series), to the point where Wip3out was one of the few games on the PS1 to use it's high-resolution mode!
Scratches (despite the mystery/horror theme) takes place in a painstakingly detailed Victorian mansion, where you can spend hours exploring and gazing at beautifully detailed renderings of real world paintings and other works of art.
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception has the stunning vista of Gaiuss Tower/Atmos Ring/Wild Card, a brilliantly lit cityscape at night with a towering skyscraper in the centre. For being on the PSP with its small screen, it easily puts some of the towns and cities from the PS2 titles (I'm looking at you, San Salvacion) to shame.
Brutal Legend. You can pause the action pretty much anywhere and be assured that you're in a location that looks like it belongs on a Heavy Metal album cover. To further accentuate this, handy tourist-binocular things are scattered around the map, to give you a nice sweeping view of anything the devs thought you would really want to look at.
Shadow Complex. For how little of the game takes place outside of the titular complex, it's breathtakingly beautiful. This includes the caves the player starts out in.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) has the ghost-world version of the New York Public Library. While the actual level you travel through is very linear with the only variation being a few turns in the path, the structure you are in is HUGE, with numerous ghost portals like the ones you pass through to progress visible in the distance, but never accessed. If you look extremely closely though at just the right time, you might see Ray or Egon on a path connected to one. The bookshelves that stretch to the terrifying orange sky over your head while inside the building itself are enough, but the final platform you stand on before leaving the self-destructing area is by far the greatest example of this in the game as you can look back and see theentirebehemoth structure in the distance while bits of it drift off into space. The game doesn't force you to look back at it, but it dominates your view if you turn around at the portal and is accompanied by a dramatic music cue from the first movie — clearly meant to be noticed thoroughly.
The Force Unleashed featured some absolutely gorgeous environments, particularly Kashyyyk and Felucia. Unfortunately, the second time you visit, both Kashyyk and Felucia have been despoiled by the Empire (and the Dark Side). One of the final cutscenes also has Starkiller falling through the interior of the Death Star, which makes for a terrific visual.
The first game is full of colorful, detailed artwork, from the opening cutscene to the world map.
The third game can definitely not be blamed for not looking nice, but special mention goes to the Land of the Livid Dead. The place is just a continuous buildup of self-surpassing scenery porn, from the just kind of nice tower, to the beautiful glowing enchanted tower to the underwater dive and the fight with the mechanical squid in the gorgeously designed arena under the bright, pure water all the way to the oceanside view near the end.
TV advertisements for GTA Vice City tended to focus on the scenic beauty of the game environment as much as on gameplay. The extraordinarily long driving sequences between cities in the sequel GTA San Andreas may be motivated by a desire to show Scenery Porn as much as by realism.
Pretty much all of Donkey Kong Country looked fantastic, but the biggest jaw-dropper would have to be the end of the first level, where the sun sets. The sky turns red, and the green palm trees turn a shade of dark blue, and then black as the entire level goes dark. In 1994, this looked stunning and the series' popularity at least partially stemmed by how amazing the graphics looked.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is an even more beautiful follow-up. Details such as the ocean, areas that look like they are merely in the background that you will be shot to in a few seconds, flying through the forest in barrel cannons, the volcano... it's all just fantastic. And then there are the silhouette levels...
Sonic 3 was able to pull this off slightly earlier in the year on the Genesis, and that looked stunning as well.
Speaking of which, Sonic the Hedgehog. Full stop. Many entries in the series, most notably the mainstream entries, have Scenery Porn. The trend started in the first game to show off what the graphical advantages the Genesis had over the SNES, and the series has only gotten better since. No wonder people want to make it better.
Sonic CD's dreamlike environments of Little Planet's zones are a joy to view, especially with the different interpretations of the zones as you traveled through time.
Sonic Unleashed fell head-first into this trope. The environments are absolutely stunning, although you're normally going too fast or fighting too hard to notice. (In fact, the developers stated that this is the entire reason the Werehog existed — they couldn't make miles upon miles of scenery for every stage and still reach the magic '60 hours of gameplay' mark, so they had to make a slower character.)
Following in the Genesis games's footsteps, Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Episode I had some aesthetically pleasing zones, namely Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear in particular, while Episode II upped the ante by ditching the pre-rendered 2D graphics in favor of true 3D graphics, resulting in gorgeous looking zones such as White Park.
And Sonic Generations is Sonic Team's way of displaying what they can do with the environments now compared to when each respective game was made. They showed what the Hedgehog Engine could do in Sonic Unleashed; they showed that they've mastered it in Sonic Generations. This is truly evident in the PC port of Generations, which can run at 60fps in 1080p, as well as in 3D. Some more industrious fans have taken advantage of this and have actually managed to port the Day levels of Unleashed to the game, showing the levels in far higher detail than would have been possible on a console.
Machinarium won the Excellence in Visual Art Award at the 2009 Indie Game Festival, and there's no surprise why. Not only does it harken back to the old days of 2D point-and click adventure gaming, but it does so with breath-taking depth and detail. And it's Flash-based too, made with a meager budget of $1000.
The Jak and Daxter series puts a lot of thought into its landscapes. In the second and third games the most prominent examples were the palace and KG war factory respectively, which allowed you to see the entire of Haven city and it's surroundings beneath you. In the first game, a sufficiently high point would let you see the most prominent landmarks of other levels in the distance, and from the summit of the last level it was possible to see all the way back to the distant coastline where you started.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker features some of the most beautiful cel shading in video games. The Tower of the Gods, Dragon Roost Island, and Forest Haven are all gorgeous.
Twin Blades sets itself apart by featuring utterly gorgeous Disney-animation-like backgrounds depicting a cozy small town. This is in stark contrast to the exploding zombies that tend to dominate the foreground. Becomes Malevolent Architecture when, say, a(n insufficiently transparent) barrel or gravestone or tree intrudes in the extreme foreground and blocks your view of a rising zombie...
Super Mario Galaxy 2 has raised the bar even higher. Notable examples would be the lush Wild Glide Galaxy and the ambient Slimy Spring Galaxy, the latter of which features an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.
The Lost Crown features gorgeous grey-scale landscapes and backgrounds, made slightly more haunting by use of color on selected objects.
Dragon Age has quite a bit of this, one (Ostagar) in just the beginning of the first game. Seriously, how many of its players didn't go "Whoa!" when they first saw it? (Even though Ostagar has a tendency to become the Scrappy Level in repeat playthroughs, the combination of music with the opening visuals tends to hit players going through it again with a flood of wonder for the first few seconds.)
EVE Online is LOADED with this. From legendary sites such as the EVE gate, to little things like a gas giant with visible lightning flashes on the night side. And now think that you can see the scale to see the details in the eyes in your captains quarters, look at your 1km long ship in the hanger, thats also incredible detailed, now undock in said ship on a station that is like a hundred times bigger than your ship, and now zoom out to the planet or moon that station is orbiting, again with incredible scenery porn as far Single-Biome Planet goes... and we are not even done now you can look at the space background, thats looking a bit different in each system, and even zoom out once more to see the whole galaxy. And beside the last two steps for systems and the whole galaxy, each zoom level is incredible detailed.
CCP recently redid the galactic backdrops with the release of the Crucible expansion, substituting generic backgrounds randomized throughout each system with incredibly-detailed nebulae that realistically move as you progress through the different regions, and each region has its own unique nebula (the four main empires even have nebulae that match that faction's main colors). The effect is mind-boggling, and really drives home the feeling that you're moving lightyears with every passing jump gate.
Panzer Dragoon Orta. When it was new, if reviewers used a 1-10 point scale, most of them wanted to give the graphics an 11. Two standout levels are "Altered Genos" and "Eternal Glacies", but even the decimated areas like "The Fallen Ground" look stunning, and don't get me started on "Forbidden Memories", which takes place inside a giant computer known as Sestren.
As each game in the Mega Man series came out, the animators went bigger and fancier with the backgrounds. The games may run on an Excuse Plot, but the detail in what goes on while the player character is running around killing things really add depth to the story.
Done for The Darkside Chronicles in one level. Leon and Jack are walking along the side of a dam and get a gorgeous view of the South American landscape. This, combined with the utter lack of monsters for the whole time you're outside, could be considered to be Relax-o-Vision.
Resident Evil 5 did it first with a very lush representation of the African landscape. Too bad you were busy fending off another potential Zombie Apocalypse to be able to enjoy it.
Lost in Nightmares is really beautiful and brings back nice old school RE to the current gen consoles.
Zeno Clash. One would guess that a significant portion of the sales came from people who bought it simply to gawk at how mindblowingly beautiful (and insane) the world they've created is. This picture◊ is the very first result on Google, and it only◊ gets better◊ from there.◊
The Soul stages have breathtaking backgrounds and artwork.
As do later entries from Tekken. If you talk about Tekken 5, Moonlit Wilderness (an arena set in a field of flowers overlooking an abandoned castle at midnight) will probably be one of the first things to come to mind.
Since Infinity Blade and The Dark Meadow run on Unreal Engine 3, these iPhone action games take the opportunity to showboat their graphic capabilities in the settings. And boy, do they look awesome.
Let's face it: A prime reason for much of Jett Rocket's existence is for Shin'en Multimedia to show off its programming chops and demonstrate how to give a 40 MB game highly accurate surface reflection and lighting effects. But when you gaze at the distant snowy peaks, stare into the rainy sky over the jungle, and zoom across the ocean at sunset, it's hard to say it didn't pay off in being gorgeous.
Their other WiiWare game, Art of Balance, does this too — it's the prettiest bowl of water in front of soothing bamboo plants you'll ever look at.
Shin'en is a master of squeezing impossible graphical fidelity out of relatively meager hardware. They're arguably better known for Iridion 3D - a polygonal 3D shooter on the Game Boy Advance.
Transformers: War for Cybertron is, for the most part, a very straightforward, linear third-person shooter with some interesting background design. And then, every once in a while, you'll come across a gaping hole in the orbiting space station that allows you to see Cybertron, or you'll be driving along the Iacon Speedway to the Decagon, or you'll be flying through the carnage caused by Trypticon Station's weapon... and you'll be stunned. They don't use the Unreal Engine 3 for nothin'.
For that matter Transformers Prelude To Energon, especially the Amazon stages. When you finish climbing the mountain at the end of the first stage, and turn around and look back at the truly massive stage you have just gone through, and will still have to come back and search later.
Borderlands2 provides quite an unexpected example. The levels of the previous game were mostly Scenery Gorn, abandoned industrial sites, giant piles of flaming garbage, desert wastes, and barren cliffs. The second game doesn't start all that much better, taking place mostly in glacier and tundra, then a bit of desert to make things slightly different. However, then you get to the Highlands, green hills and mountains interspersed with rushing streams and waterfalls.
Minecraft and its random level generator can make scenery porn like no other, however, this◊ is quite a great example.
Minecraft is unique in that despite its famous pixelated blocky graphics, it can still create some truly breathtaking scenery. And the nature of the game basically makes it a do-it-yourself scenery porn generator. Just type "minecraft scenery" or "minecraft creations" into a Google Image search and see what you get.
Check out some of Vareide's early videos for good natural and artificial examples.
The sweeping vistas of The Wizard Burgmund, the awe-inspiring architecture of The Pharaoh's Curse 2, the labyrinthine interior of the vast castle from Monarch Of Madness, the eerily beautiful ruined city from Chronotide... any Adventure Map worth its salt has at least some of this.
If you're playing one of the Super Hostile maps and you're not busy dying, it's because your busy gawking at the gorgeous landscapes. Even the maps designed to resemble Hell look beautiful.
The Temple from The Redmurk Mystery is a brilliant example, especially when you first see it (skip to about 11:30 in this video). It only gets better from there. Similarly, seeing The Sunken Island for the first time as you topple over the edge of a cliff is an extraordinary sight.
The Fall Of Gondolin. The whole thing. It's based on Lord Of The Rings, so what did you expect?
Many maps are entirely made of Scenery Porn, such as The Tourist, Rise Of The Rebellion, and OH MY GOD DEEP SPACE TURTLE CHASE.
Lord Of The Rings has Scenery Porn. Minecraft has Scenery Porn. Put them together and you get this.
Finally, absolutely everything the VoxelBox has made. Ever.
Medal of Honor (2010): It really is a shame that Afghanistan has been ravaged by war for so long, because the place looks absolutely gorgeous, particularly in the missions that have you in the gunner seat of an Apache attack helicopter.
Outcast was the Crysis of its day. A commercial failure because most PCs weren't powerful enough to handle it, it boasts beautiful open worlds with massive viewing range, realtime shadows, gorgeous explosion effects, reflective and refracting water surfaces with realistic waves... did we mention it was released in 1999? So why couldn't 1999-era computers run it very well? The terrain was voxel-based, rendering it incompatible with 3D accelerator cards made to push polygons, which were becoming very popular after the releases of GLQuake and Unreal. Thus, a software renderer had to be used, taking a heavy toll on the CPUs of the time.
Wii Sports Resort has amazing graphics for a casual game on the Wii. You can see it to its fullest extent in the Island Flyby, where you can enjoy the scenery of the island from any angle (and pop some balloons too!)
Starship Titanic: The title ship's interior is done in art deco style, and much of the graphics, while static, are photorealistic. Watching as the lift descends... Wow.
Esp Ra De has some absolutely incredible sprite art and scaling/Mode 7, including such highlights as a fully ornamented Christmas tree only visible in one character's intro for about two seconds, a private high school with detailed buildings, and one of the coolest bomb animations ever.◊
At its E3 2011 Press Conference, Nintendo showcased a tech demo for the Wii U that tracks a bird as it flies around a Japanese garden while the sakura trees bloom. It wasn't from an actual game, but it did a marvelous job at showing what the console is capable of. The "not a game, but still pretty" part also applies to the Zelda tech demo also shown at the event, which shows how awesome the graphics from Twilight Princess would look if updated for the Wii U and also provides a convenient comparison-point for Wii and Wii U graphics.
One of the main draws to RosenkreuzStilette, along with its soundtrack, is just how absolutely beautiful the backgrounds are. The final battle gets special mention, what with being above the clouds at dawn and whatnot.
There's a little known game for the PlayStation 2 called Dog's Life, where you play as a dog. The backgrounds are quite nice, especially for a game made as a project. You'll probably spend more time trotting around the areas instead of playing the storyline, which isn't hard since it's a Wide Open Sand Box Action game.
F-Zero GX. From the thunderstorm darkening the skies of the ever-familiar Mute City to the lush foliage of Green Plant to the endless dunes and high-tech archeological dig site of Sand Ocean to the industrial backdrops of Big Blue to the geysers of lava erupting next to the rickety, half-finished raceways of Fire Field, everything is gorgeous (herearebutafewexamples). It's a crying shame that you're bound to be focusing on winning/surviving the 1000 km/h+ race instead of sightseeing (unless you're racing in the AX Cup) because these racetracks are truly sights to behold. The best part? All of this comes from a game released for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2003.
The MMORPG Mabinogi. Good heaven, Mabinogi! An anime-style, completely explorable and beautiful universe with (usually) sparsely populated towns with absolutely gigantic stretches of wild in between, and then that scale gets even grander in later-added continents, one region even having no sentient life at all save for a dragon or two. Even areas that are totally useless in-story or only used for waypoints and travel have exceedingly beautiful scenery for an MMO. One of the best examples of an otherwise-useless area is Corrib Valley.◊ Oh, and its awesome Soundtrack.
For the older generations, the 8-bit (256 color) pictures such as in Mark Ferrari's Digital Game Art Gallery can really evoke emotions.
This was one of the major selling points of Perfect World at its release apart from the ridiculously extensive character model sliders. The developers implemented (optionally, of course) various high end rendering technologies that hadn't been used on a Massively Multiplayer game before, then added free flight and a relatively insane LOS distance. For a while it was the only MMO that people would use as a PC benchmark.
This trope is said to be the saving grace of the first Two Worlds. The second game, being more solid by itself, takes it Up to Eleven.
This is the whole point of the God Mode in SimCity.
It seems to be one of the reasons many people play The Sims, and it generated tons of websites with personalized content. And, of course, The Sims 3 takes it Up to Eleven, especially when the player decides to follow his avatar while driving.
The early-nineties point-and-click adventure game Universe had amazing, hand-drawn, pastel-colored background graphics. This was especially noteworthy for the amiga version of the game, which had to work around the machine's color limit and still look good.
Portal 2 (and to a lesser extent its predecessor) has some heavy scenery porn going on. You're often treated to breathtaking shots of the vast, practically infinite underground Aperture Laboratories and even the smaller "in-between" areas have a ridiculous amount of detail to them. And for the most part, it is just there for looks. Sure, you can pick up a few things here and there and if you're incredibly lucky, open a door, but everything else is static. And don't even think of trying to explore those vast reaches. Step off the guided path even a little and it's usually instant death.
Just about every location in Bayonetta is this, especially when you walk into Paradiso. Then again, it isheaven.
Platinum Games in general have a tendency to put this into lots of games they make. In addition to Bayonetta's example above, Vanquish- set in a space colony- gives you views of the entire colony whenever you're outside, and nearly all of it's in ludicrously detailed 3D. Even handheld titles such as Infinite Space have detail up the wazoo, even in the DS's 2D and limited 3D.
Xenoblade Chronicles, full stop. The areas are as beautiful as they are massive (especially for a Wii game), and there are several points in each area from which you can get a good look at the amazing scenery. What makes this more impressive is the fact that Tetsuya Takahashi, Monolith Soft's president, has stated that he has prioritized gameplay over graphics for this game.
One of the best examples is Satorl Marsh. In the daytime, it's an ordinary swampland. Nothing too special. But, at night? Shimmering curtains of lights silently rise from every surface, giving it the feel of walking into an aurora.
And then to one up even that is the Valek Mountains, in the day it looks like your typical mountains that you would see in many current gen games, plus a bunch of crystals, giant crystal tower, random ledges and whatnot, and then the sun sets. Remember those crystals? Well, every single one of them lights up orange, and it is gorgeous! There are even multiple areas specifically designed for you to go up to and gawk at the scenery, and you even get a quest to seek out these places and tell the giver which place had a better view(from a nopon of course, whom considers this a science worth researching).
Developers of Journey has put a lot of efforts to make sand look as pretty as possible. It's most notable in the fourth level.
Solatorobo boasts some of the most awesome scenery on the DS. Whether it's the giant forest, a bustling city with traffic humming along in the background, or just the fact that Floating Continents tend to make for pretty epic vistas, the game is gorgeous and not shy about flaunting it. Pair that with some Crowning Music of Awesome and...
For a Game Boy Color game and a pretty heavily stylized one to boot, Magi-Nation has some surprising amount of detail put into the backgrounds. Despite a few bland areas (like a few of the Shadow Geysers...except the third.) the game really does look beautiful given the huge limitations.
When playing L.A. Noire, it's quite obvious how much effort the developers put in order to recreate L.A. in the late 1940's. Particularly lovely when the sun sets in-game.
In the first game, right at the beginning of the first stage, you have a wrecked sub with some ruins in the background. After the jungle portion, you reach a large waterfall with a huge ship in the background.
Then on the second stage, after you beat the midboss, you proceed over the rooftops of Ronbertburg City, with a full view of the city in the background.
In the second game, you start at an arabian desert, then enter a huge arabian market.
In the third stage, you take a ride on a train, with the scenery changing as you advance through the level. As you get the Slug Flyer, a city can be seen in the background, and as you reach the boss, a huge building block your view. As it passes by, the city is now entirely in flames!
The final stage in the fifth game has a similar burning city.
Logical Journey Of The Zoombinis has some truly stunning scenery for most of the puzzles. The visuals in the Allergic Cliffs puzzle, for instance really does give you the feeling of being thousands of feet above the valley below.
Wario Land Shake It has some absolutely fantastic graphics, some of which were actually designed by a studio used to working on various anime series. The graphics shown here illustrate this pretty well, especially the snow and jungle level. Also to a degree, you could probably say the older games had some stunning scenery and backgrounds as well. Like Wario Land 4 and how each and every single room seems to use a completely different, sometimes jawdropping background.
Here◊ we have the first development screenshot from Pillars of Eternity. One would be hard-pressed not to think it's a painting at lower resolutions.
SNK 2D Fighting games. It doesnt matter if it is Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown or The Last Blade, every level is simply beautiful and bursting with life and detail. In fact when Kotaku recently picked their favorite 2D backgrounds from fighting games, only SNK levels made the list.
The first game in the Simon the Sorcerer series had many, many locations that were completely empty and whose only purpose was to look gorgeous.
Gran Turismo features beautiful scenery in the race courses. They're so amazingly detailed that one of the series' selling points wasn't just its humongous selection of cars but this trope. Look at Monaco (called Cote D'Azur in the series), Circuit de la Sarthe, and Nurburgring for example. If they don't scream Scenery Porn to you, it'd be a travesty of justice. Even the first game had impressive graphics for its time (it was released in 1998 for the first PS console).
The "Heavy Rain": Everything. Quantic Dream developed new technologies to get the most out of the PS3 console, truly matching the realism and detail to match the characters' fulfilment of the Uncanny Valley concept.
The Carol Reed Mysteries consist of beautifully shot photographs of locations in Sweden. It almost feels like you're on vacation at times.
Plenty in The Floor is Jelly, with autumn leaves drifting across the screen to fireflies floating around a midnight scene, as well as the glow of sunsets. Also, even background objects such as trees and bushes individually sway around as the jelly-like ground beneath them bends and warps around.
A custom map in Left 4 Dead 2, Death Aboard 2, has STUNNING visuals towards the finale. It takes place on a beach with a lighthouse and you wait for a hot-air balloon to pick you up.
The Grand Theft Auto series from III onwards. As consoles and PCs became more powerful, so Rockstar was able to cram more and more detail into the urban - and rural - environments depicted in these games, to the point where many players don't even bother starting the main gameplay until they've spent hours - sometimes days and weeks - simply sight-seeing locales such as Liberty City and Los Santos, especially in the more recent games which eliminated the need to complete certain missions before unlocking areas of the map. In GTAV, players can explore the entire region from the very start of the game.
Grand Theft Auto V has taken the scenery porn up to new levels. Go up to the top of Mt. Chiliad at sunset or go on the roller coaster or Ferris wheel at Del Perro Pier at dusk as all the lights in Los Santos turn on.
MechWarrior Living Legends positively revels in its obscenely detailed levels (it runs on CryEngine 2.5, after all). Altay takes place on a lush, ultra-detailed tropical coast, with coral reefs, waterfalls, and copious amounts of wildlife flying, crawling, and swimming around. Extremity takes place on a spinning asteroid inside an Asteroid Thicket, where the rotation causes the environment to freeze as the sun sets and melt when it rises. The various Solaris Arenas have massive fireworks displays that light up the sky. Combat enhances the scenery porn, as pulse lasers rip through the night slicing apart BattleMech armor, while missiles soar through the sky.
In the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the Mandarin's palace is by far the most detailed level in the game, with intricate Chinese designs all over the place and the appropriate music to go with it. It's easy to get distracted taking in everything while getting your ass kicked by mooks...
Super Mario Kart 8. Take a peek at this trailer and try to keep your jaw off the floor while taking in all the details of the settings, animation, and the game's soundtrack. Special mention goes to the visual updates to the Mario Super Circuit, Toad's Turnpike, and Rainbow Road.
A minimalist variant in Pixel Junk Eden. The curving flora and trippy backgrounds are gorgeous.
The Lord of the Rings Online has stunning, detailed scenery everywhere you go, whether it be the lush hills of the Shire or the barren wastes of the Lone Lands. The buildings and NPCs are also well-done.