Video games can be immersive in different ways. Some contain realistic or thought-provoking dialogue, some bring the graphics closer to photorealism, and others give players the freedom to create their own narratives. As video game technology has improved, one aspect of immersion that has grown with it is the ability of game designers to create rich, detailed cities.
There are certainly older games out there with memorable locations to explore, but the past decade has delivered some incredibly crafted locations across virtually every genre. From sprawling sci-fi metropolises to lackluster historical recreations, it’s often tempting to just wander around these digital engineering accomplishments.
The Imperial City (The Elder Scrolls III: Oblivion)
Ancient Scrolls The franchise has produced several memorable cities through its games, but, for many fans, none topped the Imperial City. While Skyrim has several hidden locations and modest settlements, nothing compares to the size or complexity of Oversightcentral urban center of .
Matt-pikes-shirt explains their love of the Imperial City, saying, “I always felt like I had something different to do there. Tasks to pick up, someone to rob, stores to rob, guards to rob, barrels to rob. times.” It strikes the perfect balance between size and attention to detail.
Manhattan (Tom Clancy’s The Division)
In Tom Clancy’s Division, a contagion is unleashed in the United States, spread by the massive crowds of Black Friday traders. Society largely collapses, and players assume the role of Division agents trying to keep the peace and supply the colonies.
The second game in the franchise places players in a detailed replica of Washington DC, but there’s something special about the first game’s Manhattan, permanently adorned with Christmas decor. Juleztb mirrors that sentiment, saying the best part of the game “is the feeling of Manhattan in this apocalyptic winter with the Christmas lights and all. So atmospheric!”
New Mombasa (Halo 3: ODST)
the Halo franchise generally focuses on the exploits of the Master Chief and other Spartan warriors, but Halo 3: ODST moved players into the shoes of UNSC Hell Jumper troops. New Mombasa was first seen on a few missions in Halo 2but this is the central setting of ODST.
Many players enjoyed the slightly slower, more grounded approach, and the futuristic city provided a memorable backdrop for the action. Hazzamo notes that “The Score made you feel more real [sic] vulnerable for the first time in a Halo game, given that you were only a Marine, not the Master Chief.”
Saint Denis (Red Dead Redemption 2)
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a fantastical game filled with detail and memorable narrative twists, but it’s perhaps most notable for the way its settlements feel alive. There are many important towns and camps for players, but few are as appealing as Saint Denis.
Although not an exact recreation, Saint Denis drew heavily on the real world of New Orleans. Smonte7455 mentions that this city is notable for being “very beautiful, modern [by in-game standards] and inviting during the day but becomes a shaded atmosphere at night.”
New York (Marvel’s Spider-Man)
Many video games are set in New York, but the 2018 ones Marvel’s Spiderman gave players one of the best virtual versions of the city to date. Given its massive scope, it’s no surprise that individual buildings and streets aren’t an individual recreation of reality.
However, as SmashedAddams puts it, “Spider-man 2018 has [sic] the best map of Manhattan I’ve ever seen in a video game.” There are few thrills quite as exhilarating as swinging from Manhattan’s skyscrapers, and the city is filled with hidden areas and references to other Marvel properties.
Megaton (Fallout 3)
Fallout 4 added detailed settlement building tools to the legendary franchise, but, for many fans, no towns in To fall the story compares to Megaton. It is one of the first cities that players visit Fallout 3, and its central gimmick is immediately obvious; the entire colony is built around a supposed misfire of a nuclear bomb.
Fallout 3 shows how willing it is to give players control by offering the option to save the city or blow it all up with the bomb. Few-Swordfish-6722 cheekily references this decision by naming their favorite video game town as “The crater that was Megaton :).”
Many of the best RPGs in gaming feature towns based on long-running franchises or pre-existing IPs, so fans were thrilled when Dishonored gave them a whole new town to love in Dunwall. This capital city of Gristol mixes Victorian English aesthetics with Steampunk charm, and the supernatural elements sprinkled throughout help it stand out from similar locations.
Hatthewmartley mentions Dunwall’s impressive visual design, mentioning that “it’s like an oil painting of Victorian London”. Dishonored 2‘s Karnaca is also a popular setting, but, for many, nothing tops Dunwall.
Gotham City (Batman: Arkham Knight)
Gotham City has been one of entertainment’s most famous fictional locations for over 80 years, and several movies have brought different versions of the metropolis to life. However, until Batman: Arkham Cityfans had never been able to walk around the city themselves.
The game provided an incredibly detailed game map to explore, and Arkham Knight added even more space and detail. MeMeTiger simply expresses his love for this interpretation by saying “Gotham in Knight is so pretty”. There are several secrets that only fans know about Gotham City, and Arkham Knight hides Easter eggs for many of them.
Bioshock‘s Rapture is the product of an interesting narrative premise. In an alternate history version from the 1950s, many of the world’s greatest philosophers, artists, and scientists have created a city under water to escape the surveillance and regulation of mainstream governments.
At the start of the game, the city has crumbled into a horror landscape of mutated citizens and decaying architecture. THLH mentions that “Rapture’s atmosphere alone is honestly one of the main things that made this game for me.” Bioshock does a fantastic job of retroactively telling a story of collapse through its abandoned environments.
Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto IV)
the Grand Theft Auto franchise has bounced between more grounded or animated experiences, but Grand Theft Auto IV was perhaps the hardest. Liberty City is undoubtedly filled with quirky characters and sets the stage for over-the-top action, but Nico Belic’s tale of dreams and grim realities keeps the narrative more relevant than previous and subsequent titles.
Lollopopwaraxe agrees, explaining that “The GTA 4 version of Liberty City always holds a special place in my heart. Flying a helicopter at night with flashing lights Queen or Kanye West just hit a different streak.”
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