As a New Yorker, I've been lucky enough to get vaccinated and return to some of my favorite pre-COVID haunts. While it's been great to sit outside my local dive bar crushing cheap gin and tonics, I've spent the last few weeks daydreaming about the fictional video game bars I'd love to go to right now, after having spent the better part of a year living vicariously in game worlds.
There are so many fictional water holes in video games, from the neon-soaked futuristic bars to the dark and damp English pubs, and all the GTA Online nightclubs in between. But there are a few bars that I've been thinking about nonstop, daydreaming about what sort of outfit I'd wear and which character I'd chat up. So here it is: the fictional video game bars I wish I could head to right now, in real life, with the vaccine coursing through my veins, plus the drinking buddy I'd have along for the night and my drink of choice.
The best fictional video game bars
Bar: Afterlife, Mass Effect 2
Drinking Buddy: Liara T'Soni
Drink: Midori Sour
Afterlife Club can be found on the mercenary-controlled Omega space station, and if anyone knows how to make a sexy space bar, it's sexy space criminals. This is the kind of club you'd expect to find in some glitzy European city, the kind you'd wait in a three-hour line for just to potentially get turned away at the door because the bouncer doesn't like your outfit. But imagine walking into a three-story circular club with a massive, purple hologram depicting a naked dancing asari extending from floor-to-ceiling at its center. This club has flaming torches circling the top-most balcony and a suspended circular dance floor hanging so that the sexy asari are out of reach of grubby patron's fingers. It'd be worth the wait.
I'd like to slide into a booth with Liara T'Soni, who'd probably refuse to drink but, once she saw the lovely neon green shade of the Midori Sour I'm drinking, would have to get one for herself. Having her by my side might get me into Aria T'Loak's well-guarded lounge, and if it doesn't, we can talk shit about Ashley Williams during dance breaks.
Bar: The Cockatrice Inn, The Witcher 3
Drinking Buddy: Zoltan Chivay
There's a bevy of inns and taverns in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but The Cockatrice Inn is something special. You can only check out The Cockatrice Inn if you have The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine DLC, as it's located in Touissant – the hybrid French/Italian town full of hilarious knights, rolling vineyards, and (you guessed it) wine. But trust me, the DLC is worth it, and The Cockatrice Inn is a sight to see. Resting on a bridge between Corvo Bianco Vineyard and Dun Tynne Castle and nestled amongst weeping willows, The Cockatrice has a Tudor-style exterior design, with parts of the building hanging over the water below. It reminds me a lot of one of the buildings hanging over the river in York, one of my favorite cities in the UK. But I wouldn't go to the Cockatrice just for its gorgeous decor - I'm going for the crayfish chowder, and for a chance to beat the innkeep at Gwent.
Naturally, I'd spend the night going pint-for-pint with Zoltan Chivay, who would easily drink me under the unfinished wood table.
Bar: Le Bastille Saloon, Red Dead Redemption 2
Drinking Buddy: Lenny
I've only been to New Orleans once, and it was to elope (Spoilers: I'm divorced), but it's one of my favorite cities. That's thanks in large part to its nightlife, which isn't just about beads and boobs; there are some incredibly cool jazz bars tucked away off of New Orleans' main strip, and a few old-world dining establishments that make you feel incredibly financially insecure just for walking in the door. Le Bastille Saloon in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the latter, and while I wouldn't normally run to a bar that's so bougie, the idea of kicking in the door to this gorgeous establishment while wearing my Doc Martens sounds supreme right now. I've been cooped up in my NYC apartment for far too long, I'd love to walk into Le Bastille Saloon immaculately dressed with all my tattoos showing and deftly shuck a crawfish after sucking down lobster bisque without a spoon.
For a night out at Le Bastille Saloon, I'm bringing the only Red Dead Redemption 2 character you can get drunk enough with to lose your memory: LENNY!
Bar: The Gates of Hell, Bayonetta
Drinking Buddy: Rodin
The Gates of Hell is a Gothic paradise, and I'd like to drink nothing but expensive red wine there while sitting on one of its blood-red velvet stools. Look at the liquor, beautifully displayed under a red neon sign and backlit with a searing bright blue light. Look at the wall from which the bar is cut, ornate Gothic molding that comes to a perfectly pointed arch, the beautifully carved wooden chairs surrounding circular tables upon which a single flaming tea light rests. This is a bar Dracula would drink in, and I'm talking about the hot Gary Oldman Dracula, not some weird old dude who smells like mothballs.
Obviously, I'd spend the night chatting up Rodin, the demon weapons dealer and bartender at the Gates of Hell. I'm sure a fallen angel would have a lot to talk about, and I could listen to that voice tell me stories all night. I would suggest hanging with Bayonetta, but I just know I'd get too tipsy and clumsily try to flirt with her, which would make me want to crawl deeper into hell and never come out.
Bar: Hercules, Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Drinking Buddy: Gay Tony
Drink: Gin and tonic
Two words: gay bar. My absolute favorite bars to frequent in real life are rarely depicted in video games, so you bet your ass I'm putting Hercules on this list. But Hercules isn't just here because it's a gay bar – it's here because it's a fantastic bar, arguably one of the best in GTA history. It has an unassuming entrance reminiscent of many iconic New York City gay bars, but when you enter Hercules, you're immediately hit with the sounds of patrons loudly chatting and the blaring sounds of K109's disco tunes. Low-hanging overhead lamps create dim halos of light that show off the minimalist 70s decor – deep-red walls and gold accents abound, and a disco ball languidly spins over the dance floor. There's even a raised circular platform offering a prime dancing spot for the lucky few that can get up there.
The ambience at Hercules is unparalleled, with gyrating bodies lining the walls, patrons dancing at high-top tables, and a perpetually topless male bartender offering to over-pour you drinks. I'd spent my entire night here and ultimately get kicked out for throwing up in a garbage pail after whipping my ponytail to Ariana Grande and putting nothing but gin and tonics in my body for several hours. And I'm not going to a gay bar with anybody except a member of the community, so Gay Tony gets the invite that night.