Five of the Most Brilliant Banks in Games

Five of the Most Brilliant Banks in Games

Josh Wise

Banks have a time-honoured place in games. Just as you can be assured, in a digital world, that no toilet will arrive without ammunition – either for your gun, stashed away in the stalls, or for your narrative, in the form of frantically smeared graffiti – you can be equally certain that banks will yield thrills. They are good for storing mounds of cash, of course, which comes in handy for civic-minded games such as SimCity. And they are just as good, when the need arises, for the opposite: for when you need to spring the money free and make off with it in duffel bags. Here in the United Kingdom, this is a bank holiday weekend. To celebrate, let’s review some of the finest banks that games have given us.

GTA IV – Bank of Liberty, Southern Algonquin


There are a few reasons that Grand Theft Auto IV is remembered. The first is Roman, the cousin of the game’s hero, Nico, asking us repeatedly if we would like to go bowling. The second is “Three Leaf Clover,” a mission that has you robbing the Southern Algonquin branch of the Bank of Liberty, and knocking down police officers like ninepins. Ski masks, black suits, duffel bags, and bills, pressed into crisp bricks and locked into a vault. Three Leaf Clover picked up the venerable series tradition of the bank job, which triggered the events of Grand Theft Auto III, kept Tommy Vercetti busy in Vice City, and saw Carl Johnson, in San Andreas, breaking into Caligula’s Casino. Where Three Leaf Clover stands out is in its homage to the movie Heat, in which the robbers pant and sprint through downtown L.A., spraying machine guns at the cops. Toward the end of the half-botched heist, Niko and his allies clatter into the gloom of a subway tunnel, slipping away into the darkness.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – MCAS Banco de Panama, Panama City


Sam Fisher’s infiltration of the MCAS Banco de Panama, in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, is more than a simple theft. True, his objectives include filching “$50,000,000 in French Governmental Bearer Bonds,” but that is only to hide his real purpose. This is to gain entry into the vault (which Niko achieved with a chunk of C4), in order to trace a money transfer that funded an arms deal. The bank is a marvellous location, all creamy marble columns, dark server rooms, and blood-red carpets. Plus, Sam even gets to rappel down into a web of lasers, like a jewel thief. Better yet, he makes his escape via zipline, over a spotlit courtyard – pretty stylish, as withdrawals go.

Hitman 2 – Milton-Fitzpatrick, New York City


In similar fashion to Sam Fisher, Agent 47, the hero of Hitman 2, is tasked with pinching not money but information. Though, it’s worth pointing out that 47’s fashion couldn’t be further from Sam’s; he sports a double-breasted trenchcoat the colour of cement, belted and buttoned all the way. The Milton-Fitzpatrick is a glorious construction: brass fittings, lofty ceilings, high windows, and an office behind an enormous clock face. It’s the perfect place for 47 to go about his work – plush, airy, and ticking less like a clock than like a bomb. As well as getting his hands on the details of certain private accounts, he also pulls off a couple of kills. One of his targets is the bank’s director, Athena Savalas, whom I chose to dispatch rather bluntly, with a classical bust. Not a nice way to go, but, then again, Savalas wasn’t very nice to begin with. Besides, as Sam Fisher says, “Oh . . . right . . . I forgot . . . bankers: evil.”

NBA 2K23 (Any) – The backboard


There are few pleasures as potent, in games, as pulling off a bank shot in the NBA 2K games. Especially if you didn’t mean to do it. The strange arc of the ball, as it sails through the air, makes you think that your shot has gone awry. Then, at the last gasp, you realise that your shooter has gone for sheer class. The ball politely kisses the glass and slips through the net at an angle so sublimely pleasing that it plays in your head, in slow-motion, again and again. You feel a mixture of relief and elation, far sweeter than if you had meant to aim for the backboard. Bonus points if you’re playing as the San Antonio Spurs (one of the classic teams), and you shoot with Tim Duncan, whose penchant for that shot is practically legend. As the commentators like to say, “The bank is open!”

XIII – Winslow Bank, New York City


The hero of XIII is XIII, a man who washes ashore on Brighton Beach, his memory having leaked into the surf. What he does have is a tattoo, bearing the numeral of the game’s title, and the key to a safety deposit box. Thus, he ventures to Winslow Bank, in Manhattan – not to make a deposit, nor to break in, but to try and figure out who he is. I can’t help but love Winslow Bank; with its wooden floors, chequered tiles, and golden furnishings, it’s a dream of 1970s style, as though the world had been drizzled in maple syrup. “Mr Rowland . . . it’s been such a long time,” says a shocked teller, behind his desk. It’s rare that banks, in games, should be such good repositories for the plot, but this is a masterclass in how to cram your story with intrigue and have it accumulate interest. While XIII doesn’t break in, however, he does have to break out, blowing a hole through a rear wall and making his escape. That’s one way to close an account.

  • I miss the bank from Dishonored and the Saint Denis bank heist in Red Dead Redemption 2 (could easily replace that strange NBA one.
  • @1 Not sure how familiar you are with basketball, but if you aren’t aware, that author is referring to a bank shot off the backboard

    If you did know that, I guess this’ll be a nice explanation for anyone else wondering about it. Tbh this feels like a shitpost article, which I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the future
  • I still remember the mission "First City Bank and Trust" in Thief II: The Metal Age (2000). The ambience was great and security was tight. Ghosting the mission was challenging but great fun.
  • Writing an article around a stupid joke.
    I approve. :D
  • Payday is also worth a mention given that the game revolves around heists.
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