In the list below I look at 6 games which have the best photo modes to waste hours in. Games have come a long way from their pixelated days, and we are as close to photorealism as ever. Understandably, when you are playing your favorite game, you might want to stop and take a picture for memories or to show off to your friends. Thankfully, many modern games have a dedicated photo mode to help you do exactly that.
The games below represent the best photo modes in gaming. So, for the gamers who are always looking for the next title to visually amaze them, and allow them to take the best shots, you should definitely consider the following games.
6. Infamous: Second Son
Kicking off the list is a title many argue played a large role popularizing photo mode. Developed by Sucker Punch, Infamous: Second Son is the third addition in the popular Infamous series. It released on PS4 in 2014 and despite its age, it manages to still be quite the looker thanks to some impressive visuals.
Like previous titles, the game gives you superpowers and unleashes you on an unsuspecting city. In Infamous: Second Son, you take control of Delsin who can manipulate materials around him including smoke, neon and concrete. You can choose whether to do good deeds or bad deeds, and the game carefully tracks your morality and responds to you accordingly.
The game is set in Seattle. As creative director Nate Fox explains in an interview with Eurogamer, this location was chosen because many of the developers are familiar with it, and because it had not been used in many video games. It features many recognizable landmarks from the city including the Space Needle and Pioneer Square. Fortunately, Seattle is a beautiful city that provides many locations to take dazzling photos.
The game features a host of amazing visual effects. There are bright neon lights, amazing particle effects, and some of the best smoke in a video game. It is a very colorful game with tons of special effects thanks to your superpowers. The character models are also flawless, and are one of the reasons the game holds up so well so many years later.
Infamous: Second Son‘s photo mode features most of the options that we now expect in video games. It allows you to rotate the camera around until you find just the angle you need. You can also change depth of field, focal distance and field of view. Color grading is a useful setting to also adjust if you feel like your images are not bright enough.
In an interview on PlayStation’s blog, Sucker Punch’s senior software engineer, Matt Durasoff, elaborated on why the photo mode was added to the game. As he explains, “for Second Son, the motivation for adding this feature came completely from the fans”. It gives gamers an opportunity to share their favorite moments, and for that reason, photo modes have been implemented in several games since.
5. God of War
The God of War franchise is one which needs no introduction. It blasted its way into the gaming world in 2005 with its release on the PS2. Gamers were amazed by the adaptation of Greek mythology into blood-rushing combat in a video game that looked pretty good for its time.
The franchise focuses on a Spartan warrior named Kratos who has a little problem controlling his rage. Motivated by anger, for most of the series he is on a quest of vengeance which involves him confronting and killings the gods. Traditionally, the series features a fixed camera which gives you a full view of the arena and all your enemies which you can take out in a dazzling fashion. However, when Santa Monica began production for the next God of War title on PS4, they decided that they needed to tinker with the formula a bit.
God of War (2018) serves as a soft reboot of the series which takes Kratos to the lands of Norse mythology. The fixed camera is ditched in favour of a third person camera that allows it to fit more naturally with modern games. At Kratos’s side is his son named Atreus who can be annoying at times but proves his value when he helps his father in the heat of battle.
Kratos and Atreus go on a journey through Midgaard and various other realms to finally lay the ashes of Atreus’s mother to rest. Through this journey, Kratos learns that anger and cruelty cannot solve every problem, while Atreus learns that humility is just as powerful as confidence.
The only thing more amazing than the combat is the beautiful visuals of the game. Every environment you encounter is just as magical as the myths it is inspired by. From lazy rivers bordered by blossoming trees to dark caves lurking with danger, there is always something new to explore.
God of War‘s photo mode is equally as jaw-dropping as its gameplay. There is plenty to tinker with including field of view, focal length, depth of field and film grain, to name a few. You can also choose to show or hide Kratos and Atreus independently in case you want a shot of just one or the other. Of course, you can also change their expressions, because why not give Kratos a silly face?
4. Death Stranding
The enigmatic video game director Hideo Kojima had a fallout with Konami during the development of Metal Gear Solid V. Consequently, he left the studio and formed his own which he named Kojima Productions. The first game he released was one which fans expected to contain all his eccentricities without any creative restrictions, and that is precisely what they got.
Death Stranding, released in 2019, is a game that is equal parts mysterious and captivating. It tells the story of Sam Bridges, a man who has a fear of being touched. He lives in a dystopian America with a society that is fragmented. Sam is tasked with making important deliveries between the isolated settlements of America to reunite the country once again.
The game manages to take the simple act of walking and turn it into a game that has kept me occupied for hours. Gameplay involves making careful considerations with regards to how much cargo you are going to carry, how it will affect Sam’s center of gravity, and what equipment he will bring along.
The setting is inspired by Kojima’s time spent in Iceland which introduced him to harsh, rocky landscapes quite similar to the one’s you encounter in the game. Some stunning shots comparing Icelandic landscapes to ones in the game are available online.
Some areas are grassy fields that will test your stamina more than your navigation skills while others are steep mountains that will require ladders, climbing robes and a whole lot of luck if you hope to make it through without damaging your cargo. Elemental variables such as rain and snow will also make your path slippery or tougher to trudge through.
While you are making your ever-so-important deliveries, you might want to stop and take a few pictures. Fortunately, after an update in 2020, Death Stranding features a wonderful photo mode that deserves plenty of use. It comes with all the expected features such as the ability to adjust angle, roll, depth of field, contrast and color filters. However, it also allows you to change Sam’s pose and to make him turn towards the camera. My personal favorite pose is the double peace pose. You can also change BB’s pose, facial expression, and adjust the light of his pod. With a game as beautiful as this, it would be criminal to not use the photo mode.
3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Consistency is good, but stagnancy can be a problem. Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over again results in a loss of creativity which can only be cured by a venture into the unknown. This is something Guerrilla Games learnt when they decided to turn away from their FPS roots and explore the realm of third person adventure games. As a result, they put their Killzone franchise on hiatus and worked on a brand-new IP, Horizon Zero Dawn.
Set in a distant dystopian future, Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of Aloy, a young woman who is outcast from the Nora tribe. Consequently, she is raised by a strong man named Rost, who is an outcast too. The world she lives in is one where advanced civilization has been destroyed, and humans live in primitive tribes. Their greatest enemies are machines, which are large robotic creatures with a bad attitude and a readiness to attack. After the Nora are attacked by bandits and Rost is killed, Aloy goes on a quest to discover what is corrupting the machines and what the bandits are up to.
Robot dinosaurs roaming a dystopian world reclaimed by nature certainly makes for a lot of interesting scenery. The game’s map features several biomes that each have their own special feeling. There are the snowy mountains of The Cut where the rugged Banuk tribe dwells. Here, the ground twinkles with white snow, and frozen lakes glisten in the sunset. There are also dense forests with cute wildlife that you can hunt, meadows with dilapidated buildings that remind you of a world past, and desert plains with aggressive flying machines that you better watch out for.
An impressive game deserves an impressive photo mode, and Horizon Zero Dawn does not disappoint in this regard. Thanks to the lush environments, there is always a good time to take a picture.
The game’s photo mode features a number of nifty features that will help you get the perfect shot including filters, focal length adjusters and contrast options. It also allows you to change the time of day, so you do not have to wait for the sunset before you can take the picture you want. Best of all, it also features a number of poses you can put Aloy in. When used correctly, this can make for some really good shots.
With Horizon Forbidden West, the highly anticipated sequel, coming up, there has never been a better time to jump right back into Horizon Zero Dawn and appreciate its impeccable photo mode.
2. Days Gone
Days Gone is a title that got off to a rocky start. At the time of its release, it was Bend Studio’s biggest project to date. However, it also came at a time where much of the gaming population was suffering from a bad case of zombie fatigue. After the appearance of titles such as The Last of Us, Dying Light remake and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, it seemed that the market had been saturated with too many undead monsters.
Despite building off a clichéd idea, Days Gone attempts to inject a lot of originality into its gameplay by equipping you with a motorcycle to travel the dirt roads of Oregon and pitting you against hordes consisting of hundreds of Freakers (fancy word for zombies). This introduces some adrenaline-spiking moments that has you using everything at your disposal to battle a tsunami of the undead and survive by the skin of your teeth.
Unfortunately, the ambitiousness of the project may have been a bit too much for Bend Studio, because the game was fraught with issues at launch. From crashes, to assets not loading, there were a host of bugs and glitches that were reported by critics and gamers alike. This negatively affected public perception of the game, leading to less than stellar review scores compared to most other Sony exclusives.
Rather than wipe their hands clean and call it a day, Bend Studio decided to get back to work, and released numerous post-release patches that improved performance and fixed some of the most prominent issues. Slowly but surely, the game was polished and the diamond in the rough was soon recognized by all.
With the arrival of the PS5, Days Gone received a free major upgrade that made the game look and feel as though it had been made for the console since day one. On the PS5, there are no frame drops to speak off and glitches are rare if not non-existent. With the patch, the game runs at a lovely 60FPS with dynamic 4K.
Complimenting Days Gone’s beautiful Oregon dirt roads and tree-peppered skylines is a very nice photo mode with more features than you could possibly hope for. For photo mode novices, there are basic features such as adjusting tilt, brightness and contrast. You can also toy around with Deacon quite a lot and make him strike a few goofy poses. There are a number of wonderful frames to choose from to give your picture some extra flair.
For the photo mode veterans, there are advanced features that allow you to fine tune the most minute details. Adjusting bloom, color grading, and a whole bunch of other photography related words I am not familiar with can be done with startling precision, making Days Gone‘s photo modes one of the best in gaming.
There are quite a few games that deserve to be discussed but did not make it onto the list. You can find a few images of them in the gallery below.
First up is Ghost of Tsushima. Set in the Japanese Tsushima island, the game follows Jin who must learn a new way of combat when his people face the Mongol invasion. The island makes for a beautiful setting filled with natural elements, including the occasional breeze which makes the world feel alive.
The photo mode features your typical options including focal distance adjustment, color grading intensity and exposure bias adjustment. However, there are also some interesting features to toy with. For instance, you can change the time of day, the wind speed and direction, and Jin’s facial expression.
Another game which deserves mentioning is Remedy’s Control. The entire game takes place in the Oldest House, a tall building featuring Brutalist architecture that allows it to blend in perfectly in the city. Within its walls, however, is a shapeshifting world that is seldom static.
Armed with a nifty gun and a few supernatural abilities, Jesse must rid the Oldest House of a strange leakage from another dimension while trying to uncover the secrets behind her brother’s disappearance. With raytracing equipped, Control is lovely to use photo mode in. Plus, there are plenty of outfits to dress Jesse in when you are taking that perfect shot.
Lastly, we have Spider-Man (2018). Never failing to impress, Insomniac produced a brilliant video game with stunning visuals that serve as an impressive recreation of New York. Swinging through the concrete jungle provides ample opportunity for taking photos and, if you pick up the remastered version, you can enjoy it with raytraced goodness. The only reason the game does not make the list is because natural environments usually serve as better settings for photo modes than urban sprawls.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Released in 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 stands proudly as Rockstar Games’s magnum opus. It is the prequel to the Western cowboy game Red Dead Redemption, which has you slinging guns with your gang in a much younger version of America.
Rockstar, a studio known for their sprawling open world games, spent eight long years developing this masterpiece. A mammoth amount of effort was necessary to make the game possible. Approximately 2,000 people worked on the game, which required them to draw from all their studios worldwide. It cost an estimated $540 million to produce, one of the biggest price tags on a game, and it certainly shows in the quality of the final product.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is set in 1899 and has you taking control of Arthur Morgan, a rough and tough cowboy who rolls with the Van de Linde gang. He has lived his whole life under the wing of Dutch, the gang leader with a Svengali-like charm and a way with words. Although the life of an outlaw is the only one that he knows, he finds himself at a crossroads when he begins to second guess the values he has been taught and, as he sees the incoming encroachment of civilization, knows that the era of the wild west is coming to an end.
The landscapes you explore in the game are as picturesque as they are expansive. There are rolling green meadows inhabited by deer, pine tree forests filled with the sounds of nature and murky swamps infested with alligators. Even when riding a horse, traveling between locations can take several minutes, but it never feels like a chore when you have breath-taking views to entertain you.
When speaking to Polygon, Rockstar North’s art director, Aaron Garbut, explained how all the elements of the game were crafted to capture the feel of the American frontier. As he says: “from the gusts of wind blowing through the grasslands, to the clouds scudding around the mountain tops casting shadows on the plains below, the atmosphere is a complete inter-connected system”.
Dotting the landscape are small towns and communities that each have their own distinct personality. One of the best locations is Saint Denis, the most developed town on the map. Here, there are cobblestone roads, people from around the world, and streets illuminated by electric lights (a sight to behold in 1899!).
To capture your picture-perfect moments, there is a robust photo mode that you will be obsessively using if you are anything like me. It gives you the option to toggle between an orbit cam, which keeps Arthur at the center of attention, or a free cam which allows you point the camera wherever you please if you wish to capture the environment instead.
There are plenty of advanced features for photo mode connoisseurs which include focus distance adjustment, blur strength settings, as well as different lenses. Of course, there are also plenty of filters in case you want a black and white photo or want a vivid filter to make colors pop out more.
Although all the games discussed have impressive photo modes, Red Dead Redemption 2 stands ahead for having the most features and the best places to take the perfect shots.