SALT LAKE CITY — Video games are often credited with taking players to fantastic new worlds and beautiful environments, but it’s rare they let you explore your own backyard. This is especially true for Utah. Despite being a beautiful, diverse state featured in dozens of movies, the Beehive State doesn’t necessarily share the same travel fantasy appeal as New York City or a foreign location.
That doesn’t mean video games have abandoned Utah entirely. Here are five titles released in the last 10 years that feature the state of Utah, a slideshow of notable in-game locations, and where you can play them. Is there any we missed? Let us know in the comments. Editor’s Note: Full spoilers follow for each title
Platforms: PS3, PS4
“The Last of Us” follows Joel and Ellie, two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the cordyceps fungus. After decades of devastation and decay, it’s discovered that Ellie, a teenage girl, is immune to the infection. In exchange for stolen weapons, Joel agrees to courier Ellie across the United States to the Fireflies, a freedom fighter group dedicated to finding a cure.
After months of travel and overcoming insurmountable odds, Joel and Ellie finally track the Fireflies to Salt Lake City. Several notable landmarks, like the Salt Lake Temple and the Wells Fargo building, appear in the game. The Fireflies’ headquarters, Saint Mary’s Hospital, is heavily inspired by St. Mark’s Hospital. However, the game’s depiction of underground highway tunnels is inaccurate, since they normally can’t be found in SLC.
After the Earth is ravaged by a rogue Artificial Intelligence that consumes biological mass, Dr. Elisabet Sobek is enlisted by Faro Automated Systems to clean up the mess. Her ultimate plan manifests as Project Zero Dawn. Under this protocol, Earth’s culture and life would be preserved in massive time capsules called Arks. When the time was right, several AI administrators would open the Arks, and restore life to the planet.
Dr. Sobek selects the southwest United States as the staging grounds for Project Zero Dawn and constructs the Arks in western Colorado, northern Arizona and southern Utah. After 10,000 years, humanity had been restored as primitive, tribe-based societies. The Carja, a sun-worshipping tribe, inhabits Utah, with their capital city located near Bryce Canyon National Park. Other Utah landmarks, like the Provo Utah Temple, Lake Powell and Eagle Canyon all make appearances as explorable environments.
Rounding out the PlayStation-exclusive love is “Resistance 2.” Following an invasion of alien Chimera in the 1950s, black ops soldier Nathan Hale leads a squad of soldiers to Bryce Canyon National Park to rescue Dr. Malokov, the lead scientist in Chimeran research. However, aside from the name, the in-game location is just a simple desert canyon that bears little resemblance to the real world location.
Bonus: Before traveling to Bryce Canyon, Hale and his comrades infiltrate Twin Falls, Idaho to defend against an alien assault. Despite arriving late, the soldiers are able to repel the Chimeran invasion.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
After Kim Jong-un reunites North and South Korea and invades the United States in 2025, a resistance group rises up to fight against their would-be rulers. Many Americans retreat to Utah, figuring the western state would provide isolation from the war. However, Korean forces attack and destroy Salt Lake City, scattering survivors throughout the state.
This action results in resistance cells forming in Provo and Bryce Canyon National Park. Former Marine Robert Jacobs falls in with the resistance and is tasked with stealing a helicopter. After sneaking through a survivalist camp, Jacobs manages to escape and leaves the state to steal jet fuel in Nevada.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One
“Red Dead Redemption” follows John Marston, a former bandit tasked by the FBI with tracking down and killing his former gang. Marston travels to the American West, where the environment becomes the game's main focus. While Rockstar Games modeled their own landscape, many fictional locations in the game are based on real-world locations popularized by Westerns.
The game’s third and final location, West Elizabeth, is based on the Rocky Mountains region, which includes a portion of northern Utah. The mountainous, forested region will likely be recognizable to many Utahns, along with the rolling plains and snowy fields.
With the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2” on Oct. 26, maybe a return to the Utah-inspired West Elizabeth could be sooner rather than later.