Although the gaming community is all too ready to lose itself in the immersive worlds of the medium, the number of settings that are truly a comfortable place to live is surprisingly small. Even happy towns such as those found in the Animal Crossing series could prove rather claustrophobic, whilst the cheery locations of the Pokemon series bring with them some rather troubling questions.
Instead, video game settings often offer up an almost dystopian feel. The despot-led countries of Papers, Please grant no sanctuary for residents, while the world of Dishonored is hardly a go-to location for retirement. Here’s our pick of ten of the worst places to live in video games.
10 New York (The Division)
Ever worry about contagious diseases when spending time in a crowded city? That’s exactly the fear that gets exploited in Ubisoft’s MMO shooter The Division. A deadly virus called Green Poison has travelled through New York City like rapidfire, having initially been contracted through contaminated Black Friday bank notes. With Midtown Manhattan on lockdown, very little is left of what we currently think of as that part of the Big Apple.
What remains of the borough, however, is under the control of a number of violent factions, vying for superiority in a city on the brink of collapse. Although the government is trying to regain control through the use of Division operatives, referring to the setting of the title as a warzone is perhaps a little too lenient. As a result, the notoriously high New York property prices may have dropped considerably.
9 Rapture (BioShock series)
The underwater city of the first two BioShock titles was built as a means to get away from life on the surface. Promising a free society where ideas could be studied away from the eyes of regulation, Rapture pushed scientific discovery to new limits for those who dwelled there. Once a beautifully designed haven, the city was meant to showcase the ideals of libertarianism come to life.
Unfortunately for the inhabitants, things did not quite go according to plan. Those who lived in Rapture quickly fell for the temptations of ADAM and plasmids, with many others left dead as a result. Eventually, Rapture was left as a terrifying and deadly shell of a city.
8 Los Santos (Grand Theft Auto series)
Although the Grand Theft Auto games deliver top quality sandbox gameplay, the idea of living in one of the cities from the franchise is a horrifying prospect. The mixture of dangerous gangs and violent killers mixed with an ineffective and sometimes corrupt police force means that the crime rate in the Grand Theft Auto universe must be shockingly high. Therefore, being a simple passer-by in a gangland shootout is likely a regular occurrence for the everyday Joes of the series.
Perhaps worst of the bunch is Los Santos. The main city in both Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA 5, even an escape to the nearby country and towns cannot save regular citizens from the risk of being taken down by a vicious sociopath in the form of the player character. Los Santos is definitely one to avoid.
7 Midgar (Final Fantasy 7)
Having more advanced technology does not always lead to a better quality of life - something that the inhabitants of Midgar know all too well. The base of operations for the shady Shinra company, Midgar is a city of contrasts. While those in the upper levels have a high quality of life, those stuck in the slums underneath the main city live in squalor.
As a result, Midgar is a fractious location even before the events of Final Fantasy 7, with regular terrorist attacks against Shinra. Unfortunately, the events of the game hardly help matters with the city. In fact, the vast majority of Midgar ends up being destroyed over the course of the game.
6 City 17 (Half-Life 2)
Half-Life protagonist Gordon Freeman spent a long time in stasis before finally making a return in Half-Life 2, but the first location he came across was never likely to feel like home. The main base of the Combine after their invasion of Earth, the citizens of City 17 are under the thumb of these violent oppressors. Meanwhile, broadcasted speeches of Administrator Wallace Breen give off vibes of 1984.
Aside from constant oppression from gangs of Civil Protection officers, the living conditions in the city are very poor, with the Combine holding most former government buildings. Those living within the city finally attempt an uprising against the occupiers, but this eventually leads to the destruction of the ominous Citadel via a Combine-induced detonation.
5 Boston (Fallout 4)
Those living in City 17 may consider it a paradise in comparison to this offering from Fallout 4, however. In real life, Boston is a thriving city, complete with some of the most fascinating buildings and locations from the history of the United States of America. After the nuclear war of the Fallout series, however, little remains of the once proud city.
Instead, the remains of Boston itself are at the mercy of groups of vicious bandits, while rogue robots and groups of feral creatures are more than willing to take a chunk out of any survivors. Meanwhile, the highly radioactive Glowing Sea is but a stone's throw away. There may be some pockets of civilization, particuarly with Minutemen-defended settlements littered across the wasteland, but Fallout's Boston is still unlikely to be a potential holiday destination.
4 Gotham (Batman: Arkham series)
It takes a particularly nasty group of criminals to force a millionaire to dress up in a silly costume and start partaking in violent acts of vigilantism. However, that's exactly what happens in Gotham, the home of beloved caped crusader Batman. Competing with criminal gangs, psychopathic crime lords, and even the odd mutant being, the normal citizens of Gotham are in for a tough life.
This becomes particularly apparent in the Batman: Arkham series of games. The Rocksteady-developed series eventually moved the player into the city itself, attempting to defeat the plethora of super-villains on the brink of taking over the city. That may sound positive for the denizens of Gotham, but opinions are likely to have changed after Batman: Arkham Knight's Batmobile started indiscriminately firing rockets into nearby buildings.
3 Yharnam (Bloodborne)
One look at this city from Bloodborne would be enough to put off most people from deciding to visit. From the decaying gothic spires to decrepit alleyways, Yharnam is a fierce and foreboding location, and that's before the issue of the creatures that roam the streets of the city is taken into account.
After the outbreak of a devastating plague, Yharnam was beset with awful beasts and terrifying eldritch abominations. Although hunters have regularly taken to the city in an attempt to find a cure for the ills of Yharnam, these veteran travellers have suffered gruesome fates. In all, Yharnham is a fearsome location, even for the most hardened of hunter.
2 Raccoon City (Resident Evil series)
Building a secret biological research base underneath a busy city is never a good idea, but that's unfortunately exactly what the mysterious Umbrella Corporation did with Raccoon City. Not content with releasing the highly infectious t-Virus in a nearby rural location, Umbrella accidentally caused the virus to be unleashed on the unsuspecting city, resulting in a full-on outbreak of the disease.
This led to Raccoon City falling apart in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, with only a few survivors able to escape. What was once a thriving city was instead reduced to nothing, as Resident Evil's mindless zombies and mutant creatures beset those who were not infected.
1 Silent Hill (Silent Hill series)
People will always look for different things in a place to live, whether it be green open spaces or a vibrant and bustling nightlife. One expects, however, that the existence of a doomsday cult on-site is extremely low on the list of must-have features, perhaps joined by a city's ability to tap into a resident's subconscious to create deadly and nightmarish creatures. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Silent Hill, both those things are in steady supply.
Although tourism was perhaps once the chief industry of the city, the Silent Hill series home is unlikely to be getting many holiday parties any time soon. With the town covered in a thick fog, and filled with less-than-friendly locals, Silent Hill is not exactly a great attraction, unless visitors have a penchant for Lynchian unease and warped timelines.
That concludes our pick of ten of the worst video game cities. As impressive as the above games are, players are unlikely to want to end up as a bog-standard inhabitant in any of their settings. After all, not everyone in the locations listed is likely to end up as the hero.
What do you make of our list? Do you agree with our choices? Or do you think there are other video game cities that are less enchanting as a potential home? Let us know in the comments below.