PC games look beautiful these days thanks to high-resolution textures, fancy lighting, and the many other benefits of modern graphics. You can either opt for photorealism or highly stylized interpretations. No matter the preference, environments have undoubtedly come a long way in the visual department, and the beauty of digital nature can be truly astounding when you happen upon a good vista. Have you ever thought to look down though at what covers the majority of environments?
That gorgeous view is often supplemented by countless glorious blades of greenery. Grass is a truly encompassing aspect in digital nature that has oddly captivated graphics enthusiasts. Some might even say that a game’s art style is only as good as its grass. After all, good implementation isn’t easy. The art style has to fit the scene, the textures have to look good, it has to flow in the wind, and stretch as far as the eye can see (or at least as far as technically possible). It’s even better when you can interact with the grass. In Far Cry, we can even burn it. As much grass as we want. No matter what you’re opinion on grass is though, it’s good to know what games did it right. With that said, let’s check out some of the best grass in PC gaming.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Developers have been working to build convincing 3D environments for decades now. We tend to be a bit spoiled these days with all of the extra performance that allows for realistic grass, but it used to be a huge eye sore in many games. Bungie quickly built a name for itself with its legendary gameplay in Halo, but the graphics were also second to none. There’s nothing fancy to see in the original Halo: Combat Evolved, but the cleverness of how the developers implemented grass has to be recognized.
Bungie seemingly took photos of actual grass and smooshed it down into a 2D texture for Halo: Combat Evolved. It’s an interesting method that looked amazing at the time, but it still holds up quite well. The funny thing about this method is that it actually looks better than countless other games that came years after it.
Many can remember when graphics were still evolving out of the 16-bit days. That art style has remained popular decades later, and simple graphics are actually a feature at this point. Just take a look at how Stardew Valley does more with less. The grass does not appear tiled, features plenty of depth, simulated shadows, and even encroaches on the pathways to create a pleasing aesthetic. No expensive GPUs needed to play this one.
Minecraft with RTX
Mojang Studios is another example of doing more with less. Minecraft never set out to be the most impressive game visually, but things sure have changed with the introduction of ray tracing. The simplicity of the game has always been its strong suit, and the pixelated blocky graphics somehow create some of the best stylized landscapes I’ve seen. It’s definitely a world to get lost in.
If you’ve ever wanted to play Windows XP background the game, you need to try Flower. Those glorious flowing fields of greenery go on for miles and ripple in the wind in a majestic way that is almost surreal. These developers clearly love nature, and grass.
More than 14 years ago, Crytek set out to create a game that would punish PCs for years to come. The original Crysis spawned an immortal meme of whether a gamer’s rig was good enough to run the game. Even more impressive, the original Crysis was packed full of so much advanced tech that it still looks impressive even today. Crank up those graphics and you will be shocked at what it still manages to pull off.
Realism is clearly the goal in Crysis, and you can see how much work the developers put in to realizing believable scenes. Notice all of the uneven patches, brown spots, and varied heights of individual blades. It was truly astounding for its time, and Crysis 3 pushed the limits of grass even further.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games blew people away with its depiction of the Wild West when it launched Red Dead Redemption 2. The level of photorealism still astounds players to this day. The totality of the game’s systems certainly helps to achieve the goal of realistic grass. The way clouds cast shadows over fields and illuminate the ground with just the right level of glare is eerily spot on with reality. Furthermore, note how naturally the grass on the pathway is worn from countless wagon wheels rolling over it. Hopefully Rockstar shares some of its secrets one day.
I’ve admittedly never played Genshin Impact, but the visuals have always wowed me due to the wonderful blend of stylized graphics with added elements of realism. Developers have been working to perfect the 3D anime art style for use in video game for years now, and I’d argue MiHoYo has perfected it. Just look at how dense it appears in this scene and notice the effect it has on making the world feel vibrant and alive.