There has been an ongoing debate about the status of video games as works of art. For some reason, film critic Roger Ebert has long cited that video games are not art, but I, along with many other gamers contend that if they aren't, then motion pictures cannot be considered art either. A big problem with the "video games as art" argument is that most of the folks on both sides of the argument are only looking at a game's aesthetics as the basis for declaring or disputing a game's status as art. I've taken a bit of a different path in my assessment and would like to share a few games that I personally consider works of art.
Out Of This World-Delphine Software-Interplay: I remember playing this for the first time on the SNES. I rented it because they didn't have Super R Type at the video store I went to, but I'm glad they didn't. This game was and is still beautiful both in gameplay and graphics. It reminds me of a painting, with several colors blending together almost effortlessly to create the game's backdrops. It also handled well, as character animations were extremely lifelike for the time and controls were very responsive. Had the sequel, which was created despite there not being any involvement from Eric Chaci( the original game's creator), not been subpar in terms of gameplay, I could have said the series as a whole.
Rez-United Game Artists-Sega: Sega has done some remarkable things with rail shooters before(Space Harrier and the Panzer Dragoon series), but nothing they did with those was as utterly awesome as Rez. Tight control, a visual style that beautifully blended polygon graphics with almost vector looking wire frame graphics, and one of the best Techno/Electronic soundtrack I've ever heard in a game all blended together to make complete magic. A game called Children of Eden was announced for Xbox 360, and after watching that demo during E3, I can say that one may be even more of a museum piece than the original.
Killer 7-Grasshopper Manufacture-Capcom: One of the "Capcom Five", Killer 7 was probably the most controversial of those games. It was hated by critics who couldn't get around the strange play mechanics, but it has indeed become a cult classic, and one the most stylized games of the last decade. It also helped make Suda 51 a household name among hardcore gamers.
Okami-Clover Studio-Capcom: Okami is as fun as it is beautiful, and it was one of the few games from the last system generation where the outward beauty(graphics, animation, etc.) is matched by the spot on gameplay.
Fable(series)-Lionhead Studios-Microsft Game Studios: Peter Molyneaux's breakthrough RPG series wasn't a work of art because it looked good, but it played wonderfully, and had some of the most open ended gameplay seem on a console game. The morality choices a player is faced with in this games are as far reaching as determining whether or not to have multiple families, killing livestock, and any other things that can be cooked up in a player's mind. Fable III is set to release later this month, and hopes are high that it contains every bit of debauchery as the first two games in the series.
There are many other more obvious examples of games that can be considered art: like Shadow of the Colossus, Bioshock, Snatcher, Portal, and Dragon's Lair to name a few. I mainly wanted to focus on a handful that I have observed to be museum worthy during my time as a gamer. Naysayers failed to understand that all things that are now considered art were once viewed as base, crude, and childish at one point or another. Video games have evolved in much the same way as Shakespeare's writing's or Beethoven's symphonies. This just proves that critics are built to dislike anything that isn't comfortable to them, but then again, most gamers are the same way.