The critically acclaimed 2007 video game Bioshock let players explore Rapture, an abandoned undersea city built on a capitalist ideal by an Ayn Rand-inspired figure. A new sequel, Bioshock Infinite, once again offers a vivid, retro-inspired city to play in. But this one is set in the sky: a huge, floating city called Columbia.

Like Rapture, Columbia is a city founded on a political ideal and led by a visionary leader. In this case, it's a turn-of-the-century secessionist colony founded on an idealized vision of American exceptionalism. The founder, Zachary Hale Comstock, calls himself "The Prophet." The game deploys a history book's worth of political references (players get to fight gian robot versions of the Founding Fathers), but the politics take a backseat to big, game-friendly ideas about choice, identity, and destiny, all bound up in the protagonist's complex personal history. It's the rare video game in which the player-character's past matters more than his present.