10 of the best video game worlds
The Wasteland (Fallout)
The original Fallout’s bleak setting wasn’t just a post-apocalyptic nightmare: it was a post-modern post-apocalyptic nightmare based off an alternate history where the US remained mired in the “Mom’s apple pie” attitudes and popular culture of the 1950s. Evocative, referential and brutal, Fallout’s radioactive re-imagining of America has since been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century with Bethesda’s two first-person Fallout games – and very nice they both look. If you can use “nice” to describe nuclear-ravaged desolation.
The Dinosaur Land (Super Mario World)
Mario’s first outing on the SNES didn’t wildly change the platform formula, but it did add an extra element: a map of the entire game world. This allowed Mario to take different routes through the Dinosaur Kingdom and thus reach the final boss (Bowser, of course), travelling through a beautifully varied selection of level types in the process.
1947 Los Angeles (L.A. Noire)
Crime action adventure L.A. Noire is not without its critics, but few could take issue with the game’s recreation of Los Angeles in the aftermath of World War II. Developers Team Bondi used over 110,000 aerial shots of the city to achieve a striking level of accuracy, but perhaps more impressive is the way it captures the feel of a city on the way up: glamorous but almost hopelessly corrupt.
Vvardenfell (The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind)
Oblivion or Skyrim might be obvious choices for their size, beauty and the Radiant Engine that gives their inhabitants jobs, homes and routines, but for our money Vvardenfell, from 2002’s Morrowind, is the more memorable place. A harsh land of swamps, ash wastes and strange architecture, dominated by the huge volcano Red Mountain and mostly populated by the unfriendly, xenophobic Dark Elves, Vvardenfell felt like unfamiliar and foreign rather than a rehash of stereotypical fantasy worlds.
A vast art deco underwater city built by the Ayn Rand-inspired Andrew Ryan, Rapture was intended to be an Objectivist paradise. Free from religion, monarchy and the interference of government, it would be a place where any man or woman could make themselves a success through hard work – and a bit of genetic engineering. But the dream turned sour when this gene splicing resulted in half the population turning murderous, and by the time of BioShock Rapture is a vast horrific ruin, and a reminder of how the grandest dreams can turn into the worst nightmares.