‘Fallout 3’ — Washington D.C.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., Fallout 3 juxtaposes a pervasive sense of dread with a paranoia-inducing quiet. Remnants of the city’s buildings continue to crumble in a state of irreparable decay.
There’s something sobering about Washington’s skyline outlasting the majority of humanity, as if these structures were built as a testament to humankind’s golden era of ideals before its worst traits shattered the planet. Although Fallout 3’s Washington D.C. is grim, it’s wondrous even despite its descent into nothingness.
‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ — Ancestor Glade
Skyrim has an abundance of natural wonders, such as the 7,000 steps to High Hrothgar — a sanctuary for the wise Greybeards. However, the most awe-inspiring wonder in Skyrim is tucked away in one of the game’s least explored regions: Ancestor Glade.
Ancestor Glade is home to a rare canticle tree, the bark of which attracts a whisper of moths to aid you in deciphering an ancient Elder Scroll. However, the glade at large bears a sense of tremendous majesty: Roaring waterfalls crash over smooth rocks, and Neolithic monuments are dotted across its lower recesses, giving the glade a kind of singular tranquility.
‘Pokémon’ — Indigo Plateau
The Indigo Plateau, also known as the Pokémon League, has appeared in several iterations of Nintendo’s behemoth RPG series. Although the League’s infamous battles are raucous and invigorating, it’s the grandiose building itself that’s truly special.
The plateau’s amber bricks stand amid vast gardens of green and pillars of stone. Its imposing posture is intimidating in a way that’s more alluring than alarming, as there’s a sense of prestige attached to this isolated and exclusive place. Although this arena of champions has seen several reiterations, it never ceases to retain its enchanting majesty and inherent sense of wonder and awe.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ — Hyrule Castle
Many have spent countless hours traversing the wilds and wastes of Hyrule. Amid its magnificent mountains and the whispering waves of the halcyon Lake Hylia, there stands a castle that houses the land’s seat of power.
In Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Castle is usurped by the evil Ganondorf and shrouded in a horrifying mist of crimson and purple. After traveling across cursed lands, you’ll need to reclaim the plagued castle to restore its former glory. Hyrule Castle is wondrous even after it’s cloaked in darkness, but in its restored form it’s utterly breathtaking.
‘The Witcher 3’ — Kaer Morhen
Kaer Morhen is where Geralt of Rivia — the protagonist of “The Witcher 3” — was raised. An extraordinarily large stronghold, its stone walls are soaked in history and blood. However, there’s rarely more than a handful of people there. The solitude, combined with the scale of the fortress provides a sense that the world around the character is bigger than we know.
Beneath the keep’s battlements, you can be alone with your thoughts. There’s something quietly wonderful about realizing just how big the world around us is.
‘Shadow of the Colossus’ — The Colossi
In Shadow of the Colossus, a gargantuan bridge stretches into a deserted valley where the world is quiet. Here, you wander along winding paths in search of otherworldly beings known as Colossi, which you must kill to resurrect a fallen loved one.
These Colossi are docile, so you need to instigate every fight. Although you can progress at your own pace, the only objective is to slaughter these strange beings, who remain shrouded in mystery throughout the game. Due to the sense of wonder they instill, many people opt to play “Shadow of the Colossus” differently, choosing to explore its vast plains as opposed to completing their abominable mission. From afar, they watch the Colossi, quietly existing in a world of their own.
‘Dark Souls’ — Anor Londo
“Dark Souls” is emphatically dark, so when you first arrive at Anor Londo and feast your eyes on its perpetual sunset, the gorgeously lit skyline is striking.
Although Anor Londo is a wonder based on its sunset alone, the people — or deities — who inhabit the city also contribute to its sublimity. The architecture of Anor Londo may seem to mark it as disparate from the crypts and caverns of “Dark Souls,” but the enemies here are even more formidable than the undead you’ve met thus far.
‘The Witness’ — The Mountain
The Witness takes place on a deserted island covered in wonderfully weird line-puzzles. As you drink in the world around you, you’ll notice desert ruins, a monastery, a swamp, and among them all — the mountain.
The mountain’s imposing stature marks it as the force around which everything else is built — something that’s reinforced by the strange mechanism at its peak, which responds to lasers fired from each of the island’s areas. When the lasers align, the Mountain opens up, and you can venture into its darkest depths.
Cian Maher is a freelance writer from Dublin. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2018 with a BA in English and writes about gaming, television and pop culture.