Not every category at The Game Awards is that interesting (I’m looking at you Best Adaptation). One of the more pedestrian categories at the awards show has always been Best Art Direction, mostly due to how the nominees typically reflect an emphasis on realism rather than interesting art design. However, in 2023, that isn’t the case.

Spanning the likes of Alan Wake 2 to Hi-Fi Rush, the 2023 nominees for Best Art Direction put forward a spectrum of interesting decisions. While every nominee is a winner in our hearts, only one game walked away with the award. This year the lucky winner was Alan Wake 2.

While on the surface Alan Wake 2 seems like just another realistic game that won due to the graphical fidelity of the title, there is a lot more going on under the surface. Yes, this game’s realism is stunning to look at but the game’s art direction also takes influence in how it stages scenes in ways that feel influenced by theater, film, and television.

Every single moment of Alan Wake 2 feels purposefully composed. This is most evident in the game’s standout scene, an over ten-minute-long musical scene that melds live-action, gameplay, and music for one of 2023’s most impressive moments. All of that makes for a game well deserving of the Game Award for Best Art Direction.

Of course, Alan Wake 2 had some tough competition this year. Lies of Ps graphically impressive rendition of a gothic cityscape plunged into chaos filled with evil puppets was a terrifying delight. Tears of the Kingdom brought back the cel-shaded and wonderfully composed scenes of Hyrule with a paint-brush-like aesthetic. Meanwhile, Super Mario Bros. Wonder embraced the cartoony elements of the plumber.

Perhaps the most interesting competition was the unexpected darling of 2023 — Hi-Fi Rush. The shadow-dropped action-rhythm game was dripping with style. Beyond the musical delights of the game, Hi-Fi Rush embraced an animation-inspired art style that made it feel at home alongside action-platformers of the PlayStation 2 era, namely Sly Cooper.

Even though not every game could win, the nominees show that the potential for interesting art direction in games is alive and well. And if you haven’t played Alan Wake 2, now is the perfect time.

Alan Wake 2 is now available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Share This