Which Video Games Have the Best Architecture?

With the ability to manipulate every interaction players have in a game, video game designers have boundless opportunity to shape the way players experience space. Because of this, game designers often look to architecture to enhance gameplay and provide inspiration for the appearances of their virtual worlds.

In the video above, Jamin Warren of YouTube show PBS Game/Show calls Halo the “most creative architectural game,” remarking that the brutalist-inspired architecture of the series exerted a strong influence on the way players move through levels and makes the battles in the game more immersive. Warren notes that several members of Halo’s development team had backgrounds in architecture; this observation suggests that the video gaming industry views architectural design as an essential element in its creative endeavors.

Warren makes an interesting point with his remarks on Halo: while people that inhabit virtual buildings cannot experience them physically, video game buildings can still be incredibly innovative and interesting. Which other video games feature innovative architectural approaches? Check out our list of six of the most architectural video games after the break.

via halowaypoint.comScreenshot from Assassin's Creed: Unity. Image © Flickr CC user ZehtaArchitecture from the SimCity expansion pack "Cities of Tomorrow". Image © simcity.comThe city of Rapture in Bioshock. Image via bioshock.wikia.com

User-built architecture in Minecraft. Image © Flickr CC user wcm1111

User-built architecture in Minecraft. Image © Flickr CC user wcm1111

1. Minecraft

Warren briefly addresses Minecraft in his YouTube video (at 6:22); with this game, players have the ability to design their own worlds. Working with large blocks, players can create architectural marvels while at the same time reacting to perils the game creates.

The city of Rapture in Bioshock. Image via bioshock.wikia.com

The city of Rapture in Bioshock. Image via bioshock.wikia.com

2. BioShock

The BioShock series is a collection of first person shooters set in warped versions of ideal societies; the game encourages players to think strategically about their environment to defeat enemies. Throughout the series, the architecture and locations are consistently outlandish and futuristic (the first game takes place primarily in an underwater city), and drive the story as players react to increasingly bizarre environments and scenarios. Unifying BioShock is a distinctive steampunk aesthetic, which makes the game feel even stranger by filling its architecture with a design history that players have little cultural connection to.

Screenshot from Assassin's Creed: Unity. Image © Flickr CC user Zehta

Screenshot from Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Image © Flickr CC user Zehta

3. Assassin’s Creed

Searching out targets is only a small part of this series – players navigate labyrinthine cities and explore buildings from a variety of eras. Assassin’s Creed also encourages players to rethink conventional ideas on how people move through buildings: users frequently have to free-climb buildings to escape pursuit, or find hidden spaces to spy on characters.

The city featured in Mirror's edge. Image via mirrorsedge.com

The city featured in Mirror’s edge. Image via mirrorsedge.com

4. Mirror’s Edge

Mirror’s Edge has a different premise than Assassin’s Creed; instead of stealthy killers, Mirror’s Edge players play as couriers who take messages to insurgents, but the way the characters interact with their surroundings is strikingly similar. Mirror’s Edge asks players to explore a sparkling, glass-filled city using a blend of combat and parkour, and in the process urges players to reconsider what it means to travel in an urban setting.

Screenshot from Borderlands 2. Image via hdw.eweb4.com

Screenshot from Borderlands 2. Image via hdw.eweb4.com

5. Borderlands

Borderlands takes place on a fictitious planet on which players try to find and open an alien structure called a “vault.” The architecture surrounding this exotic quest has a futuristic and post-apocalyptic design that proposes what buildings might look like for an isolated culture that has been contacted and abandoned by an advanced, powerful society.

Architecture from the SimCity expansion pack "Cities of Tomorrow". Image © simcity.com

Architecture from the SimCity expansion pack “Cities of Tomorrow”. Image © simcity.com

6. SimCity and Cities: Skylines

Of course we couldn’t forget the original city builder, SimCity, which allows players to control the development of their very own city. Recently though, a contender for the crown of the ultimate city building game has been released in the form of Cities: Skylines – which was so interesting we published a whole article about what it teaches us about urbanism today.

Are there any games we missed? Let us know in the comments below!boardboard