Plenty of games this year provided bombastic, high-tech visuals boasting top-shelf production values, but indie darling Dust: An Elysian Tail takes the prize here. If we had not known Dust: An Elysian Tail was an indie game, we would have assumed it was VanillaWare's latest title, and that is high praise indeed. The game is a visual feast with its gorgeous 2D visuals, featuring lushly colored environments and detailed character and enemy sprites that could have walked out of our favorite cartoons. Not only does the game look great in stills, but it animates exceptionally fluidly with no slowdown even when a flurry of frenetic activity takes place. That an independent developer — pretty much a one-man operation — can create a game with visual design and animation quality that match and sometimes even surpass the efforts of larger scale developers is an astonishing feat that we simply could not overlook.
With penumbral accents and darkling colors, the art design of Mass Effect 3 creates a dread mood perfect for the Reaper Invasion. Although not a visible upgrade from the second game, Mass Effect 3's graphics never cease to convince the player of the existence of alien races and the indomitable Reapers. Sights of gorgeous alien worlds and beautiful desolation abound in this crisp, clean graphics engine perfect for a space opera.