Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the last console generation’s most critically-acclaimed videogames. With a well-written lead character (Aloy!), evocative storyline, fun combat mechanics, and vast open-world ripe for exploration, Guerrilla Games really outdid themselves with their Decima Engine-powered finished product. It has won the hearts and minds of fans and critics alike and became one of the PlayStation 4’s best-selling videogames. In addition, its proven success led to the recent release of its sequel Horizon Forbidden West (another smash hit and future videogame classic). But have you ever wondered where the gaming developers and production & environmental designers got their inspiration for the post-apocalyptic Zero Dawn setting? Colorado and Utah! And some parts of Arizona and Montana. Yes, if you remember your videogame lore, you would know that Aloy’s adventures are set in the robot-ravaged United States of America. Here are some of the real-life Colorado landmarks featured in Horizon Zero Dawn!
1. US Air Force Academy
As Aloy makes her way from The Embrace, she can make a quick stop at the US Air Force Academy, known as the Air Combat Academy in Horizon Zero Dawn. It served as a military hub during the days before the robot apocalypse. Still, it remains a major educational institution for Air Force cadets in the real world. Additionally, the Cadet Chapel remains a notable structural feature, even in the 31st century.
2. Empower Field at Mile High
Also known as the Ring of Metal in the game, Empower Field at Mile High is featured as a ruin-turned-battleground in 31st century Denver. If you take Aloy to the left side of the ancient stadium, you can see the top portion of a small Sports Authority shield. The American retailer held the real Denver football stadium’s naming rights from 2011 to 2018.
3. Red Rocks Amphitheatre
This landmark is known as the Sterling-Malkeet Amphitheatre Aloy’s world, but there’s no mistaking the sloped seating area of this renowned outdoor venue. It is a dangerous area in the game, dominated by the dinosaur-like, flamethrowing Fire Bellowbacks. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to stop by the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the real world after you’ve finished exploring Denver. Aside from the chance to catch a show or two on the main stage, the surrounding sandstone cliffs and mountain parks offer ample hiking opportunities. According to Billboard, Red Rocks was the world’s most attended concert site in the world in 2021.
4. Bridal Veil Falls
There are many reasons to pause and enjoy the scenery along the long drive through the American West, but make time to seek out Bridal Veil Falls, one of the most identifiable landmarks in Horizon Zero Dawn. Visit this location in the game to wipe out the Two-Teeth Bandit Camp (or the historic Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant in the real world) at the top of the Falls. In our world, you can get a glimpse of the tallest free-falling waterfall in the state of Colorado and enjoy plenty of biking and hiking around and within the box canyon that houses Telluride and the various Telluride Real Estate properties.
5. Colorado River
Located near one of the bigger locations within the game, the Greatrun River is an inspired “digital copy” of the Colorado River. Although the Horizon Zero Dawn version of the Colorado River mostly got its aesthetics and design from the river portion located in Arizona (Horseshoe Bend), there’s no denying the visual appeal and vital quality both versions have.
Angelo Castelda is a freelance writer and digital nomad who loves to travel. He finds comfort in working around nature and the city, which is where he usually draws inspiration when writing about travel, lifestyle, and real estate.