Spider-Man pulls off the mammoth feat of making the entirety of Manhattan the game’s open world setting, and you can swing and grapple through all of it. This Manhattan is unlike a lot of other video game cities in that it simulates just how busy a megacity can be.
Each street has tons of NPCs and stand-still traffic jams are common. It’s clear Insomniac are eager to show off all their hard work, as there’s a mode that lets you play tourist with your camera and capture famous New York landmarks.
This is Marvel’s New York, however, meaning it also features fictional landmarks from the MCU, like the Wakandan embassy and the Avengers Tower.
LA Noire (Los Angeles)
We’ve has a few video game iterations of Los Angeles over the years, with GTAV’s spiritual sibling Los Santos and True Crime: Streets of LA’s incredibly detailed portrayal, but LA Noire wins this one.
LA Noire gives us not just a realistic portrayal of the City of Angels, but one from its colorful past. Set in 1947, the game meticulously recreates the layout and architecture of the late 40s LA.
The developers did such a great job replicating the city that for a while the internet was filled with instances of people making their Los Angeles-born grandparents play the game, and being able to perfectly navigate it from memory.
Grand Theft Auto V (Los Angeles)
The GTA games don’t tend to feature real cities as their settings, instead opting to create fictional cities only based on real ones, like Liberty City, Vice City, and the newest – Los Santos.
The latest installment in the franchise sets itself apart from its predecessors with its own version of LA in Los Santos, as well as the larger area of San Andreas in general. It’s much larger and more realistic than any other GTA city, as well as being fully open to explore from the start.
While it may not be LA itself, it’s a very close facsimile, as the development team used Google Maps projections of Los Angeles to design its intricate network of roads.
Sleeping Dogs (Hong Kong)
Sleeping Dogs lets you explore the bright and bustling city of Hong Kong, as well as its seedy underbelly.
As pretty as all the neon lights are, the game’s setting does so much more than just look good, letting you jump right in and experience the city nightlife for yourself. You can go gambling, sing karaoke, and even visit a massage parlor.
Although the game only lets you play through Hong Kong Island rather than the whole city, what you get is a borough that’s fully realized with a level of care and attention to detail that led to the enthusiastic reception Sleeping Dogs received when it first came released.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity (Paris)
Set in 18th century Paris, the level of detail in Assassin’s Creed: Unity is just ridiculous, and was something of a graphical pioneer when it came out in 2014.
The developers painstakingly recreated the city on a 1:1 scale, including dozens of named streets and over 40 Parisian landmarks, like Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sorbonne.
In fact, Notre Dame alone took two years or them to model in order to achieve such high standards of detail on the interior and outside.
The designers for the game researched countless antique maps of the city to make sure their version would be as historically accurate as possible.
Watch Dogs 2 (San Francisco)
Like Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Watch Dogs 2s’ story of hacktivism in San Francisco is another prime example of Ubisoft taking a real-word city and bringing it to life in a video game.
The original Watch Dogs has also been praised for its impressive rendition of Chicago, but the sequel’s improved graphical capabilities mean that San Fran comes out on top by far.
Ubisoft replicated a number of San Francisco landmarks such as Union Square and the MOMA, as well as smaller details, like pop-up markets. Even the odd graffiti or a particularly noteworthy chain fence goes a long way towards making the city truly immersive.
The Getaway (London)
2002’s The Getaway has been described as essentially GTA set in London and makes a great early example of a game replicating a real city with a high level of detail.
Developers Team Soho originally aimed to create 70 square miles of London streets. Due to the insane amount of processing power this would take, it soon dropped to 60 and was eventually narrowed down to 10 for the final game.
But what a 10 mile square radius it was, as even today the open world area remains shockingly faithful. The technology behind it was groundbreaking at the time, using an engine that constantly streamed geometry and textures the player was close to.
All of the games in the Yakuza series have received praise for their immersive locations that give you plenty of opportunities to get lost in city life, as well as keep you distracted from the main story.
The games’ primary setting of Kamurocho, the fictionalized version of the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, is replete with karaoke bars, nightclubs, and love hotels.
The zaniness of being able to run a cabaret club or win a chicken in a game of bowling aside, Kamurocho offers a surprisingly detailed look into the vibrant city nightlife.
Each game’s version of the district is a little different, so you’ll never get the same Kamurocho each time, although Yakuza 0‘s version remains the one of the settings with the highest silliness potential.
InFAMOUS: Second Son (Seattle)
The previous two games in the series were set in only fictionalized versions of New York and New Orleans, but Second Son goes to impressive lengths to mimic real-life Seattle.
The InFAMOUS games are champions of atmospheric settings, and the city of Seattle was the perfect choice for the game’s hip, rebellious feel.
Developer Sucker Punch is actually based in Seattle and chose it because they knew they could create a realistic portrayal that included all the details Seattle natives would recognize, spotlighting smaller landmarks like the gum wall, as well as more iconic features like the Space Needle.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (Greece)
Odyssey is an interesting one in that it features locations that don’t exist in the same way anymore. Set in 431 BC during the Peloponnesian War, the game reconstructs several ancient cities such as Athens, Sparta, and Olympia, with Athens being far and away the largest.
As with other Assassin’s Creed games, you can find tons of side-by-side comparisons of the game’s high-quality recreations with their modern day counterparts, showing that the design team were dedicated to making this version of Ancient Greece as historically accurate as it could be.
It’s fantastic to see temples to the gods in all their glory, and in several cities, you can even see accurately painted sculptures, unlike the white marble we’re used to today.