Top Ten Game Worlds I Love to Play in

Dave and I have recently gotten into Terraria, which you can read about in our ongoing Terraria journal.  The pure joy we’ve been experiencing by playing around in the Terraria world got us talking about what our favorite game universes are.  This list ranges from franchises to one-off titles, and the main criteria to make the list was how much fun I’ve had simply “existing” in these worlds.  So let’s get the list started with the most recent game in the top ten:

10 Terraria

Terraria is a pretty unique game, despite its obvious inspiration, Minecraft.  The world Terraria drops you in will be unique, but it is created using certain design parameters.  Every Terraria world will have 4 or 5 sky islands.  Every world will have lava and a “hell” area if you dig deep enough.  But aside from a few main characteristics, you’ll be given a giant world full of caves, forests, deserts and more to explore.  Along the way you’ll encounter many types of enemies and building materials, find some random houses built with gold brick, and a few more surprises I can’t spoil.  The world of Terraria might not be the same for every player, but I can guarantee the world it creates for you will be a lot of fun.

9 Ratchet and Clank

I love the world(s) of Ratchet and Clank because of their amazing style and design, and for the amazing sense of humor that Insomniac Games has delivered with each game in the franchise.  The first Ratchet and Clank for PlayStation 2 basically set the bar for any 3rd-person platformer to come after it.  Even Miyamoto himself cribbed from Ratchet and Clank’s spherical worlds for Super Mario Galaxy.  Some game worlds, like those in Grand Theft Auto or Red Faction Guerrilla are fun because of what you do to/in them, but every planet in Ratchet and Clank is inherently fun, down the the smallest details.  Whether it’s the hilarious animation of the world’s creatures, to the amazing character voiceovers and superb storytelling, to the actual gameplay – which varies significantly in the series, but stays consistently awesome – Ratchet and Clank games are always fun, and I love just playing around in that universe.

8 Psychonauts

Ah, Psychonauts.  The mere mention of the game brings up simultaneous feelings of joy and pain, as this was a fucking incredible game that got swept under the carpet.  Psychonauts, developed by Double Fine Games, led by industry vet Tim Schafer, had an amazing style, and used a cool method of telling the story: the levels.  I know other games use a similar technique, but they usually have to rely on audio diaries or some other contrivance.  In Psychonauts, you enter characters brains, and the levels represent that character’s particular quirks.  The rest of the game was amazing, but our favorite part was exploring the levels and figuring out how the level’s physical representation reflected the psyche of the character who’s brain you are in.  Definitely one of the more fun game worlds to play in.

7 Red Faction/Mars

The original Red Faction games for PS2 had the awesome Geomodding technology that allowed you to tunnel through the games’ underground levels and blow up a bunch of shit.  While these games were fun, Volition really upped its game with Red Faction: Guerrilla for the current generation of consoles and PC.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun just blowing shit up.  Red Faction: Guerrilla is a sandbox game that gives you some tools and says “Blow up EVERYTHING.”  Well the world of Mars doesn’t necessarily feel like the most lived-in world, and some of the level design is a bit sparse, the story and characters aren’t really the point.  The point is to blow shit up.  Whether it’s by knocking out a building’s supports with your giant sledgehammer, or setting 12 mines and blowing them up, or attaching some bombs to your car and driving it into a building, there is a ridiculous amount of fun to be had in Guerrilla.  We have yet to play the newest game in the series, but for Red Faction 1, 2, and the insane explosion-fest that is Guerilla, Mars makes 7th on our list.

6 Albion

Peter Molyneux’s Fable games have all been pretty spectacular in their own way, and a big reason for that is how fun it is to exist in the game’s world of Albion.  It may not be in an open world style, but there is more to do in one Fable game than in whole other game franchises.  The overarching effect you have on the world is breathtaking.  Usually you’ll have to make decisions early on in the game that will drastically effect how the world will be by the end of your playthrough.  There’s so much to do: building relationships with people, getting married, having kids, working jobs to make money, buying and selling houses, making money by being a landlord, it’s almost endless.  Usually when I start a Fable game I get through the opening section and then just do all the side quests and jobs I can to make money for hours before I get back to the quest.  Throw in the pitch-perfect sense of humor of Lion’s Head Studios and the amazing British voice acting (John Cleese?) and you have one of the best game universes ever created.

5 Rapture

Rapture conveys the feeling that it has been lived in for years.  Every room has a purpose (although there is a startling shortage of bathrooms), and every area tells a story.  When Bioshock was released in 2007, Irrational Games delivered a spectacular game, but really what sold me on the game was the environment.  While most players may have rushed through the game to get the next bit of the main storyline, we would explore the side passages four hours, listening to the creepy audio diaries and generally soaking it all in.  Do you have a grey area on your map?  For shame, explore that shit!  It also doesn’t hurt that the first Bioshock game had one of the best stories and some of the best characters ever to be featured in a video game.  It’s tough to get into the meat and potatoes without spoiling, but if you are a fan of dense, atmospheric environments that tell a story, you HAVE to play Bioshock.  And if you’ve played Bioshock 1 and 2 and can’t wait for infinite, have a look at the System Shock games, which may be a little dated, but are still gems.

4 Mass Effect


It’s been said before, but the Mass Effect games are essentially Star Trek without the license.  Everything in Bioware’s epic franchise is pretty much cribbed from the iconic sci-fi series, but in this case it’s quite okay.  We know the characters in the universe are interesting.  From Wrex’s haunted past (hard to go into without spoiling), to Ta’lia’s mysterious face (show it already!), the Mass Effect universe is dripping with interesting stories.  What intrigues us even more?  The world exploration (in the mining segments) and reading all the codecs.  There’s a story behind every person and place, and for every piece of weapon or armory there is a full scientific explanation in the codec.  All the tiny details help make the Mass Effect universe an incredibly interesting place, and we can’t wait to go back when Mass Effect 3 comes out next year.

3 Half-Life

Half-Life and Half-Life 2 instituted a type of storytelling in video games that is very prevalent in 2011.  Nowadays, almost half of games tell their story to you through the level design, whether it be through visual cues or audio diaries.  Half-Life started this trend, and Half-Life 2 and the Episodes perfected it.  The Black Mesa in the first game, Nova Prospekt prison and the Citadel in Half-Life 2, the American northwestern forest and the Borealis in the Episodes – every setting in the Half-Life universe tells an amazing story, if you only look for it.  Half-Life also made famous the “opening train ride” sequence that so many games utilize today.  The Half-Life universe is interesting in so many ways, and the fact that it is related (or the same) universe as the Portal games makes it all the better.  If you haven’t played a Half-Life game, go get Half-Life 2 and prepare to experience one of the best game “universes” around.

2 Mario

You may wonder why the Mario universe would be so high on our list, considering that the story in Mario games is always pretty much the same.  Sure it’s a charming universe with great characters that facilitates some of the best gameplay ever created, but is it really an amazing universe?  Yes it is, and to truly experience the wonder of the Mario universe, you should play the Mario RPG series.  Starting with “Super Mario RPG” for the SNES and continuing with “Paper Mario” for N64, the Mario RPG series now finds its home on the Nintendo DS under the title “Mario and Luigi.”  Since these games are RPGs, they are reliant on dialogue and I’m happy to report that these games have some of the best writing in any games ever.  In particular, the character of Luigi is amazing.  Constantly downtrodden and overlooked, Luigi is the underdog hero of the Mario universe, and his dialogue and storylines always make me laugh.  If you’ve never played the Mario RPG games, I highly suggest checking them out to experience how amazing the Mario universe truly is.

1 Zelda

Was there any doubt that Hyrule would take the number one spot?  Beginning with Zelda 1 and 2 on the NES, and moving on to the myriad of other amazing Zelda titles, the world of Hyrule one of the constants in a story that is constantly being retold.  My first Zelda experience was with A Link to the Past and I still have many of the dungeons memorized.  Zelda games have that amazing effect of imprinting themselves on your mind, so when you go back to play them it’s like riding a bike.  Even the weirder versions of Hyrule like in the Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap (one of my favorites for the Game Boy Advance) or the Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages games (Din and Faore as NPCs? okay) are still amazing.  But the definitive Hyrule has to be the one pictured above from the Ocarina of Time.  How many times did you ride Epona across Hyrule field to the castle?  How easy is it to picture Kokiri village in your mind?  Remember when you have to shoot a fire arrow at the sun from the middle of Lake Hylia?  Without a doubt, Hyrule is the game world we love to play in most, and we can’t wait for Skyward Sword to be released in a couple months.

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Posted on July 14, 2011, in Top 10 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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