10 of the best video game worlds
Alpha Halo (Halo: Combat Evolved)
Alpha Halo, or Installation 04, is the ring-shaped megastructure, 10,000 miles in diameter, upon which the bulk of Halo: Combat Evolved takes place. A metallic exterior and wall house an atmosphere, water and plant life, and the ring’s rotation creates a gravity similar to that of Earth. Built by an extinct race called the Forerunners, the Halo isn’t just the place where you fight the majority of Master Chief’s battles against the Covenant – it’s also a key plot device, the importance of which becomes clear as its secrets are discovered.
Hyrule (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Hyrule is the setting for many games in the Zelda series, but the first fully 3D version from the Nintendo 64’s Ocarina of Time is arguably the greatest of all. With the vast Hyrule Field acting as a central hub, Hyrule featured several iconic areas for the hero Link to visit. And in a twist, we got to see the world in two different periods: with Link as a child and seven years later as a grown man.
City 17 and its environs (Half-life 2)
The original Half-life’s Black Mesa was a memorable setting, but the game’s sequel provided something entirely grander: Earth is now an Orwellian dystopia where the semi-alien Combine have all but subjugated the human race. You experience this grim reality for yourself in the game’s opening sequence, as you enter (the apparently Eastern European) City 17 by train and, powerless at first, witness the brutality of the Combine first hand.
Gaia (Final Fantasy VII)
At the time of Final Fantasy VII’s release in 1997, few games featured such a huge or well-developed world. Gaia is a world in flux: while the Shinra corporation pollutes and rules through money and military might, an underground group of resistance fighters seeks to return the planet to its pre-industrial balance. The world is fully explorable later in the game, from the vast capital city of Midgar to the Gold Saucer, a casino/amusement park in the middle of a desert.
Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Grand Theft Auto IV is many things, but above all it is a love letter to New York City. Sure, the conurbation that plays host to Niko Bellic’s misadventures has a different name, but it’s the finest recreation of the Big Apple in video games, nailing not only the look of the city but its feel: dirty, rude but above all a place where anybody can do anything.