The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave has had some rocky times in video game history, with numerous alternate realities tellings stories of a very different America than we know today. These versions of American span from wastelands of nuclear fallout to recreations of the wild west, but one thing that they all have in common is that they are very interesting. Trust me, you will want to spend time in these alternate Americas.
1. Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar has long been famous for creating alternate versions of American cities. Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas have all been thinly veiled nods to New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. When the team at Rockstar made Red Dead Redemption, they created a version of the wild west that was unforgettable. Whether it was the dusty saloons and deserts of New Austin, the pueblo littered deserts of Nuevo Paraiso, or the pine tree covered mountains of West Elizabeth, the world of Red Dead Redemption was a constantly jaw dropping experience.
Red Dead Redemption sought to exemplify the western expansion of the United States, a particularly dangerous and ambitious time in American History as the civilizations of the east began to stretch their arms out across the untamed world of the west. Settlers in the west would find conflict with the natives being driven from their homes and amongst each other, as every man fought to fulfill their vision of the American dream. It was time of bandits, sheriffs, conmen, freedom fighters, ranchers, and dreamers all believing the land was theirs for the taking.
Irrational’s city under the sea, known as Rapture, has become iconic amongst video game settings. A dystopian version of society, ripped from Atlas Shrugged, created by business tycoon Andrew Ryan with the vision of a world where everyone was the perfect human. Rapture is defined by its lack of sunlight, century gothic font, and blend of inexplicable technology. Populated with ghastly splicers, who cover their faces with masks to hide from their disturbing reality, and the unnerving duo of Big Daddies and Little Sisters, Rapture is a city that is defined by short, harrowing history.
Seeking to escape the constrictions of the United States Government, Ryan created Rapture as a safe haven for the elite of society. Science excelled in Ryan’s paradise and soon people were able to genetically alter their DNA to achieve true human perfection. But war found Rapture and soon Ryan was entrenched against a nemesis called Frank Fontaine, a former gangster. Fontaine soon gave away to a man named Atlas, a man who spoke for the lower classes of Rapture and on New Year’s Eve of 1959 Rapture was the site of a mutated war. Filled with audio journals detailing the citie’s fall and scarred individuals, desperate to escape, Rapture is a nightmare you won’t want to leave.
“War never changes,” the haunting words of Fallout 3 still ring true in the America created when nuclear missiles strike the United States. The series spans coast to coast, documenting battles on one side of the country between the New California Republic and the Caesar’s Legion, to the other side where the Brotherhood of Steel fight the Enclave. Vast wastelands of uninhabitable nuclear desert span across the continent, speckled with small towns holding colorful–if somewhat unbalanced–characters. There’s plenty to fear in this post-apocalyptic world, filled with super mutants, radiation altered centaurs, and dangerous outlaws.
After World War II ends technology takes a sudden turn when the transistor is not invented, forcing the world to rely on atomic and vacuum energy. These alternatives lead to a world where 1950-esque computers and radios exist alongside robots and lasers. An energy crisis leads to a battle over resources, which triggers countries to fire nuclear weapons. This gives birth to one of the bleakest visions of alternate America.
Speaking of bleak universes, few are as dark as the alternate world in Resistance. Resistance shows a war decimated version of Great Britain and North America. Each Resistance game focuses on dark hues and cities filled with debris from broken buildings. With the invading forces being the highly evolved and technologically superior Chimera, the Resistance give the impression of a World War II art style, blended with a science fiction universe.
Resistance starts its divergence from history slightly after the Spanish-American War, when a different outcome to World War I leads to a strong European Alliance that avoids the Great Depression and World War II. Things take sour turn when the Tunguska event–an actual event where an explosion was caused by an asteroid burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere–led to the arrival of the Chimera. This extraterrestrial foe quickly conquered all of Europe and threatens world domination. With Europe under occupation, the United States send soldiers across the Atlantic, hoping to liberate the continent from its alien invaders. With its documentation and deep lore, Resistance is a wonderfully interesting idea of an alternate America.
5. Metal Gear
Created during the Cold War, Metal Gear originally was crafted as a story of how governments manipulate their soldiers. Kojima has unleashed some pretty bizarre stories in this world to make his point, but the world of Metal Gear is one of espionage, secret armies, and powerful weapons. Each Metal Gear game shows a world of advanced technology, populated by cyborgs and super powered humans, in which the impossible is always possible.
The Metal Gear lore is dense and complicated, but begins with the character Big Boss, originally code named Naked Snake, who acts as an operative during the Cold War. Big Boss goes on to mentor the game’s central figure Solid Snake, who is forced to fight Big Boss in the original Metal Gear when it turns out he is leading a military faction called, “Outer Haven”. Solid Snake continues to operate in the FOXHOUND unit and discovers an organization called The Patriots that are designed to manipulate history. Patriots, FOX, and more all contribute to the world of military deception and infiltration in this deep, though sometimes confusing series.
Do you have any particular timelines you felt were left out? Are one of these games your all time favorite? Let us know what you think of this list or the games on it in the comments below.