Best Games Set in San Francisco

There are few American cities as iconic and instantly recognizable as San Francisco. Various areas, famous landmarks, and the Californian setting have made it not only a popular tourist destination, but also a popular fictional one. Countless movies and TV shows have chosen to set their story in this context, giving their stories an extra touch of excitement.

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What makes San Francisco a standout location in video games is that, unlike movies or TV, players can actually explore every inch of the city at their leisure. Whether they’ve been there thousands of times and want to see the precision of the game, or want to explore a city they’ve never been to, the games provide a unique experience in that they allow players to really travel to real-world places without having to leave their homes.

Fallout 2

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Before Bethesda took over the franchise, the original Fall the games were originally developed by Interplay Productions and Black Isle Studios. The most successful pre-Bethesda entry was Fallout 2, which saw players explore wastelands along the western United States. Unlike Bethesda’s first-person shooter style Fall games, the original Fall the games are more strategic in nature, using a point-and-click movement style and turn-based combat along with its role-playing elements.

If anyone ever wanted to know what a post-apocalyptic San Francisco would look like, play Fallout 2 would be their best option. The city is now primarily home to the Shi, descendants of members of a crashed Chinese submarine, and the Hubologists, a mysterious religious cult. Since this is an apocalypse, the San Francisco found in Fall is in ruins, with many iconic parts of the city destroyed or redeveloped. The Golden Gate Bridge, for example, appears to be turned into a makeshift runway for a space shuttle by the Hubologists. Fallout 2San Francisco is still San Francisco, but it’s a dark and weird interpretation that hopefully will never come true.

Driver: San Francisco

driver san francisco (1)

No discussion of real cities in video games would be complete without at least a mention of a driving game. One such title that represents San Francisco well is the aptly named Driver: San Francisco, in which players explore the titular city while playing as an FBI agent tracking down an escaped convict. Unlike previous entries in the series, Driver: San Francisco removes the ability to exit cars, opting instead to allow players to automatically teleport from one car to another.

While other games might offer more in terms of content, anyone who just wants to race and enjoy the sights of San Francisco will likely appreciate Driver: San Francisco and his recreation of the famous city. Although it was generally well received, Ubisoft pulled the game from online stores, making it unbuyable. A petition with over 40,000 signatures has been put up on for Ubisoft to reverse this decision, but Ubisoft has not budged.

Horizon: West forbidden

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For a different kind of post-apocalyptic San Francisco, look to the new Forbidden Horizon West. Like the long-awaited sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn, west forbidden picks up shortly after the events of the first game. In the game, Aloy travels to the “Forbidden West”, which is actually the states of California, Nevada, and Utah. Like the first game, the world of Forbidden Horizon West is overgrown with lush vegetation and invaded by monstrous-looking machinery.

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While several real locations appear in Forbidden Horizon West, including Las Vegas and Yosemite, San Francisco was one of the first to be revealed to fans, even appearing on the game’s cover art. San Francisco is no longer known by its real name in this post-apocalyptic world, but rather called “Isle of Spires” or the “Sunken City”, the rise in sea level giving it its nickname. The attention to detail in the game’s environment from the developers at Guerilla Games is a sight to behold, giving San Francisco a unique otherworldly beauty as opposed to the gloominess of Fall 2.

Watch Dogs 2

Watchdogs 2 (1)

For anyone who’s ever wanted to explore a virtual San Francisco, it’s hard to top. Watch Dogs 2. The sequel to 2014 Watch dogsUbisoft has taken it upon itself to address many of the criticisms that plagued the first game. The result is a title that has smoother controls as well as fun and addictive gameplay, making for a laid-back game.

Contrary to the Chicago hill presented in Watch dogs, Watch Dogs 2 is located in bright and sunny San Francisco, and in a vast Grand Theft Auto– open world inspired, allows the player to fully explore the famous city and its surroundings. Players can drive through the bustling downtown, various neighborhoods, and even take a boat to explore the infamous Alcatraz. Populated by relatively realistic and interactive NPCs, the San Francisco of Watch Dogs 2 is a living playground where players can have fun.

grand theft auto san andreas

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Although not referred to as “San Francisco” in-game, the fictional city of San Fierro stands as a very loose replacement for the titular California city. GTA San Andreas comes from Rockstar and has players traversing several fictional recreations of iconic American cities, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Players start in LA-inspired Los Santos, but unlock San Fierro, as well as the surrounding countryside, somewhat in-game from the main storyline.

As with most Rockstar games, the city of San Fierro is immersive and detailed, especially for its time. Many landmarks from the real San Francisco are part of the Rockstar version of the city, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Lombard Street and many more. Also included are San Francisco’s iconic cable cars and over a dozen activities and side missions to keep the player busy while touring the city. Players can also purchase a safe house in the area, allowing them to navigate the streets of San Fierro with greater ease.

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