It is difficult to be truly original when creating fiction, and even if one manages to pull it off, one runs the risk of putting off the audience by having one's creation seem too strange. Much safer, then, to make your setting contain human cultures that are take-offs of real ones.
This is especially common in fantasy settings, but by no means exclusive to it. It's often found in satire, as a means of indirectly poking fun at the culture in question. In such cases the countries may have significant names. This is why fantasy counterpart cultures can be full of Unfortunate Implications.
There are also sound literary reasons for using this trope. Making the Shire an idealized England transplanted to Middle-Earth makes it easier for readers to identify with the point of view characters, since they probably have much more in common with Bilbo than with Thorin. Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan is a thinly disguised historical novel, but changing the names of the countries and religions means the readers don't know how the story will end, helping to maintain dramatic tension.
Creating a completely new culture from scratch can be a daunting task. Thinking about everything the word culture encompasses - music, food, clothing, etiquette, dance, religion, and combative traditions, to name a few - can make one a bit more forgiving of such an artistic choice. It's also more easily justified in works containing humans: the Real Life counterparts of the fictional cultures have all actually come into existence and are the results of real groups of people coming together to build something over time. Basing a new society on one that's already had a turn at some point in human history can both help the audience relate and provide a creative framework to twist and turn said society into an interesting variant of its former self. This approach still has its risks, though - many Fantasy Counterpart Cultures are based on The Theme Park Version of a particular region of the world, lacking both depth and originality. (See Hollywood Atlas.)
Compare with Istanbul Not Constantinople, when a real place is referred to with a more archaic or obscure name (e.g. "Columbia" instead of "USA"). Compare also with Days of Future Past, where a futuristic society duplicates (often explicitly and intentionally) the culture and styles of a historical period.
See also Culture Chop Suey, Space Romans (and the more offensive version, Space Jews). Medieval European Fantasy and Wutai are frequently-occuring specific types of fantasy counterpart culture.
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In One Piece, the island nation of Wa-no-Kuni is very clearly this for feudal Japan, what with its isolationism and its samurai. ("Wa-no-kuni" is in fact an old way to refer to Japan.) Further on, the Shandians are pretty clear analogues for disenfranchised and displaced Native American populations, Alabasta is a fairly obvious portrayal of Ancient Egypt (with additional Middle Eastern influencing) and Dressrosa looks like a combination of Spain and the Island of Misfit Toys.
The country of Amestris in Fullmetal Alchemist is based on a combination of European countries. It's ruled by a military dictatorship similar to Nazi Germany, but they speak English, and the military ranks are also English based (with the rank of Field Marshall replaced with the rank of Fuhrer). Character names are based on names found in various European nations such as the U.K and France. Also the technology used is the same or similar to the technology found around World War II.
Xing is the counterpart of the East Asian countries, most prominently China, though Fu and Lan Fan have obviously ninja-influenced fighting styles and weaponry and Ling wears sarashi so there's a little bit of Japan in there too. Ishbal is perhaps the counterpart of the Western Asian countries.
Additionally, Drachma is the counterpart to Russia, Xerxes seems to represent a mix of ancient European and Near-East civilizations, most predominately Greece, Persia, and maybe Rome, and the Japanese-exclusive Brotherhood/Mangaverse games seems to suggest that Aerugo is FMA's version of Italy.
Paninya, Jerso, and an unnamed Central Library employee (anime only) are all black, implying that there's likely an Alternate Universe equivalent of the African continent as well.
Judging by the name, Sciezka/Sheska could be from a FMA counterpart of Poland.
Many of the nations in Kyou Kara Maou are vague approximations of Real Life nations, with Makoku being Medieval Europe and Konanshia-Subererea being the Middle East, among others. One of the most obvious is the Shildkraut nation. We are originally led to believe it's a parallel to Japanese hot spring towns, but then it's then used for a Viva Las Vegas episode, right down to the lights being recreated with magical stones.
In Mai-Otome, set in the distant future on another planet, there are some more or less evident matches between fictional and real nations, at least judging by the names of known inhabitants. Artai seems to be an Eastern European/Slavic/Chinese nation, Florince is France, the United Kingdom of Lutesia is a blend of ancient Rome and modern Italy, Aries is the United States, Annam is Vietnam, and Zipang is Japan (in fact, for the last two, those are real-world, if ancient, monikers for these countries).
Altai is named after a region that's adjacent to China, Russia and West Asia.
Strike Witches is very guilty of this, considering it's set in an alternate version of Earth during World War II. Based on the names of various characters, the Fuso Empire is Japan, Liberion is the United States, Karlsland is Germany (minus Those Wacky Nazis), Suomus is Finland, Orussia is Russia, Romagna is Italy, Gallia (no not that one--or that one) is France, and Britannia (not that one either) goes without saying. References are also made to Real Life locations, such as London, Yokosuka, and the Ural Mountains. Some of the Real Life currencies also carry over: While stationed in Britannia, the main character is paid in pounds, and Fuso's currency is the yen.
Some of the countries in Utawarerumono apparently takes place in real places in Japan. The protagonist's country is based on feudal Ezo (that's Hokkaido) with the people emulating Ainu culture but the most blatant one would be Shikeripetim which looks like a carbon copy of feudal Kyoto!
Zero no Tsukaima takes place in a suspiciously medieval European setting. Based on the names (which are simply archaic names for the nations they represent), Tristain is Belgium or the Netherlands, Albion is Britain (complete with a rebel leader named Cromwell), Gallia is France, Romalia is Italy, and Germania is (obviously) Germany.
This is a little more complex. Halkeginia (Zero no Tsukaima Europe counterpart) is loosely based on seventeenth century Europe: the Kingdom of Gallia is the Kingdom of France with some Spain in it, the Kingdom/Holy Republic of Albion are respectively the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Republic (with some Germany in it), the Holy Empire of Romania is the Papal States (other parts of modern Italy don't have equivalents), the Empire of Germania is a combination of Germany, seventeenth century Austria and seventeenth century Poland, the Kingdom of Tristain is the Netherlands with some France in it, the Grand Duchy of Grudenholf is Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (and, as seventeenth century Luxembourg is under Austrian Netherlands rule, is under Tristain rule). There is also an unnamed state which could be Spain or Portugal. Outside of Halkeginia, there is also elfans' states like Sahara (Ottoman Empire) or humans' like Rub Al'khali (probably the Emirate of Diriyah).
Shaman King: Patch and Seminoa sounded a lot like Apache and Seminole. But the similarity is only linguistic. Not to mention the fact that the Big Bad has the name Hao, which is strangely similar to "How" (the stereotypical greeting used by the natives of North American in fiction).
There is a major case going on in Maiden Rose where half the countries aren't named but are easily culturally identifiable. Klaus comes from a small German state that was conquered by the Western Alliance superstate, also primarily German. This superstate is fighting the Eurotean superstate, which has pre-revolution Russia as the dominant culture. Eurote in turn subdued Taki's country, an unquestionable Japan analogue. If it weren't for the Magical Realism the story would probably be an outright Alternate History.
2 of the 3 invading countries in the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth are clearly based off of Earth cultures. Fahren is mostly based off of Chinese culture and stereotypes, although it does have a few Japanese things (such as ninjas). This is explicitly lampshaded by Fuu. Chizeta's culture seems to be based off of Middle-Eastern and Indian cultures, and the princesses fight using Djinn. However, they also have Osakan accents. Autozam's highly technological culture, while not as clear cut as Chizeta or Fahren, has a few parallels with the United States of America: the President's son is named Eagle Vision, the military has green berets, strongest of the three superpowers, and so on.
The titular state in Saiunkoku Monogatari is a fantasy counterpart of Imperial China, especially that of the Tang and Song Dynasties.
The Vagan civilians in Mobile Suit Gundam Age dress and build in very Middle-Eastern style, while their soldiers and upper class dress in Space Clothes and feudal Japanese styles.
In the Universal Century, the different forms of Zeon all have an aesthetic based predominantly on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Federation in general is a mix of the US with the uniforms and rank insignias of the Imperial Japanese Army. The Zanscare Empire meanwhile seems to be both the Ancien Regime and Revolutionary France IN SPACE.
Berserk: Midland is medieval Denmark, Kushan is a combination of India and the middle east, and Chuder/Tudor is most likely based on France.
The six countries in Saber Marionette J are based on the countries their founders came from. Japoness is based on feudal-era Japan, Xian is based on Imperial China, Romana is like a mix of Roman and Renaissance Italy, Peterburg is a mix of Czarist and Soviet Russia, Gartland is Nazi Germany, and New Texas is based on modern-day United States.
Nihon-koku in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is quite obviously a mixture of a magical and historical version of our Japan. It's actually noted upon in-universe when the gang arrives at Ichihara Yuuko's shop for the first time and she tells Kurogane that her Japan is his Japan too, just a different version of it.
The Sonic the Hedgehog comic's planet Mobius has long had stand-in cultures for Asia and Australia... but this was finally justified by the revelation that Mobius is actually Earth of the far, far future.
Boneville in Bone is clearly a cartoon version of the United States of America.
Tarandroland in Under The Northern Lights is a mix of modern and medieval Scandinavia. The nomadic "Grazer" reindeer are obviously a counterpart to the Sami people, though with much more power and influence. Unlike modern Scandinavia, Tarandroland is pretty much a third world country, however. There are other examples: "camel sultanates" and ki-rin ruled by a "Mikado" are mentioned, and Equestria is treated as similar to USA.
Most of the design of the Telmarine on the Film of the Book of Prince Caspian are admitted to be based on Medieval Spain. Bringing some criticism and implications...
Which kinda makes sense, seeing as Prince Caspian was apparently an allegory for the Protestant Reformation and subsequent conflicts. One illustrator for the books gave Miraz a shield with the Holy Roman Empire's two-headed eagle.
And the Telmarines are descended from old naval era brigands. But remember, the good Narnian humans of the subsequent books are Telmarines, not to mention Caspian himself. Only this one movie would feature Telmarine antagonists, and apparently the common people backed Caspian over Miraz given the parade at the end.
In Peter Jackson's Film of the BookThe Lord of the Rings, the clothes, architecture and cultures were clearly inspired by Real Life historical cultures just as in the book. However, the book's descriptions generally indicate a consistent Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages feel except for the Shire, while the movies mixed that with the High and Late Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance periods.
Rohan was reminiscent of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. An invented scene features a song in the Old English language
Gondor was reminiscent of the Byzantine Roman Empire as well as Late Medieval Western Europe in general.
The Shire is reminiscent of an idealised England, and also have a lot of Irish elements, particularly their dance and music. There is a lot of crossover between old English and Irish dance/music. Tolkien used familiar stereotypes of English yokels, but Hollywood comic peasants are always Scotirish, hence the mixture. And hence Merry and Pippin's respective Irish and Scottish accents although they are Frodo's cousins (and although most of the Shire, including Sam, use the generic country accent known to English actors as "Mummerset.")
Dale in his version of The Hobbit appears to be modeled on Russia or Hungary.*
In the book it seems more like the really old Russia (that is, medieval princedoms of Novgorod and Kiev) and Dalemen are explicitly said to be ethnic cousins of Rohirrim, just as both the Russ (viking Russians) and the Goths were Germanic. Esgaroth, for instance is a freshwater port, just like Novgorad and it's people are known for their commerce along the river.
The Dwarves are largely based on Jewish culture, and Elves on Scandinavian.
The 2007 Canadian Sci-Fi ShortFood For The Gods featured a majority Asian cast playing a tribe situated on a distant planet with similar to that of Native Americans as well as being rich in Asian themes, including a backstory referencing prehistoric Japan, and a fictional subtitled language that is loosely derived from Japanese and other Asian language influences.
Joe Abercrombie's The First Law has a huge country called The Union, which rather resembles the Roman Empire. Much of the action takes place in the province of Angland, where the characters fight against the Celt-based Northmen.
The Union is more late medieval Europe than Roman. The Old Empire however blatantly resembles the Roman Empire. Even down to names and architecture.
Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant: the Earth nations have colonized the Solar System - North and South Jupiter were colonised by N/S America respectively; Mars = Arabs; Saturn = Asia; Uranus = Europe etc. They develop Hyperspace travel and plan to colonize the Galaxy by constellations: USA get the Eagle, Russia gets the Bear, China gets the Dragon.
Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion universe does this: Chalion, Ibra, and Brajar make up the analogue of the Iberian peninsula, Darthaca is France, the Weald is the Holy Roman Empire (and used to be Gaul, or at least somewhere with Celts), and Roknar plays the role of North Africa (despite being an archipelago). To conceal this slightly, everything is set in the Southern hemisphere, with all the geography flipped north-for-south. Bujold even manages to have the Roknari's religion differ from that of the Chalionese despite this being a world with Physical Gods.
Well it's a heresy actually, although from the Roknari's point of view it's the other way around. The Roknari are actually more like traditional Christians in that the Bastard is their Satan while the other nations see him as performing a useful purpose.
The Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey features Terre d'Ange, which is France down to the language, and various other parallels - in one particularly egregious example, the Venice-counterpart is named "La Serinissima", a nickname by which the real city is sometimes called.
In David Eddings's Belgariad, the Sendars are rural Englishmen - the mongrel country (as by late medieval standards Celtic/Saxon/Scotti/Danish/Norman England was), the Arends are Norman French, the Tolnedrans are Imperial Romans, the Chereks are Vikings, the Algars are Cossacks, the tunnel-dwelling Ulgos are Ambiguously Jewish, maybe (though their god UL is apparently based on the pre-Muslim Turkish creator-god Ulgen, whose mythos is also where Eddings got the whole "saying 'be not' ends your own existence" schtick), the Nyissans are vaguely Egyptian or perhaps Indian, and the Angaraks are the "Hunnish-Mongolian-Muslim-Visigoths Barbarian Tribes out to convert the world by sword". Since Eddings tends to recycle his cultures whenever he creates a new world, most of the countries in his universes likely have such parallels— the Elenium series has very familiar western kingdoms and eastern empire, if anything even more like The Theme Park Version of certain Earth cultures. The inhabitants of the main continent in the Dreamers series are obvious stand-ins for various Native American tribes.
Also, Drasnians are north Italians who live by gambit and counter-gambit (for a time in history, most Genoese merchants were also employed by the city's intelligence service); the Algars are "sea-of-grass" nomads, something in between Apaches or Mongols; Rivans are perhaps English whose character has been harshened by a couple centuries of never leaving Iceland. Nyissa's whole existance is centered around the Nile its jungle-iffic river. Angaraks are more complex than mere "take by the sword" barbarians: Murgos are an exaggeration (?) of the most militaristic periods of Japan; Malloreans are the innumerable people in the east - Chinese; Thulls are Slavs, forever exploited; Nadraks are Arabs who live in... Finland? And yeah, Ulgos are the Jews.
The Nadraks are definitely Russian. They don't seem truly Asian like many of their fellow Angaraks, yet they don't fit into the West either. They seem to bridge the gap between the two sides, much as Russia was portrayed as prior to the Revolution. They have a culture that is focused on gold hunting and fur trading and is heavily influenced by alcohol. They live in a mostly unexplored, heavily forested wilderness with little civilization outside of the cities, like Siberia. The Morindim that live out there are similar to the pagans of medieval Russia. They're also hinted to be perpetually in a clandestine espionage war with the Drasnians and the rest of the West. Furthermore, the Murgos seem more based on Western medieval stereotypes of Turks rather than Japanese.
Considering that Word of God states that the Ulgos are based off the Jews in the Rivan Codex, I'd say that the Ulgos are Unambiguously Jewish.
More precisely, the Arends are split into three subgroups: the Mimbrates (think Norman English), the Asturians (think Robin Hood styled Saxons) and the Wacites (think Celts).
My interpretation was that the Arends were German: their geography is defined by massive central forests, their local barons tend toward total autonomy because for their entire history they were divided in civil wars.
The Melcene Empire in Mallorea has a few parallels to Persia as well as China, and appropriately they have invented both gunpowder and elephant cavalry.
David Eddings' next work, the Elenium and the following Tamuli, had the same kind of counterparts in slightly different measures. Most of the characters are Elenes, who are based after different ethnicities and periods of Europe: the Elenians are probably English with their queen, the Thalesians with their cold climate and horned helmets are Scandinavians, the Arcians with their feudalism, castle-building and extreme piety are your generic medieval Europeans, the Peloi are martial nomads like the Huns and similar barbarians, etc. The Elenes are united under a central Church which is clearly based on Catholicism. \From here it gets insulting, however, with large dollops of Unfortunate Implications: the Styrics are equivalent in many ways to the Jews, being without a homeland, largely mystic, and deeply mistrusted by their neighbors. They are also regarded universally as simple and unsophisticated, even by their own leaders. Similarly the Rendors, desert-dwellers, are an obvious take on Arabs, and their religious separatist movement known as the "Eshandist Heresy", a clear parallel to Islam, is viewed with utter condemnation by all of the main characters. Moreover, the Rendors are repeatedly cited as stupid and credulous, and their religious leaders as selfish and senile madmen.
It should be noted that much of the stereotypes of the Styrics in the western lands that the Elenium takes place in are purposefully propagated by the Styrics themselves. When the characters visit the Tamul Empire, they find that the Styrics have a homeland, a capital city, and a vibrant culture.
Teresa Edgerton's Goblin Moon and The Gnome's Engine do this intentionally, being set in a 'Euterpe' that's a close fit to 18th century Europe, and incorporating such parallel nationalities as 'Spagnards', 'Imbrians', and 'Nordics'.
Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle is set in an almost-England kingdom that's conquered and brought civilization to the majority of almost-Europe, although they occasionally have trouble with their almost-African desert-people neighbors to the south, and the Greek/Roman hybrid nation of Queg. (The almost-Africans are ruled by a "master race" caste whose parallels to the Egyptian dynasties are too blatant to miss.) The titular Riftwar involves an invasion across space-time by a warrior race of almost-Oriental people who the author says are based on the Japanese and Korean cultures, called the Tsurani. Later books introduce analogues to Chinese and Native American cultures, among others...
Feist's take on the moredhel - dark elves - is quite consciously Native American - tribal, shamanistic, and resentful of humans for what they (with good reason, considering their life spans) see as aggressive occupation of lands that are rightfully theirs. With the human tendency to breed like rabbits and thus their advantage of numbers, pretty much the only reason the border to the Northlands remains where it is now is that the lands the moredhel now occupy are too cold and barren for humans to even want them.
The Fremen from Dune are pretty obviously based on the Bedouins (and on a lesser extent, the Bushmen) while Caladan has a strong Greek/Spaniard flavor (the Atreides bloodline is supposedly descended from Agamemnon). The Fremen are descended from Arabs, but ironically their wanderings before arriving on Arrakis resemble the Jewish Diaspora (of course, the same could be said about the Palestinians, so it's not too far off...). The political system of the Galactic Empire itself is pretty strongly modeled on that of the Holy Roman Empire, with Persian, Byzantine and Ottoman influences mixed in. The backstory for the novels makes it clear that many core elements of these cultures have been preserved across dozens of centuries, and even justifies this by attributing it to Genetic Memory.
The Fremen religion is a cross between Islam and Buddhism. The name "Zensunni" is used a lot. Also, the Orange Catholic Bible - clearly, radical Protestantism and Catholicism have merged.
The titular culture of P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath has a LOT of Jewish parallels, being the Chosen People of a very strict God who have Temples and Books of Law; furthermore, they're exiles and nomads. Their religion emphasizes obedience to the Law over faith, and their God isn't all that nice. A number of Kencyr have Hebrew-influenced names, the protagonist among them (Jamethiel, with the Hebrew -el "of God" ending). Aspects of their culture, though, have other influences; their honor code and ritual suicide traditions, and martial arts have some Japanese parallels, while the segregation and hiding behind masks of Highborn women draws comparison to Islam/Orthodox Judaism.
Robert E. Howard's stories about Conan the Barbarian, where the countries of the Hyborian Age are transparent stand-ins for real-world nations or peoples. Examples include Stygia as a stand-in for Egypt, Shem as Israel, Aquilonia as Imperial Rome, and Iranistan as... well, guess. (Note, however, that these are supposedly nations that existed in the history of our own Earth, pre-continental drift theory and pre-mass migrational theory, so the similarities to the civilizations that they would eventually evolve into is doubtlessly intentional.) His favourite grey-eyed morose heroes are all supposed to be ancestors of modern Celts. A folk etymology for Cymru (Wales) is attributed to the Cimmerians (Conan's people) while the name Conan is Irish.
If you look at the map of the Hyborian Age◊, this becomes even more obvious. Aquilonia is about where France is, Cimmeria is where Scotland will someday be etc. Howard in fact wrote a history in which the beginning of modern European and Middle Eastern races are set out.
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time does this a lot, with a mix-and-match approach. Cairhien is a mix of France and Japan; Amadicia is modeled after Puritan America; the Seanchan are Ottoman Empire and Japan, with Texan accents; Illian is a lot like Venice but its people have Greek-sounding names; Andor is similar to England and parts of the U.S.; the Aiel bear Indian and Native American similarities and have Slavic accents; Tairens have much in common with Spaniards... and the list goes on.
Most of Guy Gavriel Kay's books make heavy use of this trope, and are centered in a counterpart to a specific region of Europe:
Lampshaded in her SERRAted Edge series; most culture in the fairy world of Underhill was either transported there by visitors from our world, or copied by the fantastically imitative (but woefully uncreative) elves. In fact, to point out precisely which human-world culture (real or fictional) an elf ripped off is considered a huge insult by many of them.
The Joust novels clearly take place in two-kingdoms Egypt. In an afterward, Mercedes Lackey admitted that she was tired of medieval Europe and wanted to try something different, and that she'd planned to just set it in Egypt, but that amateur Egyptologists were so picky that she renamed everything to avoid complaints.
The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series by Greg Keyes features this, most obviously the "good guys" countries, Virgenya and Crotheny giving very strong Britain-and-it's-territories vibe, Vitellio as a sort of Spaintaly (complete with the head of the Church based there), a variety of southern countries of Mediterranean-and-western-europe inspiration (Safnia, Terro Gallé...) and the evil (well, from most main characters' perspective) northern Hansa with a Germanic flavor...
Indeed, it's implied and/or stated that those countries were mostly founded by the descendants of people from the corresponding regions of Earth.
Calormen, in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, is Middle Eastern with Ottoman/Turkish influences, with a specific takeoff on the ancient Carthaginian religion as a plot point. Notably, the Calormenes are explicitly pagan, not monotheists—their religion is not a fantasy counterpart of Islam. (As Narnian humans are descended from various travelers from our world, and time is shown to be very slippery, possibly Calormenes are descended from pre-Islam Turks or Arabs. Or something.)
The Film of the Book of Prince Caspian plays up the Telmarines' difference from the Narnians by making Telmarine culture clearly influenced by that of medieval Spain, apparently supposing the original pirates to have been Spanish.
Also invoking images of Conquistadors that are familiar to US viewers but wouldn't have occured to Lewis or his English readers.
Westeros is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Europe as a whole, with the regions being the North (Scotland, especially beyond the Wall, which is itself analogous to Hadrian's Wall, which separates England and Scotland), the Iron Islands (Scandinavia and the Viking raiders), the Riverlands (North France/Brittany), the Vale (the Alps), the Westerlands (England), the Stormlands (North Spain), the Reach (South France/Provence), and Dorne (Moorish Spain).
The First Men are vaguely Celtic, especially with their influence from the Children of the Forest and their concentration in the north after the Andal invasion. The Andals are stand-ins for the Saxons, displacing the First Men in the most fertile regions and imposing their language. The Andals also have some Norman elements, with their new church and tradition of chivalry.
The Iron Islands are stand-ins for Vikings, with their longboats and their habit of plundering resources from non-Ironborn ("We Do Not Sow"). They also have several Irish influences, especially their generational hatred against the mainland oppressors.
The mountains clans of the North (The First Flints, the Wulls, the Norreys, the Burleys, the Harclays, the Liddles, and the Knotts) are reminiscent of Scottish Highlanders.
Dorne is a stand-in for Moorish Spain and the Mediterranean, although it also resembles Wales with its differing culture from the mainland and the way their rulers style themselves "Prince". The name of the main house there, Martell, comes from French, as does the name of Princess Arianne.
The family names Lannister and Stark are thinly veiled references to the Wars of the Roses, a civil war in England fought between the houses of Lancaster and York. There are also similarities to the way the Scottish clans used to vie for power - the Lannisters are very Campbell-like. The Red Wedding was based on the Black Dinner, and there is even a place in Scotland called Wester Ross.
The Free Cities are similar to the city-states of medieval Italy. Braavos is even a City of Canals like Venice.
The Dothraki are clearly a stand-in for the Mongols and similar raiding tribes. They are a horse-centered, nomadic people who rule a vast grassland and can push around fortified nations with the threat of their mounted archers.
The Live Action Series averts this: although the culture and overall Dothraki social organization is preserved as in the novels, they avoid any of the Mongol-based imagery. They also do a lot of things Mongols do not do, namely eating horses, and using grass rather than felt.
The Slaver Cities— Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen— closely resemble ancient Middle-Eastern empires such as Assyria and Babylon: they build pyramids/ziggurats and use slaves for manual labor or as soldiers.
Also, the former Ghiscari Empire is quite analogous to Carthage, to the point of having been brought down and destroyed by Valyria after 5 "Ghiscari Wars".
The city-states of Slaver's Bay being as big on raiding other peoples and bringing them back as slaves is reminiscent of the Barbary Pirate States. Astapor's "Unsullied" recall the Spartans in their equipment, tactics and Training from Hell, but they are also brainwashed eunuch soldiers for sale like the Mamluks and Janissaries.
Qarth is a stand-in for Constantinople, with its geographic location in control of a sea pass between the east and west, great oppulence and memories of ancient greatness.
The rarely-mentioned Sothoryos is analogous to Africa.
The Valyrians are basically the Roman Empire with dragons. From their small peninsula nation they conquered a huge chunk of their continent and their form of government, the Valryrian Freehold, was the Roman Republic with the serial numbers filed off. Now (middle ages), though their empire is no more, their provinces stand as independent kingdoms and speak dialects derived from Valyrian on their way to become separate languages (like the romance languages).
The Targaryen conquest of Westeros mirrors the Norman conquest of England, but the Targaryens themselves also have some Byzantine trappings (ex. "wildfire", a green-colored version of Greek Fire). They are of Valyrian (i.e. "Roman") origin, too.
The map of the Eleven Kingdoms looks like a rough approximation of Northern Europe. Imagine Ireland and the UK are attached to the continent, so that The English Channel is a broad estuary; Scandinavia is a simple vertical coastline sans Denmark; there's no Italy or Greece or Mediterranean visible. The analogues to modern nations would be something like Cassan/Kierney/Transha/Claibourne = Highland Scotland, Meara = Lowland Scotland, The Connait/Howwice = Ireland, LLannedd = Wales, Gwynedd/Carthmoor/Corwyn = England/The Netherlands/Germany, Bregmagne/Fallon/Fianna = France, Torenth = Hungary/Russia/Belarus, Tralia/The Forcinn = The Levant (Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan), R'Kassi = North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, plus Arabia).
Culturally, the regions and their inhabitants as depicted in the text match their real world analogues; R'Kassi horses are famous, as is Fianna wine, while people from the Cassan/Kierney/Transha/Claibourne region wear tartans, speak with broad Scots-like accents, and have a clan system and tanistry (elected leadership within the clan). A version of Catholicism sans the Papacy prevails in the west, with Eastern Orthodoxy prevailing in Torenth, Islam to mostly to the southeast and a Norse paganism in the far north.
Politics tends to follow some of the real conflicts of medieval Europe. Particular attention is given to the rivalry between spiritual and temporal authority, including disputes over the benefit of the clergy. Such conflicts are sharpened by the Deryni persecutions within Gwynedd; Church authorities forbid the powers as evil, yet foreign kingdoms (including Gwynedd's main rival Torenth) have no such compunctions. The Haldanes' solution is to claim their Deryni-like powers are different and a sign of divine sanction, though it plays as a distinction without a difference.
Karen Miller's Godspeaker Trilogy has a number of these. Mijak is based on the Hittites and Summerians. Etherea has elements of Medieval England. Thzung-tzhungchai is clearly based on China (Haisun probably too, but we never get to see any of it) and Arbenia and Harbisland have very definite German traits.
Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books have the pseudo-medieval Old Kingdom — where magic works but most modern technology fails as you approach the border, where Necromancy is a day-to-day hazard — sharing a border with Ancelstierre — which is remarkably like World War I England (or possibly World War I Australia/New Zealand given the author's antipodean roots) to the extent that the Ancelstierre army are armed with .303 bolt action rifles, .455 revolvers, white phosphorous grenades and Lewis guns and on the Border use both this and their khaki uniform AND sword bayonets, Mail hauberk with khaki surcoats and enchanted spears because when the wind blows from the south (Ancelstierre proper) magic stops working, but when it blows from the North (Old Kingdom) technology fails.
Also the Ancelstierre Moot (Parliament), the Chief Minister (Prime Minister) who runs the government, the Hereditary Arbiter (King/Queen) who lives in a palace without whose blessing you can't form a government mentioned when the bad guys start a civil war and the fact that they haven't taken over the Palace means they haven't won, and the fact that Ancels-Tierre is from the same root (Angles' Land) as England (compare the real-life French word for England, Angleterre)... it's England all right.
Ancelstierre also has cultural/political parallels with early industrial Australia insofar as being a nation bordered by a seemingly alien land that the government does not understand and fears. Protecting the nation's border is a huge deal. Australia is slap-bang in the middle of the Asia-Pacific, and until the 70s feared and did not understand what they called the "teeming hordes" of Asia. Other political parallels are also present.
Continuing south from Ancelstierre we come across some other vaguely-European nations, a vaguely-Mediterranean sea and then a vaguely-Middle-Eastern region, refugees from which play a role in the third book.
John Norman's Gor series actually explains this in the backstory: the humans are literally descended from ancient people from various Earth cultures brought to the eponymous planet by aliens. Specifically the main human culture is based on Greco-Roman and there are knockoffs of Vikings, Inuit, Sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, and others around the fringes.
Tyra is analogous to Renaissance Italy (republic, Mediterranean-like climate, trade economy). The Great Southern Desert is Arabia with its Bazhir tribes standing in for Bedouin. Carthak is Africa, conquered by an empire originally located only at the north end of the continent. Scanra is Scandanavia, while Galla is probably something like Germany, Tusaine is France, and Maren is Spain. The Copper Islands are Southeast Asia (specifically Malaysia, but broadly many of the different island cultures). Jindazhen to the west of Yaman is the Tortallverse's version of China. Sarain is probably Mongolia.
Sarain may be a version of Persia or Central Asia, with the nomadic K'mir standing in for the Mongols. The political troubles are reminiscent of interwarlord rivalries between Turkic and Mongol warlords in post-Mongol Empire Persia, Central Asia, and Mongolia.
It's also fun to go through the Circle of Magic series trying to determine what each culture is based on. For example; Imagine Tris as an English girl. Good luck imagining her habitual snark in anything other than an upper-class British accent.
The Yanjing Empire is definitely based on ancient China, and the Namorn Empire is based on Russia. Also, the city-state of Tharios has a government like ancient Rome, while the caste system there is based on Japan, with the yaskedasi (entertainers) similar to the geisha of Japan and the prathmuni based on the burakumin. The food and weather that Emelan and some of its neighboring countries have is Mediterrean, and Chammur is more Middle Eastern/Arabic.
The Traders seem to have a lot of similarities with the Romani (nomadic people that are quite separated from other cultures as a defense against huge amounts of discrimination, etc).
Much of Discworld is like this, generally using it to satirize the original culture. Überwald is Transylvania (and Eastern Europe in general), Genua is New Orleans (with a bit of Disney World), Brindisi seems to be a mix of Spain and Italy, Klatch is the Middle East and North Africa (while also being a stand-in for any "generically foreign" place or concept), Howondaland is a mix of sub-Saharan Africa and Central/South America, and the Counterweight Continent is part China, part Japan (especially the late Edo period). Llamedos is Wales, Djelibeybi is Ancient Egypt, and Ephebe is Greece. Pseudopolis and Tsort are Athens and Troy. Lancre is rural England with a dash of the Appalachians and a Scottish lean, Quirm seems to borrow a lot from France and Italy, and Ankh-Morpork has been described as a cross between eighteenth-century London, nineteenth-century Seattle, and modern New York. The dust jacket for The Last Continenthung a lampshade on this; after mentioning the continent of Fourecks, it had a footnote saying "Which has nothing to do with Australia. At all."
The Empire (of the Counterweight Continent) keeps out foreigners by building a huge wall across the border. (It doesn't work, but then it's really there to keep the people in, so they don't notice outsiders aren't invisible vampire ghosts [i.e. Gwai Lo].) By and large, the Agatean Empire's approach to foreign policy was to pretend the rest of the Disc didn't exist. This is pretty close to Imperial China (as well as pre-modern Japan; the Empire is both).
The paperback edition of The Last Continent has it as a foreword, adding that it " just happens to be, here and there, a bit... australian" [sic]
And the Nac Mac Feegle are cartoon Celts with permanent woad.
And the Tezumen in Eric are clearly the Aztecs/Mexica.
Even New Zealand gets a look-in, recast as the Foggy Islands, and to add to the list of British Empire And Commonwealth Dominions, there are several vague but cumulatively telling hints here and there in the Discworld canon that point to there being a "South Africa" on the Disc, no doubt turned Up to Eleven with biltong occupying the dwarf bread culinary niche and memories of a past war involving Welsh soldiers and a people not completely unlike Zulus (A Llamedosian regiment is said to have distinguished itself at a battle of "Lawkes' Drain"...)
So far, the only distinctly recognisable part of the United States to have made it into Discworld is the Mississipi River (The River Vieux) and the Delta, serving as an all-purpose Deep South/Louisiana, with creole language and cuisine, riverboats, voodoo, and witch-queens overlying a superficially-Disney magic kingdom called Genua. Up to Eleven, naturally.
While the country of Borogravia, featured prominently in Monstrous Regiment, is a fairly original creation, there are signs pointing to it being something of a small United States in a world that doesn't have much room for it. Constantly at war for no clear reason, it devotes all of its resources to its military at the expense of domestic standards of living, and the ever-changing commandments of its god Nuggan reach a level of puritanism and fundamentalism that mirrors America's unique approach to Christianity.
Am I the only one who finds this offensive as well as inexplicable?
Or due to its constant wars with its equally mountainous neighbours and religious diffidences. It definitely could be a stand-in for the baklen nations. Or because of its steady more insane religious proclamations and treatment of woman it could be Afghanistan.
The language has a mostly central European/ Ruritania feel, and its nearest neighbour is kind of Austria-Hungarian-ish.
A version of Ireland has been conspicous by its absence in the books but Unseen Academicals mentioned the very Irish sounding 'Great Bronze Spoon of Cladh' so perhaps one exists and will appear someday.
Early discussions of the ideas outsiders have of subterranean elves mirror American ideas of the Muslim world. When we see the culture up close, though, there's no resemblance whatever.
In Stravaganza, 'stravaganti' are humans with the ability to teleport between Earth and a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Italy while asleep. The twenty cities of Talia are stand-ins for the most important Italian cities. When it's night in Talia, it's day on Earth and vice versa.
The Isavalta series is a rare use of a Russian fantasy counterpart.
RA Salvatore's The Crimson Shadow trilogy follows a young man of Eriador (read: Ireland) and his companion from Gascony (France) and a bunch of guys from some equivalent of Scotland against the wizard Greensparrow, who rules the invading nation of Avon (England). Don't work hard to hide the parallels here, or anything.
Brandon Sanderson's Elantris features several Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, though there's a bit of mix-and-matching going on. The Fjordell Empire occupies a political position similar to Rome, but is culturally and linguistically more Nordic, with a religion that seems equal parts Islamic and Catholic. The nation of Teod (of which one main protagonist is princess) is very obviously England- a small island that is nonetheless regarded as a great power due to its very impressive navy and canny leadership. The nation of Jindo, mentioned often but never seen, seems to be a stand in for medieval China. The nations of Duladel and Arelon, on the other hand, don't really seem to have any real-life counterparts.
This was famously used in The Lord of the Rings, where the Shire is obviously based on the English countryside. This was fairly rare in J. R. R. Tolkien's works, though; most of his cultures were built by creating a language, and then a culture that used it. As he specifically notes in the case of Rohan, that their language was "translated" as an old form of English did not imply they were Anglo-Saxon in culture. Instead it was meant simply to maintain its position in the language family tree as regards to the Hobbits' tongue, which was translated as modern English.
On the other hand, the Rohirrim — as noted under Film above — are a sort-of Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Goths (or Gothic realm on Black Sea steppes to be specific), except perhaps with the Goths swapped for another Germanic group, the Anglo-Saxons.
The Southrons are dark-skinned horsemen and elephant-riders coming from regions in the south, while the Easterlings ride great wains or wagons. They do not correspond to any specific real culture and are meant to echo generalized outside threats to early medieval Europe, like the Huns.
Some Tolkien-inspired fantasies portray dwarves as Scotsmen, though Tolkien himself did not. The closest Tolkien came to this was noting the dwarves tended to have harsh, guttural accents when speaking the common tongue. However, Tolkien's dwarvish language uses triconsonantal roots just like Semitic languages such as Hebrew or Arabic, and in fact he explicitly tried to portray some aspects of the Jewish diaspora and culture in a fantasy setting. However, all Dwarvish names are Old Norse. (Though those are not the "real" names in Dwarvish, which are never revealed to non-Dwarves, but rather Norse names from the human cultures around the Lonely Mountain.) Those in The Hobbit are taken from the names of the first dwarves ever created, in Poetic Edda.
The ancestors of the Rohirrim have Gothic-style names (Vidugavia, Vidumavi), and they were involved in conflicts a confederation of Easterling horse cultures, probably mirroring the fourth-century clash of Huns and Goths.
Númenor, Tolkien's fantasy version of Atlantis, is not quite Ancient Egypt, but Adûnaic again mirrors Semitic languages in its general structure, and their advanced culture and later obsession with deathlessness, embalming, and grand sepulchral architecture makes it hard not to think of that. They even had a valley of rock-hewn burial chambers for their Kings and Queens, and names like Ar-Pharazôn do the rest to cement that association.
The Darkness Series has an interesting take on this trope. The series is essentially a fantasy version of World War II. So, every nation taking part in the series fills the role of a power from the war. However, physically, culturally, and linguistically, these nations are also something of a mix-and-match of various world cultures. Algarve plays the role of Nazi Germany, but its people are Scots-Irish in appearance, and their language is based on Italian. Another good example is Kuusamo, which fills the role of the United States, but is populated by Finnish-speaking East Asians.
In the Videssos Cycle, Videssos is closely modelled on the Byzantine Empire, and neighbouring states are likewise based on the Byzantine Empire's neighbours.
The world first introduced in The King's Peace features fantasy parallels of a whole bunch of Arthurian legend, with the island of Tir Tanager standing in for England and going on from there, down to Saint Patrick, Jesus and Arthur himself. Figuring out what the real world equivalents are is a great deal of the fun.
Tooth and Claw features a dragon society that matches very closely to Victorian England. Except, of course, that they're dragons.
The Honor Harrington series is based on this trope, since its pretty much the Napoleonic Wars in space. Some are blatantly obvious, while others are little vague. Much fun can be had by history buffs trying to match up the Honorverse star nation with their historical counterpart. A few more obvious examples:
The Star Kingdom of Manticore itself is pretty much Britain in the 1800s, minus the empire. They have a monarchy and active aristocracy coexisting with a democracy. Its three planets, Manticore, Sphinx, and Gryphon, correspond to England, Wales, and Scotland (especially that last one). And it's a mercantile superpower.
The People's Republic of Haven is France in the late 1700s. It starts off as essentially pre-revolutionary France with a veneer of democracy. Then it undergoes its own revolution, run by a Committee of Public Safety, which is led by a man named Rob S. Pierre. And its capital city is named Nouveau Paris. Eventually, it becomes a genuine democracy modeled on the modern United States, and drops the "People's" part from its name.
The Andermani Empire is explicitly based on Prussia - its founder, Gustav Anderman, believed he was the reincarnation of Frederick the Great. The Empire's official language is German, although most of its population is ethnically Chinese.
Grayson admits that it's Meiji-era Japan, complete with katanas. However, its actual cultural background is the Deep South.
Subverted in the case of Masada, which has a lot in common with Taliban-run Afghanistan (veiled women, strict religious laws, and a government composed entirely of religious fanatics)... except that the Masadans first appeared in Honor of the Queen, published in 1993, and the Taliban only came to power in 1996.
Weber himself compared the Kingdom of Torch to 19th-century Haiti following the slave uprising there, only more stable and backed by several major powers.
The one surefire aversion is the Solarian League, which is far too big for any historical parallel. Weber once said "If the Solarian League is the United States, then Haven and Manticore might as well be individual counties in California".
Weber's later work the Safehold series is set nearly 1000 years after humanity started a Lost Colony and had the project heads disagree about how deep the Space Amish needed to go. The winners implemented a religion designed to prevent technology that would attract the Scary Dogmatic Aliens that destroyed the rest of humanity. The conflict over this results in a religion very similar to Medieval Catholic Christianity. In addition, the main setting is The Kingdom of Charis, a (relatively) progressive and free-thinking island nation, with a powerful navy; it is visited by the protagonist, a cyborg copy of the executive officer of the colonists' escort fleet, who disguises herself as a man named Merlin, and greatly strengthens and enriches it, including establishing something very similar to Anglicanism. There is also the Republic of Siddarmark, comparable to the Austrian Empire in function and culture, Charis is England, Emerald is Ireland, Chisholm is Sweden, Corisande is France, and Harchong is comparable to China. (It is a large feudal empire, famous for fine silk, and gunpowder was (re)-invented there.) At one point in the first book Charis is explicitly compared to late-Renaissance/early Industrial Revolution England or Holland.
The continent of Osten Ard is closely based on Medieval Europe, even down to the languages and their names for the days of the week. Unlike most fantasy Europes, this one actually has a Christianity parallel (and not a Crystal Dragon Jesus one, either), although the many of the Rimmersmen (Scandinavians) and Hernystiri (Celts) still worship (or at least believe in) the "old gods" in secret.
The Commonwealth in Book of the New Sun is modeled on the Byzantine empire, but very obviously set in South America, with references to mate and pampas, as well as a stand-in for Lake Titicaca.
Viron, in Book of the Long Sun, is also vaguely "Latin," with the city's ruler being called "Calde" and the state religion being a parody of Catholicism (with some minor details changed: it's a polytheist Catholicism that practices animal and occasionally human sacrifice.) The rival city of Trivigaunt is a gender-swapped fundamentalist Arabia. Both of these are justified in the story the builders of the Generation Ship wanted to send a range of human cultures into the universe, all of which would worship the Monarch and his family as gods
Jane Yolen's The Pit Dragon Trilogy really goes for the gold on this. The entire series takes place on a planet that was once used as a penal colony. Almost all the main characters are descended from the original criminals, and generally have an inherent distrust of anyone who wasn't (all the criminals' descendants have a double K in their name — Jakkin, Sarkkhan, Akki, etc., so it's no secret who is who). The world is mostly great big deserts, great big mountains, and slightly uncivilized cities. Other planets keep trying to rule it and use its natural resources. The fact that the planet is named Austar IV is really just the icing on the cake.
Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber claims that every world in existence exists in Shadow, as a reflection of the True World, Amber. Hence, several cultures of Earth are pointed out to be reflections of some part of Amber (and several famous historical figures are said to have been trained by the long-lived Amberites).
The nation of Jackals in Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air and The Kingdom Beyond the Waves is a Steam Punk version of Victorian England, although they have a much less reverent attitude towards their royalty (this is because they went through their version of the English Civil War, only the democracy stuck). It's hostile neighbor, Quatérshift, is a take on Revolutionary France with the Terror turned Up to Eleven. Cassarabia is an Arabian caliphate, with the worship of an immortal god-king replacing Islam. Catosia, with its warm climate and warring city-states, suggests a matriarchal Greece (and in particular Sparta), the Lashlites vaguely resemble Native Americans despite living in the equivalent of the Scottish highlands, Mechancia is something like Switzerland but inhabited by robots, Kikkosico seems to be Russia. The Southern Forests serve as Darkest Africa, Concorzia and Isla Verde seem to be Latin America, the Polar Barbarians are probably Vikings, and the Black Oil Horde seem like Diesel Punk Mongol hordes. There's also an extinct Mayincatec civilization that's dominated by a Religion of Evil worshipping monsters that turns out not to be not so extinct after all
When Fritz Leiber's heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser get lost in Ningauble's caves and emerge on Earth, their personal histories and memories are altered appropriately. Fafhrd is, not surprisingly, now Scandinavian, and Lankhmar is replaced by Alexandria. The real reason for this is that "Adept's Gambit" was an early story Leiber had written prior to creating the his world of Nehwon, and he later used the "Ningauble's interdimensional caverns" gimmick to shoehorn it into canon.
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett's Havemercy and Blood Magic are set in the nation of Volstov which is very similar to late 18th-early 19th cent. Russia minus guns and plus Magitek but with the geography reversed so that it's capital is close to the border of the rival Ke-Han Empire which itself is an amalgam of Manchurian China and Samurai Japan, especially the latter.
While The Hundred, the central culture in Kate Eliott's Crossroads trilogy doesn't seem to be based on any particular culture the Sirniakan Empire is very similar to the Ottoman Empire, and the Qin are very Mongolish with some Japanese samurai added in while the towns of the Golden Road they conquered seems very Chinese and th4e Silvers are remniscent of Jews.
The Hundred has a lot of Pacific Islander influence.
Speaking of Kate Eliot, her epic Crown of Stars series is basically a What If? Europe, with a magical holocaust in about 8,000bc turning vikings into Lizardmen, amongst other differences. Two particularly interesting facets, DaisaniteChurch has a female pontiff called a Skopos (greek for purpose) and that the british isles expy is ruled by powerful druidic witches.
In general, the biggest difference between the world of Crown of Stars and Earth's medieval period is that it's much more, for lack of a better word, female-friendly in general- almost all cultures are either gender-equal (with men still holding the bulk of military power, but women dominating religious roles and political leadership open to either) or matriarchal, and the one completely patriarchal nation doesn't really factor into the plot. This probably has something to do with the fact that early humanity was guided and taught by the Bwr, a One-Gender Race of all-female centaurs.
In the Gentleman Bastard series, there are several. Camorr is obviously Venice, with its canals and Italian-sounding words. Vadrans seem to be modeled on Germans/Slavic people (tall, blonde, famous for alcohol production). The old Therin Throne sounds similar to Rome (it even fell to the Vadrans!) and there are several other city-states with differing cultures, as well.
Palladia and Merryland in Tranquilium seem like this for Tsarist Russia and Victorian Britain respectively, though the former is based on an archipelago and the latter is a republic; it's revealed pretty soon though that both were founded by people that crossed over from Earth over the years, mainly in the 19h century (and Merryland was mostly founded by Americans, at that!).
Monica Hughes' Sandwriter is set in a Middle East counterpart. With oil disputes.
In Codex Alera, the Aleran society is based on ancient Rome, using Roman terminology, system of government, and military structure. It turns out that there's a reason for this: they actually are descendants of a Lost Roman Legion that ended up falling through a Negative Space Wedgie that transported them to Alera, although this point is not mentioned much in the books. Despite this, Aleran society has notable differences from actual Roman society, primarily in that their military is even more professional and organized than historical Roman armies, and there's an absence of real religion in Aleran society. Also, thanks to the Elemental Powers that all the Alerans possess, they have Magitek that allows them a standard of living comparable to the 1950's. However, like the Roman Empire, Alera's biggest problems are not external threats but their own crippling internal problems.
Fairly obvious in Second Apocalypse. The Inrithi are the Crusaders (although their religion is more similar to Hinduism than to Christianity), the Kianene are Arabs, the Shigeki Syrians, the Nansur is the Byzantine Empire and the Scylvendi the Mongols.
The Kargs of the Earthsea Trilogy have some striking similarities to Vikings, what with their habit of traveling around in longboats and doing the Rape, Pillage, and Burn routine on helpless villages. They're also the only people in Earthsea with light hair and pale skin. Subverted in that when, in The Tombs of Atuan we get a look at Kargish culture, it doesn't bear much resemblance to that of the Vikings.
Glen Cook's The Instrumentalities of the Night series takes place in 12th- or 13th-Century Europe and the Middle East, except with the names (and some aspects of the religions) changed — and magic works. Most of the action takes place in Firaldria (Italy), the End of Connec (Languedoc), and the Grail (Holy Roman) Empire. The main character is a Sha-lug (Mamluk) from Dreanger (Egypt) sent to infiltrate the Chaldarean (Roman Catholic) Church and learn if they're planning another crusade against Al-Prama (Islam). Meanwhile, a cyclic shift in the forces of magic is bringing on an ice age much more severe than anything experienced in our history at the comparable time....
Cook's Black Company novels start light while the Company is in the north, then runs with this trope when they get to Taglios. Gunni are copy-and-paste Hindus, Vehdna are close to Muslim, and the whole pluralistic, pacifistic culture is what could have happened if the two religions and smaller sects had to join together or die. Painfully. In the name of a demon-eating goddess their gods are afraid of. Even later on, Hsien (China) gets tossed in there too.
Through A Brazen Mirror by Delia Sherman has Albia (England), Gallimand (France), and Brant (Scotland).
The Truwa tribe from Danish author Josefine Ottensen's Mira Trilogy are pretty blatant High Fantasy Jews. Mira's father is Truwa, and while you only become Truwa through the mother(Mira's mother is very middle-class and very white), Mira identifies strongly with the Truwa people. She eventually goes through a ceremony similar to a bat mitzvah, enraging her mother and putting her in grave danger, considering that the monarchy is planning to destroy all Truwa people (think the Spanish Inquisition).
Justified in Dinotopia. The various cultures on the island were influenced by shipwreck survivors who brought their way of life with them. Also inverted by others who made it off the island. The second book states that the Egyptians were influenced by such people.
Lyonesse by Jack Vance has several: the aristocracy of Lyonesse seems to be vaguely Germanic, Dahaut is pre-Revolutionary France, and the Ska are based on the Vikings. Troicinet represents Britain. All of these are based not so much on modern images of these cultures as on representations from the 19th century or earlier (Troicinet is a sea power and balances the other nations; the Ska aren't noble warriors but fearsome and heartless raiders, similar to portrayals of Vikings in mediaeval English sources.)
In Chris Evans Iron Elf trilogy the Empire is clearly based on the British Empire of Victoria although the tech level is about a hundred years behind. Likewise the Mashugeb lands are just as clearly northern Africa and Elfkynan is India under the Raj.
In The Sovereign Stone trilogy there are Japanese Elves, Mongol Nomadic Dwarves and Viking Orcs. The Humans in this setting are divided into multiple cultures resembling Medieval England(Vinnengael), Arabia(Dunkarga), Persia(Karnua) Africa(Nimran and Nimorean) and Celtic(Trevenici).
Fiona Patton's medieval Tales of the Branion Realm are set in an alternate Britain down to the map and the place names, with two opposing Crystal Dragon Jesus faiths - one is basically Continental Catholicism with a dragon thrown in, and the other has similarities to Celtic Christianity but is based around the four classical elements. The conflicts are inspired by the English conquest of Wales, the Scottish Risings, and the Hundred Years' War.
in The Warded Man and sequels, the Krasian culture is medieval Arabia with a healthy dose of Sparta thrown in. The Thesan duchies are generic medieval European.
In Patrick Tlley's Amtrack Wars the Mutes are clearly First Nations while the Iron Masters are basically Steam PunkSamurai
The Jedi were originally partially Jewish. The Starkiller trusted the secrets of the Force to his 12 children. Over time, one tribe of Jedi fell in with the Sith pirates, and the Sith now kill Jedi. Also, they had a prophecy about a savior (Anakin) and when they didn't believe in him, he went and found someone who would believe in him (Palpatine) and killed them all off. Also, being a Jedi is punishable by death under the Empire.
The Massassi are Mayans.
Corellians are based on Americans, though their disproportionately powerful Space Navy has vaguely British trappings as well.
Coruscant is based on the Biblical Tower of Babel. It's even Vongformed rapidly because of the sheer blasphemy (in the Vong religion).
The Ununited Kingdoms in Jasper Fforde's Song of the Quarkbeast is clearly meant to be a parody of the UK.
In Terry Pratchett's The Carpet People the Dumii are clearly the Roman Empire.
There is a cross-species example in Babylon 5, in which the intergalactic Blood Sport called "the Mutai" is essentially a karate kumite, complete with gi, bowing, and an ancient master who speaks with a raspy Asian accentnote played by an Asian actor, incidentally. Ironically, humans seem to be the only species who have never taken part in the sport until the episode "TKO."
On Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) series the colonists from socially and religiously deeply conservative Gemenon and politically impotent, terrorist ridden, superstitious Sagittaron resemble the Deep South and Oireland respectively. If Gaius Baltar is typical of his countrymen, Aerilonians speak a thick Yorkshire accent.
Caprica expands on it, introducing us to several Taurons, seemingly a counterpart to Mexicans, complete with their own sprawling, all-encompassing cartels and struggles with racism; their language appears to be based on Ancient Greek. They could also be likened to Italians. However, they have differences as well. Whereas most Hispanic/Mediterranean people are stereotyped as hot-blooded, Taurons are called a stoic people. Joel Watson possibly put it best:
"So the Taurons in Caprica seem to just be an amalgam of all brownish people?"
Ironically true, in that the actors who portrayed Joseph, Sam, Willie and Tamara Adama are all members of different real-world ethnic groups, despite being immediate blood relatives on the show. For example, Esai Morales (Joseph) is Puerto Rican, and Sasha Roiz (Sam) is a Russian Jew.
Firefly's planets appear to have numerous cultires that preserve old national traditions from Earth-That-Was. The whole show is colored by Chinese culture, including the dialogue. The Rim world settings where most of the series takes place are mainly, of course, modeled on the Wild West, right down to accents and about half the slang.
And the Civil War in the backstory is a deliberate parallel to the American Civil War.
Prior to the release of Serenity, it could have been said that the Reavers were stand ins for the old blood thirsty stereotype of Native Americans (as seen in old cowboy movies, this seems a play on that trope rather than having unfortunate implications of its own)
Kings is set in the kingdom of Gilboa, which is pretty much modern America run by an absolute monarchy.
Well, more modern America fused with Biblical Israel/Judea with the capital, Shiloh, explicitly modeled on New York City. Gath seems to something of a cross of the Philistines with the Soviet Union.
Used, especially in the earlier episodes, of Stargate SG-1. This is justified as they mostly encounter humans who were "transplanted" from Earth, and un-justified in that few of them have seemed to culturally or scientifically evolved since then, and almost all of them randomly speak English.
Justified in at least some cases because they were deliberately kept stagnant by the Goa'uld.
The Goa'uld spoke English too, and it's probably easier to rule an interstellar slave empire if everyone's on the same linguistic page.
We would've gotten sick of the "Daniel needs to translate this language" subplot if it occured in every episode. Especially if they didn't use subtitles.
The races in Star Trek frequently have elements of this, though the pairings shift from portrayal to portrayal.
The Klingons started out as a sort of Mongol/Soviet hybrid, and were later given Japanese-ish ideas about honor (rarely put into practice, but given a lot of lip service) and a fair amount of superficial Norse trappings.
The Romulans started out as obviously based on the Romans (even to the name of the race, which plays on Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome), but later took the role of Soviet analogs.
They've also been considered Chinese analogues, considering in particular their role as the Third Power and their periods of isolationism.
In TOS it was obvious that politically the Klingons were the stand-ins for the Soviets and the Romulans were for the Communist Chinese. Of course they did throw in various different cultural things.
The TOS episode "Plato's Stepchildren" has an entire alien culture modeled on Ancient Greece, which ironically, was said in a different episode of the same series to have been based on Ancient Astronauts. There were, of course, also the Space Nazis and Space Gangsters, and one time trip into a planet's ancient past had awfully Napoleonic trappings.
Upon their first appearance, one character notes that the Ferengi behave like "Yankee traders." Their name is derived from a slur for white people used in India.
Bajorans are explicitly a stand-in for any opressed peoples in history, including, ironically, both Jews (the 1940s in Europe and the Israeli Wars of Independance) and Palestinians, along with "Kurds and Haitian boat people... terrorism and homelessness are universal problems".
The Cardassians are Nazis early in Deep Space Nine, though once they ally with the Dominion they become more like a Nazi client state: Italy or Vichy France. They also have some aspects of Commie Land, with a figurehead "legitimate" government, show trials, and occasionally Russian names that don't match the sound of other names in their language.
They also share a great deal in common with Roman society: value service to the state above everything else save family; name their highest commanders Legate (albeit they use the bastardized pronunciation;) Dukat and Garak even read a bit like Mark Antony and Ciccero, the latter in each pair having caused the death of the former's father and consistently ridicule them. In Garak's case Dukat just exiled him, though then again some Romans would have considered exile to be worse than death.
The description given in "Chain of Command, Part II" of their rich spiritual life being abandoned in favour of a military dictatorship that fed a starving people sounds like a description of Mao's Cultural Revolution.
In Game of Thrones, Westeros is quite clearly based on medieval England, and indeed the north/south geography and accompanying accents clearly approximate England's own geography and accent distribution. For example Ned, as a Northerner, has Sean Bean's native Sheffield accent, whereas Cersei, as a Southerner, has more of a London/RP accent. The family names Lannister and Stark are also thinly veiled references to the War of the Roses, a civil war in England fought between the houses of Lancaster and York. The great Wall itself has obvious parallels with Hadrian's Wall, a huge, 80 mile long barrier stretching across the top of England which was began in AD 122 and built to protect Roman Britain from Scottish invasion. Sections of the wall still stand today. The Narrow Sea corresponds to the English Channel, and King's Landing, as seen on the opening-credits map, roughly corresponds with London (despite the Mediterranean vibe).
Braavos corresponds with Spain, especially as our first Braavosi is the Badass Spaniard Syrio Forel, and many Braavosi are Hot-Blooded duellists.
The Wildlings mirror the Scottish/Pictish/Celtic tribes that gave the Roman legions so much trouble.
Lorath has been associated with Germany in the fandom, as both Lorathi we have met, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) and Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschicha), have German accents.
Qarth has a Mediterranean-Mesopotamian look.
Once Upon a Time: Mulan's people are based on ancient China while most of the Enchanted Forest is based on medieval Europe, though a majority of the English-speaking inhabitants possess American accents.
Even though Belle's kingdom looks as European as the rest of the Enchanted Forest, she, her lord father, and her former betrothed all speak with distinct Australian accents, though the area may be based on the equivalent of France in support of the original Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
Both Aurora and Cora's kingdoms seemed to be associated with Russia and Spain respectively.
Dr. Frankenstein's world have aspects of 19th-century London, but Alice's universe plays it straight by being a separate London of its own that is continuously stuck in the Victorian era.
In Defiance The Spirit Riders are basically Plains Indians with motorcycles and ATVs instead of horses, while the Castithans are essentially Europeans FROM SPACE!
The Evillious Chronicles created by Mothy (a Vocaloid producer) takes place in the fictional region of Evillious. There are 6 important countries that each corrospond with one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Of these, Lucifenia is France, Elphegort is Germany, Marlon is San Marino, Asmodean is Great Britain, Beelzenia is Ancient Rome, and Levianta is Japan. There is also a Union State of Evillious, representing the modern European Union.
Many unofficial GM invented campaign worlds do this, because after a while GMs realize that it is a lot easier to crib off real life history for their campaign world then it is to invent everything from scratch, because most GMs are not geniuses and also have other things to do in Real Life.
The World of Greyhawk references a number of cultures with resonance to Gary Gygax's Swiss family, Wisconsin home, and medieval wargames hobby, including "The Concatenated Cantons of Perrenland" (Switzerland), Thillonrian Peninsula cultures (Norse), various "Paynim" (Muslim) cultures in the west, and the vaguely Papal state of Medegia. There are "Native Americans" (Flanae), lake-faring "Gypsies" (Rhennee), and the map features a couple of large, connected freshwater lakes in the middle (Wisconsin again).
The Forgotten Realms setting features a large number of countries that are obviously based on historical ones. Amn is early modern Spain/Portugal, complete with colonies in the equivalent of Central America, and also has some elements from Middle-eastern Crusader states (such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem); Calimshan is vaguely reminiscent of Muslim Spain, with a few Arabic influences; Mulhorand is Pharonic Egypt; Unther is old Babylon; Chessenta is a slightly Greek collection of city-states; the Hordelands are blatantly Mongolian, complete with Take Over the Worldscare; and Chult is sub-Saharan Africa. Bedine people in Anauroch desert (Arabia without genies and flying carpets), Rashemen, descendants of Rus (old "Ruthenians (Russians) were descendants of Vikings" anecdote plus grubbed-up Wikkan-friendly fragments plus Slavic folklore), Ulutiun (Inuit) tribes of Great Glacier... Sub-settings are the continent of Kara-Tur, a mish-mash of Asian countries to the point that its book reads more like a travelogue/textbook on real-world Asia than a sourcebook, the Aztec-style continent Maztica (removed later), complete with straightforward historical allusions, and the continent of Zakhara (home of the Al-Qadim setting) is based clearly on mythic Arabia.
Altough one of the background concepts for the Realms, namely that it is liberally sprinkled with portals to pretty much anywhere, might explain some of that, by the fact that it is canon that anywhere includes, yes, the Earth on which the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was published. In the specific cases of Mulhorand and Unther, it is mentioned that their ancestors were ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, taken as slaves by the Imaskari, a civilization very good at the portal-making thing, and after overthrowing their oppressors, they spent the next three thousand years or so ruled by the living incarnations of their deties, which might have caused a bit of social stagnation.
Depending on which Realms writer you ask, Calimshan may also be heavy on Ottoman Turkish influence and Persia in general. It's something of a mishmash no matter how you look at it.
According to R. A. Salvatore, he based the culture of the drow of Menzoberranzan on the Italian mafia.
The feuding between Neverwinter and Luskan seems to be a nod to the Trojan War, as Luskan is also called "Illusk" (Troy was called "Ilion").
The human cultures of Birthright are Fantasy Counterpart Cultures; the developers' notes admit as such. Anuire is Renaissance Italy hidden behind a constructed language and some stock Heroic Fantasy tropes, the Khinasi are Turkish Persian Arabs, the Rjurik are Vikings, Brechtur is Renaissance Germany and the Vos are Russian barbarians. (Yes, it was written during the Cold War (though released shortly after its end), why do you ask?)
Used to varying degrees in Ravenloft. Some are fairly clear — Barovia is Romania, Borca is Italy, Dementlieu and Richemulot are France, Falkovnia is Wallachia, Forlorn is Scotland, Har'Akir and Sebua are Pharaonic Egypt, Pharazia is medieval Egypt, Hazlan is Turkey (by way of the Forgotten Realms' Thay), Lamordia is Switzerland, Mordent is rural 19th-century England, Nova Vaasa is Poland, Paridon is Victorian London, Souragne is antebellum Louisiana, Sri Raji is India, Tepest is Ireland, Valachan is the Pacific Northwest, Vorostokov is Russia, and Wild Lands are Africa. Others, like Darkon and Sithicus, operate through more fantasy filters.
At least Sithicus is actually a domain snatched from the Dragon Lance setting.
Justified in Odaire, a domain taken from an actual parallel (Gothic) Earth's Italy.
Pretty much every human culture in the Mystara setting is based on a Real Life country (which makes a certain amount of sense, as it's implied that Mystara is an Alternate Universe to Earth): Thyatis is Rome and/or Byzantium, Karameikos is Rumania, Glantri is a generically Renaissance-era western European nation, the Northern Reaches are Scandinavia, Heldann is the Teutonic Knights, Darokin is a mish-mash Genoese/Venetian merchant republic, the Ethengar Khanate is central Asia, Ylaruam is Arabia (and directly south of the Northern Reaches... WTF?), the Atruaghin Clans are Native Americans, the Savage Baronies are Mexico and Brazil, Cimmaron is Texas (!!), Robrenn is Ireland, Eusdria is Celtic Gaul, Bellayne is England (with cat-people), Renardy is France (with dog-people), the wallara lizardfolk are Australian Aborigines, the phanaton raccoon-people are Mezoamericans... the list goes on and on...
Eberron has Galifar being a mix of Alexander the Great's empire and the Holy Roman Empire, Aerenal as ancient Egypt, the Valenar elves as kind-of Bedouin, Karrnath as Germany (with aspects of both Nazi Germany and Prussia, Thrane as any theocracy ever (primarily the Papal States), both Breland and Aundair having traits of England, Zilargo is vaguely Dutch, and Riedra as Communist Russia (although their human-supremacist bias and eugenics practice also evoke Nazi Germany). Among Riedra's neighbours, Adar has aspects of both Tibet and Persia, and the Akiak dwarves resemble the Inuit.
Pathfinder's default setting has quite a few of these, including apparent counterparts of the colonial U.S. and early-20th-century China.
To expand on this a bit, the colonial United States analogue is Andoran: a new country that has recently in the past century won its independence from Cheliax. Golarion also has an ancient Egyptian analogue in Osirion, an Middle Eastern counterpart named Qadira, and a Roman/Byzantine-type country in Taldor. The Land of the Linnorm Kings is clearly based on saga-era Viking myth. Irrisen and Brevoy both play like medieval Russia, with Brevoy going for civil war between noble houses and Irrisen doing the fantasy side. Galt is Reign of Terror France. Ustalav is Eastern Europe through the eyes of Hammer Horror films. Touvette is a mixed dig at Western fascism and North Korea. Cheliax wants to be Renaissance Italy by way of fantasy devil worship. Vudrani are meant to portray pre-Colonial India. Bacchuan is another dig at North Korea. Minkai is faux medieval Japan, and Kyonin is faux medieval elven Japan. All of the Lung Wa successor states are essentially pieces of the multicultural traditions of China. Hongal are Mongolian analogs. Tianjiang looks a lot like the public perception of pre-Communist Tibet, so Tibet via Hollywood History. Katapesh is another "pulp-Arabia" country, with Jalamey filling in for "pulp-Near East." Molthune goes for Imperial Germany. The Crown of the World features faux Inuit peoples. The Mwangi Expanse goes for a bit of a Reconstuction of the Darkest Africa trope, eliminating many of its odious connotations while portraying the Mwangi as knowledgeable, intelligent Colonial-era African analogs. Quite a few countries make up what could be called a generic mish-mash of South East Asian-themed societies. And certainly more parallels could be found.
Planescape, the setting which focused on the old D&D'' cosmology, plays with this trope like a kitten with yarn. It contains an idealized "Viking" heaven, a Word of Dante version of Purgatory and Hell, Mount Olympus, the Underworld, and dozens of little pockets which resemble a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the real world culture which worshiped the god found in said pocket. For example, Set's realm is based on faux Ancient Egypt, but is nestled inside what can only be called Dante's Inferno. It makes sense in context.
The Warhammer setting, like many other examples on this page, is full of this, and they don't even try to hide it.
Still according to the background, the Warhammer World was not only terraformed from birth and left at it, but the Old Ones left their Slann servants “cultivate” it and the various races that live on it so as to make sure that the Warhammer World history develops by following a pre-established plan – this is, according to background, the reason why so many Warhammer World races have a direct counterpart on Earth and follow the same global line of development, to the extent that some events even happen on the same dates involving people with similar names (for example, the discovery of the New World by Tilean merchant Marco Colombo in the year 1492 IC).
So the Old World (which contains the Empire, Bretonnia, Kislev, Tilea, Albion and Estalia plus the Dwarven kingdoms and Norsca) is basically late-Medieval/Renaissance Europe if Christianity had never existed, with the common pantheon being a mix of various European paganisms, largely Greek/Roman and Germanic inspired.
The Empire is more or less the Holy Roman Empire during the Renaissance, with its reliance on pike-and-shot armies, Elector Counts voting in the new Emperor, and the extreme power of its national church (in this case, the Cult of Sigmar). It is also worth noting that the first ruler of the Empire was crowned explicitly by the spiritual leader of the tribes, similar to how Charlemagne, the founder of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned by the Pope. In our case, however, the "Pope" is the "Ar-Ulric", the shamanic, barbarian high priest of Ulric, the war god of winter and wolves. Hence religion wars between the “Ulricans” and the “Sigmarites”, much like in Renaissance Germany. Unlike the actual Holy Roman Empire however, worship of the Old World pantheon as a whole is in general tolerated.
Sigmar himself is a kind of a combination of Charlemagne (for uniting the tribes and founding the Empire; his massacre of the Chaos-worshiping Norse tribes could even be likened to the Bloody Verdict of Verden, where Charlemagne massacred pagan Saxons), a bit of Octavian (for being a founding emperor who ended up becoming deified), and (religiously speaking) Jesus Christ and Thor.
Bretonnia is basically medieval France, or the way it was imagined by the Enlightenment historians, complete with French naming conventions, 14th century armour and weaponry for the knights and men-at-arms, upper-class disdain for ranged combat, an oppressed peasant underclass, and reputation for extremely good cuisine and wine. The ancestors of the Bretonnians resemble Celtic tribesmen, evoking the Roman-era Gauls. There's also a decent deal of Arthurian mythology tossed in there, with Grail Knights and a Lady of the Lake who's the chief deity, and a special interaction between Bretonnia and the Elves of Athel-Loren.
Early edition Bretonnia was anything but knightly, themed around pre-revolutionary French monarchy. It was known for good quality pistols, decadent aristocracy, and all-around rot.
Kislev is medieval Tsarist Russia which swiftly turns into grim, wide-open, and cold Siberian/Central Asian like steppes to the north. True to history, Kislev is actually comprised of several ethnic groups and their cultures. There are Turko-Mongol Ungols in the North, the more traditionally Russian Gospodars in the south who are more numerous and in charge of the country, and way back, Viking-esque invaders known as the Roppsmenn (who were driven East by Sigmar for aiding the Chaos-worshiping Norse clans), who ended up being crushed by the Ungols (reflecting the Mongol conquest of Russia). The Gospodars' own troubled rule over the Ungols, including several crackdowns on the Ungols' cultural center of Praag (yes, the name of the Mongol-Turkic city is Praag; deal with it), thematically mirrors the general relationship between the Tsars of Russia and the Turkic/Mongol tribes (espacially the Tatars). Ironically, there were hints in the past that the Gospodars and the Ungols are actually an offshoot of the even more Turkic-Mongolian Kyazaks (Kazakhs, natch) and Kurgans, who live further north and east (the World's Edge Mountains acting as a kind of Ural in that regard). Interestingly, Kislev is also the name of a month in the Jewish calendar (Hannukah is in Kislev).
Estalia is pre-unification Spain + Portugal and Tilea is Renaissance Italy (complete with rival city-states and leaning towers). Interestingly, both these countries get their classic architecture from the fact that their cities are built on ancient ruins, not of the Roman Empire, but of High Elves colonies who were abandoned following a centuries long war between Elves and Dwarves. There is also a “Classical” language used as an international scientific and religious language for the Old World's educated elite, which is just Latin in the Warhammer World (which could be or “Old Tilean”, or a corrupted form of the High Elf speech used by humans in their early dealings with the race ?).
The independent city-state of Marienburg, surrounded by its marshy Wasterlands, is the Netherlands; the Border Princes are the Balkans ; Albion is pre-Roman Britain, complete with ornery Celtic tribes, angry Druids and magical Stonehenge type things; the pirate island of Sartosa is Sicily.
Cathay, Ind, Nippon, and Araby are just the medieval European terms for the exact same places you're thinking about, but turned fantastic (Cathay is ruled by a real *Dragon* Emperor, there are monkey-men, tiger-men, elephant-men in Ind, djinns and flying carpets in Araby).
The High Elves, the former rulers of the Old World, live in Atlantis and have a very Greco-Roman style. Their cousins the Dark Elves are more hard to define, but could be understood as post-Viking Scandinavians, with their reliance on crossbowmen and close-combat troops (even though they live in Warhammer's equivalent of Canada). Their other cousins the Wood Elves are basically a representation of Celtic folklore regarding The Fair Folk.
Dwarves have a few Scandinavian elements, the Halflings are rustic Englishmen. Moreover, both these races are very widely spread in the human realms, especially in the Empire, where they play a social role similar to the one Jews played in medieval Europe: they mostly live in special ghettos, have separate sets of laws for themselves, and, in the case of Dwarves, are famous for owning a lot of gold and following their own alien religion that they practice away from the public. Also the Dwarves are connected to the cult of Sigmar, a bit like Judaism is connected to Christianism(though not for the same reasons).
Tomb Kings are Pharaonic Egyptians (only undead), and the Lizardmen are Mayincatecs. The Ogres are Silk Road raiders living in the Himalaya, the Orcs are basically a Barbarian Tribe of English football hooligans, and the Forest Goblins, with a type of unit called a 'brave' and their heavy use of feathers in decoration, have traits of native Americans. Chaos Dwarfs resemble the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Hobgoblins are Mongols, and the Vampire Counts of Sylvania (officially part of the Empire) live in Romania/Transylvania.
The Warriors of Chaos are your general barbarians, similar to Viking Age Scandinavia allied with the Huns, Scythians, Goths, Turks and other invaders. Long-bearded, muscular, psychotically violent Viking warriors clad in spiky armour, furs and imposing plate-armour from HELL who Rape, Pillage, and Burn everyone else via longship or on horse and who fight to gain the notice of their capricious gods, led by Jarls and other such leaders who tend to be celebrated Chaos Chosen, and operate in tribal confederations with names like “Skaelings”, “Bjornlings”, but also “Kurgans”, “Yusaks”, or “Man-Chus”, “Hungs”). So, basically, Heavy Metal Satanist Vikings-Mongols with Spikes of Villainy. They're also extremely fond of horned-helmets and plaits, furthering the strong Evil Fantasy Viking aesthetic. Geographically, Norsca is situated where real-life Scandinavia would be, although it has little in common with Scandinavia, being full of mountains and frozen steppes. In other words, think of the Nordson some of the strongest steroids and acid conceived by the gods themselves, or the Aesir on blood and lunar dust. Now dial them both up to 9001 to get the Warriors of Chaos.
Depending on the source material, not all the Norse are Chaos Warriors. Some are just plain Vikings with their own pantheon.
There are also vampire-worshiping gipsies (the Strigani) who offer vampires stolen children as human sacrifices.
About the only one that isn't a Fantasy Counterpart Culture are the Skaven, with their crazy war machines and warpstone technology - although one might argue that their extreme xenophobia and crazy experiments makes them Those Wacky Nazis with a fair dose of Stupid Jetpack Hitler. Also, you can't have a real dark fantasy universe without a good dose of Black Death and other plagues. And who wouldn't dream of super-clever albeit demented laboratory rats on the run constantly endeavouring to conquer the world?
Many of the factions in the science-fantasy counterpart Warhammer 40,000 are slighty less direct but still obvious take-offs of historical cultures and armies:
Then there's the Imperial Guard. Germany and Russia get two apiece: The Valhallans, despite the Nordic name, are Reds with Rockets ready to defend Emperorgrad from waves of Orks, whereas the Vostroyans are Space Cossacks. Both the Armageddon Steel Legion and the Death Korps of Krieg are Weltkrieg Germans, but we're not sure which are which: the Steel Legion conduct Blitzkrieg, but are pretty light-hearted by 40K standards, whereas the Death Korps slog through mud and wire but have more Fascistic levels of Grim Dark. Then you have the Catachans, who seem to be both sides of the Vietnam war; the Tallarn Desert Raiders, who appear to be the Arab Revolt with General Monty's equipment; the red-coated, pith-helmeted, and dark-skinned Pretorians (who, again, seem to represent both sides of the Anglo-Zulu Wars); and the vaguely Prussian Mordians. The Tanith First and Only are subtly Celtic, and while the Cadians are deliberately generic modern military-types; their name is supposedly a nod to Canada's tremendous and oft-overlooked contribution in the World Wars. New to the Imperial Guard lore are the Arkhan Confederates, who are more or less the Confederate States of America, complete with grey uniforms and racist undertones.
The Cadians also give off a vaguely Soviet style - if the Valhallans are the Red Army of WWII, the Cadians are the Soviet Army of the late '70s-'80s. Especially given their names ("Shock Troops"), the fact that 10% of them form the sinister sounding "Interior Guard" provost squads, and the city names (Kasr [insert name here] is similar to [insert name here]grad). The way in which the entire planet is sitting there, armed and ready for war, constantly churning out battle machines is also analogous to the Cold War and the way the armies in Germany stared at each other for decades. The routes into/out of Eye of Terror is somewhat similar to the planned-for Soviet/NATO invasion routes into the other's country: the Cadian Gate is the North German Plain, the Arx Gap is the Fulda Gap and the usually impassable Rubicon Straits are the Danube River Valley.
The Blood Ravens are somewhat based on Greece throughout its history. Though they're also often compared to the Romapeople, with their nomadic, fleet-based structure, use of psychic divination and rampant kleptomania.
The Mantis Warrior chapter are a somewhat subtle take on Japan. They don't have much obviously Asian styling apart from being a successor of the Mongol-influenced White Scars, but they do have a ninja-like talent for camouflage and misdirection as well as warrior monks who are in a permanent meditative trace state. Also, their chapter was decimated after they backed the losing side in a major war and its homelands were occupied, a shame which they still struggle with and shapes their culture into the present. The biggest giveaway, however, is their insect motif and love of motorized cavalry.
Planet Armageddon, homeworld of the aforementioned legion, with its whole population constantly at war, and it's extreme pollution, is a twisted mirror of modern Germany. Germany's population is quite pacifist, and extremely environmentalist, so, Armageddon is basically all of their nightmares made manifest.
The Orks started life as a caricature of British football hooligans (as in the Warhammer fantasy setting), and come complete with slang and thick Cockney accents. They mostly stay pretty close to their roots, too.
The Tau Empire are in some ways an East Asian jumble. Their military equipment is strikingly Animesque, and they have nebulously Oriental accents and a Taoist-Confucianist philosophy. They refer to humans as Gue'la, they have single black cables running out of their suits, and they are all about the Collective Greater Good. They're also a small, isolated yet imperialistic people who spread out quickly, encountered many other cultures and assimilated them into their own, and through diplomacy and trade (and the occasional violent conflict) left a large cultural impression in spite of their own modest numbers, which all sounds quite familiar...
The Eldar were Asianesque first, an Japanese in particular. They even have katanas, shuriken, and back-banners (especially on the Wraithlords). Eldar names and non-visual aspects of their culture are also somewhat influenced by Celtic Mythology, it would seem.
Also somewhat apparent in the Chaos Space Marines, too. Most notably would be the Thousand Sons, whose armor and accessories are based ancient Egyptian style, with Pharaoh-like crowns on their helms. The architecture of Prospero further proves this fact with pyramid-shaped architecture. The Night Lords might also be Slavic-inspired, too, with their whole "terrors in the night" schtick and their Primarch Konrad Curze being a fusion of Batman and Vlad the Impaler. As in regular Warhammer, many of the other Chaos factions resemble vikings.
The Necrons have some ancient Egyptian about them, and sometimes Mayan and Mesopotamian too— basically they have influences every pyramid-building culture.
The Dark Eldar's practice of raiding and capturing slaves whose souls they consume to stave off a Chaos God who will eat them if they don't is reminiscent of Mesoamerican cultures, who believed the world would end if they didn't perform human sacrifice. They also have Roman-style Colosseum battles, and their troop transports look like ancient triremes◊. Apart from that, they're more inspired by old-style faeries and elves and bloodsucking creatures of the night rather than any human culture. According to the designers, the Dark Eldar borrow from the bloody excesses of many classical high cultures, not just the Romans, to emphasise that they are highly sophisticated and civilized degenerates, not just savage barbarians - their tyrannical big cheese is called Asdrubael (after the Carthaginian Hasdrubal) for example, and a lot of their names and terminology derive from classical sources (incubi, succubi, Talos, Cronos, Hekatrix, Haemonculus, Animus Vitae, Medusae, Lhamaeans, etc.
This is part of the basic premise of AEG's 7th Sea; every nation is an exaggerated version of a nation in 17th-century Europe. Avalon is England (with the Highland Marches as Scotland and Inismore as Ireland), Castille is Spain (with its own Spanish Inquisition), Montaigne is France, Eisen (name means "iron") is Germany, Vodacce is Italy, Vendel (which means "banner") is Holland, Ussura is Russia, and the Vestenmanavnjar are the Vikings. There's also the Crescent Empire, which is based off the Ottoman Empire. Cathay, like in Warhammer, is an archaic name for Imperial China and the setting is an analogue thereof. Last, the Midnight Archapelago is a savage version of Polynesia.
Castille is an example of Istanbul Not Constantinople. It was one of the kingdoms that were united to form Spain (Aragon, Leon, and Navarra being the others).
Likewise, AEG's Legend of the Five Rings setting puts a number of rival Japanese samurai clans on a China-like map under the control of a strong Imperial house - but not strong enough that the clans aren't constantly fighting each other. One of the clans, the Unicorn, has strong Mongolian influences.
Given joking justification in the world of Yrth, the "house setting" for fantasy gaming in GURPS - many cultures there resemble those of ancient and medieval Earth, but that's because they were founded by refugees from Earth, accidentally transported to Yrth by a truly humongous critical failure on a powerful spell.
The nation of Sahud arose from Japanese, Chinese, and Korean peasants recreating their culture from memory ... resulting in a typical RPGs Asian mishmash with shades of Monty Python.
Loosely speaking, the four major nations in Reign are Fantasy Counterpart Cultures. Dindavara is feudal China, Uldholm is the Nordic nations, the Truils are the Germanic tribes, and the Empire is roughly Elizabethan England crossed with Imperial Rome in its decline. However, it does some very interesting things from this base framework... to the point that Uldholm in particular is only a Fantasy Counterpart Culture in the loosest sense of the term.
The Riddle Of Steel has lots of Fantasy Counterpart Cultures in its game world, including Sarmatov (Poland), Otamarluk (Turkey) and Tengoku (guess), alongside fantasy staples such as RenFaire Kingdom and Barbarian Hero Land. Consequently it's often used for Earth-based historical games, with or without the more blatant fantasy tropes.
The wargame Hordes of the Things (released by Wargames Research Group, better known for its historical games) points out that the inhabitants of fantasy worlds think of orcs and goblins much as medieval Europeans thought of Mongols, and for essentially the same reason. It's no coincidence that HoTT's goblin army handles similarly to DBA's Mongol army in play. Other games that play on this connection include the aforementioned Birthright, which features a goblin khanate.
Name a real life culture. It's somewhere in Exalted. In particular, The Realm appears to be what would happen if ancient Rome, modern-day America, and China had a baby. Lookshy resembles a Magitek Sparta, and the Linowan have many similarities to Native Americans, while the Northwestern tribes have a very Nordic feel to them. Then there's the ancient Aztec dinosaur people...
The Realm's satrapy system is almost exactly the same as the one used by the Persian Empire, down to the name used. Yes, THAT Persian Empire. That's why Lookshy kicked their ass.
Autochthonia, as a world, is Industrial Revolution Europe, with its endless mazes of factories, almost universal reliance on gruel for nutritrion, and decidedly crapsack feel. In recent updates, the crapsack has been dialed down a bit, and the individual Autochthonian nations have been given more emphasis in recent times.
The general Exalted culture design philosophy was to make cultures have babies. Features of one, aesthetics of another, or something more complicated. So yes, the Realm is Rome (legions), China (jade, rice) and Persia (satrapies.) Autochthon is, well, modelled more on Metropolis, but it's mostly an illiterate crapsack industrial world with Mesoamerican iconography and strong states that take care of the citizens.
Battletech's nations all have a bit more depth to them, but they all can be looked at this way on the surface. Of the various superpowers, the Draconis Combine is mostly Japan, the Federated Suns is mostly Britain, the Capellan Confederation is mostly Chinese, the Lyran Commonwealth is mostly German, and the Free Worlds League, with its multiculturalism, federalism, and republicanism in a Feudal Future, is vaguely American. The Inner Sphere as a whole is medieval Europe, with ComStar as the Catholic Church, and the Clans are the Mongol Horde.
The location and culture of Dogs In The Vineyard are similar to the Mormon-settled Deseret Territory of early Utah.
Iron Kingdoms most of its factions are Steam Punk counterparts. Cygnar are Americans mixed the British Empire. Khador is imperial Russia with the color scheme of the Soviet Union. The Protectorate of Menoth are based of the early crusades, with the Knight Templar theme exaggerated.
Mutant Chronicles: The Megacorps are derived from different cultures, despite being corporations instead of nations. Capitol is the USA in the Vietnam War. Bauhaus is composed of various European elements, such as France, Germany, Russia, Austria, and Italy. Imperial are based off the British Empire along with Scottish highlanders. Mishima is medieval Japan with Samurai who strictly follow the Bushido code. The Brotherhood are the combination of The Knights Templar, The Teutonic Knights and the Knights Hospitaller.
Flintloque was just a fantasy version of the Revolutionary Wars with British Orcs, French Elves, Prussian Dwarfs and Russian Undead.
Played with in Traveller. The Terran Confederation is rather like a space USA. The Vilani have a vaguely Confucian feel to them. The Third Imperium very much resembles The British Empire. The Sword Worlds interestingly enough are a deliberate attempt to justify a Viking Fantasy Counterpart Culture; not only are they largely Scandinavian decent but they were influenced by an nativist ideological movement called The Viking Revival. However it is a bit of a subversion, simply because Swordies seem a more instinctively rooted people rather then a wandering people. While they occasionally go on epic space voyages they don't do it very often and prefer their plot of ground. As for the Aslan, they are kind of like generic tribesfolk, though they have their own characteristics unique to them.
Fading Suns: The Empire in general is vaguely reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire, in being a loose confederation of noble houses with a close relationship to the church that emerged from a dark age. Though it's not emperors who are elected so much as regents, who nevertheless ruled in the nearly five centuries between Emperor Vladimir Alecto's assassination and Alexius Hawkwood's coronation.
Apart from the minor houses (of whom some have a distinct cultural feel, while others are too insignificant) there are also Vuldroks (the Space Vikings), Kurgans (the Space Caliphate, another kind of Space Arabs mixed with Mongol elements), and Zuranists (a kind of Space Gypsies and Space Jews mix). Alien races are usually Space Elves and/or Noble Savages.
Diablo does this pretty unabashedly. For example, the Monk's design is a strange mishmash of Russia and China, with some trace elements of India for flavor.
The Ace Combat series loves these. At the most blatantly obvious, the Osean Federation is the United States, Emmeria is too (adding a C makes it very obvious), Yuktobania, Erusea and Estovakia are all Russia/the Soviet Union, Belka is Germany (with AC0 Belka, and later the Grey Men, as Nazi Germany) and Sapin is Spain. Aurelia and Leasath appear to represent the entirety of South America.
The ISAF is ambiguously either NATO or the European Union, although Erusia is muddier.
Strangereal's lack of nuclear proliferation gives us a subversion; characters in The Belkan War and especially The Unsung War display attitudes about and intentions with nuclear weapons that seem downright bizarre to the player, who has lived in a world with thousands of the things their whole life.
The building and unit designs for all four nations in the series Advance Wars are based on World War II-era combatants: Orange Star is America, Blue Moon is Soviet Russia, Green Earth is England/Germany, and Yellow Comet is Japan. Interestingly, none of the four nations are villainous. The bad guys, Black Hole, have no earth parallels and are designed to appear off-world or alien.
Similarly, you have the Western Frontier (American), Tundran Territories (Russian), Xylvania (Germany/Romania), Solar Empire (Japan), and Anglo Isles (England) in Battalion Wars.
Arc The Lad, which had among others Romalia (Germany), Millmana (somewhat like Columbia), Seirya (Japan) and Aldia (United States). Aldia in particular had its main city, Prodias, as a direct parody of New York right down to a Statue of Liberty equivalent and the World Trade Center towers. This same city is subject to an aerial terrorist attack by a crew that includes an Arabic looking man with a robe and a long beard. This game was made before 9/11.
Tamriel, the continent upon which The Elder Scrolls games take place, is like this. Cyrodiil is the Roman Empire (with vague Japanese trappings), and the other human races resemble Rome's client states - the Nords being Norsemen, the Bretons being Celts (Oblivion made them specifically Celts from Bretagne), and the Redguards being Africans, with vaguely Moorish architecture, sometimes curiously English-sounding names, and bearing more than few resemblances to feudal Japan (their greatest folk hero is essentially Miyamoto Musashi). The High Elves formed the basis for Imperial culture, and thus might be likened to ancient Greece, while their history in more "modern" times (from their conquest by Tiber Septim to the time of Skyrim) has an uncanny amount of parallels to that of Japan (specifically, from the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry to the time of antebellum Imperial Japan). The extinct Dwemer have a Steam Punk Mesopotamian/Phoenician motif. Mainstream Dark Elf society resembles medieval Catholic Europe, while the Ashlanders have more Mongolian trappings. Orcs also have a Mongol-type culture, though their naming convention uses Norse-ish patronymics, their actual social structure is reminiscent of early Slavs: small non-nomadic strongholds that are run by a single large family with the patriarch at the head (though the killing of fathers and only the chief mating is probably based of pure fantasy). The unseen continent of Akavir is populated by dragons, monkey-folk and giant snakes (that ate all the humans) with East Asian cultural trappings. When Akaviri armour shows up in Skyrim, it's pretty clearly Samurai armour, and one character points out the "distinctive longswords" (katanas) of Akaviri warriors.
Incidentially, descriptions of Cyrodiil in earlier games suggested more Mayincatec trappings. This was all but dropped in favour of Roman ones by Morrowind, however.
To specify on Akavir: The Snakemen of Tscaesi are Japanese (use of the katana, and their invasions of Tamriel are what gave it the various spices of Akaviri culture on the nation), the Monkeymen of Tang Mo are Chinese (highly advanced culture, said to rival the Dwemer), the Snow Demons of Kamal are Mongolian (they thaw out from a frozen slumber every summer and attempt to invade Tang Mo, but are beaten back every time, much like the Mongol-Chinese wars of the various dynasties. Kamal even invaded Tamriel once, attacking the European-esque Morrowind reminiscent of Attila the Hun's invasion of Europe during the later days of the Roman Empire), and the Dragons of Ka Po'Tun resemble the medieval Islamic Caliphate of the Crusades (fanatic devotion to their chosen god, highly aggressive toward its sworn enemy, in this case the Tscaesi, while also highly refined).
Skyrim itself is a clash of five primary cultures: the neo-Roman style of the Cyrodiilic Empire clashes actively with the Norse culture of the native Nord peoples, particularly in regards to religious beliefs and traditions. There's also the Celtic-style Forsworn, who are Bretons who adopt a primitive, druidic culture in the Reach similar to ancient Celtic pagan culture (with blood sacrifice, consorting with daedra, and revering monstrous Hagravens added to the mix), with some Native American trappings, such as wearing feathered headdresses and animal hide loincloths and using names like "Red Eagle". Then you get a good look at the old crypts, barrows, and cairns that remain from the thousands-years-old Dragon Empire that dot the landscape of Skyrim, which combines elements of ancient Norse culture coupled with Ancient Egyptian trappings (i.e. mummies, elaborate corpse preservation techniques, complex burial sites complete with equally complex traps, etc.) And the Aldmeri Dominion - a dictatorship centred around elven supremacy which persecutes races and religions it finds undesirable - is a stand-in for Nazi Germany, complete with its laws enforced by a paramilitary organisation in black longcoats.
The Jade Empire is a dead ringer for Ancient China, complete with dense jungles to the south (Indochina), impassable mountains to the west (the Himalayas), northern steppes populated by "the Horselords" (Mongols), and an eastern ocean, from which come foreigners resembling 16th century European explorers. It's a little Steam Punk and All Myths Are True, so it's not quite as Flanderized as most examples of this trope.
Dragon Age 2's setting of Kirkwall is mostly based on medieval Cologne, a free city-state known for its frequent Jurisdiction Friction between the municipal government and the church. Which is basically the plot to the game.
While not appearing in the game, there are also the nations of Nevarra and Anderfels. The first, though having a name based on a region of Spain, is not based on Spain. Nevarra is the nominal overlord of the Free Marches, a collection of a huge number of small states, and thus bears more resemblance to Habsburg Austria, which was the nominal overlord of dozens of tiny German states (thereby making the Marches a Germany analogue). Nevarra also has strong similarities to Prussia; Nevarra expanded rapidly at the expense of several Marcher states, and has a long-standing conflict with Orlais over a mineral rich region resembling Alsace-Lorraine. The Anderfels are also quite German, but resemble more northeastern Europe (Latvia, Estonia, possibly Lithuania) under the German Teutonic Order and its German-ruled successor states. The Tevinter Imperium is obviously the Byzantine Empire, including the Imperial Chantry, which stands in for Greek Orthodox Christianity (Ancient Tevinter was the Roman Empire). The Chasind barbarians of the Kocari Wilds are (possibly) Celts, Picts, Gaels or any number of other pre-Saxon tribes of Britain.
Rivain is most similar to Spain, with elements of Bosnia/Albania (and the Balkans in general) as well, since it's stated that most Rivainis have converted to the Qun (which seems to be an Islam stand-in); in real life, most Albanians and Bosniaks are Muslims, converted after the Ottomans conquered the Balkans. Further, Rivain is the primary battleground between the Qunari and the Andrastians; historically, Spain and Balkans were both the major European battlegrounds against Islam, the north African Moors and Ottoman Turks, respectively.
The City Elves appear to be Jews, complete with the Alienages (elf ghettos). The Dalish elves bear more resemblance to Romani, although Dragon Age 2 gives them Welsh accents.
The Qunari are an amalgamation of historical Islamic societies—they command gaatlok, or gunpowder and cannon, with which they blast down city walls as the Ottoman Turks did Constantinople; they offer to conquered peoples three options (conversion, labor, or death) as did the early Islamic Arabs in their conquests (theirs was conversion, taxes, or death); and those who do accept the Qun are instantly known as citizens, "Qunari", worth protecting, regardless of their race or history - the original Qunari, the kossith, don't consider themselves any different from non-kossith Qunari, which bears a few similarities to the historical relationship of Arab ethnic identity with Muslim religious identity. Their language and the Qun appear to be closely intertwined, paralleling the Qur'an and Arabic. For added flavor, the guy who founded the Qunari religion seems to have been a cross between Siddhartha Gautama and the Prophet Muhammad. They have a very strict honor code and abide by it in all regards. And their philosophy is basically Confucianism with grenades. And as a final note, the word "Qun" greatly resembles "Qur'an".
The MMORPGGranado Espada is entirely based around fantasy counterparts of Old World cultures and their role in the New World. Espanola is Spain, Bristia is Britain, Abyssinia is Abyassinia.
Freelancer contains four different "Houses": Liberty (United States), Bretonia (Britain), Kusari (Japan) and Rheinland (Germany). And on top of that, their places are named after actual places (such as "Planet Los Angeles"). However, this styling is intentional as the four houses are themed as the descendents of colonists from the four countries.
There was also a fifth ship, the Hispania, that was broke down. They became pirates working for various factions. Most notable among these are the Outcasts, whose home planet is called Malta, and the Corsairs, whose home planet is called Crete. Make of that what you will.
Rise of Legends features Fantasy Counterpart Cultures to Renaissance Italy, the Arabian Nights Middle East, and Mayan/Aztec Mesoamerica, complete with "appropriate" techs (Steampunk/Clockpunk, swords & sorcery, and sub-Sufficiently Advanced Alien tech, respectively) for its three factions. Two of the three also have very obvious Meaningful Names, with the Renaissance Italians being Vinci, and the Mesoamerican nation being Cuotl (a reference to Quetzalcoatl, who some UFOlogists and cryptohistorians claim was actually an alien).
Concept art from the making of the game, as well as unused icons from the map editor, point to the existence of a fourth race that was dropped in the last moment: the Kahan, based on Mongolian mythology. Before the Kahan, so it seems, the fourth race was the Skald, based on Finnish mythology and folklore. Too bad they never made it into the actual game.
Almost all eastern video game RPGs contain at least one such country, usually modelled after Japan. See Wutai.
Other than the aformentioned Wutai, however, most Final Fantasy games are surprisingly good at inventing unrecognisably fantastic cultures aside from a few vague parallels. A noticable exception is Final Fantasy X's more deliberately asian-like setting (Okinawan, to be precise).
Final Fantasy VI had Doma (Japan). This is more evident in the Japanese version where Cyan is a samurai, not a knight.
Final Fantasy VII has the Cetra, an ancient race of persecuted wanderers who are supposed to be the only ones with access to 'The Promised Land'. The main Cetra in the game (born to a non-Cetra father and a Cetra mother, but treated as completely Cetra) was living undercover in a household run by a non-Cetra, lying about her heritage in order to stop The Empire's agents finding her and taking her to have sadistic experiments done on her. Her mother was tortured to death by The Empire during the war (involving a culture known for ninja and samurai). Does This Remind You OfAnything?
Cosmo Canyon is a pueblo. Corel is vaguely Appalachian. Gold Saucer is based on Las Vegas. Midgar is probably based on Los Angeles or another symbol of American industrialization/urbanization taken to excess.
It's less obvious thanks to the limited architecture the game uses. All the castles have to look the same.
In Final Fantasy XI, all four major city-states appear based on real-world nations. Historically, the Kingdom of San d'Oria was the most powerful nation, until the Republic of Bastok rapidly industrialised and overtook the Kingdom, making technological advances and founding numerous colonies. Of those colonies, one - Jeuno - gained independence as the Grand Duchy of Jeuno. In the aftermath of the Crystal War, the Grand Duchy of Jeuno surpassed Bastok as the most powerful nation. Sitting largely on the fringes of international politics with a unique culture is the Federation of Windurst. San d'Oria, Bastok, Jeuno and Windurst appear to represent France, Great Britain, the United States and Feudal Japan, respectively. To the Near East, the powerful Empire of Aht Urhgan represents the real-world Middle East.
There's also the Far East Empire, home to ninja and samurai; the Far West, where the buffalo roam and people wear Native American-inspired attire, and a southern continent famous for spicy food.
The Ogir-Yensa Sandsea of Final Fantasy XII is very obviously based on Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and Gulf War-era Iraq, with keffiyeh-wearing Fish People running around executing sneak attacks on travelers, and giant rusting oil field tanks lying around, rendered useless due to terrorist activity and the invading country not wanting to waste any more time and money protecting them. It even has a a native who gets executed by the Culture Police-minded queen for being interested in something other than killing and religion!
There's also the American-accented Dalmascans, who are fighting for their independence from the English-accented Archadians. Granted, this is a dub-exclusive interpretation, and there's not much to relate them to the US and Britain otherwise, respectively, but it's an interesting touch.
At the beginning of Final Fantasy Tactics, Ivalice has just finished the Fifty Years' War against neighboring Ordalia (begun, like the Hundred Years' War, over a succession dispute when the king of Ivalice claimed the throne of Ordalia). It's then thrown into the War of the Lions, another succession dispute that bears some resemblance to the Wars of the Roses.
The Warcraft Universe has a lot of these, which is particularly evident in their architecture:
The human/undead towns and cities resemble 17th century and/or medieval Europe. They seem for the most part to emulate Britain, with many towns names ending in "shire" (whereas in the real world the shire is the area ruled by the town, eg. Gloucester [pronounced "glosster"] is the county town of Gloucestershire [pronounced "glosstersher"]) like Darrowshire, Goldshire etc. Stratholm breaks this naming convention appearing germanic in origin, although being architecturally identical to Stormwind.
The different regions of human culture appear to be based on different regions of Europe as far as the names of areas go. Most have British (those ending in -shire or being made of English words), French (Brill, Tirisfal), or German-sounding (Stratholme, Stromgarde, Andorhal) names. The most obvious is Stormwind being based on England. Northern areas of the continent are mostly either French or German with a few exceptions, such as Darrowshire.
The tauren's culture is similar to western Native American tribes; some male Tauren even saw "How" when you greet them.
The orcs are were originally a mix of vikings and mongols. However, after the retcon about them being good instead of evil, they've gotten more and more of the positive cultural and architectural motifs connected to barbarians, their main city being a glorified camp site in a ravine, everything made out of animal hides and with spikes. There are also elements of Samurai Bushido in their battle culture, particularly in their "Victory or Death" philosophy. Essentially, orcs owe more to Star Trek's Klingons than to any real culture.
Jungle trolls speak with Jamaican accents, practice voodoo, do capoeira, and live in huts, while building giant Mesoamerican-style Temple cities and practicing human(oid) sacrifice.
Forest trolls speak with hispanic accents, build giant Mesoamerican-style pyramids and have human(oid) sacrifice.
Ice trolls use floating weapons, zulu shields and tiki masks to guards their houses, and build giant Mesopotamian-style/Babylonian Zigurats, while worshipping/killing animal gods, and practicing human(oid) sacrifice.
Sandfury trolls seem to be based on a mix of ancient Egypt and the Aztecs. Their dead are mummified, but the couple of pyramids in the Zul'Farak dungeon are Aztec style. They practice human(oid) sacrifice.
The qiraji and some silithid have a sort of amalgamation of Egyptian and Mesopotamian architecture (most of the Silithid live in enormous hives).
The night elves are an unholy mashup of Classical Greece and Feudal Japan, with some Nordic elements as well. Fluted columns stand side by side with torii in many parts of their lands. Also, the style of dress of night elf male aristocrats greatly resembles Japanese court robes.
The blood elves, on the other hand, have influences from the Middle East. Their buildings often are adorned with geometric archways, rugs and floor cushions, and hookah pipes. Their voices and mannerisms, however, resembles the 20th Century American Spoiled Rich Brat.
The dwarves' use of runes and their hairdos and braided beards seems inspired by the vikings. They talk with very thick Scottish accents and can do the Cossack dance, however.
The draenei are a bit all over the place, with eastern European accents, Crystal Spires and Togas architecture, some Southern Asian and Middle Eastern influences, and Greek-sounding names.
The pandaren have a pseudo-Chinese culture. They were originally styled as samurai, but this offended Chinese fans since pandas are their national animal (and the only place in the world where they're found in the wild).
The tuskarr, who live in the cold north, seem to be the walrus-ified version of the Inuit.
The same can be said about the Taunka.
The Tuskarr also have heavy Maori and Samoan influences, as well.
And the vrykul are clearly inspired by the old vikings, complete with giving their leaders Swedish/Norwegian names.
The centaurs seem to be inspired by the Mongols: They're barbarian nomads, they live in tents, the males have Asian-looking facial hair, and many fight with bows, evoking Mongolian mounted archers with the horse and archer rolled into one. Their tribal leaders are even called Khans. Since the original centaurs may be East European mounted archers with the horse and archer rolled into one, it's a reinvention of an Older Than They Think archetype.
Gilneas, home of the playable Worgen, resembles Victorian England in both architecture and fashion.
Goblins are the other playable race introduced in the next expansion, but have been an NPC race since the game's launch. The long and short of it is that Goblins are based on a mishmash of New York-style Jewish and Italian (specifically Mafia) culture.
It'd be more apt to say that they're a Steam Punk pastiche of all the negative stereotypes of America. A group of greedy industrialists with a 'money makes right' attitude, they exhibit shocking ignorance about the rest of the world, a mercantile ruthlessness that would be shocking if it weren't Played for Laughs, the kind of taste in clothes that you'd expect from Paris Hilton, and an absolute belief that if you weren't born a goblin, you're not as good as they are. They're basically every negative stereotype of America, from trailer trash to Hollywood excess to robber barons, all rolled into one.
It should be noted that this really only applies to the playable Bilgewater goblins, and to a lesser extent the enemy Venture Co. goblins. The neutral Steamwheedle Cartel doesn't have much of an established culture beyond Proud Merchant Race.
The Bilgewater goblins are likely based off New Jersey stereotypes in general; Kezan is riddled with factories, filth and cutthroats in general. Oh, and Gamblin', Tinkerin', Laundry anyone?
The Tol'vir are feline centaurs based on ancient Egypt; they have pyramids and obelisks, statues depicting humanoids with various animal heads, and they live in a desert with a large river in the middle of it.
In Skies of Arcadia, you have Valua as Spain, Nasr as the Middle East, Ixa'Taka as Mesoamerica, and Yafutoma as Japan with some (more) Chinese influences. Additionally, the various independent islands in Mid Ocean seem to support a culture similar to England, or at least English colonies.
In Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, the Clakkerz are Wild West settlers/rednecks and the Grubbs are the oppressed Native Americans.
In the Mega Man Battle Network/Rockman.exe series, Electopia is Japan (they didn't even bother pretending it wasn't Japan in the Japanese version, incidentally), Netopia (Amerope) is an amalgam of America and continental Europe, Creamland is Britain, etc. Some of the counterparts' names get a little unimaginative, like Sharo, which is basically Russia with the syllables reversed, or Choina (Asina) and Netfrica (Affric), which you should be able to figure out for yourself.
Fire Emblem Tellius: The general plot of Path of Radiance seems has some parallels with World War II, particularly in the roles of many of the countries. Daein/Germany is a bigoted, militaristic aggressor nation, Crimea/France is a cultured nation invaded by said agressor state, Begnion/Britain is a powerful, aristocratic empire to whom Crimea/France appeals to for help and the Laguz/United States are isolationists who come to join the Allies when they realize Daein/Germany threaten them. To top it all off, the leader of the allied force is called Ike (although he's actually from the France stand-in). The sequel didn't keep these parallels up.
MapleStory started with fairly generic towns, but there are some new worlds that are very familiar. There's Korean Folk Town, "Japan" (complete with kitsune, kappa, and yakuza bosses), Ariant (a generic Middle East/Arabian fantasy world), "China" (with pandas and Ginseng monsters), and who knows what else in the future.
The map of Golden Sun's planet, called "Weyard", appears to be a very distorted version of Earth. It's actually Pangaea mid-break-up.
The starting area of the first game, Angara, bares similarity to medieval Europe, has a region similar to the Scandanavian peninsula to the north, and a (comparatively small) area with Oriental inluences to the east. It goes so far as to call the path from the eastern reaches to the western reaches "Silk Road".
The continent south of Angara, Gondowan, has Midde Eastern influences at the far north, tribal African influences further south, and is generally shaped like Africa.
Indra, which had originally been just southeast of Angara, appears to have Indian culture and is shaped like India.
West of Angara is Hesparia, which is dominated by a Native North American-style tribe.
Just south of that (though not connected by land bridge) is Atteka, which has Native South American influences.
There's also Osenia, which doesn't appear to have Australian influences, but is shaped like Australia, positioned where Australia would be compared to the other continents, and has a location called Air's Rock.
Various island chains also represent Japan (Izumo) and the East Indies (Apojii). There's even an Atlantis (Lemuria) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean's counterpart (the Great Eastern Sea).
There's even a completely uninhabited version of Antarctica (Tundria) down at the bottom of the map.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn added several previously-unexplored lands to Angara, including a massive overall expansion to the Oriental part of the continent, now collectively called Ei-Jei. The town and forest of Kolima have been moved to the northern Siberia area of Russia (Kolyma) they were based on, the beastfolk nation of Morgal appears to be Mongolia (complete with an Expy of Ghengis Khan's ancester Borte Chino as king), and south we have a Siam-equivalent in Ayuthay (though the architecture is blatantly based on Cambodian Angkor Wat), the Indus River Valley town of Harappa (minus one "p"), and Passaj which is probably Tibet. The Japan-equivalent people have been forced by tumultuous world changes to move from Izumo to the island chain of Nihan, one letter off from the Japanese name for Japan (Nihon), and its capital city is Yamatai... as in Yamataikoku, home of the legendary priest-queen Himiko, our friendly playable Shrine Maiden.
The Quest for Glory series has each game taking place in a different region like this, each of them representing the four cardinal directions except for the third game, which was made as an afterthought. In order they are: Speilburg (Germany, North), Shapier (Middle East, South), Fricana (Africa, none), Mordavia (various Eastern European locales, East) and Silmaria (Ancient Grome, West).
In prophecies, Ascalon is a mix of various medieval European areas, while the Charr seem somewhat based on Mayincatec architecture
In factions, Kaineng city and Shing Jea island architecture and names seem based on various East Asian areas. Kurzick lands use gothic architecture with Germanic and slavic sounding names, Luxon lands use ancient greek sounding names.
In Nightfall, Istan and Kourna appear to be a mix of Ancient Egyptian architectureand Sub Saharan African environments, while Vabbi represents Arabian Nights Days.
Eye of the North introduces the Asura, with Mayincatec architecture and clothing, and the Viking-inspired Norn.
The LucasArts tactical RPG Gladius is comprised entirely of these. Imperia is Rome, Nordagh is a stand-in for the Nordic countries, the Windward Steppes are Asia, and the Southern Expanse is Egypt.
Sonic Unleashed doesn't even try to hide it. With the exception of Eggmanland, all of the levels are based off of various real-world locales:
The various regions in Pokémon are based on various bits of Japan, and, increasingly, other parts of the world.
The original region, Kanto, is based on... Japan's Kanto region. Vermillion City, for example, is where Yokohama is. Saffron and Celadon, the two largest and most busiest cities, are located roughly where the Marunouchi and Shinjuku districts of Tokyo are.
The Sevii Islands of FireRed and LeafGreen are based on the Izu and Bonin island chains.
Johto is made up of parts of Kansai and Chubu regions. Mount Silver is Mount Fuji. Goldenrod City, the largest city in Johto, is roughly where Osaka is. The historic and old-fashioned town of Ecruteak is fittingly where Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan, is.
Hoenn is based off of Kyushu (rotated 90 degrees) and Okinawa, although Okinawa is condensed. Another thing is that Sootopolis, while located near Yakushima, is actually based off of Santorini in Greece.
Sinnoh is based off of Hokkaido. Jubilife City is where Sapporo is.
Unova is based loosely on the New York City area (Castelia, for example, is Lower Manhattan), but has various elements based on other parts of the USA (such as a desert and, in Black and White 2, the Pokéstar Studios, which are obviously Hollywood) and even Europe (according to Word of God, Village Bridge is based on Florence's Ponte Vecchio).
Fiore and Almia appear to be based on some peninsulas in the Hokkaido region.
Dragon Quest III did it to excess, lampshading it with the town names: A colosseum in Romaly, Zipangu just before Francisco Xavier showed up (with added Human Sacrifice), Edinbear as Britain, Portoga as Portugal, Dharma as Tibet, Greenlad as Greenland, Isis as Egypt with pyramids, Baharata as India, Ashalam with merchants calling you "my friend", overcharging, and giving you the option of haggling, and Soo with Hulkspeak: This my horse. It good horse. Most of all, the game's world map resembles (albeit very roughly) the real world, with all these places including corresponding to their real world equivalents. You even end up establishing your colony, "New Town," in what would be the mid-eastern United States, and it eventually goes through a revolution!
Some of the areas in Wizard 101 include Kroktopia (Ancient Egypt), Cyclops Lane (Ancient Rome or Greece), Marleybone (London, England), and others.
The games take place in the country of Albion, which is populated entirely by identically-voiced citizens from various parts of the British Isles. The map of Albion itself bears more than a passing resemblance to Wales. Moreover, Albion is the oldest known name for the island of Great Britain.
There's also the foreign nation of Samarkand, which is an amalgamated counterpart for pretty much everywhere else, being best known for the invention of katanas and gunpowder and having dark skinned people who don't wear a lot.
Aurora is a desert city state that resembles South America, with traits of ancient arabia.
The East-Europan Empire has elements of Germany and if you look closely into the Empire's backstory and structure, there's more than a passing resemblance as well to the Habsburg Empire/Austria-Hungary. Hell, the event that sparked the First Europan War was essentially a slightly edited version of Franz Ferdinand's death.
Gallia itself seems to incorporate many elements of Switzerland and Finland. It has universal conscription as well as fighting hard against a larger invader. Also Gallia is wedged between larger powers in the north west coast of Europa and tries to remain neutral in the conflict, similar to the low countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
Yahtzee lampshaded this in his Zero Punctuation video by using names like "Bermany" to describe the setting.
Brittania in the Ultima games is essentially early medieval/Arthurian England recreated on another planet, with religious elements derived from Hinduism and other places.
In the Ys series, the world map is an altered version of the Mediterranean. Eresia = Eurasia, Afroca = Africa (obviously), Romun = Roman Empire, Xandria = Alexandria (Egypt), Altago = Carthage, Atlas = Atlantis, Canaan Vortex = Bermuda Triangle, etc.
Ys VII came with a cloth map that made it blatantly obvious that the world the Ys series takes place in is an alternate Earth. The most obvious parallel is that the country in what is Greece in our world is named Greek, and Africa is Afroca. They aren't even trying to hide it.
The Rehda in Ys VI are culturally reminiscent of Native Americans.
In Sam And Max: Season 3, the Elves are a working-class, but discriminated against, race, who all have stereotypical Italian-American gangster accents and live in a ghetto called "Little North Pole", obviously similar to Little Italy. The Mole People are another hard-working and despised race, but they vary between Roma (fortune tellers with strong magic superstitions) and Jewish ("You don't look Molish." "By marriage. Rituals were involved!"), depending on Rule of Funny.
Kingdom of Loathing has South of the Border, which is more or less Mexico during Halloween, and Little Canadia, which is Canada during the Stanley Cup finals. South of the Border is home to Mariachis, 5-year-old boys trying to sell you oddly-flavored chewing gum, and several types of merrymaking but angry undead, and Little Canadia is home to Lumberjacks, animated poutine, and possessed hockey equipment. Little Canadia also has a Mind-Control Device.
The Azracs of Age of Wonders are a combination of the Arabs and the ancient Egyptians.
In the sequel each of their successors is more clearly based on one of the two, the Tigrans being Egyptian and the Nomads being Arabian. And the Humans are late medieval Europe, as always.
Lukano, although set in the Mediterranean, appears to be based on Lugano, Switzerland
Also in the third game: Astigos = Cyprus, and Zagorias Federation = Turkey
Time Crisis 4 mostly averts this by being set explicitly in the United States. City names are not mentioned, but Stage 1 for example looks like a stand-in for San Francisco due to the hilly cityscape in Stage 1 Area 2 and a cable car in Stage 1 Area 3.
Super Mario Bros. 3: has one at the end of World 3 in which the world's castle is on a landmass that looks like Japan with the castle being located roughly where Kyoto isnote Kyoto is where Nintendo's headquarters are located.
Muda Kingdom: Water level possibly named after Bermuda.
Easton Kingdom: Easter Island
Chai Kingdom: Ancient China
Actually acknowledged in Eien no Aselia. The northern countries like Rakios are described as being European and Malorigan is compared to the middle east, though we don't see much of it. There's also that pesky Empire to the south east.
The Kingdom of Swadia is Western European, sort of a hybrid between France and the German states, or like a longer lasting version of the Frankish Empire. The classic Knight in Shining Armor faction, with excellent heavy cavalry.
The Kingdom of the Vaegirs is Eastern European in flavour, mostly Slavic (and particularly Russian) in tone (with some Polish, Balkan and Hungarian elements thrown in). A mix of infantry and heavy cavalry.
The Kingdom of the Rhodoks is Southern European or Alpine-like, based predominantly on the Italian city states or the various Swiss cantons. This is even evidenced in the structure of their military : Very little cavalry, but lots of infantrymen armed with various spears, polearms and high quality crossbows. Politically, it is vaguely like the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Kingdom of the Nords is Scandinavian in tone, but refreshingly not of the stereotypical Viking raider sort (Viking-esque raiders are a separate mini faction of bandits in the game). The portrayal of Nords is more akin to Danish Vikings, the Normans or even the Anglo-Saxons. Their armies are very infantry-heavy and they have the sturdiest infantry in the game.
The Khergit Khanate is the obligatory nomadic, steppe-dwelling, Mongol-like culture, with an almost purely cavalry army. Some Turkish cultural elements are thrown in as well.
The Sarranid Sultanate, added in the Warband sequel, is the Middle Eastern faction, with various exotic light infantry and cavalry. As for the specific country they're based on - it seems to be predominantly Egypt during the reign of the Mamelukes, with some vaguely Ottoman bits inserted here and there. Its name is a reference to the pre-Islamic Sassanid Persian Empire.
Makai Toshi Sa Ga has the World of Ruins that has locations with characteristics based on those of their Real Life counterparts in Tokyo. The town in the southwest that is never mentioned by name is implied to be Shibuya. The skyscraper district is Shinjuku (this is mentioned by name in the original Japanese version; not in the English version). Ameyoko is much like it is in real life; a shopping street, and it's close to Akiba, the electronics district, where you find the ROM you need.
In the League of Legends lore, the Rakkor are definitely meant to invoke the idea of the Spartans, from their reverence of war to their armor and weapons. The tribe's former name, Stanpar, was an anagram of the word 'Spartan.'
It doesn't end there. Ionia is a clear stand in for Japan, with a hint of other asian cultures thrown in. With its long-extinct pyramid-constructiing race and being home to The League's resident mummy, the Shurima Desert is Egypt. The Freljord is a mish-mash of nordic influences, and serves as a generic 'frigid northlands'.
EarthBound: Eagleland is America, with Fourside being a New York-like place. Foggyland (the area where Winters is) is Britain. The city of Summers appears to be a generic Southern-European resort, possibly Spain; Dalaam is Asia; Scaraba is obviously Egypt; and Deep Darkness appears to be Africa.
Red Earth takes place in 1999 on an alternate version of Earth which is stuck in a medieval/mythological state. Notable counterparts to countries on our Earth (which is blue, unlike what the title suggests) are Zipang (Japan), Icelarn (Iceland), and Sangypt (Egypt).
The chief organizations of Lusternia have a lot of basis in real life countries. Magnagora is much like WW2 era Germany, with their emphasis on racial purity and extreme nationalism; Hallifax, meanwhile, is a clear take-off of communist Russia, right down to their aims being laid down in "The Collectivist Manifesto". Celest represents a declining British Empire, with their emphasis on nobility coupled with their increasingly vestigial nature. You could also make a case for Gaudiguch being America: freedom-loving party animals engaged in a Forever War with the communist Hallifax.
The Special Stage courses in the Gran Turismo series are based on real routes of the Shuto Expressway in Tokyo, and Route 7 includes a replica of the Rainbow Bridge, which can also be seen in the background on Route 11.
It's not particularly difficult to see Fendel in Tales of Graces as being an analog of Mother Russia. It's perpetually snowy, resource-poor and just plain poor; an autocratic state full of soldiers and suffering. But what really drives this home is the comparison between Fendel and Windor, the home nation of The Hero. The two countries have a long and bitter rivalry—but when Asbel actually goes to Fendel and sees its towns for himself, he's left wondering to himself how these poor people could possibly be his "hated enemies," much like what happened when the United States came face to face with how poor in actuality the USSR was.
This is all true, except that Windor itself is slightly more reminiscent of England. The architecture of Barona and Gralesyde seems to blend Dutch and English influence, it's a monarchy, and of course there's the ties to English royalty - there's been a few English King Richards, for one, and then there's the Windsor/Windor pun.
Along with those, some Strahtan cities - Yu Liberte in particular - seem influenced by Islamic architecture.
The city of Grand Chokmah in Tales of the Abyss is basically ancient Rome on the water, complete with an Emperor; its overworld model looks like a floating Colosseum.
Tears to Tiara is based on Celtic culture, mythology, and the Roman Empire.
The Romance GameBe My Princess revolves around the royalty of six kingdoms which are obviously based on real-world France, England, Japan, Germany, America, and Italy (albeit all with traditional monarchies, even the America analogue). There's also a looser counterpart to the Vatican, and the "Season 2" sequel adds analogues for Russia and Turkey.
Heroes of Might and Magic: Castle/Haven is obviously based on Medieval Europe, Stronghold is vaguely "barbarian" with some shades of Native Americans thrown in, but apart that most factions are based around fantasy concepts rather than real world cultures (Tower is the Mage Tower, Inferno is Hell, and so on.) At least, until Heroes 6 came along with Sanctuary, which is blatantly Japanese. Not only are several of the units from Japanese folklore (Yuki-onna, Kirin), their culture is similar, too. Their symbol is a lotus, the heroes' racial ability is named "Honor", and their penultimate unit is a serpent samurai!
Twice Blessed has Ustav, which is obviously Russia, Lajuria, which is obviously Spain, and others.
As mentioned in the page quote, Azure City of The Order of the Stick is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of mostly Japan and a little of the rest of East Asia also. We haven't seen much of the rest of the world, but it seems from the Pantheons the North will be equivalent to the Vikings, the West will be Mesopotamian, and the East would be Greek if the Eastern gods still existed to make this version of the world. A single panel glimpse of the other Southern Lands suggests they're Southeast Asian, Chinese, Himalayan, and Indian. The Western Continent turns out to be mostly warringEvil Empires and various Lizard Folk, although they do worship the Mesopotamian gods.
Sorcery 101 uses this with the England counterpart called Terra. It's more an Alternate History world where some placenames differ than a fantasy counterpart.
Dominic Deegan has a several fantasy cultures that are strongly flavored by real-world counterparts: the Callanians are medieval western Europeans (knights, castles, feudalism, etc.), Semashi are renaissance Italian (high culture and homeland of numerous reknowned composers with names like Ciarenni and Montefiore; being as they're dark-skinned humans, it also suggests Caribbean influence), the werewolves are Russians (living in northern latitudes and drinking lots of vodka), the Nagasta are Japanese (island-dwellers who are reknowned for their seafood and traditional martial arts), and the orcs are Magical Native Americans.
'A Loonatic's Tale has an assortment; Nigota for Britain, and both Mercia and Mysteel for America (the trick is that they're versions of America from different time periods, and different attitudes; Mercia is the more peaceable colonial America, while Mysteel is a caricaturized version of modern America and our tendency towards ultra-patriotism, gun-nuttery, and warmongerdom).
The Erogenians in The Challenges of Zona are somewhat idealized Celts while Kivallia seems to be Plantagenet era England.
Niyam and the Fae in Even In Arcadia are counterparts to 19th century China. Seen further when it becomes apparent that the Gaians are trading with them in drugs much like the British did before the Opium Wars.
In Harkovast, almost all the races are fantasy counterparts to real world ancient cultures, such as the medieval European Darsai or the feudal Japanese Tsung-Dao.
Snow By Night takes place in a world that resembles the real one during Colonial Era, with Japethe corresponding to Europe, Everique corresponding to North America, Saronne corresponding to France, and Aradie corresponding to Quebec / Canada.
Later on we learn trolls had a counterpart of Christianity, complete with a Jesus analogue, though it never moved past the "underground cult oppressed by an empire" stage (I guess that makes the Troll Empire Romans?). It's hinted that it was more successful in an Alternate Universe.
The trolls in general share many cultural practices with the Spartans, but it's uncertain if this was intentional.
We later find out that Damara, the pre-scratch version of The Handmaid, is from "Alternasia", which is this to Japan.
The Sahtan in Vattu come off as Rome by another name.
Neopets: Shenkuu is supposed to represent the Far East, Altador is Grome, Lost Desert and Qasala are Ancient Egypt, and Meridell and Brightvale are Medieval Europe. Mystery Island is based on Polynesia and other island cultures in the South Sea.
Nocte Yin lives in Xon, Erisire’s equivalent of the Far East. In the fifth book, we get an actual comparison of which place on Erisire approximates which on Earth.
And the Native Ameri-... Martians from Amy's home planet.
In a sillier example, there's the Globetrotter Homeworld, and entire world and culture based on... the Harlem Globetrotters.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the Air Nomads are primarily based on Shaolin and Tibetan Buddhism, the Water Tribes on circumpolar indigenous cultures such as the Inuit, the Earth Kingdom on Imperial China, and the Fire Nation on a combination of Imperial China and post-Meiji Imperial Japan. To make things more complicated:
The near-extinction of the Air Nomads can be paralleled with that of the invasion and sinicization of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Southern Water Tribe also borrows from various Polynesian and Native American cultures, while the architecture of the Northern Water Tribe capital also adds a heavy dose of Chinese influence.
While the political situation of the Earth Kingdom (particularly in the capital of Ba Sing Se) parallels that of the Qing Dynasty's last days, its culture draws from every Chinese dynasty; Toph's family wears Tang-era clothing, Aunt Wu's usage of oracle bones for divination comes from the Shang Dynasty, etc. It also has areas influenced by Vietnamese tribal cultures (the Foggy Swamp Tribe, despite their Mississippi Delta accent), pre-Meiji Japan (Kyoshi Island), the Gobi Desert (the Shi Wong desert), and Korea (as seen with the hanbok worn by Song in the episode "Cave of Two Lovers"), each paralleling a real-life tributary held by Imperial China.
More specifically, Kyoshi Island parallels early Ryukyu Kingdom Okinawa, being a small semi-independent island nominally on the side of the Earth Kingdom/China but strongly Japanese in culture.
Like Imperial Japan, the Fire Nation is an authoritarian volcanic archipelago state technologically superior to its neighbors, with a coal-based military-industrial complex that justifies its conquests with the premise of "sharing prosperity" and uses methods like emperor worship and schoolbook propaganda to control its people. However, its material culture is primarily Chinese.
The Fire Nation also utilizes elements of Thai architecture, most noticeably in the roofing.
The ancient city of the Sun Warriors (the precursors to the Fire Nation) is based off a combination of Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian architecture, while their clothing seems to be primarily derived from Southeast Asian tribal cultures, particular the headdresses which resemble Iban warrior headdresses.
Transformers Generation 1 (the original '80s cartoon) had the "Socialist Democratic Federated Republic" of Carbombya, whose leader was "Supreme Military Commander, President for Life, and King-of-Kings" Abdul Fakkadi, whose capital city's population was "4000 people and 10000 camels", and which was so stereotypically Arab and stereotypically evil that it supposedly prompted the departure of Casey Kasem—voice of Cliffjumper, Bluestreak, and the Teletraan-1 computer and of Lebanese descent—from the show.
The Super Friends did this a lot with alien worlds. There was Camelon the medieval planet, Texacana the cowboy planet, Zaghdad the Arabian Nights planet, etc.
TaleSpin had the Thembrians, warthog residents of a bureaucratic republic clearly intended to be analogous to Soviet Russia. Then there was Panda-La, a nation full of panda bears who were such blatant Asian stereotypes that the episode in which they appeared was eventually pulled from the lineup by Disney.
The Blizzarians in Storm Hawks are basically a species of Canadian furries (who live on the same planet as the human characters), complete with sometimes adding "Eh?" to the ends of their sentences. The series itself was made in Canada.
Zecora the zebra in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is obviously supposed to be from an African counterpart culture, given her accent and the fact that that her hut is decorated with stylized African masks.
She was even meant to speak Swahili in her few foreign language lines, but the staff couldn't find a translator in time and resorted to writing invented words that mimic the general sound of Swahili. The canon explanation is that Zecora "speaks Zebra."
The buffalo tribe in "Over a Barrel" were obviously supposed to be the Plains Indians in the "Cowboys vs. Indians" setup of the episode. Some found an element of Unfortunate Implications in the fact that the Native Americans were made a distinctly different species from the more Westernized ponies.
This became significantly less controversial once cows, donkeys, griffons, minotaurs, and various other creatures become standard sentient characters.
Pinkie Pie apparently grew up on what is supposed to be a fantasy counterpart Amish rock farm!
Pegasus ponies in general seem to take some influence from Classic Greek culture (which makes sense, considering pegasi are creatures from Greek mythology). Their architecture and fashion seem decidedly Hellenistic, and they were portrayed as a Sparta-like martial culture in a "flashback" to old times.
Meanwhile, the other two types of ponies both represent Western Europe, but apparently evolved socially at different rates: In the aforementioned "flashback," the unicorns are stuck in The High Middle Ages with a feudal monarchy, while the earth ponies dress like continental Europeans (from France, the Netherlands, and Germany in particular) during The Renaissance and have elected a chancellor.
The setting of the Daring Dobook series is quite plainly a pulp fiction-style depiction of South America, complete with Aztec/Mayan stone ruins and a villain, Ahuizotl, taken from Aztec mythology.
Season 3 introduces the Crystal Empire, which blends late-Victorian architecture, Crystal Spires and Togas fashion sense, and medieval/Renaissance sporting events.
"Magic Duel" features visiting delegates from Saddle Arabia, which is a stand-in for... well, guess.
Actually subverted, seeing how the male delegate carries a crescent moon coat-of-arms, and Saudi Arabia does not have this as its crest (as one of very few such countries).
Even in the present day: locations in Equestria are based on different cultures of different eras:
Ponyville seems to be based on 17th to 19th century Europe with their building's architecture mostly being timber-framed cottages which were popular in places like England, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Scotland, and Switzerland from the Renaissance age to the 19th century.
Cloudsdale is based off ancient Greece.
Manehattan is roughly based off 1940's New York City but with all the cars replaced with horse-drawn carriages. Some of which are painted like yellow checker cabs.
Appleoosa is a 19th century American wild-west settlement, similar to those seen in Westerns.
Amusingly, despite Aladdin taking place in an Arabian counterpart, its major design inspiration was a neighbor of the Middle East, Iran - homeland of the script supervisor, who brought pictures of his city, and of Persian miniatures. Shades of the curved Arabic calligraphy are still seen, specially in how words (and credits) are written.