Gaming’s Greatest Cities

Cities are an incredibly important part of games, but often we can take them for granted. Just as in real life, we can live in them day after day, often not really noticing the changes that are happening around us. But gaming cities are incredible feats of design in which every skyscraper, every door, every ornate gargoyle, and even every person wandering the streets have been painstakingly created and modelled just for you. Sometimes when a gaming city is doing its job well, you don’t even notice it’s there.

So we’re here to celebrate these silent structures, the cities which are so vital in establishing history, backstory, and the atmosphere which is so important in games. So, without further ado, here are gaming’s greatest cities.

final-fantasy-vii-remake-logo

Cities are an incredibly important part of games, but often we can take them for granted. Just as in real life, we can live in them day after day, often not really noticing the changes that are happening around us. But gaming cities are incredible feats of design in which every skyscraper, every door, every ornate gargoyle, and even every person wandering the streets have been painstakingly created and modelled just for you. Sometimes when a gaming city is doing its job well, you don’t even notice it’s there.

So we’re here to celebrate these silent structures, the cities which are so vital in establishing history, backstory, and the atmosphere which is so important in games. So, without further ado, here are gaming’s greatest cities.

Midgar

final-fantasy-vii-midgar

The futuristic metropolis of Final Fantasy VII is one of the most iconic cities in the entire series. Home to the Shinra Electric Power Company, as well as being where Cloud begins the game, the city sums up many of the series’ key themes. Its mixture of slums and modern superstructures shows the greed and authoritarian power of Shinra, but also of the new quickly replacing the old.

Midgar also reflects the game’s environmental themes and the catastrophe facing the planet in the game. For Final Fantasy VII Remake, the city has been brought to life once again in wonderful detail.

Dunwall

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The steampunk, rat-infested city of Dishonored is a special place. As Corvo Attano, disgraced bodyguard to the empress, you are thrown into the gutter, where you must carve out a new existence for yourself. Like Midgar, Dunwall is also a city combining the old and the new, with high tech barriers and towers powered by whale oil, sitting beside crumbling town houses, and plague-infested hovels.

Dunwall channels every aspect of what a city is, from rich and poor, from gutter to mansion. It is also wonderfully designed for Corvo’s powers, so he can teleport and run across the city’s rooftops.

Novigrad

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The Witcher 3’s biggest city is a hive of villainy, home to fanatical witch hunters, mages in hiding, and monsters masquerading as humans. That’s not to mention all of the gangs as well. Novigrad feels like a real city, with people wandering the streets, musicians performing, and merchants trying to hawk their goods from roadside stalls.

But another big part of what makes Novigrad are the quests you perform while there – whether it’s hunting vampires in the sewers, helping mages flee persecution, or lending a hand to its many crime syndicates. Novigrad has so much character as a city, that in fact, CD Projekt Red created an entire faction based upon them in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.

City 17

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The dystopian metropolis of Half Life 2 is actually quite similar to Dunwall in a way, combining both the new technology of the alien Combine invaders, with old European architecture. But City 17 also feels dystopian, as aliens oppress the human inhabitants, dragging them off to prisons like Nova Prospekt.

It is the perfect setting for Half Life 2, as a lot has happened to Gordon Freeman, but the city quickly shows him the state of things. It also changes wonderfully as the game goes on, and you travel out of the city, only to return to find a civil war raging. For the prequel Half Life: Alyx we also get to return to City 17 at an earlier stage, when its central Citadel is still under construction.

The Last City

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Frostpunk is a game about weathering an icy apocalypse, as you gather for warmth around a massive generator that serves as your only hope for survival. As the overseer, it is your responsibility to build the last city, and the choices you are confronted with throughout the game will change what kind of place that is.

Will it be religious, with churches on street corners and daily mass? Or will it be a place of fear and suspicion, with watchtowers and guards keeping the peace? The best part of Frostpunk is that you get to shape the last city, deciding for yourself how far you are willing to go to survive.

Yharnam

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The town of Yharnam was inspired by Gothic architecture and the writings of HP Lovecraft, creating a city which is literally tearing itself apart, as half of its inhabitants transform into beasts. The architecture is wonderfully ornate, and its streets and ladders twist all over the place, creating a hard-to-navigate urban maze filled with monsters.

One of the best things about Yharnam (and it isn’t that hard to choose, given that it’s a nightmarish hellscape) is how each of its areas differ so greatly, whether Charnel Lane, home to the witches of Hemwick, Cathedral Ward, with its churches and holy hunters, or the city itself, packed with crazed citizens. Bloodborne’s township is truly one of gaming’s greatest cities.

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