Waypoint Weeklies: Best Interior Design

While many video games take us out of our living and bedrooms to sprawling cities and open worlds, some bring us back indoors. The hard-earned character homes of an RPG, displaying your proudest hunting trophies and rarest armors. The decrepit manors cursed by supernatural horrors. The wonderfully customizable apartments and houses of life simulators.

What are your favorite interiors in video games? What are some of your favorite pieces of furniture, floorings, etc. in games like Animal Crossing or The Sims?

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I’ll just get it out of the way for everybody else up top and say The Oldest House in Control.

I really gotta give it up for the Gym Arenas in Pokémon Sword and Shield. I thought the story in that game was largely nonexistent but I thought the “over here Pokémon battles are professional sports a la soccer/football” narrative wallpaper was really effective. I’m honestly still waiting for them to sell some of those jerseys so I can buy them.

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I’ve always admired the inside of buildings in PS1 JRPGs like Xenogears and especially Final Fantasy VII. Those game had big teams working on assets that were quick to make, and to me those interior locations always felt rich with detail.

When I played Xenogears this year I tried to draw interesting details as I went along. It gave me a ton of appreciation for how handcrafted many of those interior spaces are unique. One that immediately comes to mind - one of the rooms in Bledavik’s castle has a strange, old-timey cannon. It’s never highlighted in any way. The only place I could find it in the entire game was isolated in that easily-missable room. There’s lots of stuff like that. Interior walls are full of bright posters and thick cracks and captivating scratches. FFVII, in 2D, is even more so.

It’s not that newer games aren’t full of interesting detail. In many HD, 3D games, though, you see a lot of the same assets. That’s completely understandable in modern design. It also, to me, makes interior spaces lose some character. It was really cool that at one point Square had a big budget to make imaginative 2D backgrounds for some house in Midgar.

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Adam Jension’s stupid cool apartment in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Really the whole game was great at making these futuristic spaces looked lived in but still new (like an end table you’ve only had for a week and aren’t sure yet what to put on it) and that apartment was amazing for so many reasons.

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I’ll be boring and just say BioShock. I saw a real bad movie called Reminiscence recently just because it was about flooded art deco spaces, that’s how much that game’s interiors hit me.

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I’m gonna throw out Thief II: The Metal Age; the nature of the game means that you’re interacting with those interiors on a very minute level, and the designs are continuously evocative and strangely beautiful in all their blocky, angular glory.

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Prey has some of the best neo-space age interior design I’ve ever seen. Incredible mix of form and function. Part of why the Transtar station feels so sinister. It’s a cool place to live and work, with an emphasis on the latter, which underscores how messed up it is when you find out how they’re conducting their experiments. To be incredibly reductive, the aesthetic mix of Mad Men and Star Trek just whips.

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Can I cheat and just say pretty much every PS1 era game with pre-rendered backgrounds? Too many good ones to even remember!

Its been a long time since I played it but I remember loving the interiors in Saga Frontier 2:
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The three new HITMAN games were loaded with great interior design, I am struggling to pick a favorite interior, maybe the bank DLC level from HITMAN 2.

Also wanted to shout out Grim Fandango, tons of lovely interiors and some great murals that stick in my mind.

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Can I throw out the black wagon from Pyre? I’ve done several playthroughs and I still have have no idea what the layout of the thing would be canonically, but that’s part of the magic of it. It does so much work even tho it’s 2D. Every stop I’d make sure to check all the items to see what the various characters are up to, imagining the scenes and building out the wagon in my mind. The mostly-still artwork of the game is so evocative that it’s a joy in itself just to picture it all in motion. I can picture Volfred in the corner studying the Book of Rites, or Hedwyn preparing supper. I just want to spend more time in that world and the wagon is such a huge part of it.

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Just wistfully imagining how a full 3D Grim Fandango 2 would look with MSFT money behind it

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I’m a huge dinosaur nerd, so shout out to the Animal Crossing series for letting me put fossils in my house. Especially love that you can combine the bigger fossils if you have a complete set to make a cute little stegosaurus statuette.

Also, it’s fresh on my mind from Rob’s recent playthrough, but damn… Resident Evil makes fantastic use of a pre-rendered, fixed background. Even the PS1 version holds up to some modern haunted house games, just wonderful décor and furnishing and vibes.

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It would be too easy to say Dishonored (or any Arkane game for that matter) as it is a game with very distinct architecture that is brutalist whilst elegant, all the art and interior design is very in your face but… Dishonored 2 specifically the Clockwork mansion. It’s a masterpiece of a level in many ways, how by switching a lever you completely change the layout of a room, or how you can literally hide between the walls. Specifically the moving interior represents the infernal genius of Jindosh, the dude who built it and lives in it and also smokes through his prosthetic finger. I don’t think I’d want to live in a clockwork mansion - it would just get too confusing. Jindosh’s room which has about three different configurations, bedroom, bathroom and personal study. Too much going on. Give me a nice cottage with a shed I can go tinker in.

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Special shout out to Hitman 3’s Dubai level. The extravagance is so well executed.