It’s hard to believe seven years have already come and gone, and now we’re at the dawn of a new generation of gaming consoles. With the PlayStation 4 launching last weekend and the Xbox One launching this Friday, I too have been looking back at some of my favorite gaming memories on the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. “There were some magnificent game universes introduced to us on these three consoles, weren’t there?” I thought to myself. But then I realized, not all of my memories were golden.
As such, I put together two lists. First up, the five best video game worlds to come out of the last console generation. Bear with me after that though, as I give you the five absolute worst worlds designed in the last seven years.
The Five BEST Video Game Worlds:
1. Rapture – BioShock
At first it was difficult to choose between Rapture and BioShock Infinite’s Columbia, but in the end I knew which of these two cities needed to be included in the list. To this day, Rapture stands as one of the most immersive video game worlds I have ever experienced. I could spend hours taking down Splicers while exploring the ruins of what was once the classiest city in the world, reminiscing about what Rapture was like in its prime (Before Burial at Sea came and actually showed me Rapture in its prime, that is).
2. Arkham City – Batman: Arkham City
In my last installment of The Minus World, I talked about how I had just started playing Batman: Arkham City. Now that I have completed the main campaign and am now tackling the side missions, I completely understand the praise of the game’s titular overworld. A dark, crumbling city packed with every famous Batman villain where you solve seemingly endless crimes as the Caped Crusader himself: it’s as awesome as it sounds.
3. LittleBigPlanet – LittleBigPlanet series
The world of LittleBigPlanet was probably one of the most creative to have come out of the last console generation. Almost made to look like a diorama put together in a grade school art class, LittleBigPlanet was one of the cheeriest-looking places I have visited in a platformer since the days of classic Mario.
4. Aperture Laboratories – Portal series
Over the course of both Portal games, I’ve wanted to explore the seemingly endless passageways of this diabolical underground science facility more and more. In the first Portal you merely get a taste of Aperture Labs as you carefully traverse the gleaming white test chambers, finally running through the decomposing backstage areas in the last fourth of the game. By Portal 2 you finally learn the scale of this abandoned facility, traveling all the way to the bottom of the converted mine shaft Aperture was built in to discover the original “testing spheres” operated by Cave Johnson. Aperture Laboratories is a massive world as rich in history and backstory as the sarcastic, homicidal AI that runs it.
5. Pandora – Borderlands series
In a series that focuses on hunting treasure, there naturally has to be a huge overworld to explore. Pandora really gives you a sense of adventure as you travel across its dangerous terrain. This world is so massive it’s practically impossible to travel from one end of a map to the other on foot. In addition to the sense of adventure you get from its perils and scale, Pandora is also beautiful to look at, especially with the cel-shaded textures that the Borderlands series has become known for.
All right, those were easily the best game worlds of the last console generation. Now I apologize in advance for sharing the worst gaming worlds from the last seven years…
The Five WORST Video Game Worlds:
1. BanjoLand – Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
For once, I’m not talking about an entire overworld world but rather an individual level. Being a huge fan of the original Banjo-Kazooie games on the Nintendo 64, at first I was excited hearing about the “Banjo-Kazooie museum” nostalgia level included in Nuts & Bolts. Then I found out that many of the “artifacts” from classic Banjo-Kazooie levels were carelessly ripped from their homes and thrown about the museum. The snowman from Freezeezy Peak is half-melted. Clanker, the mechanical shark from Clanker’s Cavern, was torn to pieces; his sad-looking eyes follow you as you walk by the top of his head, which is bolted to the floor. BanjoLand was less a tribute to the original Banjo-Kazooie games and more of a slap in the faces of the series’ loyal fans.
2. Soleanna – Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
This overworld is empty. The only thing Soleanna accomplishes is being a time waster as you travel to the next level. Sure, there are side missions you can complete, but what’s the point? Most of them serve no purpose other than being a brief diversion. Apart from that, your characters can’t interact with most of Soleanna’s stoic-faced zombie citizens. And let’s not forget that this overworld is home to one of the worst boss fights of all time. It’s no use, indeed.
3. The Minecraft Universe
Oh, I’m not saying Minecraft is a bad game at all. Honestly, the world of Minecraft should be in my “best worlds” list above but I ran out of room up there. Okay, since it’s here, let’s think of something bad about Minecraft. It… uhh… wastes a lot of my time? Yeah. I waste way too much time playing Minecraft because it’s so easy to get lost in that big, blocky world for hours on end. There, that should do.
4. Santa Destroy – No More Heroes
Don’t get me wrong. I love No More Heroes. It’s easily the most underappreciated game on the Wii. But its overworld, the city of Santa Destroy, is so boring. You can drive Travis around on his motorcycle to get to various destinations, but there’s no further depth to it besides that. Oh yeah, you can run over people and trees, but that’s only funny for about five minutes. There are no ramifications for you doing that. The people you run over just get up and go on their merry way. The map had tons of potential; Santa Destroy could have easily been a Grand Theft Auto-like sandbox world that offered tons of other activities besides the main campaign, side missions and jobs. But instead of further developing the world for No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Suda51 took a step backwards and scrapped the overworld in favor of a menu screen. Worst decision ever.
5. Hyrule – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
After loving the various versions of Hyrule we saw in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, the massive Great Sea in Wind Waker and Termina in Majora’s Mask, the version of Hyrule we got in Skyward Sword felt so small and redundant. There were only three areas in Hyrule: a forest, a desert, and a volcano, all three of which we have seen in a previous Zelda game to some capacity. It was also disappointing seeing how little the new element of flying in the sky was played up. I was hoping to sail across a sky that would be even larger than Wind Waker’s Great Sea. Instead, I explored Skyloft, a few small rocks floating around it, and… That was about it. Perhaps I went into the game with my expectations set too high, but regardless my adventures through Hyrule in Skyward Sword didn’t feel nearly as grand as other Zelda games in the much smaller world I traveled through.
The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter.