Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

11 City Recreations In Video Games Ranked By Realism

Not every single game strives to be as realistic as possible, but there are some games that try to recreate real-world locations in as much detail as possible. This can help give a game a sense of authenticity that draws the player in and immerses them in the action in a way that might not be possible with a fictional setting. In many cases, these types of games will be shooters or action-adventure games that involve gamers navigating complex worlds; basing them on real-life locations gives them a sense of familiarity, possibly making them all the more engaging to play.


Of course, these accurate recreations don't necessarily have to be designed by professional developers. Players can also get in on the action, using their imaginations to construct impressive cities in games such as "Minecraft" and "Cities: Skylines," using the in-built tools to get creative in ways that most of us can only dream of.

Whatever the case, there are plenty of spectacular recreations of real world cities throughout the gaming industry that nail locations such as London, Paris, Hong Kong, and New York. These are the best examples from a wide range of games.

11. The Loop - Minecraft

"Minecraft" is the type of game that allows players to make some truly remarkable things. Over the years, users have built everything from working computers to full games within the game, including a version of "Wordle." So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that many people have also spent time recreating some real-world locations in stunning detail. One of the most impressive of these is a remake of the Chicago Loop.


This virtual version of the Windy City includes over 35 blocks of downtown Chicago known as the Loop, as well as its transit system. The project took about five years to complete and includes some of the city's most famous landmarks, including the Fisher Building and the DePaul University Campus, as well as accurate placements for things such as sewer caps, drains, and even streetlights.

Creator aa60665 claims that the external details of every building are as accurate as they can be within the constraints of "Minecraft." Only a select few buildings have any interior, but the city also contains buses, trains, and cars on the roads. The download page on Planet Minecraft features dozens of side-by-side images showing just how accurate the fan creation is when compared to the real Chicago Loop, with even the skyline and streets closely matching their real-life counterparts.


10. Boston - Fallout 4

"Fallout 4" may take place hundreds of years after a nuclear war brought about the end of civilization, but that doesn't mean it's set in some unknown location. In fact, the action of the game largely takes place in Boston and other parts of New England in the United States. The alternative timeline of the "Fallout" series means there are many differences between the real-world locations and how they are depicted in "Fallout 4," but much of Boston will be very recognizable to those familiar with the area.


Many of Boston's notable landmarks and buildings are represented in a mostly authentic manner. Players will be able to spot places like Fenway Park, Bunker Hill Monument, and the State House, although there are some notable differences. As noted by GamesRadar, there are some changes when it comes to scaling and size, as the in-game map is far smaller than real-life Boston, meaning lots of areas have been shrunk down to make them fit in the world and be accessible to players.

According to Tech Times, buildings such as the Salem Witch Museum are accurate on the inside and outside, with the contents and rooms closely matching up. It's done so well that residents of Boston or the surrounding locations may get a sense of déjà vu when playing the game.


9. Pripyat - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

In many ways, "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" was a groundbreaking game that heralded a new age of first-person shooters. The campaign level "All Ghillied Up," which takes place in a real place called Pripyat, is regularly considered to be one of the finest in the Activision series (via Kotaku). It follows Lieutenant John Price and Captain MacMillan sneakily moving across the abandoned city to prepare for an assassination mission.


The Ukrainian city lies abandoned as part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, making it a great choice for an eerie wasteland level. However, unlike some of the other cities in this list, Pripyat is not recreated completely. Players are not given the opportunity to fully explore the area, but what is on display nails the look of the deserted city and its haunting atmosphere. Important landmarks play a significant role in the missions, with Pripyat Amusement Park (including its famous dilapitated Ferris wheel) and the Hotel Polissya getting extra attention.

8. Cape Town - Cities: Skylines

Since its release in 2015, "Cities: Skylines" has become the go-to city-building game for most people and is now a dominant title in the genre. Like "SimCity," the game revolves around players building their very own cities and simulating how they run, managing everything from building construction to utility services such as water and electricity. Of course, these games also give users the chance to be creative and stretch their imaginations. Players don't have to just make fantastic new cities; they can also recreate some of the most well known real-life locations in a virtual space.


One great example of this is the Cape Town creation from YouTube user JetJunky. In a video showcasing the South African city, viewers can see for themselves just how detailed the recreation is. Everything from the layout of the roads and streets to important landmarks, such as Cape Town Stadium, are in the correct place. JetJunky has also recreated Robben Island – now a tourist destination, but formerly home to the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years – as well as the nearby Table Mountain, all rendered realistic detail. 

According to comments on YouTube, the entire project took around a month to complete and includes items downloaded from Steam Workshop.

7. Los Angeles - LA Noire

In 2011, Rockstar Games — the company best known for its "Grand Theft Auto" and "Red Dead Redemption" series — released the crime-solving action-adventure game "L.A. Noire." Set in the late 1940s in Los Angeles, it follows the story of a detective working for the LAPD as he investigates a series of interconnected crimes in the City of Angels. Of course, setting the game decades in the past meant that, in many ways, it was a bit more difficult to achieve a faithful digital recreation of Los Angeles.


That didn't stop developer Team Bondi from doing as much research as possible to ensure that the in-game world was as realistic as possible. Director and writer Brendan McNamara told PlayStation Official Magazine that the first year of development was largely spent researching Los Angeles during this time period. This involved reading hundreds of newspapers from the era and analyzing thousands of old photographs, including some taken from an airplane in the 1920s. Maps from the Works Progress Administration held at the University of California were also examined, which helped to ensure every road was in the correct place.

According to Eurogamer, it was the largest and most detailed world created for a Rockstar game when it hit store shelves. The Atlantic went as far as to say that the realism of the in-game world helped to set it apart from other titles of the time.


6. Boston - The Last of Us

Boston appears to be a popular destination for video games, especially when it comes to post-apocalyptic settings. Before "Fallout 4" came along, Naughty Dog's "The Last of Us" featured its own version of a futuristic Boston, this one mostly abandoned after a fungal outbreak caused devastation throughout the United States. Like many other games, the various locations in "The Last of Us" are not entirely accurate to life, especially when it comes to the scale of the world and the distances between various landmarks.


As noted by Reality Is A Game, the developers still did enough to make Boston feel like a genuine representation of the real city without actually building the entire location. For instance, Naughty Dog accurately recreated Boston's transit system and ensured most of the buildings were built from bricks, capturing the feel of the city. This is true for other areas as well, which unmistakably have the tone of Boston without always representing the exact buildings or being situated in the right place geographically.

Still, fans have also noticed the accuracy of places like the Capitol Building, while a thread on ResetEra pointed out that the game features locations very similar to the Massachusetts State House and the Public Garden, just with different names.


5. Paris - Assassin's Creed Unity

Ubisoft almost always takes inspiration from genuine historical places for its "Assassin's Creed" games. That was no different in 2014's "Assassin's Creed Unity," which is based primarily in Paris during the French Revolution as the Assassins and the Templars continue their eternal battle. Like the rest of the franchise, which has been applauded for its historical accuracy, this entry in the series features a highly realistic depiction of France's capital city.


Despite having to work through complex French copyright laws that make recreating certain buildings and structures a problematic proposition, the developers were able to put together a virtual Paris that is still remarkably faithful (via Polygon). An article from The Verge revealed that certain designers spent almost two years working on buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, while others examined hundreds of maps to render the layout precisely as it would have been in the 18th century.

The studio even enlisted the help of outside experts and respected historians. According to Fast Company, the developers researched about how the citizens of Paris would have acted at the time to get an idea of what daily life would have been like, going so far as to revise the script to incorporate these elements of research. The result is a virtual Paris that feels almost fully authentic to the era.


4. San Francisco - Watch Dogs 2

Ubisoft has become known for its open world games over the last decade, often including real locales in its titles. For "Watch Dogs 2," the action takes place in San Francisco, swapping out Chicago from the first game. A time-lapse video posted by ENXGMA showcases just how detailed this digital version of the city is as their character walks across the entire map, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.


Like other virtual worlds based on real-life locations, the version of San Francisco seen in "Watch Dogs 2" is more crammed together, so the landmarks are closer together than in real life. (per GamesRadar). Again, this is a result of wanting to make the map a reasonable size and concentrate resources where they are needed.

Still, that doesn't mean that the map isn't accurate in other ways. As noted by CNET, locations such as Rincon Park and Cupid's Span are very realistically rendered, as are the Clock Tower and the Union Square shopping plaza. Particular praise has been paid to the way that Ubisoft managed to capture the wide array of architecture on offer in San Francisco.

3. Hong Kong - Sleeping Dogs

Developed by United Front Games and published by Square Enix, "Sleeping Dogs" follows an undercover police officer working in Hong Kong to bring down the Sun On Yee Triads. To make the city as accurate as possible, the developers spent several days exploring Hong Kong in person, taking thousands of reference photographs and recording ambient noises for use in the game.


Fans on Reddit have praised the level of detail and how the designers ultimately managed to get the atmosphere and aesthetics of the city right, even if the actual buildings and layout are not entirely one-to-one. According to Escapist Magazine, everything at street level has the correct look and sound, with street signs, lights, and vehicles all being accurate to what someone living in Hong Kong would experience. While the in-game map doesn't exactly follow the real layout of the city and several notable landmarks are missing, exploring the world does give a sense that you are walking in Hong Kong.

These thoughts were actually echoed by a former Triad member, who told Pocket-lint that they felt the game captured the violence and brutality of Hong Kong, as well as the colorful characters who often inhabit dangerous criminal groups.


2. New York City - Marvel's Spider-Man

Almost every adaptation of "Spider-Man" takes place in the hero's home turf of New York City. In 2018's "Marvel's Spider-Man" from Insomniac Games, much of the story takes place in a fictional version of Manhattan. Recreating such a large area would be impossible, so the developer obviously had to make some changes to New York City to get it to work in a game. Still, in many respects, it is successful in being recognizable as the Big Apple.


Many of the most famous landmarks from the city are present in the game, from the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center to Central Park and Radio City Music Hall. According to Polygon, much of the map is highly realistic, looking just as they do in reality. Some gamers have even claimed to have been able to find their former residences in the game. 

Other parts of the map are a bit more generic, since the developers took the approach of compacting some of the most memorable parts of New York City and spreading them around the in-game map. Perhaps the best way to see just how well New York City has been recreated is to survey the land around the Empire State Building. You'll also be able to spot some landmarks that only exist in Marvel's NYC, like Avengers Tower or Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.


1. Washington D.C. - The Division 2

Arguably the most realistic city recreated in a video game is Washington D.C. as seen in "Tom Clancy's The Division 2." Another Ubisoft game, this is a further example of the company putting a great deal of work into crafting an authentic representation of a real city. The action role-playing game takes place in a near future where a weaponized strain of smallpox has caused a pandemic and toppled the United States government. The player controls an agent tasked with restoring order and keeping civilians safe in the nation's capital.


The team behind the title wanted to ensure that Washington would feel as realistic as possible to players. According to a dev interview with Game Skinny, this involved hiring military experts and other professionals for advice in accurately representing the architecture and layout of the city. Windows Central noted that the developers aimed to have a one-to-one version of Washington in "The Division 2." The site also highlighted several landmarks as being perfect representations of their real-life counterparts, including the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

These faithful renderings were made possible through the designers' extensive research trips, during which they gathered information and geographical data. The result is one of the most realistic cities ever recreated in a game. Anyone who has even visited Washington D.C. will immediately recognize everything seen in-game.