Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles 3
The Nintendo Switch is well over five years old at this point, so it’s not too surprising that some games have to make notable concessions to run on the platform. Simpler geometry, reduced resolutions, shorter draw distances, and even lower framerate targets are just a few of the sacrifices made for the sake of portability. Yet, Monolith Soft decided to crack open the ol’ black magic spellbook and work some wizardry on Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to make these concessions simply vanish. The game is extremely impressive on the performance front, with a solid framerate across massive fields, frantic action, and an overwhelming amount of particle effects and explosions in battle. However, the fantastic art style and stunning world design ensure Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is punching far above its weight on relatively underpowered and outdated hardware. Compared to its contemporaries, I can’t help but wonder just how Monolith Soft created such a technical and artistic masterpiece without compromise.
by Des Miller
Runner-Up: Elden Ring
FromSoftware games always have very deep, detailed world-building; there are many YouTube videos with the distinct purpose of tying together all the various lore points to make them more digestible to the viewer. Elden Ring is no exception here, and luckily we’ve also received the most visually diverse and technically impressive game in FromSoftware’s catalogue to date. The sprawling landscapes are full of whimsy and natural beauty, yet also convey the game’s backstory with a distinct edge of “what once was, no longer is.” The further the player travels into The Lands Between, the more apparent these underscores of corruption and aberration become. The visuals are a perfect aid to the storytelling, and that’s what makes them so successful.
by Sam-James Gordon