Virtual cities we love being citizens of.Video recreation towns are getting absolutely precise. They was once small scatterings of pixelated houses; now they may be massive, designated immersive worlds you could literally wander off in. From the murky depths of Rapture to the sleepy suburbs of Yokosuka, these are TheGamer's editors' maximum loved virtual metropolises.
Andy Kelly, Features Editor This was a tough one, because I love hanging out in virtual cities. My shortlist includes, but is not limited to, Watch Dogs 2's San Francisco, Final Fantasy 8's Deling City, L.A. Noire's Los Angeles, the original Deus Ex's Hong Kong, and Red Dead Redemption 2's Saint Denis. But in terms of atmosphere, world-building, and creating a powerful sense of place, Shenmue's Yokosuka has probably made the biggest impact on me. I will never tire of running up and down Dobuita Street as Ryo Hazuki, talking to the locals, playing classic Sega games in the arcade, and absorbing the bustling ambience. Then, when night falls, returning home to the peaceful, sleepy suburbs of Yamanose. I can't think of a more transporting video game setting, and I love it so much I visited the real place.
Meg Pelliccio, Lead Guides Editor Most of the Yakuza games and spin-offs take place in the fictional city of Kamurocho, based on the actual city of Kabukicho, the red-light district of Tokyo. Putting aside the fact I am a devoted stan of the series, Kamurocho was the first in-game area that made me realise that games don’t have to have overly massive maps to feel significant. The city is so dense and detailed, filled with nooks, crannies, and different layers to explore, that I find it more enjoyable than the massive sprawling open-world maps you get that can often feel empty. One of the other things I love about Kamurocho is that you see the city age throughout the series, so bars close, new stores open, and new buildings and projects get developed, just like any actual living city. You also get to see the plot's lasting impact on different locations, such as Shangri-La becoming derelict after Majima drove a car into it in the first game.
Tokyo (Tomb Raider: Legend)
Stacey Henley, Editor-in-Chief Well after Andy went and cleared out six picks, including two I might have chosen, I too have settled for a real-life city in Asia. If the pattern continues we can expect to see Persona 5’s Shibuya appear next. In any case, I have gone to bat for Tomb Raider numerous times, and even when the games have sucked, I’ve always had its back. The Tokyo level of Tomb Raider: Legend, probably my favourite individual level of any video game anywhere, is my reward. Beginning with a fancy rooftop party - where Lara wears a cocktail dress with a thigh split and still conceals two hip holsters - we then swing across a neon skyline (barefoot, our heels were only slowing us down) before breaking into a skyscraper. The only downside is we spend a lot of time inside buildings or up in the air. A mini motorbike section like Legend offers us in Peru or Kazakhstan could have been the cherry on top of the rain-slicked streets of modern metropolia.
New Capenna (Magic: The Gathering)
Joe Parlock, Tabletop Editor Before some smart-arse wades in saying “Joe, Magic isn’t a video game”, I’d invite you to tell that to my completed MTG Arena Mastery Pass. New Capenna is an art-deco city inspired by the United States (I’m the only one who isn’t a shameless weeb, it seems) in the 1920s, with the twist that it’s controlled by five demonic crime families. While there is a high risk you’ll be thrown off this city-in-a-skyscraper if you look at Lord Xander wrong, everything about New Capenna is so, so sexy that it’d be worth it. The accents, the archtiecture, the fashion, it doesn’t matter if you’re a grimy Riveteer bare-knuckle boxing in the lower floors of the city or a Broker tying an enemy business up in legal red tape, everything oozes my exact kind of drip. It doesn’t even seem that bad for the ordinary people, who often find themselves at the Cabaretti’s parties hosted by the biggest party animal himself, Jetmir. Glittering galas where the Halo never stops flowing for long, New Capenna looks like non-stop fun. Plus I’d get to live out my dream of being the gremlin henchman who backs up his boss with witty “Yeah bawss!”, “You tell ‘em, bawss!” and “Don’t you mess with our bawss, punk” before smashing a few kneecaps.
Henford-On-Bagley (The Sims 4)
Helen Ashcroft, Evergreen Editor This beautiful location from The Sims 4 is part of last year’s Cottage Living expansion. While technically not a city, rather a quaint village, it’s classed as a ‘world’ in game terms so it counts. Also, I’ve never been a city girl. I was brought up in small towns and later a tiny village and it suited me. It’s also the reason I love Henford-On-Bagley. The world perfectly encapsulates those village vibes I miss living in a larger town these days. It has beautiful scenery, random sheep, nosy neighbours, a village fair, a vintage red phone box, and a pub where all the Sims know your name. It’s also where Sims legend Agnes Crumplebottom lives. What more could you want? I love it so much I even wrote a love letter to it.
Lindblum (Final Fantasy 9)
Ryan Bamsey, Evergreen Editor Honestly, it was between this and Alexandria, but Lindblum is on such a grand scale that I can’t help but love it that little bit more. Yes, Final Fantasy 9 is my favourite game of all time, but there’s more to Lindblum than a childish nostalgia. The way Lindblum is depicted as a living organism, thrumming with activity, appeals to me in a way not many other video game cities can. Air cabs speeding through the air, the theatre, a bustling commercial district, thief hideouts, and the grand palace at the heart of it all – it would be a beautiful place to live, a hive of cultural and industrial development. And phew, that skyline. There’s no prettier place to visit on Gaia.
Amanda Hurych, Evergreen Content Lead Yes, the underwater city of Rapture is dilapidated and broken, but the story and ideology behind why it was built makes it one of the most compelling video game settings I have ever explored. Rapture’s praises have been sung a million times, so this makes it a million and one. No other game has yet made me feel like I would want to walk around its environments without any other semblance of gameplay. If BioShock’s narrative, combat, and characters all disappeared, I would still want to traipse through the leaking, crumbling concert halls, gambling rooms, and restaurants of Rapture. I would want to check out the moldy advertisements on the walls and examine the lavish apartments that have gone to ruin. No gods or kings built Rapture. Only men. And it’s fascinating to see how men brought the whole thing down.
Novigrad (The Witcher 3)
Harry Alston, Lead Specialist Writer Walking into Novigrad after the bleakness of White Orchard and Velen was something of a eureka moment for me in The Witcher 3. I first walked through its gates after completing the Bloody Baron storyline, which is one of the grimmest and most enthralling storylines I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Walking into the strangely upbeat Novigrad made me realise that I was in for a total treat for the next 200 hours, or thereabouts. The music, the scale, the dozens of people talking over each other, and the idea that behind any door there might be another storyline to match the Baron. Magic stuff that.
Justin Reeve, News Editor When it comes to video game cities, you can’t get much better than Dunwall from Dishonored in my personal opinion. Well, maybe Karnaca from Dishonored 2, but I’m going to put Dunwall in first place by a narrow margin. What I love so much about the city is the contrast. There’s a fairly obvious critique of class in the game which comes through loud and clear in the level design. The story takes you quite literally from rags to riches and everywhere in between, particularly if you pick up the downloadable content which I heartily recommend. In any case, there’s a strong sense of inequality in the game which unfortunately is becoming more and more felt in the real world. Since the city is filled with a variety of both virtuous and vile characters, the class criticism goes well beyond the level design, giving Dunwall a strong sense of what can only be called place.
Liberty City (GTA 3)
Lu-Hai Liang, News Editor Yes, not the more accurate and larger Liberty City of GTA 4 (which has a better story and protagonist) but specifically the one of GTA 3. I think nostalgia does play a part in this choice. I was a big GTA fan on the PS1, getting both GTA and GTA 2, so l very much looked forward to the first 3D GTA on the PS2. Being dropped into its Liberty City was quite stunning. I loved its more obvious placement of stunt jumps than its sequels. I think most of all I liked the endgame (for me) of flying the Dodo around its three islands which I did while listening to its brilliant radio stations. Very therapeutic. Also there were enough secrets and easter eggs in this creation to keep magazines and DVD extras lively.