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Top 10 Video Game Cities

You know, I love adventuring up and down a good countryside as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to see some local action, you know?  Some sort of, I don’t know, centralized gathering spot where a bunch of people have decided to live and perhaps even erect buildings.  Something like  that…Well, I just looked it up, and apparently humanity was way ahead of me on this one.  Here are the best 10 examples I could find from the video game world to prove it.

10.  Monster Town:  Apparently, deep within the bowels of the Mushroom Kingdom, there lies a town populated by sentient versions of Mario’s foes.  Goombas, Koopa Troopas and those crazy caterpillar things with the flower hats all live in perfect harmony, and are even willing to help out if necessary.  I’ve even heard whispers of a Final Fantasy boss somewhere in the heart of the place.  Howevere, you know they can’t live in peace long.  They are in the Mushroom Kingdom, after all.  So of course, the first thing Mario does when he strolls into town is find the strongest person there and attempt to kick his ass.  Mario can be such a d-bag sometimes.  But of all the locations in the fabled Mushroom Kingdom, none are quite as awesome as Monster Town.

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9.  Arkham City:  You know who really deserves credit for Arkham City being as sweet as it is?  Not Warden Sharp or The Joker, that honor belongs to the Riddler.  Think about it.  He (had his crew) painstakingly place hundreds of Riddler statues all over the town in precariously hard-to-reach places just for the simple fun of letting Batman find them later.  He somehow reached the most obscure nooks in the city to create a bunch of elaborate riddles, and he individually chose a handful of henchmen to guard distinct clues to their whereabouts.  That’s a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.  Arkham City would be kind of boring without all those cool Riddler gizmos everywhere.

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8. Midgar:  As much as I grew attached to the metropolis of Midgar, rarely have I been so happy to leave a city.  Seriously, the smog there is, like, unreal.  But amidst the slums, male brothels and one inexplicable flower garden, Midgar achieves a certain magic that few other locations could hope to obtain.  Coming back to it later in the game feels like returning home after an extended absence; everything looks alien and familiar at the same time.  Packed with memorable locations like Wall Market, Aerith’s church and the infuriating Shinra building, Midgar is truly a place unlike any other.

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7.  Dunwall:   Even though I didn’t personally care for Dishonored that much (and I am aware that I am very much in the minority on that one), one aspect I did enjoy was exploring the city of Dunwall.  The exaggerated art style, gritty atmosphere and interesting denizens all combined to draw me into checking the city out, and while I hated Corvo’s story, I grew more and more endeared to Dunwall and the terrible plague afflicting it.  The environmental storytelling was excellent, and took advantage of everything that made the sprawling metropolis interesting in the first place.

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6.  Raccoon City:  Or as I like to call it, ground zero.  Sure there were zombies in games before RE, but the original Resident Evil just “got it” in a way that games had never even done before, even the hyper realistic Zombies Ate My Neighbors (because that’s exactly how a zombie apocalypse would go down).  While that introduced us to Raccoon City in a roundabout sort of way, it was Capcom’s excellent follow-up that really brought the town to the forefront.  Since Resident Evil 2, Raccoon City has transcended its boundaries and taken on its own almost mythological. And yes, we’re just going to pretend that Operation: Raccoon City never happened.

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5.  Orgrimmar:  To those who populate it, Ogrimmar is so much more than just a collection of ones and zeroes.  It’s a market, and an airport, and a gathering hall, and a hundred different things to a million different people.  It’s home.  It’s a also a technical marvel, filled with awesome spikes, death pits and more sharp angles than is practical or safe.  I don’t want to sound condescending or anything, but it’s pretty obvious it was designed by an orc.  Landscaping isn’t really their thing, but they can make a chicken Florentine that is absolutely to die for.

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4.  Silent Hill:  There have been some truly creepy moments in some really excellent video games, but few places have been as consistently creepy as Silent Hill.  I even though the movie version was pretty cool (another radical idea I may be in the minority on).  There’s just something about that place that screams wrong, but the really scary thought is that we haven’t seen it utilized to its full potential.  I mean, is it really possible the bets Silent Hill game is behind us?  That doesn’t seem fair.  Silent Hill still has so much to give, but none of the recent games have taken advantage of this awesome city.  Somebody should do that.

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3.  Roma:  Ubisoft has crafted some incredible locations for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, including everything from Jerusalem to Colonial America.  As great as these places were, I still feel like their interpretation of Rome was the real masterpiece.  Its mixture of platforming-friendly design and subtle blending of real-world elements may seem at odds, but a mastery of level design makes it one of the most immense spectacles in video games.  Exploring their version of Rome was more intellectually stimulating than any textbook I’ve ever read, and I think it’s awesome a video game can make that statement true.

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2.  Rapture:  Welcome to Rapture. With these words, BioShock brought to life one of the most amazing, disturbed and downright insane places ever presented in any form of media.  The crumbling dystopia achieves a certain beauty, with its mesmerizing watery setting and initial air of freedom.  Bu t there are many layers to Rapture, and within it we learn that freedom has a price.  A man chooses; a slave obeys.  The tale of Rapture, like the works of Ayn Rand that inspired it, is a sad one at its core, but it delivers a deeper message behind the tragedy.  Do we control the universe, or does the universe control.

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1.  Liberty City:  There was a time when I knew the streets of Liberty City better than I knew my own town.  In all fairness, I’m pretty sure M.C. Escher designed my town, but that’s neither here nor there.  Liberty City is ever parody of New York you’ve ever seen, with more than a dash of Rockstar’s signature sense of humor mixed in.  A twisted version of the American Dream, Liberty City is infinitely more interesting that most entire video games, and has become a character every bit as alluring as C.J. or Niko.  Exploring its every nook and cranny is a delight in its own right, but owning Liberty City’s streets with a tank is a memory I’ll never ever forget.




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