As much as many people love to travel the world, sometimes we just can’t. Whether it’s due to money constraints, illness, problems with accessibility or passport privilege, not everyone is able to see the places they want to in real life. Luckily there are many wonderful books, television shows and movies to transport you to other places, which can be a great alternative, but your experience is going to be rather passive if you’re just watching or reading.
However, if you use video games as a way to travel vicariously, you will often feel like you have much more autonomy and that you are really ‘there’ since you can control (to a point) where you go and what you see. I have been a video-game playing nerd since primary school, and my favourite games are ones with incredible graphics that let you explore fascinating fantasy worlds or our own world.
I’ve put together this post (with the help of some other video-game-loving bloggers) to showcase the coolest video games set in real-world places, or inspired by them, that are a wonderful alternative for when you can’t travel somewhere yourself, or just to make you add a place to your bucket list!
The Best Video Games to Inspire Travel
I’m using the term ‘video games’ since most of the games talked about can be played on a variety of different devices such as PC, PlayStation, X-Box etc. Here are some of the coolest games that will make you feel like you are really experiencing a real-world place – either in today’s modern time, a futuristic imagining, or the recreation of a historic era.
The Assassin’s Creed Series
A post like this could not be complete without mentioning at least some of the Assassin’s Creed games. Since 2007 the game company Ubisoft has been producing games which centre on a mysterious organisation of assassins and how they have impacted events throughout history. From Italy during the Renaissance, America during the revolution and even as far back as Egypt during the time of Cleopatra, these games are an incredible way to see how major cities looked at different points in time, particularly when you can climb on top of them! Here are some of the best Assassin’s Creed games to play if you want to explore certain times and places for yourself.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Location: Victorian-era London
Experience London as it was at the height of the Industrial Revolution, complete with billowing smoke and street urchins. Swim in the Thames before it’s completely polluted by the constant stream of steam engines ploughing through the waters. Drive a hansom across the famous bridges, mowing people down GTA Victorian style! It makes you appreciate how long certain parts of London have been around and the beauties it holds.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
Location: Ancient Egypt
It’s also really interesting to find out the backstory of how the shadowy organisation of assassins came to be formed. In Assassin’s Creed Origins you even get to see where the Assassin’s Creed logo came from, which was a fun little discovery.
In the Assassin’s Creed series you can climb on top of nearly any tall building or structure, so in AC Origins you can see the views from on top of the pyramids at Giza or the famous lighthouse of Alexandria. The storyline really gives you a glimpse into the beliefs and mythology of the ancient Egyptians as well, including how they cared for sacred crocodiles in the temples of Krokodilópolis (Faiyum). I can’t wait to visit Egypt for myself and see how the historic locations in Assassin’s Creed compare to today’s reality.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Location: Ancient Greece
As well as nerding out over the history and mythology, playing AC Odyssey is a great way to explore the gorgeous scenery of Greece. You get your own ship to sail between the Greek islands and it will absolutely make you wish you could dive into the crystal clear waters for real. I loved being able to see the Acropolis of Athens in all it’s glory, with the huge statue of Athena still intact, as well as other famous historic sites such as Thermopylae and Delphi. Just like with AC Origins, I wanted to travel to Greece anyway, but now I want to even more so I can see places from the game as well as history!
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands during WWII
The city of Rotterdam is somewhere I actually live, so I was personally very excited to play a game that is located close by. It was inspiring to see the city I have grown to know as my home abroad exactly created in Battlefield 5. As a modern city in the Netherlands, it’s not comparable to the capital of Amsterdam. However, it is well worth a visit as there truly is so much available to see and do. For a trip to Rotterdam, you can explore the famous cubic houses and Markthal, see 360 views from the Euromast and join some awesome street art walking tours.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Location: Post-apocalyptic Shropshire (England)
This allows the game’s stunning environmental design to take centre stage. The developers have gone to great lengths to nail the look and feel of an idyllic Midlands village. Thatched cottages are dotted around a village green, flowers adorn the rustic pub facade, hay bales lie in a farm field.
I loved how immersive the world is – from authentic post boxes to books left on benches, the level of detail is incredible. It really makes you feel like you are exploring a living place. Beware: it might just inspire you to book a getaway to the English countryside!
Fallout New Vegas
Location: Post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and Nevada
While Las Vegas is mostly unrecognisable since it is much smaller than real life and mostly destroyed by the bombs there are many other popular landmarks that can be found throughout the game. It may not have the most beautiful landscapes but there are many well-known landmarks such as the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. If these are still so interesting during the apocalypse, I can only imagine how amazing they’d be to see now. It really makes you want to rent a car and head out for your own adventure in the Nevada desert.
Some interesting places to visit on a Fallout New Vegas-inspired road trip would be the Las Vegas Strip, Goodsprings ghost town, the Devils Throat, the concrete dinosaur at Cabazon, California that Novac is based on, the old Mormon fort at Freeside, Boulder City and Red Rock Canyon.
Location: inspired by Nepal and the Himalayas area
Although I grew up on a steady diet of 8- and 16-bit gaming, I’d hardly consider myself a gamer these days. That is until I discovered the Far Cry series. My obsession started with the third instalment where we’re whisked away to help locals regain control their beloved Rook Island, a fictional island nation presumably located somewhere in Southeast Asia or the South Pacific.
The trip, however, turns out to be anything but easy for Ajay. Under the guise of malevolent dictator Pagan Min, Kyrat is embroiled in a vicious civil war that Ajay becomes unexpectedly (and actively) tied up in. Far Cry 4’s brilliance isn’t just about the compelling storylines and excellent gameplay: it’s the setting that really puts it in a league of its own. It’s impossible to wander through the villages, temples, forests & mountains of Kyrat without getting a serious case of wanderlust. Every time I play Far Cry 4, I can’t help but dream about hunting for temples and hiking over mountain passes in a country like Nepal or Bhutan, both of which undoubtedly heavily inspired Kyrat’s stunning good-looks and spiritual backdrop.
If you decide to give Far Cry 4 a whirl, be forewarned: keep your laptop and credit card nearby just in case you get an overwhelming urge to book a last-minute ticket to Kathmandu or Paro!
Forza Horizon 4
Location: Great Britain
In the game, you can travel and drive all around the country as it’s a free roam game as well as taking part in races with other people around the world using Xbox Live. One thing my son did was to make Bamburgh Castle his home – you can buy many of the landmarks with money that you earn from races. We have just travelled there recently to see it in real life and what amazes me is just the attention to detail in the game, the graphics are superb. Other landmarks to note are the Glenfinnan viaduct, which is also known as the Harry Potter bridge that the train goes over, Edinburgh city, the Lake District and also the villages of the Cotswolds – so plenty for us to see in real life going forward!
Grand Theft Auto V
Location: Based on Los Angeles
GTA V and GTA Online are both fun games to play if you want to be able to drive around and explore a condensed version of Los Angeles, without the hefty cost of airfares. One of my favourite spots in the game is the Galileo Observatory which is modelled on LA’s Griffith Observatory and offers gorgeous views over the city. It’s also fun to play some of the missions which include lurking in hotels to get paparazzi photos of movie stars, for a real LA experience!
Locations: Paris (France), Sapienza (Italy), Bangkok (Thailand) and others
Near the start of the game, you’ll be in Paris, roaming around a swanky mansion and meeting the fashion elite. If you’ve never wanted to visit Paris fashion week, you definitely will now! Playing the scenes in Sapienza, Italy (you’re taking down an evil environmental criminal) you walk past pretty churches, sit in sunny squares and even go to the beach. It inspired me to go myself and walk through the town centre remembering scenes from the game – but without a gun!
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Location: 15th century Czech Republic
Perhaps the best part about this game is the fact that it is made by Czech developers who were inspired by real locations. So every location in the game is real and people can visit them in real life. For example, there is a monastery in the Czech Republic where I would really love to go, and since Kingdom Come: Deliverance was published it has received a lot more visitors!
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Location: 16th century Japan
The setting is 16th century Japan (Sengoku period), which means that you see beautiful ornate palaces, traditional Japanese villages, and stunning mountain scenes without people. At one point, you’ll see Mount Fuji in the distance. When you’re not fighting, it’s nice to pause for a moment to enjoy the music (written by a Japanese composer) and the beautiful scenery throughout the seasons. I’ve already been to Japan, but this game had me wanting to go back simply to go hiking in the Japanese Alps! If you’re a fan of Japanese culture, you’ll love this game.
Sid Meier’s Civilization
Locations from different historical eras around the world
The game goes into detail about the history of each character’s civilization, so you can learn about the height of the Roman empire or Genghis Khan’s sprawling conquests, and also accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of each culture. I’ve played games as Caesar while in Pompeii, Darius in Persepolis and Ramesses in Luxor, and playing as the local character it really gives you an extra level of appreciation for the history of the society you’re visiting. You can also construct world wonders in game, and I’m not ashamed to admit I may have built the Pyramids while overlooking them in Giza.
Civilization can be played offline and on laptops or tablets, and with a standard game lasting up to six or seven hours, it’s the perfect companion for a long flight or bus ride.
The Legend of Zelda
Location: Based on the Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
That’s why I was thrilled to read an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto in which he explained that he came up with the idea for The Legend of Zelda based on his explorations as a child growing up in Kyoto Prefecture. I knew I had to go to Kyoto and see this wonderful place for myself. Sure enough, in Kyoto, I found a landscape as varied and magical as Hyrule. I don’t know if the bamboo forest of Arashiyama is an exact replica of the Kokiri Forest, but it’s as close as I’m likely to get!
The Secret of Monkey Island
Location: Based on the Caribbean Islands
Through The Secret of Monkey Island, I became immersed in a tropical landscape completely unlikely my own chilly Canadian hometown, and those pixelated images of palm trees, white sand beaches, turquoise water and friendly monkeys stayed with me throughout young adulthood. As soon as I was old enough to travel solo I started booking trips to the Caribbean, focusing mostly on the Bay Islands in Honduras (including Roatan, Utila and the remote Cayos Cochinos) but also visiting the coast of Nicaragua and Mexico’s Yucatan region. Every time I step off the plane into the warm, tropical air I smile and think how much nicer the Caribbean is in full definition!
Location: Based on Japan
Sounds terrifying, I know, but Yamatai is full of mystery, mythology, history, and adventure and while I can’t visit Yamatai itself, the culture and mythos from the game makes me want to explore Japan. Japan has a vast history and such a unique culture compared to my norm of the United States, so being able to learn about all of that in Japan itself would be amazing.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
Location: Post-Disaster New York City
Since the story is about a pandemic that has caused chaos, this version of New York is filled with garbage, destroyed cars and overrun with criminals. It’s still really fun to go inside places like Madison Square Gardens or complete missions in neighbourhoods such as Hell’s Kitchen. New York is the setting for so many films and TV shows, but playing The Division means you feel like you are actually walking the streets for yourself. Since I’m not currently able to go to New York for real, playing this game is one way I can sate my wanderlust!
Do you like to play video games in order to travel virtually? Let me know in the comments what your favourite game is and pin one of these if you’d like to remember some of the games to try out for yourself!