Oh, Canada! While the country is home to some of the most talented developers in the industry, there are not many games that allow you to walk through the streets of its biggest cities or explore its diverse ecosystem. This is especially true for the East Coast provinces like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but a few titles let you see other parts of Canada like BC or Quebec.
There are only a handful of games – even that may be an exaggeration – that are entirely set in Canada. Most games will offer a small detour into the country, but usually nothing more than a single mission or a prologue. Whether you are only there for a moment or an entire adventure, these are the video games that offer the most immersive and fascinating looks at Canadian landscapes and culture.
8 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Most of your time in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag will be spent swashbuckling across the seven seas and pursuing pirate shenanigans during the early 1700s as Edward Kenway. You will need to manage your crew, engage in naval combat, and meet historical figures like Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet (individually, unfortunately) to help guide you towards the ever elusive Observatory.
Almost every Assassin’s Creed game takes place during multiple timelines, and while you spend most of your time on the Caribbean Sea as Kenway in the past, you will get to see a gorgeous view of Montreal in the present. Unfortunately, you spend your entire time in the city navigating the inside of a building – known as Abstergo Entertainment -, which means you won’t be able to go to the Osheaga music festival or enjoy the delicious poutines that the city is famous for.
7 Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 may not be the most popular entry in the series, but it certainly has one of the most memorable opening chapters. After being relieved of their duty following the events of Mass Effect 2, Shepard spends their time at a small outpost in a futuristic rendition of Vancouver.
The game begins with an epic escape sequence that follows Shepard and Admiral Anderson as they run through the city after it’s ambushed by the Reapers. It’s hard to enjoy the beautiful landscapes when you’re trying to shoot aliens and save pedestrians, but the city provides an excellent backdrop to Mass Effect 3’s prologue. Vancouver may seem like a strange choice to host a battle, but Bioware is a Canadian-based developer that wanted to provide some Northern representation to their trilogy.
British Columbia is one of Canada’s most diverse provinces and contains some of the country’s most gorgeous vistas. You may need to hike up a trail or a mountain to enjoy them, but don’t worry, you won’t need to double jump over spikes to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Mount Celeste is the unofficial name for a mountain on Vancouver Island and is also the inspiration for the incredible platforming game Celeste. Climbing up any mountain can be physically exhausting, but Celeste also makes it an emotional journey about not only overcoming the obstacles in front of us but also overcoming our fears and anxieties.
5 Until Dawn
The Canadian wilderness has been getting a pretty bad reputation recently. Television shows like Yellowjackets and Keep Breathing depict awful and gruesome events – usually after a plane crash – occurring in the typically calm and relaxing woods of Saskatchewan or Ontario. One of the earliest examples of this trend is the PS4 exclusive Until Dawn, which takes place on the Alberta side of the Canadian Rockies.
One year after a tragic event that resulted in the death of two sisters, a group of friends decides to meet up at a lodge located on the fictional Blackwood Mountain. The snow-covered hills and an overwhelming amount of trees create the perfect atmosphere for the chaos that ensues shortly after they all arrive. While Until Dawn barely acknowledges its Canadian setting, it’s still cool that Supermassive’s breakthrough game took place north of the border.
4 South Park: The Stick Of Truth
South Park has always provided a slightly skewed perception of Canadians ever since the very first season aired in 1997. Canadian characters like Ike, Terrance, and Phillip are portrayed with Pac-Man-like faces, which is still a very common misconception to this day . Visiting the Kingdom of Canada in The Stick of Truth is essential for your quest, and also one of the game’s greatest moments.
The Stick of Truth’s art style looks just like the television show until you travel up north. Once you enter the Kingdom of Canada, the game suddenly becomes a top-down RPG reminiscent of NES-era games like Final Fantasy or even Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. It’s up to you to travel across the country and face Dire Bears and the Bishop of Banff to save the Minister of Montreal from the Catacombs of Quebec. Just another day in Canadian politics.
Backbone is a short adventure game that takes place in a futuristic Vancouver full of anthropomorphic animals. It often resembles a dark fusion between David Fincher’s aesthetic and Zootopia’s themes. You play as Howard Lotor, a Bukowski-like detective that stumbles into trouble everywhere he goes. The jazzy soundtrack and neon lights help make this version of the city the perfect setting for a noir-inspired mystery.
As Howard, you will find yourself traveling across an industrialized Vancouver as you unravel its biggest mystery. Inspired by classic CRPGs, you can shape Howard as a character through dialogue choices to change how he reacts to major events. Backbone is full of interesting characters, nihilistic philosophy, and shocking twists, but its location occasionally offers a glimpse into the beauty beyond the darkness.
Northern Canada is notorious for its brutal winters, and not many games showcase it as well as Kona. Set during the 1970s, you will play a private investigator named Carl Faubert as he explores an abandoned town in Quebec. Its survival-horror elements almost make it feel like a Canadian version of a Silent Hill game, though this mystery doesn’t end with a dog behind a control panel.
As you explore the snow-covered town, you will need to find ways to stay warm and survive possible attacks from predators. Kona also has a stress meter gauge that will affect your running speed and more, and it only goes down if you are lucky enough to find cigarettes or beer to calm yourself. Being able to walk around Quebec in first-person is really fun and immersive until you are eventually eaten by a pack of wolves.
1 Scott Pilgrim USA. The World: The Game
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are a love letter to many things. From early 2000s indie music to NES-era video games, you can usually catch a nostalgic reference on nearly every page of his acclaimed comics. These nods and Easter eggs are just a small part of what makes Scott Pilgrim special though. The beating heart of every adaptation – from Edgar Wright’s 2010 film to the Ubisoft game – is the story’s location: Toronto.
Whether you are brawling minions near Yonge and Dundas or facing Lucas Lee at Casa Loma, every frame of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game feels oddly familiar for anyone who lives in or has visited Toronto. Between dodging the TTC’s streetcars to the gorgeous 16-bit shots of the skyline at night, it’s one of the best portrayals of the city in any medium, ever. Bill Hader narrates the opening of the Scott Pilgrim movie and claims “Not so long ago, in the mysterious land of Toronto, Canada…” but after playing through this game, it shouldn’t be so mysterious to you anymore.
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