Graphics Aren’t Everything: 5 Ugly Games That Are Crazy Fun

Matt Smith 23-04-2014

Gaming and cutting-edge graphics have always gone hand-in-hand for obvious reasons. Virtual worlds are more immersive when they appear more realistic or, in absence of photo-realism, are stylized with competent artistic direction.


But not all games look good. Even popular titles from studios with hundreds of employees can end up less appealing than a baboon’s rear-end. Here are five fun games that’ve received strong reviews in spite of ugly graphics.


Mojang’s Minecraft 5 Minecraft How-To Tips To Start Crafting Like A Pro Minecraft has steadily gained popularity with no signs that the trend will change anytime soon. I’m a big fan of the game and I have plenty of friends who play it or would like to... Read More is the quintessential example of a great game with terrible graphics. The blocky terrain and nostalgic, low-resolution textures exist not just because of lazy design; instead, they enable the gameplay.


This creates a paradox. Minecraft is unappealing at first glance, yet fans of the game actually find its low-fi vistas a thing of beauty. They suggest limitless possibility, and a keen imagination can eagerly paint between the lines. This makes Minecraft similar to abstract art. Where some people see a mess, others see a breath-taking landscape.

The success of Minecraft inspired a surge of games with 8-bit or 16-bit style graphics, but few have matched up to the original. This, arguably, is because they go too far, adding more textures, more enemies, and more environments in an effort create a more detailed world. But detail was never the point.


Fallout 3

Bethesda’s games have always featured an unusual blend of beauty and unpleasantness. While stunningly detailed and full of high-polygon, high-resolution models, quirks like strange animations and odd character design have always caused the studio’s games to look not-quite-right.

With Fallout 3, however, Bethesda reached a new level of repulsive. The game’s post-apocalyptic setting gave graphics designers a chance to go hog-wild with shades of brown and gray. Endless stretches of scarred land go out in all directions and, as you explore, you’ll meet a crew of horrifying creatures and pick up broke-down weaponry, most of which looks held together with a few pieces of twine.


All of this fits the setting, of course, and Fallout 3 is an entertaining open-world game. But it does get a bit depressing, and the handful of quests that send you to more appealing areas are too short. The game’s sequel, Fallout: New Vegas, did a much better job of blending the drab wastes with colorful locales; that it was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, not Bethesda, is no coincidence.


Kerbal Space Program

Space games are usually among the most beautiful ever designed. There are relatively few models on screen and no need for high-polygon terrain. Throw in some awesome particle effects and you’ve got the recipe for screenshot satisfaction.

Kerbal Space Program has none of this. Instead this indie title makes do with basic textures and models with polygon counts that could charitably be called “modest.” Throw in almost featureless planetary terrain and you’ve got the recipe for one heck of an ugly game.


Whether Kerbal needs to be ugly is debatable. Relying on basic graphics no doubt gives the small development team more time to focus on other features, but those features have been released slowly and even now, almost three years after its first release to the public, Kerbal remains in alpha.


But that doesn’t matter to fans. For them, the game’s open-ended approach to rocketry is absolutely unique and the basic graphics are, if anything, desirable – if some gamers need more, well, that’s what mods are for 8 Awesome Kerbal Space Program Mods Have you ever wanted to design your own rockets, launch them into space, and send astronauts to the moon (or beyond)? Now you can with Kerbal Space Program, a unique game and digital toy that... Read More !

Path Of Exile

Path of Exile Path Of Exile Is A Free & Addictive Alternative To Diablo III [MUO Gaming] Despite breaking the single-day record for sales of a PC game, at 3.5 million, I feel as if Diablo III has turned out to be a bit of a flop. The game had a rocky... Read More is an excellent action-RPG and, for hardcore fans of the genre that miss unforgiving character builds and difficult bosses, it’s absolutely the game to play. You can enjoy it for free and, unlike many of its F2P peers, Path of Exile doesn’t use annoying pay-gates or disable features for free players. There’s just one problem; the game is butt-ugly.


Like Fallout 3, this game is ugly by design. The unforgiving design and grim graphics are meant to entice Diablo fans who dislike Blizzard’s latest release. Both monsters and men look like they’ve been thrown in a tumble-drier with a pound of gravel. Path of Exile makes money off graphical upgrades for armor and spell effects, so the basic stuff can’t look too good.


The dull spills over to the landscapes, most of which are rendered in dreary brown and gray. Even the forests rely on dark, almost-black shades of green; the only bright spots are a few jungles and temples.  But hey, it’s free and its fun – stunning graphics might be too much to ask.

Dark Souls / Dark Souls 2

There are a lot of ugly console games on the market right now. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are in their golden years, and while some developers (like Rockstar) have the resources to extract impressive visuals from ancient hardware, others have to make do with less cash and a smaller staff. And so we come to Dark Souls.

Both of the games in the franchise brew the perfect recipe for ugly visuals. They’re developed by a mid-sized studio attempting semi-realistic graphics with a dark color palate and limited resources. To make matters worse, both PC ports have received only the most basic upgrades. The result is an atrocious mix of dull textures and bland scenery.

The game is so ugly that some players have accused the developer, From Software, of fooling consumers with pre-release videos and screenshots that aren’t representative of the release version’s gameplay. Comparison videos on YouTube show a huge gap between what was shown at trade shows and what’s actually experienced with the console version of Dark Souls 2.

None of this impacts the mechanics, which revel in unforgiving and nail-biting fights, but it does make the world of Dark Souls far less interesting than it could be. Though it’s an open world game, tight levels and drab backdrops sap the landscape of vibrancy. Just imagine what this title might be like if it were designed for the PC or next-gen consoles!


As these titles show, graphics don’t make a game great. That’s what gameplay is for. While attractive visuals help with first impressions, they don’t retain players, and only the very best can temporarily enthrall.

What’s your favorite ugly game? Did its visuals turn you off at first, or did you barely notice? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Minecraft, Role-Playing Games, Simulation Games.

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  1. Nah
    June 22, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Dark Souls? Ugly? It's not your standard COD with lens-flares everywhere, but ugly? Damn.

    September 30, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Add To list :P

  3. Anonymous
    August 22, 2015 at 11:10 am

    i mean c'mon, you can make an Awesome Game with bad Graphics that i'm okay with this

  4. Caleb
    May 11, 2015 at 1:17 am

    "Space games are usually among the most beautiful ever designed."

    LOLWUT? Space was an excuse to use a blank starry background and blocky ship models.

  5. Wallace
    December 16, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Tons of old games from SNES, PS1, PS2 lol

    Contra 3
    SUper Mario
    MK Ultimate
    DMC 1 and 3
    NFS Hot Pursuit 3
    Crash Bandicoot
    Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, 4
    Black 2
    Castlevania Order of Ecclesia and others
    Medal of Honor
    Metal Gear Solid
    Pandemonium 1, 2, 3

    007 NightFire
    Silent Hill 1 and 2
    God of War 1 and 2

    NFS Underground 2, Most Wanted (2005)
    Splinter Cell Double Agent

    Blades of Time

    etc, etc, etc

    I just don't get this present "gaming" generation, bitching about 4k, 60 FPS and other nonsense that doesn't make a game any good, although they can be pleasing to eyes...

    • Gannon Sisamout
      July 12, 2019 at 12:35 am

      Woah woah thats not true, although im part of the new gen i dont complain over something like that because games like minecraft are better then most Call of Duty games in my opinion, people that say stuff like that are those that dont know what their talking about or only play games because its a trend

  6. Howard B
    April 24, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    "...with a dark color palate..." The palate is the roof of the mouth (or, to a foodie, how you judge tastes). The painting/color word is "palette."

  7. KT
    April 24, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Favorite ugly games? I love me some ugly games! (I'll be showing my age here, lol)

    1. Blood Omen: The Legacy of Kain for PS1. I loved the story and voice acting.

    2. Hogs of War (also PS1). What the Worms 3-D games should have played like.

    3. Defenders Quest. The best tower defense/RPG I've ever played.

    4. Civilization 3. I hate the new 3-D Civs, turns take way too long and the screen gets cluttered up quickly.

    5. Might and Magic for Sega Genesis. One of the deepest RPG's out there.

  8. BorDoYouLink?
    April 24, 2014 at 12:46 am

    And yet not a single link to any of the games, or the developer sites ...

    Way to suck hard guys ...

  9. Jacen
    April 23, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Most of these games can be modded into such beautiful things that they aren't ugly and are instead extremely beautiful.

    • Victor O
      April 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Exactly. For example, installing shaders into Minecraft and using better texture packs can make the game so much more realistic.

    • Craig S
      April 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Developers like Mojang are such geniuses for things such as this. Think about Minecraft. You can mod nearly every damn thing in the entire game. You don't like how the game looks? You can change that. You don't like how the game plays? You can change that. It must be a beautiful thing to create a game that the developer themselves rarely have to develop actual content for. The Minecraft community has done an amazing job with texture, plugins, unique server ideas, etc. At the end of the day, you still have to credit Mojang for building the skeleton beneath it all.

    • Gannon Sisamout
      July 12, 2019 at 12:39 am

      The fact that the writer of this article would say something like that prives he hasnt truely played any of the games hes mentioned. For one minecraft isnt ulgy even from an outsiders perspective though it may look strange but not ulgy. Two if you play minecraft even for a little bit anyone would understand how amazing the game actually looks.