The Best Games Inspired By Art Deco

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What exactly is ‘Art Deco?’ If you’ve ever seen movies, advertisements, or any sort of media popular in or focused on the 1920s, you’ve most likely seen Art Deco before. This style of architectural design is influenced by geometric patterns, a focus on streamlining, and intricate flourishes using high-quality, luxurious materials. If you go to Chicago and see the Board of Trade Building, you’ll see a prime example of Art Deco.

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Since this style of architecture remains popular today, it’s no wonder that modern media would draw influence from it — including video games. Several video games owe a debt to Art Deco for influencing their worlds and their stories, whether they’re noir stories or first-person shooters.

8 Grim Fandango

Hector Lemans, Meche, and Manny on Grim Fandango's cover art

Released in 1998, Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango is a story about the afterlife, drawing influence from classic noir stories and Aztec culture. You step into the bony shoes of Manny Calavera, a ‘travel agent’ who gets caught up in a web of undead crime, corruption, and romance.

While Grim Fandango’s world draws heavily from Aztec design, the film noir style of the game also adds a rich layer of Art Deco. Many locations are decorated in lush Art Deco flourishes, ranging from nightclubs to express trains. The afterlife may be a shady place in Grim Fandango, but it sure is a beautiful one.

7 Fallout

Fallout 3 Super Duper Mart

When you think of Fallout, you don’t exactly think of shining, beautiful skyscrapers so much as you think about giant underground vaults, nuclear bombs, and humanity’s eternal struggle to rise above savagery. But, beneath the grime and the ashes, the world of Fallout shows its Art Deco roots, especially in the remains of Washington D.C. in Fallout 3.

The reason for this unique Art Deco-style approach to the wasteland lies within Fallout’s Pre-War culture. In this timeline, the world adopted a retro-futurist mindset, where streamlined nuclear-powered cars, sleek automated skyscrapers, and elaborate mechanical servants were the norm. It is this combination of retro-futurism, Art Deco, and 2000s post-apocalyptic grime that makes Fallout’s world a fascinating one.

6 The Outer Worlds

a street in the outerworlds with people and bright lights

Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds tells the story of a future where mega-corporations are both God and government, faster-than-light starships are commonplace, and humanity is expanding to the farthest reaches of our solar system and beyond.

Although The Outer Worlds draws inspiration from many styles, such as early 20th-century advertisements and American westerns, Art Deco is still evident in just about every inch of Halcyon. Everything from massive starship colonies, laser weapons, and even soda advertisements radiate a sleek, streamlined design. The beautiful designs help to cushion the dystopian world you find yourself in.

5 Civilization 5

Civilization 5 gameplay of soldiers from opposing sides attacking each other near water

While you may frequently associate Art Deco with turn-based strategy games, Civilization 5 is a unique case. The UI, options, and menu of the game are heavily influenced by Art Deco, featuring blocky, stylized letters, geometric pillars, and golden flourishing.

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But why such a unique style for the Civilization series? According to an interview with GameInformer, art director Dorian Newcomb explains that the design was inspired by a combination of New York City’s own Art Deco architecture and LucasArts games — most notably, the aforementioned Grim Fandango.

4 Prey

Prey 2017 Screenshot Of Talos I

Published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by Arkane Austin, 2017’s Prey puts you onboard the space station Talos 1, which is infested with hostile, psychic aliens. Although survival is the name of the game when it comes to Prey, that doesn’t mean that the world around still holds some beauty to it.

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Many parts of the Talos 1 section are decorated in a lavish Art Deco style, ranging from the offices of the corporate elite to experimental greenhouses. Much like the Fallout series, Prey’s aesthetic choices lend themselves to its backstory, where the United States and the Soviet Union took diverging paths in technology during the Space Race.

3 L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire - Driving Down The Road In Los Angeles

Launched in 2011, Rockstar’s L.A. Noire puts you in the role of Detective Cole Phelps, your classic hard-boiled and grizzled detective tasked with cleaning up the streets of 1940s Los Angeles. It’s a game of action, of interrogation, of crime, and of decadence.

Owing to the period the game takes place in, Los Angeles is still in its Art Deco phase. Warehouses, offices, and skyscrapers all across the city are stunningly decorated, while even the advertisements seem to have a silver of beauty to them. The stunning architecture of L.A. Noire helps to hide the fact that a world of seedy characters and shady dealings exists just beneath the glitz and glamour.

2 Close To The Sun

Close To The Sun Screenshot Of Lobby

Storm in a Teacup’s Close to the Sun takes place in an alternative version of 1897, where a sort of technological Cold War is occurring between inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. You play as Rose Archer, searching for her missing sister onboard the gargantuan sea cruiser “Helios.”

The sprawling ship is loaded with Art Deco influences, whether it’s the internal railway system, the maze-like hallways and tunnels that line the ship, or the beautifully gilded Tesla tower. Gold, brass, and steel dominate the Helios, giving the seemingly desolate ship a haunting yet magnificent quality. When you’re not solving puzzles, it’s easy to get lost in the lush details of your surroundings.

1 BioShock 1 – 2

A photo depicting the city of Rapture from BioShock

BioShock’s city of Rapture most likely needs no introduction. Built by industrialist Andrew Ryan in the late 1940s, the underwater colony was meant to serve as a hidden utopia for humanity’s elite to avoid the supposed end of the world. Unfortunately, a civil war and rampant abuse of the genetic wonder drug ADAM turned Rapture into a crumbling, twisted ruin of its former self.

Yet, whether you’re playing as Jack or Subject Delta, traces of the city’s past glory still shine through underneath the wreckage. From the neon-soaked halls of Fort Frolic, the French Quarter-inspired balconies of Siren Alley, or the lonely Lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, you will find yourself lost in the melancholic and terrifying halls of Andrew Ryan’s sunken dream.

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