kory I love how you’re thinking about this stuff. There are tons of games out there that play with this very explicit archaeological “building upon the old” that you’re referencing. They tend to be games about post-apocalyptic worlds, where the devs want you to see that this used to be us but now it’s not. Horizon, The Last of Us, Fallout are all cool examples. Hell, Nier is a really interesting example! I tend to agree with you that the subtlety of Japanese developers does this perhaps a little more interestingly. Dark Souls and Nier do the post-apocalypse in light brush strokes. Time depth is important here too, and scale. Nier is really interesting because the time scale is so huge - so really very few traces of the old world exist. Usually just old burnt out skyscrapers. I’ll be honest I have my suspicions about whether even those would last the number of years they’re talking. Automata is actually worse. The least honest game series on this, by far, is Uncharted. I know that they’re building on the legacy of Indiana Jones and the like, but it’s pretty hilarious to pick up a piece of paper sitting on a wooden table, and both are supposed to be like 400 years old in a gosh-danged jungle. There’s a chapter in Uncharted 4 I definitely want to do eventually that’s the most egregious with this stuff.
I absolutely adore the idea of looking at palimpsests in the physical world of video games. Now i just want to see someone boot Horizon Zero Dawn on an arcade CRT with the Pac-Man map burned into it. They turn to the camera and say, straight-facedly - “Video games have come a long way since Pac-Man.”