When you think of the most iconic gaming locations, your mind probably goes to the beautiful fields of Hyrule, or the intriguing underwater labyrinth that is Rapture, or perhaps that weird polygonal nightmare place in Bubsy 3D.
We should also never forget that there’s beauty and wonder to find in the real world as well! Of course, I’m not suggesting you should actually go OUTSIDE and experience it for yourself! That would be crazy…
Instead, I recommend you check out these 13 awesome games that are set in real places! That way you can FEEL like you’re really in these locations, without staining the outside world with your presence. (haha jk luv u bby xx)
Also, I’ll be dividing these games up in to their respective genres, so you can have a better idea of what your dealing with. Ok? Ok.
Best Real Setting Sandbox Games
Watch Dogs 2 – San Francisco
|Initial Release Date||November 16, 2016|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC|
It’s rare to find a sequel to a game that has such a drastically different style from the first one, and yet manages to retain and improve on everything that made it good. I mean, the first Watch Dogs was a gritty and dry game, starring the world’s most boring hacker, and was more visually disappointing than my dad’s hairy back.
Watch Dogs 2 on the other hand, was witty, silly, entertaining, and FULL of memes and internet culture.
…ok I didn’t say it was perfect.
But the shift in tone was exactly what the series needed. The game was twice as fun, twice as beautiful, and twice as exciting! Although, it still contained a shockingly low amount of watching dogs.
Moreover, the game is set in San Francisco, and I think they did a fantastic job of letting you explore it to the fullest! There are tons of activities where you can drive around, sail around, and even fly your drone around town. You still look like a a-hole when you do it, though. Just like in real life.
The city is bright, colourful, fun to explore, and full of things to do in it. It almost makes up for the ridiculously expensive housing prices.
Sleeping Dogs – Hong Kong
|Initial Release Date||August 14, 2012|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, OS X|
|Developer||United Front Games, Square Enix London Studios|
I know what you’re thinking, and don’t worry. This isn’t all just going to be games with Dogs in the title. That’s another list altogether.
In fact, Sleeping Dogs is a damn good game, and in my opinion, it’s underrated as hell. It’s a spiritual successor to True Crime: Streets of LA which is another good candidate for this list, but personally, I prefer the one with Dog in the title.
You play as an undercover cop, trying to take down the local Triad organization, and kicking ass all over Hong Kong! If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because it is – the story is loosely inspired by the Infernal Affairs and its American remake/adaptation The Departed.
That is until guns get introduced, and all the awesome Martial Arts moves you’ve learned feel a bit pointless…
But still, it’s a solid game. And much more than the “GTA Clone” that a lot of people mistake it for. The Arkham style combat is as fun as it always is. The driving feels very fast and responsive. And the game has a great sense of progression, as you go from lowly street thug to “Level 100 Mafia Boss” (sorry).
And let’s not forget the very well made recreation of Hong Kong. From the dirty alleys to the shining skyscrapers, this place is a ton of fun to explore. Just try to stay away from that nightclub with the annoying karaoke mini-game that you’re forced to do.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – The Caribbean
|Initial Release Date||October 29, 2013|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One|
|Developer||Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Kiev|
If I were a lazy man, I probably would have put any Assassin’s Creed game here, and popped out for an early lunch, since pretty much all of them take place in real locations. But as it turns out, I’m a VERY lazy man, so I just picked my favorite, and left it at that.
Ironically, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is usually at its best when it forgets that it’s an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s the ship battles, fortress raids, and general pirate-ing that make it so fun, even if it’s sometimes held back by the trailing missions, eavesdropping, and annoying present day sections.
Seriously, find me ONE person who plays Assassin’s Creed for the present day plot… I’ll wait.
But the story people actually care about is great! Edward Kenway is a total swashbuckling badass, and watching him turn from marooned deckhand to a full-on booty buggering buccaneer is really satisfying.
Sailing around the stunningly beautiful Caribbean islands, belting out shanties and getting shat on by seagulls was probably my favorite part about the whole game. And it’s made all the more satisfying, knowing that these gorgeous islands and exotic jungles actually exist in the real world. Yep, Black Flag is a true pirate paradise, complete with everything that makes being a pirate so cool!
You don’t have a parrot though. Or a hook hand. Or a peg leg.
…actually, screw this game.
Prototype – New York
|Initial Release Date||June 9, 2009|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
Remember the days when you could just sell your game on how violent and edgy it was? Prototype remembers. And Prototype doesn’t give a DAMN!
This is an outstandingly violent game, man! I mean, any game that lets you murder an old man, shapeshift into that old man, and then disembowel the old man’s wife, AS THE OLD MAN, might be a teensy bit messed up.
But goddamn, if this isn’t a fun game. It was made back in a time when superhero sandboxes were still pretty novel and yet managed to nail what makes them fun on their first try. Sprinting from building to building, destroying military machines like they’re nothing, hurling yourself off the tallest tower you can find! (As is mandatory in any game like this, of course).
And of course, completely WRECKING New York, until its nickname changes from “The Big Apple” to “The Big Fucking Hole In The Ground”. The sheer amount of mayhem you could cause in this game really set it apart from other similar titles like Infamous, and I think it’s still damn fun to play 10 years later. Too bad that Activision completely axed the developers who made this, so we’ll probably never see another game…
Good job, Activision. You guys just keep on making Call of Duty. I’ll be over here, crying.
Best Real Setting FPS Games
Far Cry 5 – Montana
|Initial Release Date||March 27, 2018|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Developer||Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Toronto|
Okay… TIIIIIINY bit of a cheat here, since Far Cry 5 does technically take place in the fictional “Hope County” BUT, they do claim that it’s a part of the real Montana, so you know what, I’m counting it. If you have a problem with this, feel free to verbally harass me in the comments. I probably deserve it.
Anyway, Far Cry 5! Whilst it might not be Far Cry at its best, it’s still definitely one of the better ones. What it lacks in exotic wildlife, and beautiful jungles, it makes up for with plenty of fun toys to play with, including boats, planes, and actual literal BEARS.
It’s really more of a playground than a structured game, and whilst that may have put some people off, I still always appreciate an open world game that lets you approach it in any order. Like, you COULD approach your missions with stealth, grace, and subtlety.
OR, you could light a bull on fire, and watch it treat your enemies like a china shop.
And whilst Montana may not be as interesting of a setting as Kyrat or the Rook Islands, there’s still plenty of interesting sights to see, people to meet, and animals to be eaten by. Let’s just say it’s of the more, ahem, hectic real setting games out there.
Crysis 2 – New York
|Initial Release Date||March 22, 2011|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
Released in a time when the modern military shooter plagued the new releases shelves, like acne on a teenager’s face, Crysis 2 was a VERY welcome change of pace. It was instantly considered a step up for first-person shooters, and for good reason. It was dynamic, compelling, engaging, proactive, and other words businessman like to use.
It took full advantage of the CryEngine, letting you feel like you really had an impact in the game’s world, and it still looks as good, if not better than many modern games.
Seriously, this game is 8 YEARS OLD! IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT TO STILL LOOK THIS SEXY!!!
It’s just an all-around solid shooter that still feels just as fresh as it did when it was released. Plus, the stunningly good graphics really bring new life to New York! I mean, it’s half destroyed and completely infested with aliens, but hey, at least you still got the subway.
Crysis 2 is Crytek’s magnum opus, and (in my opinion) the last truly great game they made, before they moved on to VR stuff and Ryse: Son of Rome.
…but we don’t talk about Ryse: Son of Rome.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – All over the place
|Initial Release Date||November 1, 2011|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4|
|Publisher||Sony Computer Entertainment|
If you’re looking for the game where you visit the most real locations ever, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a tough title to beat. Not only do you visit all these wildly different places, but you also explore the HELL out of them! Adventuring through ancient tombs, fighting for your life, and let’s not forget DANGLING OUT OF A FREAKING CARGO PLANE, SHUT UP THAT STILL IMPRESSES ME!
It may not be the “best in the series” but Uncharted 3 lets you go all over the world, from the cold streets of London to the scorching desert, to… Yemen? I don’t know anything about Yemen…
It truly feels like a real adventure, and I personally thought the story was at its best here. I really liked seeing all these characters I loved change and grow, and seeing baby Nate trying to survive on the streets of Columbia was awesome! (Even if it was kind of retconned in the 4th game, but whatever).
This is still a wonderful game, with tons of enchanting locations, and heaps of everything that makes Uncharted great!
I don’t want to talk about the climbing sections…
Tomb Raider 2 – All over the place
|Initial Release Date||October 31, 1997|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation, Mac OS, iOS, Android|
Speaking of Indiana Jones inspired multi-cultural action/adventure games with an emphasis on exploration, climbing and desecrating ancient tombs…
Tomb Raider 2 is commonly regarded as the best in the series, and I don’t disagree. It took all the adventure and whimsy from the first game, enhanced it, upgraded it, and added in a DRAGON for good measure.
Not to mention, this really was Lara in her golden age. No offense if you’re a fan of the modern Lara Croft, but I personally REALLY miss the days when she was more of a “fun and sassy explorer” and less of a “mopey self-centered teenager”.
And just like ya boi Nate, she goes all over the world in this one! From the Great Wall of China to the beautiful villas of Venice, all the way back to her mansion in England, where she promptly locks her butler in a freezer. (As you do.)
And I think it says a lot about how creative and inventive these developers were, that over 20 years later these locations still can still feel so wondrous, even though they look like they were made by a substitute arts and crafts teacher.
Tomb Raider 2 is an absolute classic, and the fact that it has to share the “Google search” spotlight, with both Rise of the Tomb Raider AND the Angelina Jolie movie, PHYSICALLY hurts me.
L.A. Noire – Los Angeles
|Initial Release Date||May 17, 2011|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
Okay, I have a confession to make. When it comes to talking about video games online, I generally try to remain as impartial as I can, and not cloud my judgment with nostalgia or personal biases.
…BUT I EFFIN LOVE ROCKSTAR!!!
I can’t help it, their games are my kryptonite, and L.A. Noire is no exception! It’s an intriguing, compelling, mystery madhouse and one of the most unique games I’ve ever played.
It provides the simple yet satisfying pleasure of solving a well thought out mystery very well, and yet it’s so much more than that. It’s got a great story, varied gameplay, witty writing, and all the characters are performed very well.
Well, even if these days they look more like creepy androids wearing masks made of human skin.
And it’s all wrapped up in a gorgeous 1940’s style, complete with retro cars, snazzy suits, and of course, the game’s wonderful recreation of Los Angeles. It really made the game more interesting!
I loved driving from case to case, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and running down lampposts and civilians without a care, because SCREW YOU, I’M THE LAW!
There’s nothing quite like L.A. Noire, and all I can say is, I can’t wait for the sequel! Although, given how long it takes Rockstar to make games these days, I might just be 47 by the time it arrives…
Yakuza Zero – Kabukicho
|Initial Release Date||March 12, 2015|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC|
Ok, LAST TIME I CHEAT A LITTLE BIT, I PROMISE!
Yes, I know Yakuza’s Kamurocho is technically fictional, and only heavily inspired by the real Kabukicho, but come on. This isn’t a “Los Santos” situation, where it’s just inspired by its real-world counterpart. Kamurocho IS Kabukicho. Seriously, just watch any comparison video online. It’s nearly exactly the same. They just changed the name, AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN CHANGE IT THAT MUCH!!!
…sorry. But seriously, I’m counting this. Especially considering how fucking awesome Kamurocho is in Yakuza Zero! This is the first, and in fact, only Yakuza game I’ve ever played, and absolutely adored it. The over-the-top story and gameplay, the ridiculous side activities, the 1980’s suits that should have never gone out of style, everything!
And what I really admired, is how lively Kamurocho felt! It’s not the biggest video game town ever, but it’s literally packed with funny characters, side missions, collectibles, and of course the karaoke bar, where I practically lived. It’s a brilliantly energetic place, that made an already fun and entertaining game that much better.
Plus, any game where you can literally have a chicken called “Nugget” be a manager for you, has to be worth like, 13 GOTY awards just for that.
Best Real Setting Driving Games
Driver: San Francisco – San Francisco
|Initial Release Date||September 1, 2011|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 350, Mac OS X, Wii|
Now, I’ll be honest. Driving games aren’t exactly my specialty. Personally, I always cared less about winning races in cars than I did flattening old ladies with them. But Driver: San Francisco was always a unique case for me, and that’s because it has one of the most inventive, and hilarious game mechanics I’ve ever seen.
You see, at any time in this game, you can hop out of your main character’s body, poses any unfortunate driver that you like, and completely ruin their life.
I love this idea so much! It’s such a genius, yet obvious improvement for driving games, that I’m surprised no one did it before Driver did! Being able to ghost into a truck driver, force him to crush a smart car underneath his giant wheels, and then zipping out and letting him deal with the consequences has such a devious charm to it! (And is pretty messed up when you think about it).
I know the driving itself can feel a bit stiff, but I still think this is one of the best driving games of all time. And when it comes to “driving playground” cities, you can do a lot worse than San Francisco, and I think they did a pretty good job remaking it. They even have that weird long winding road that would DEFINITELY make me throw up.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 – Europe
|Initial Release Date||October 19, 2012|
|Platform||Linux, PC, macOS|
Welp, if you actually are looking for a game that lets you explore the real world, you may have just hit the motherload.
Not much to say about this one, to be honest. It’s a game where you drive a truck around Europe. You make deliveries, obey the rules of the road, and do everything a regular trucker would do.
…except stop off at a grimy gas station for a blowjob and a sausage roll.
But you probably already knew that, as this game has kind of a weirdly large following. I never quite got the appeal myself. I mean, I get it’s satisfying to pop on a podcast, take in some beautiful scenery, and zone out for a while, but being such a shit driver I can’t do that without killing several people.
Really though, when it comes to exploring the towns of Europe, this is probably as good as it gets. Since this game came out, it’s received a bajillion updates, and now you can explore over 20 countries, a shit ton of cities, and million roads that Doc Brown will never need.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 has become a mega-game at this point, and there’s no better way to experience the magic of Europe!
Except for… yknow… coming here.
Best Real Setting RPGs
Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Bohemia
|Initial Release Date||February 13, 2018|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
It’s very rare to find a medieval RPG, that actually focuses on realism, and even teaches you some history here and there. I mean most of them just want to teach you which bit of the sword you should stick into the dragon. But not Kingdom Come: Deliverance! This is a game that really wants to make you feel like a 14th-century peasant, minus the horrible diseases and life expectancy of 30, of course.
It’s a game that focuses heavily on realism. You have to eat, sleep, and even wash yourself since some people won’t want to talk to you if you’re covered in mud, rain, and the entrails of your enemies.
And although realistic doesn’t always mean immersive, in this case, it usually does. It’s easy to feel absorbed in the world when you’re traveling the beautiful land of Bohemia, taking in the sights, and probably heading to the general store because you’re over-encumbered…again.
It definitely has its flaws. The combat is janky, it’s got tons of bugs, and it was released with a save system that gave me hepatitis. But, it’s still a fun game, with good writing, a well-made world, and even more horse shit than Red Dead Redemption 2.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Detroit
|Initial Release Date||August 23, 2011|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac OS X, Wii U|
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is basically the “How To Guide” on reviving a video game series. You take an old beloved game, update it for a modern audience, improve on what made it good in the first place, and inevitably piss off all the old school fans who think “change” is a dirty word.
This was exactly what the franchise needed. A well-executed shift in style, fresh and exciting gameplay, and a brilliantly told story to tie it all together!
I mean, Adam Jensen isn’t the MOST exciting video game protagonist out there, and he does kind of give off that “douchebag who frequents underground nightclubs, and never takes off his sunglasses” vibe. But he’s still an interesting character, and a perfect fit for the world Human Revolution had created.
The darker, more gloomy tone of the world actually worked really well, and it was really interesting to see the bleak yet futuristic versions of Detroit, Montreal, and even China. Although you might be a bit sick of seeing all the “Mellow Yellow” lights by the end. Still though, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a spectacular RPG, and I can’t wait for the next chapter of the story.
And hopefully, the next one won’t just be the same thing but not quite as good, like last time…
Best Real Setting Third Person Shooters
Max Payne – New York
|Initial Release Date||July 23, 2001 & May 15, 2012|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mac OS, Game Boy Adnvace, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Android, iOS|
|Developer||Remedy Entertainment & Rockstar Studios (2012 release)|
|Publisher||Gathering of Developers & Rockstar Games (2012 release)|
Aaaand that’s the THIRD game on this list to take place in New York. It’s a pretty popular place to set a game. Maybe the Statue of Liberty pulls in all the video game bad guys with the power of her metal vagina…
But anyway, Max Payne. The dark, gritty, unbelievably depressing game that ironically puts a big smile on my face whenever I play it. And that’s because this game is incredible in every aspect.
The gameplay is fast, satisfying and full of that sweet, sweet bullet-time. The story is moving and heartbreaking, expertly showing us Max’s descent into madness. The graphics…
…ok maybe it’s not incredible in EVERY aspect.
But it’s still a damn good game, and I love how it showed us a more grimy and dirty side of New York, that you don’t often see in video games. I mean, you visit both a drug den, and the underground metro station, and it’s tough to say which one is more disgusting.
And that’s kind of why I love Max Payne. It’s unrelentingly dark and dismal, yet still manages to tell a great story, and be very fun to play. In fact, most of the games I’ve talked about today have shown their locations in a relatively neutral or positive light. But not Maxy boy.
Maxy boy ain’t afraid to throw you in the shit, and watch as you lie there, writhing in the filth and waste, decaying like a dead rat left to rot, like so many others in this bleak, cold, and unforgiving city…
… I freaking love this game. One of the best real setting games, for sure.
So that was my list! What did you think of it? Any games you thought should have been on here? Let me know in the comments!
And, if you happen to live in any of the locations mentioned here, let me know how the game compares to the real thing! Like, is the Great Wall of China really great? Or a wall? Is it even in CHINA!? I NEED TO KNOW!!!
GAMING NEWS & EXCLUSIVE GIVEAWAYS
DELIVERED STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX
The beauty of games lies in their interactive nature, so why should they limit themselves to settings far away from the real world?
Unbound: Worlds Apart Post-Kickstarter InterviewWe continue our series of interviews with another indie gem - Unbound: Worlds Apart. Find out more about this charming platformer from one of its lead developers: Sergiu Craitoiu. September 16, 2019Unbound: Worlds...
Check out our list of the best horror games that you have to play right now.
Take our quiz to find out which Darkest Dungeon class fits your personality.
Check out our list of games like Witcher 3 if you want something similar.
Make the Mojave Desert pretty again with these 35 Fallout: New Vegas Mods.