Here is a list of five of the biggest and most influential worlds in gaming today. These aren’t necessarily the best worlds by any stretch of the imagination. This isn’t a list of game universes, because that would be a list of LEGO and Marvel games. Nor is this a list of worlds with the highest pixel counts, or from titles which are particularly progressive – they’re titles which are have had a big impact on games, gaming and pop-culture as a whole.
So without any further ado,
While the city under the sea is not strictly a game which has influenced gaming, it is a world which anyone who has played Bioshock would pay good money to visit.
Ideally, this would be a visit before all went to hell (similar to the glimpse we saw in Burial at Sea), but even if you were to take away the Plasmids, the Adam and the Little Sisters which made the place so iconic, what you have is a city under the sea and one hell of a view.
Imagine you’ve finished work. You’re on your way home, and pop into the shops to get a loaf of bread. As you do so a giant whale swims gracefully past the window, making you smile in childlike amusement. That is a world which most gamers would love to live in, even if you were to put the Plasmids, Adam, and even Andrew Ryan into the mix.
Sure, it all went to shit eventually and Andrew Ryan was a bit of a dick, but for a while there, Rapture must have been something truly amazing to behold.
Nobody can deny the impact World of Warcraft has had on the gaming world.
This is a game which came out in 2003, and is still going strong in 2014. The sheer level of dedication Blizzard has put into the game over the last decade is staggering, with regular patches, updates and expansions creating a constant stream of new and novel content for the denizens of Azeroth, the world in which WoW is set, to enjoy.
Not only has WoW been going for over a decade, it was the cause of the MMORPG boom we saw in the 2000’s. Before WoW, MMOs were a niche pursuit with only a small handful of titles like Everquest having managed to gain any degree of serious tattention.
All of that changed when Blizzard declared it was reinventing its long-running Warcraft real-time strategy series as an MMO. And amazingly, they pulled it off.
Fending off all competition for 11 years is no easy task, and Blizzard has done well for itself in this game. On top of the World of Warcraft clones which came out of this game, we also have the CCG spin-off, Hearthstone, which is absolutely brilliant and well worth your time.
But it’s not just the addictive and polished gameplay mechanics that keep people coming back to Azeroth. It’s the lore, and the sense of place. Whether it’s entering the gates of Stormwind for the first time, experiencing the vast savannah of the Barrens venturing into the alien landscapes of Outland, World of Warcraft presents a vast world filled with rich characters, backstory, iconic landmarks and no small degree of in-jokes and easter eggs tucked away for diligent explorers to find. With in-game lore spanning thousands of years and detailed through the course of numerous games, comics, novels and an upcoming feature film, Azeroth is more than just window dressing for a game. It’s become something much more – a tangible, believable world to rival some of the best fantasy settings ever created – in any medium.
Again, a fairly obvious one on this list, dating back to 1986 with the release of The Legend of Zelda. Since then, we have seen a staggering number of games revolving around Link and Princess Zelda, with a majority of them set in the same world of Hyrule.
Hyrule, we are told in Ocarina of Time, was formed by the three goddesses: Din, Nayru and Farore who created the land, laws and races to uphold those laws, respectively. Once the goddesses were done with their tasks, they left Hyrule for the heavens, leaving behind three golden triangles imbued with their powers to control all things. This iconic triangle of triangles can be seen everywhere from t-shirts to tattoos: the relic known as the Triforce.
While Hyrule has changed a lot over the years – from railroad-covered landscapes to vast oceans and cities floating in the sky – it’s actually all the same world (though split into divergent timelines thanks to some time-travel shenanigans), simply at different stages of history. Link is rarely the same person in each game, rather a series of individuals all destined to fulfill a great destiny.
The (slightly confusing) chronology of the Zelda series was the subject of much debate by fans for years, until the publication of the weighty tome Hyrule Historia finally set out every game’s status in the game’s canon and chronology.
Skyrim is just one continent on Tamriel, in the Elder Scrolls universe. While the continent of Skyrim is not the biggest in Tamriel, it is by far the most loved continent, providing hours of gorgeous gameplay for all to enjoy. Skyrim itself may not be the biggest Elder Scrolls game either, as that would go to The Elder Scrolls Online, but it is the biggest Elder Scrolls game which people actually like.
How many games can you think of where you can say a line and people actually know where it comes from, whether they’ve played the game or not? “The cake is a lie!” is obviously a Portal quote. “Your princess is in another castle” is another quote which almost all gamers will know is from the Mario franchise. “I used to be an adventurer like you…” is so thoroughly ingrained in modern culture that it’s bound to show up as a t-shirt on The Big Bang Theory at some point.
Pokemon is without a doubt one of the most iconic games in the (admittedly short) history of our medium. It could even be argued that it is the most iconic, with characters like Pikachu so deeply embedded in the minds of every child, teenager, parent and possibly even grandparent in both the West and Japan that other contenders like Link, Mario and once upon a time even Sonic could have a run for their money.
The ethics of digitizing animals and stuffing them into Pokeballs aside, the world of Pokemon is a thoroughly appealing place to live. Most of us have sat at our desk at work or school, thrown your pencil down and groaned “urghh, I just wanna be a Pokemon Master…” Many of us have even dreamed of raising our very own Pikachu (or Rayquaza if you’re a badass). There’s not really much else to say about Pokemon that would prove this point, so let’s just end it with the following words. All together now:
I want to be the very best
that noone ever was.
To catch them is my real test…
to train them is my cause.
I will travell across the land
searching far and wide.
Each Pokemon to understand
THE POWER THAT’S INSIDE!!!