Header image by Ollie Hoff
Delaware is America’s first state. It has an official state bird (the Blue Hen), state fish (the weakfish), state marine animal (the horseshoe crab), wildlife animal (the grey fox), flower (the peach blossom), tree (the American Holly), and song (“Sweet Home Alabama”).
Yet it, along with the other 49 states, has no state videogame. There’s a state song but not a state game? This is a travesty. Worse, the way politicians are, you KNOW the voting for state game will be rigged by lobbyists if we don’t act fast. Does California really want to be stuck with E.T. the Extraterrestrial as its state video game? Does New York want 50 Cent: Bulletproof? Does Florida want Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure?
For the sake of future generations—and also to make you angry at our choices—here is the list of what the official videogames for all 50 states should be. (Plus runners-up!) Have a better suggestion for your state? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jeff__ryan. Remember: your opinion is important. the fate of the world depends upon how you feel about Iowa-set video games.
Please CC this to your local state senator, so we can avoid a Days of Future Past-type dystopian future brought on by Massachusetts being saddled with Marky Mark: Make My Video.
Alabama: NCAA Football ‘14
There is no bigger college football state than Alabama, and NCAA is a must-buy for Auburn or Crimson Tide fans. (Just don’t tell anyone that you play LSU in franchise mode.)
Semihonorable mention: Real Deal Epic Slot: Forrest Gump
Only one state is its own Risk territory: Seward’s folly, the Last Frontier, the only place on earth with a male/female ratio more skewed than a Gamestop’s. Defend attack from Kamchatka with honor, Alaskans, for doing so ensures five new armies each round.
Honorable mention: Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures
Arizona: Red Dead Redemption
More than Grand Theft Horse, the Red Dead Revolver sequel is one of the best sandbox games of all time, and easily the best western. John Marston keeps walking the line between hero and outlaw in the Grand Canyon State.
Honorable mention: Desert Bus
Arkansas: Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
There would be no Western without the South losing the Civil War, leaving millions of PTSD Southeners to strap on pig iron and grab some horizon. The McColl clan started in Arkansas, but ended up down Mexico way, searching for treasure and finding trouble.
Semi-Honorable Mention: NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (featuring unlockable guest baller Bill Clinton!)
California: LA Noire
Who’s everyone favorite Mad Men character? That tall blond guy whose name I forget! The one who wrote a story like five seasons ago! Let him be your guide through a gorgeous 1940s Los Angeles. It’s so lovingly rendered that you’ll wish you, too, could drink whiskey straight from the bottle before a long drive to Pasadena.
Honorable mention: Missile Command
Colorado: Dead Rising
Mashing together zombies and a mall is about as copycat as The Great Giana Sisters, but Dead Rising gets points for being fun. Photographer Frank West has to shoot zombies (and not with his camera) in a Colorado mall, and he can use anything at his disposal to maim his way through the world. It’s basically a less violent Black Friday.
Honorable mention: Cliffhanger
Connecticut: NCAA Basketball 2K8
You’d honestly think you were in Tennessee or North Carolina when you hear Connecticuters talk about college hoops. They are on a first-name basis with all past and present men’s and women’s coaches, and deserve the college hoops game as much as a Tarheel or Volunteer.
Honorable mention: WWE 2K14
Delaware: NASCAR 14
Sure, we could’ve given NASCAR to a Southern state, but you can’t grab the Sprint Cup without heading to Delaware for a few hundred laps at the Dover International Speedway. And as of press time no one’s made a Joe Biden fighting game (Note to self: Kickstarter), so the First State gets to be first on race day.
Semi-Honorable mention: Fight Club
Florida: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
After months of research, I’ve determined that the “Vice City” portrayed in the Grand Theft Auto games is actually supposed to be– get this –Miami, Florida in the 1980s. Everyone THINKS Vice City is Scarborough, Ontario, but I think a strong case can be made that the neon-soaked, coke-fueled, Latin-flavored port city is really supposed to be Miami.
Honorable mention: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Georgia: The Walking Dead
Can a videogame make you cry? Let me rephrase that: Have you played Walking Dead: Season One? Let me re-rephrase that: how many hours of therapy did it take you to be okay with yourself after playing Walking Dead: Season One? Georgia is on millions of players’ minds in the most harrowing way possible.
Semi-honorable mention: Gone With the Wind Slots
Hawaii: Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault
Remember Pearl Harbor, the national tragedy that shook our national foundation, and destroyed Josh Harnett’s acting career? Also, remember the actual bombing of Pearl Harbor? This is a videogame about the latter.
Honorable mention: Transworld Surf
Idaho: Resistance 2
The Chimera have invaded the world, so basically anywhere on earth is a good place to fight them. Why not Idaho, where Nathan Hale makes his stand after being shot down? It’s downright insulting that aliens keep blowing up San Francisco instead of the good people of Twin Falls. Aren’t Idaohans good enough to be exploded, too?
Semi-Honorable Mention: Hasbro Family Game Night (featuring Mr. Potato Head)
Illinois: The Blues Brothers
“It’s 108 miles to Chicago. We’ve got a game ported to the Amiga, Commodore 64, Atari ST, NES, Game Boy, and Amstrad CPC. It’s in VGA mode, and we’re side-scrolling. Hit it.”
Semi-Honorable Mention: Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City Heat
Indiana: Forza 5
Fiveza 4—whoops, Forza 5—takes you and your car around the world: Barcelona, the Top Gear track, the Swiss Alps. But no racing game is complete with a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for somewhere between 499 and 501 laps.
Semihonorable mention: Lego Indiana Jones
Iowa: Resident Evil
This one is a bit of a cheat. Raccoon City is in an unnamed Midwestern city. Iowa is home to the Quad Cities. I forget what even one of those four cities are. Therefore: one of them could be/probably is/definitely is Raccoon City. Proof! Watch out for zombies and Lickers, Iowans!
Honorable mention: Wreck-It Ralph (that ref in the arcade was Walter Day, right?)
Yeee-haw! Strap on your Peacemaker and ride out to Dodge City, shootin’ Apaches and then—oh, wait, hold on, apparently it’s “not cool” anymore to make a game where the point is to kill as many of a certain type of people as you can. We’re not in 1880s Kansas anymore.
Semi-Honorable Mention: Superman 64
Kentucky: Colossal Cave Adventure
One of the first videogames (from 1976!) is text-only but still manages to be geographically accurate. The cave in question is based on Mammoth Cave, and if you know the game, you can actually navigate through the cave!
Semi-honorable mention: Barbie Horse Adventures
Louisiana: Alone in the Dark
If you’ve been scared while playing a videogame, you’re either playing Alone in the Dark, or playing a game that copied its creepy, can’t-move-fast-enough, what-the-hey-is-going-on Lovecraftian vibe. Protip: since it’s set in New Orleans, throw beads at the monster and they’ll flash you.
Honorable mention: The Colonel’s Bequest
Maine: Silent Hill
The real place that Silent Hill is based on, the been-on-fire-for decades town of Centralia, is in Pennsylvania. But the one with day/night switches every few minutes and J-horror Dr. Moreau creatures (NOTHING BUT LEGS! HORRIBLE INSIDE-OUT LEGS!) is in Vacationland. (If you think Pyramid Head is scary, wait until you see how he eats lobster.)
Semi-Honorable mention: Stephen King’s F13
Maryland: The Suffering
All the executed prisoners in a Maryland prison come back, as Stan Winston-designed monsters, and it’s up to you to stop them. The prison’s on an island, so really the only thing they have to do is kill you or watch HBO Go. And the Wifi. Just. Died.
Honorable mention: Narc (which I like to think as the inspiration behind The Wire)
Massachusetts: Assassin’s Creed III
Not many games let you say “Whoops, I killed George Washington.” Assassin’s Creed III, revolutionary in content if not gameplay (oh, you can jump and stab people in this one!), takes you through the battle for American independence. Run riot in Boston, Lexington, and Concord as history’s first Masshole.
Honorable mention: Mass Effect—what a great game about Massachusetts! (Note to editor: I have not played Mass Effect.)
Michigan: Portal 2
Michiganders make fun of the Upper Peninsula, that part that looks like it should be part of Wisconsin, or really Canada. But that’s the setting for one of the best games of the last 20 years. Michiganders can claim it as their own … and come up with some awful jokes about what Yoopers would do with a Portal gun.
Honorable mention: Michigan: Report From Hell
One of the very first game studios was an educational facility in Minnesota, which gave the world Lemonade Stand. It also gave us Frogger, which way back in the 1970s pre-graphic days was just called Highway Crossing Frog. (Yes, Will Ferrell got it right in that Matrix sketch.)
Honorable mention: NHL 14
Mississippi: Video Poker
The rise of legal gambling—sorry, “gaming”—has changed lots of America, but few places more than Biloxi. Who knew so many 62-year-old women were into “gaming!” You never see them at the arcade, or playing a DS. It’s almost like they feel an addictive compulsion to game. That can’t be it, though: invite them to your next Modern Warfare or Boom Blox session!
Honorable mention: Scripps Spelling Bee (spelling “Mississippi” correctly remains the Holy Grail of state-name-learning)
Missouri: MLB 2K14
People forget it, but The Show Me State is holding down two major league baseball franchises. The Cardinals is considered the best all-time team: its fans see a World Series every few years. And for the Kansas City Royals? They’re just a few hours’ drive from baseball’s best team!
Honorable Mention: Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
Montana: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
More reputations were made and broken in The Hanger of Mullet Falls, Montana than anywhere else in the Tonyverse. Why is it in Montana? Because the game’s developer is a Montanan. Why is it Mullet Falls? The game’s developer had a mullet. No other reason. We just ruined your childhood.
Honorable mention: The Hunt for Red October (“I vould liked to have seen … Montana.”)
Nebraska: Microsoft Flight Simulator
Charles Lindbergh took his first plane ride in Nebraska. And if you’ve seen Nebraska from the air, its endless patchwork of earthtone is very familiar from time logged in a flight simulator program. Just because it’s a flyover state doesn’t mean flying over it isn’t fun.
Honorable mention: There’s probably a corn hole app
Nevada: Fallout: New Vegas
The desert reclaims everything that enters it, and Sin City’s no exception. The Forced Evolutionary Virus destroying the world is one thing, but the Hard Rock Café guitar? No, not that! Besides, any voice cast that unites Danny Trejo, Matthew Perry, Wayne Newton, and Felicia Day must be given props.
Honorable Mention: Rainbow Six: Vegas
New Hampshire: Bioshock Infinite
The floating 1910s city of Columbia is aloft, and can float anywhere. But I get the sense that Zackary Hale Comstock’s don’t-tread-on-me roots would be right at home with New Hampshire. Live Free or Die’s not just a Bruce Willis movie—it’s their motto.
Honorable mention: Donkey Kong (at least the one at the Laconia, NH, Funspot that gets kill-screened in The King of Kong)
New Jersey: Metal Gear Solid 2
Solid Snake begins this epic by Greg Louganis-ing off the George Washington Bridge. Now we finally know why: because of that traffic jam Chris Christie ordered. Who knew Konami had such a bead on Garden State politics?
Semi-Honorable Mention: Sopranos: Road to Respect. “Hey, it’s Paulie Walnuts. I need you to walk down this hallway and then take 47 minutes to beat one person up. Just like the last nine times.”
New Mexico: Half-Life
Here’s all we know about Gordon Freeman, basically: rocked hipster glasses before they were cool, reads Marc Laidlaw, and lives in the Land of Enchantment State. Oh, and he’s the most ass-kickingest scientist since Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Honorable Mention: The Cost of Doing Business: A Jesse Pinkman Game
New York: Mario Bros
For all the talk about Mario and Luigi being Italian plumbers from Brooklyn, this is their only game where they’re Italian plumbers in Brooklyn. Look under your fixies, Park Slope residents: there are 8-bit crabs and a POW block.
Honorable Mention: Spider-Man
North Carolina: NBA 2K14
Not many teams lose a sports franchise only to basically get it back. North Carolina lost the Hornets (via Oklahoma City and New Orleans, it’s complicated), then got the Hornets back (again, complicated: bobcats and pelicans are involved), so they more than anyone else deserved to claim the NBA franchise for their state.
Honorable Mention: College Lacrosse 2012
North Dakota: Reel Fishing
As the only state with freshwater fish, North Dakota is a natural choice for a fishing game. If we lived in a world where, say, fish were in every state, then it might look like we were just matching a generically rural game with a frontier state. Nope. Nosiree.
Honorable mention: The Bard’s Tale (developed by Brian Fargo, which counts, dammit)
Ohio: Railroad Tycoon
Go ahead: play Railroad Tycoon all you want. Just try to set up a coast-to-coast company without setting tracks down through Ohio. Cincinnati in the south, Cleveland to the north, and 500 miles of Buckeye smack dab in the middle of where you’re trying to get your cargo. Without Ohio, you’re at best a regional company.
Semi-Honorable mention: Skippy’s Revenge, the gory M-rated Family Ties first-person shooter.
Aliens picked the wrong mechanic to abduct in Tommy Tawodi. Tommy’s Cherokee heritage allows him to access the astral plane of existence—because that’s not racist at all—and stop the invasion from the inside. He’s not stuck there with them: they’re stuck there with him.
Honorable mention: Call of Duty: Ghosts (the entire state is destroyed in a cameo)
Oregon: Oregon Trail
This one’s a lay-up shot: a classic educational game played for 30 years, beloved by millions, with the state’s name in the title? If we didn’t name Oregon Trail we’d deserve to starve after failing to hunt a bear for food, or—say it with me, meme lovers—dying from dysentery.
Honorable mention: Goonies II
You at home can argue about these picks all day; that’s part of the fun of a list like this. But the author is someone who was born in Philadelphia in 1976, the year of Rocky’s release. Pennsylvania is Rocky. You are not allowed to debate this one. It’s Rocky: Deal with it.
Honorable mention: What did we just say? No runners-up: Rocky.
Rhode Island: City of Heroes
The only online game on the list, from way back when you had to say “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game,” City of Heroes crammed thousands of heroes into the tiniest state. To this day, Providence is filled with 300 off-brand Batmen, all waiting for just one lousy bank robbery. Quite sad.
Honorable Mention: Family Guy Video Game!
South Carolina: SimCity 2000
In SimCity 2000, one of your tasks is to fix a flood-ravaged Charleston, South Carolina. Sure it’s not as memorable as dealing with a Tokyo attacked by a generic monster, or futuristic Las Vegas attacked by aliens, but guess which one might actually happen? Hint: (insert emoji of Stephen Colbert’s head on a palmetto bug eating a pecan).
Honorable Mention: North and South
South Dakota: Sam and Max Hit the Road
Most all of your references to South Dakota—from North by Northwest to National Treasure 2—probably involve Mount Rushmore. Ours, too, so here’s LucasArts’s cartoon dog-and-rabbit bungee-jumping off Abe Lincoln’s nose.
Absolutely Dishonorable Mention: Custer’s Revenge
Tennessee: Country Dance
Millions of aspiring country music game writers hit Nashville every year, trying to book their chiptune band onto the Grand Ole Opry, or have the great digitized avatar of Willie Nelson cover their love song. Not everyone can make it, but everyone dreams of it. “It” being a subpar cash-in Wii game.
Honorable Mention: Battleground 4: Shiloh
Texas: Rock Band
Texas is filled with great rock venues, big and small, and any halfway successful Band World Tour mode is gonna hit Houston, Dallas, and San-An-Tone. Rock Band‘s graphics mix the real with the unreal, so what you see in Sweaty’s BBQ in Austin may not match up with what you actually saw at SXSW.
Honorable mention: Super Dodge Ball
Utah: Salt Lake 2002
Want some Olympic-quality trails for your next run? Stick to the Beehive State. And stick next to Shaun White, because his hair’s red, and any attacking bees will think he’s a geranium. In conclusion: BEES! BEES! RUN FROM THE BEES!
Honorable Mention: Wild Gunman
The Bullworth Academy is home to a Lord of the Flies-level of infighting, rivalry, and all-out conflict. As Jimmy Hopkins, you can choose to stand up to the Baseball Furies-worthy cliques, or maybe start one of your own. Bullworth could be anywhere in New England, but the popped-collar douchebag level just screams Dartmouth-legacy trust fund kid.
Honorable mention: Twisted Metal (I’m assuming Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck serves Ben and Jerry’s)
Virginia: Splinter Cell
Sam Fisher’s the Jack Bauer of the video game world: we’re alive because of what he’s done, and what he’s done isn’t very pretty. At least he’s quiet about it. Next time you’re in Newport News and find a room with the overhead lights shot out and a missing hard drive, you’ve found Sam’s calling card.
Honorable mention: Syphon Filter
Washington: Alan Wake
There are a hundred movies like Alan Wake—dark, brooding psychological thrillers—but only a few games that can pull it off. The rainy atmosphere and foggy woods of the Pacific Northwest help sell the drama of a writer whose wife is missing, and whose horror story starts coming true.
Honorable mention: The Yukon Trail
West Virginia: Deer Hunter
If you live in West Virginia, odds are close to 100% that deer in your backyard is a regular if not daily occurrence. Hunting season only lasts so long, so for the rest of the year you can pretend you’re doing something to save your shrubs and flowers from getting nibbled.
Honorable mention: Cruis’n USA (the Appalachia level)
Wisconsin: Madden 25
As a former Green Bay resident, the author would rather check into the Roose Bolton Bed and Breakfast than miss a chance to celebrate the Green Bay Packers by making Wisconsin’s pick the Madden franchise. The only team owned by its town gets the only game named after a man not even tangentially involved in the game anymore.
Honorable Mention: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14
Wyoming: The Last of Us
In a ravaged apocalypse that is in no way Fallout, you must project an orphan girl who is in no way Ellen Page across a Midwest that is in no way actually Wyoming. It’s just a bunch of pixels in a computer. You do know it’s not real, right?
Honorable Mention: Ben 10 Ultimate Alien (there’s a level in Devil’s Tower)
Apologies to all games that were not assigned a state. Residents of Hyrule, Azeroth, and Scribblenautopia: we still love you, but you don’t take place in the real world. Players of Pro Evolution Soccer, Kangaroo, Nobungana’s Ambition: we still love you, but you don’t take place in ‘Murica. Players of Driver, Final Fight, Watch Dogs: we still love you, but we ran out of states!