As gamers there are a lot of amazing worlds we get to explore from the comforts of our seats. So many in fact that it becomes a subjective and drawn-out endeavour to select what constitutes as a perfect (or poor) setting. In order to remain concise and circumvent this problem, this list will only contain games that are available on 8th generation consoles. For the book lovers amongst us, included are reading suggestions of works that are, to some extent, evocative of the listed games.
11. Yamatai (Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition)
- And I Alone Survived, 1978 [Lauren Elder, Shirley Streshinsky]
- Hatchet (Brian’s Saga), 1987 [Gary Paulsen]
- Lord of the Flies, 1954 [William Golding]
Survive or die. The story practically writes itself.
Survival narratives are always gripping, and more so when they’re set in the backdrops of conceivable vistas; securing shelter, knowing how to light a fire, and having access to clean water are all essentials that have to be overcome within the first three days. The recipe to these stories are always the same, but the protagonists introduce the human factor, and how these individuals overcome their environments always makes for great stories.
Lara’s personal journey across Yamatai is such a tale. We get to see her struggle, overcome obstacles, and grow into the tomb raider. Whether a story based on Yamatai would focus on surviving the island or on the ancient mystery engulfing the paradise, either direction would translate well into a written narrative.
- Yharnam (Bloodborne)
- Dracula, 1897 [Bram Stoker]
- The Cabinet of Dr Blessing, 2014 [Jack Rollins]
- This House is Haunted, 2013 [John Boyne]
The eerie, Victorian-gothic town of Yharnam is perfect for a mystery, horror novel. The town is crawling with grotesque monsters from the darkest alleyway to the highest rooftop, there’s a mysterious illness threatening to snuff out human existence within the locale, and to top it all off you’re an unwitting participant to a larger, and darker truth. All of this makes for a chilling novel that’d delight and astonish well after multiple re-readings.
- Rapture (BioShock: The Collection)
- 1984, 1949 [George Orwell]
- Brave New World, 1932 [Aldous Huxley]
- Uglies (Uglies Quartet), 2005 [Scott Westerfeld]
“A man chooses, a slave obeys.” – Andrew Ryan
Rapture was meant to be a utopia free from government shackles, a haven not limited by the ethics of religion, a sanctuary for artists, and a city that rewards the sweat of your brow. But that freedom came with a cost as the city spiralled out of control and anarchy was bred.
The multiple individuals trying to further their own goals were the cause of the city’s end and these same individuals, alongside the bioengineered Splicers, would make for riveting characters were the underwater city ever converted into a setting for a novel.
- Sacred Lands (Horizon Zero Dawn)
- City, 1952 [Clifford D. Simak]
- Queen City Jazz (Nanotech Quartet), 1994 [Kathleen Ann Goonan]
- The World Without Us, 2007 [Alan Weisman]
1,000 years into the future a calamity has struck and mankind has fallen on the food chain. There’s a new alpha in town, and it’s the machines.
Conflict with the machines takes centre age, but humans are still a constant problem. Introduce fractious tribes that border one another and the Sacred Lands makes for an area that follows very specific customs and interesting politics with its neighbours. The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is as developed as it is primitive.
- Earthrealm (Mortal Kombat X)
- Burden of Sisyphus (Brink of Distinction Trilogy), 2011 [Jon Messenger]
- Dead West (Dead West Series), 2016 [Tim Marquitz]
- Valhalla (Valhalla Trilogy), 2010 [Ari Bach]
Enter a world in strife where select heroes are trying to do their best to bring some semblance of stability to their world. A story that would take on Mortal Kombat’s Earthrealm would be heavy on the action, contain characters that are larger than life, and be visceral.
- Spira (Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster)
- The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia), 1955 [C.S. Lewis]
- The Magicians, 2009 [Lev Grossman]
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900 [L. Frank Baum]
Portal fantasies are typically about characters who have been transported from one world to another, beginning a self-reflective journey while the protagonist tries to find a way back home. FFX’s central plot is no different.
Spira is a fascinating world that takes inspiration from southeast Asia, and this offers a refreshing break from Western-centric narratives that are typically the most famous of portal fantasy stories. A different culture as inspiration allows for a different feel to the story, and those unfamiliar with far eastern mythos are in for a treat.
- Shujin Academy/Metaverse (Persona 5)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, 2011 [Ransom Riggs]
- SuperMutant Magic Academy, 2015 [Jillian Tamaki]
- Satou-kun no Juunan Seikatsu, 2016 [Swiss Kaneshiki]
No list would be complete without an entry centred on adolescent students.
You’re on the cusp of adulthood, coming to terms with how society works, and your place in it all. For better or for worse, the years leading up to matric shape our future selves, and it takes our university selves quite some time to break out from those moulds and shape new personas for when we’re meant to start adulting and being more responsible.
By mashing the going-ons of Shujin Academy and the Metaverse, the world of Persona gives us teenagers who are trying to shape their own identities as they reject and combat certain features of the world. Tales about students are always exciting but we’ve all been a teenager and to one capacity or another, we’ve all been students trying to get by with everyday drama.
- The Commonwealth (Fallout 4)
- City of Savages, 2015 [Lee Kelly]
- The Last Book in the Universe, 2000 [Rodman Philbrick]
- Wool (Silo Series), 2011 [Hugh Howey]
Technically not fictional, The Commonwealth is Boston after a nuke. However, considering the setting is a fictitious imagination of a how a post-apocalyptic Boston would look, run, and feel it makes the list.
If world order and habitability were indeed dismantled by nuclear fallout the idea of Vaults as safehouses is intriguing. Would survivors opt to live their remaining days underground, or would they eventually come up to reclaim the surface and lifestyles once lost?
The Commonwealth is made that much more interesting because of its 40s and 50s retro-futuristic aesthetics.
- Limbo City (DmC: Devil May Cry – Definitive Edition)
- Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children Series), 2018 [Seanan McGuire]
- Neverwhere, 1996 [Neil Gaiman]
- The Book of Lost Things, 2006 [John Connolly]
A world where the actions and thoughts of humans are controlled by unseen spirits and there exists an individual who is able to traverse both worlds freely; allowing him to be the potential liberator.
Parallel universes or mirror worlds that affect our own, and yet we remain oblivious to their existence are worlds we’ve all considered the existence of at some points in our lives. It’s naturally exciting to think that the world that we know isn’t the only one, and with that thought it’s even more exciting to imagine what one would or could do if he, or she, was able to traverse both worlds.
- Mushroom Kingdom (Super Mario Odyssey)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964 [Roald Dahl]
- The Princess Knight, 2001 [Cornelia Funke]
- Where the Wild Things Are, 1963 [Maurice Sendak]
What makes the Mushroom Kingdom unique is that everything about it is geared towards children, and yet adults take great delight in it as well.
Were it ever to be converted into a book, the very same would have to be reflected so that the few adults with very original takes on what truly is going on below the surface of the Italian plumber’s adventures can continue with their theorisations as the rest of the world enjoys a comical rivalry for the hand of a princess who’s not quite interested in marriage.
- Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition)
- A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire), 1996 [George R.R. Martin]
- Sabriel (Old Kingdom Series), 1995 [Garth Nix]
- The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), 1954 [J.R.R. Tolkien]
Fantastical settings like that of Skyrim spawn a series of work because it’s simply impossible to encompass such epics into a single, reader-friendly manuscript. Skyrim alone is part of a larger world and, in a way, each entry of The Elder Scroll can be looked at as a book in an ongoing series.
With the many gods, guilds, ruins, races, and monsters available in Skyrim, a story set in such a world simply comes down to picking a race for the protagonist and reading on to discover what his or her story is (much like how you start each game entry).