Top 5: Best Cel-Shaded Games (Part 1)

The cel-shading technique (also known as toon shading) has been really popular in video games for quite some time now. Cel-shading was designed to mimic the hand-drawn style so proper of cartoons and comic books and for the past few years, there have been hundreds of titles that make use of this inviting rendering technique. Nevertheless, only a handful of them can be considered truly remarkable from a visual perspective. With that in mind, here are some games that stand out above the rest for their unique use of cel-shading:


5) Dragon Quest VIII

I played more than a hundred hours of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and I’m pretty sure the gorgeous visuals have something to do with that. The cel-shaded textures are used for the characters and the scenery. The 3D world is meticulously designed (all the areas are seamlessly connected to one another) constantly encouraging exploration. Interestingly, everything you see in the world map can be explored: rivers, castles, dungeons and cities can all be visited. Dragon Quest VIII is one of the best Japanese RPGs ever made and the game’s graphical prowess has a lot to do with that fact.

Dragon Quest VIII Screenshot


4) The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Wind Waker’s visuals were always really controversial. Most people still have some really strong opinions about the game’s visuals: some love them, others despise them. At the time of the Wind Waker’s release though, the cartoony-looking graphics set the game apart and made it stylistically different to everything else out there. Of course, this didn’t matter to those fans who absolutely abhorred the game’s look. But despite the cold reception, Wind Waker is still a fondly remembered title in the Zelda series.

Zelda Wind Waker Screenshot


3) Borderlands

No matter how you look at the game, there’s nothing quite like Borderlands. I would describe it as a space-western loot-driven first person shooter with role-playing elements. On top of all those elements, Borderlands has cel-shaded graphics. Count me in! As most of the games in this feature, Borderlands is more than just “pretty,” but if you’re going to be playing a given game for dozens (if not hundreds) of hours, it does matter that it’s easy on the eyes, right? I should probably go and play Borderlands now…

Borderlands Game of the Year Edition Screenshot



Say what you will about XIII. But one thing’s for sure, the game’s visuals are absolutely gorgeous and they definitely exude a comic book vibe that no other game has accomplished ever since. Ubisoft’s first-person shooter used a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine 2, allowing the powerful engine to display some outstanding graphics. As you shoot and attack enemies, the words “bang” or “boom” read in gigantic letters in the screen. Additionally, when you kill enemies, the deaths and explosions are highlighted (in a very graphic way I might add) in small panels on the top part of the screen. XIII’s combat might not be the best one and the game may have other issues, but as far as distinctive graphics go, there hasn’t been anything like XIII in quite some time.

XIII Ubisoft Screenshot


1) Jet Set Radio

Jet Set Radio has always been an odd title. The game’s plot was bizarre, the soundtrack was eclectic to say the least and its gameplay was very unique. But there’s another particular reason why the game received so much attention at the time of its release: Jet Set Radio is the title that led the use of cel-shading in video games. The cartoon-like appearance of certain games may seem quite common nowadays, but you wouldn’t be reading this feature if it wasn’t for Jet Set Radio. Not only does that deserve praise, but it also deserves the number one spot on this list.Jet Set Radio HD Screenshot