5. The SNES-pocalypse (Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger)
Oh, Lord. I can see the confusion and nerd-rage accumulating quicker than I can write. Let’s face it – the Super Nintendo possessed two of the greatest games ever made, and both happen to feature post-apocalyptic scenarios. We couldn’t possibly choose one over the other nor could we justify kicking one off the list. Both are unique in that they bear equal parts gameplay in both pre and post environmental destruction. Final Fantasy VI illustrates a vast world with a story revolving around the rebellious Returners and their fight against the Empire and Emperor Gestahl. Many hours later, the Emperor’s Magitek Knight Kefka demonstrates his sociopathic hatred for humanity by entering the Esper world and disrupting the world’s balance. The World of Balance becomes the World of Ruin. Players get to see the world they spent hours exploring in its new, destroyed state. Similarly, Crono, Marle, and Lucca explore their world in Chrono Trigger not only in the present, but also the past before traveling to a post-apocalyptic future in 2300 A.D. Players also get to explore this desolate, futuristic world before traveling back to prevent the world’s untimely end at the grasp of Lavos. We dubbed these worlds as the ‘SNES-pocalypse.’
4. Pandora (Borderlands)
Very little is known of Pandora’s history predating the time in which the series takes place. However, its desolate, barren nature is that of a long-suffering ecosystem. Let us also not forget that countless psychos, thieves, murderers, and corporate scumbags inhabit the land, interested in only their own selfish purposes. The atmosphere clearly draws inspiration from and is hugely reminiscent of Mad Max. It’s not unreasonable to expect that Pandora’s decayed state is the result of abuse caused by centuries of conflict and excavation over and for the rare Iridium element as well as the mythical, treasure-laden vaults left by an alien civilization. Aside from the hilarious (and sometimes insane) personalities that Pandora has to offer with the likes of Claptrap, Scooter, and Marcus Kincaid, it also illustrates a long history with the likes of Dahl, Atlas, and Hyperion in the second title. Pandora is a hugely entertaining mode of life after civilization, and that’s why we love it.
3. Rapture (Bioshock)
Rapture isn’t just one of the all-time great video game settings, it’s one of the most thoughtful fictional settings of the past few decades. While the earth’s surface is unblemished in this fiction, in Bioshock, the player experiences the total collapse of another world. I remember being in awe as I played through the first thirty minutes of Bioshock. We’re introduced to the world of Rapture through the eyes of Jack, the plane-wrecked protagonist. Once a great underwater utopia, the ruins of Rapture are home to chemical-addicted, murderous fiends. The prominent art deco influence and jive 60’s tunes firmly immerse the player in this abandoned world. Discarded amongst the ruins are voice recordings from citizens of all classes and cultures. The player learns of Rapture’s founding father Andrew Ryan, his socialist dream, and the class warfare and revolt that lead to Rapture’s demise. It’s a story and setting that I still think about to this day and it earns its high spot on our list.
2. United States (The Last of Us)
While The Last of Us is ultimately a story about the relationship between two people, the world surrounding that relationship stands tall on its own two legs. The game takes place in the United States twenty years after a pandemic outbreak devastates the human race. Society as we know it has collapsed, and though the world isn’t completely lawless, culture does seem more like the wild west. People live in dirty, impoverished locales, the government regularly scans for infection, and those who test positive are killed on the spot. In the role of Joel, the player sets out on a task of utmost importance to the human race, retracing the manifest-destined steps of those that came before him. Along the journey, you experience all walks of life in this down-trodden world. And although there are plenty of people to meet, the ultimate tone of the game is one of solitude and loneliness. Vegetation and overgrowth triumphantly scour human architecture while those few humans left stumble about, hopeless and afraid.