For nearly a year now, the coronavirus pandemic rendered most summer vacations and holiday getaways impossible, rerouting itineraries to our living rooms. But there is a silver lining for those seeking a change of scenery amid our extended staycations. Already these past 12 months we’ve seen a rise in those spending their idle hours in video games, and certain titles can actually help scratch that itch to travel.
Some games fit that need to hit the skies literally, such as “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020,” which lets players fly a plane across a hyper-realistic Earth crafted from satellite imagery. Still, this doesn’t replicate exploring a foreign country’s culture or taking in the sights and sounds of a bustling city far from home. Other titles do, however, and some games flaunt locales that make even the wildest real-world destinations seem positively tame in comparison.
So, let’s showcase some game settings for travelers of all types, from the agrarian enthusiast to the hair-on-fire adrenaline junkie. Here are some of the best vacation destinations in gaming.
For the thrill seeker
The House of Hades from ‘Hades’
The House of Hades is the literal hottest Airbnb opening around. A grand, palatial estate, Hades’s son, Zagreus, is always making improvements, and (to ease any trepidation from guests wary of the underworld’s unseemly inhabitants) he also makes sure its security is top-notch. Best of all, it’s pet friendly. The family dog, Cerberus, lives within the residence, and he gets along just fine with cats.
The centerpiece of the home, as well as the entirety of hell, is Hades’s office. Please excuse the mess from the paperwork. As you’ll see, people are dying to see him.
On-site renovation is ongoing. Zagreus is out collecting the necessary gemstones and diamonds for furnishings in the underworld, but the House Contractor assures us that all work will be safe and neither seen nor heard.
There’s plenty to see if you decide to venture out of the house. We’d suggest a trip to Asphodel, where you can glimpse raging rivers of fire. Do watch out for the occasional fireball flying your way. When there, fans of songs and sweets should definitely make time to see if Eurydice is around. If you’re lucky, she’ll delight you with both her singing and her desserts.
For those looking for a little confidence boost after a long year, be sure to swing by Zagreus’s bedchambers just past the East Hall entrance to glimpse the famed Mirror of Night. There’s no better sight than a more powerful version of yourself.
The West Hall is adorned with chthonic rugs and gilded pedestals. For your stay, all family portraits were removed and have been replaced with tasteful landscape art of Tartarus, Asphodel and the fields of Elysium. Tireless housekeeper Dusa tends to the tidiness of the grounds.
The balcony by the Administrative Chamber offers a lovely view of the River Styx (as long as Thanatos isn’t brooding there).
Don’t depart without picking up a souvenir or two from Charon’s shop. Gemstones make a fine addition to any home, but if you’re looking to really win over your friends, we recommend snagging some nectar and ambrosia. Both make fine gifts.
Need a little time at the spa? Get re-energized with a soak in the Pool of Styx. After some rough-and-tumble adventuring in the underworld, you’ll feel like new.
In the dining hall, chefs work round-the-clock (they literally never stop) to make sure every meal is as good as your last.
And if you need a good workout, Skelly is an ideal in-house sparring partner. Why beat yourself up about getting in shape when you can beat him up instead?
For the nature lover
Pelican Town from ‘Stardew Valley’
Welcome to Pelican Town, a quaint village that’s become a tourism hub for its famed farming, fishing and mining. Nestled in the countryside, Pelican Town is a serene destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
With twisting rivers throughout and mountains to the north overlooking the village, Pelican Town is a sight to behold. During your stay, you can fish by the pier or indulge in an honest day’s work by planting crops at your own pace in an unoccupied cabin west of town.
For lunch or a drink, head to the Stardrop Saloon in the town center, where bar owner Gus will recommend the best dishes and beverages. Meeting the locals there is a must. Drop into the Stardrop on a Friday night and be sure to introduce yourself to Pam, who has a construction project for you, if you feel so inclined. And don’t fret if Shane comes off as a little cool; he warms up as you get to know him.
Families will enjoy events at the community center (though the building may need some sprucing up!) and the movie theater features the latest flicks.
By far the biggest attraction in Pelican Town is its prosperous farming industry. You can find all the tools, seeds and machinery needed to fulfill your agrarian adventures. Pierre’s General Store is a good first stop to stock up on items.
Feeling adventurous? Try a spelunking excursion to the town’s mines. Those eager for some big-game hunting should seek out Marlon inside the Adventurer’s Guild, an exclusive club that revolves around tracking down the many monsters hidden in the mine’s depths. (Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any deaths or injuries that may occur.) An urban myth suggests something strange and magical resides in a tower in the woods, too.
Although Pelican Town is generally a quiet destination, you should plan your trip around its famous festivals, such as winter’s Festival of Ice, or the grand, beachside feast known as Luau in the summer.
If you’re hoping to visit the iconic fishing pier, the 28th day of summer marks the annual Dance of the Moonlight Jellies festival, where the townspeople gather on the pier at nightfall to witness the migrating jellyfish led by the town’s torch-toting Mayor Lewis.
For shopping and food lovers
Tokyo from ‘Persona 5’
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture as you drink in the sights and sounds of Tokyo.
A lot of the locations in “Persona 5” are based on actual places in real-life Tokyo. Fashion districts, a red light district, Shibuya (built on a river; “young people haven,” as the game describes), Shinjuku (downtown nightlife), Akihabara (tech and subculture; enthusiast shops), Sangenjaya station (in southwest Tokyo neighborhood) and Kanda (historical district).
From colorful fashion districts, like Harajuku, to a planetarium atop a skyscraper in Ikebukuro, this version of Tokyo has a little something for everyone. If you’re in a hurry, you can get around fast with the expansive subway system (careful, though: There have been reports of an alternate universe connected to the metro tunnels), or just walk from one neighborhood to the next.
For a dose of Japanese history, you can visit the Kanda Church, one of the oldest Catholic churches in Tokyo. A master chess player can often be found sitting at a quiet corner in the rows of pews. If you’re lucky, she may play a game with you. If you’re looking for another spiritual location, you can also pay respects at the Meiji Shrine.
Check out the local youths that frequent the arcade in Akihabara. You can even try your hand at the crane game to grab a little something to bring back home.
“Persona 5’s” Tokyo is a shopping and food lover’s dream vacation: You can visit maid cafes, otaku shops, retro game shops and more in the narrow streets of Akihabara. We particularly recommend Café Leblanc in Yongen-Jaya, which offers some of the best coffee you’ll find in the city. Also, stop into the bathhouses for a refreshing soak.
For food, you should visit the beef bowl shop, as well as the ramen shop in Ogikubo. You can spend your evenings bar hopping through Shinjuku, where you may cross paths with a reporter who frequents the bar Crossroads.
If you want to kick back and savor a drink or two, pop into the jazz club. And here’s another hot tip: On nights when the resident singer performs, the club offers a two-for-one drink special.
For the romantic
Toussaint from ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’
Roaming around Toussaint, all eyes are naturally drawn to the capital city of Beauclair, built by famed architect Peter Faramond (who was inspired by ancient Elven symmetry and structure). The capital overlooks the great lake of Seidhe Llygad and with its white marble and ivory exteriors, the city stands as a beacon for the duchy.
You’ll find no shortage of vineyards, with 10 of the world’s greatest situated in Toussaint. The two most notable of these estates are Castel Ravello and Corvo Bianco. Nestled within grape-rich Sansretour Valley, Castel Ravello produces the world’s finest Erveluce and Pomino varietals. Corvo Bianco is also home to Toussaint’s most famous resident and retiree, the Butcher of Blaviken himself, Geralt of Rivia.
Don’t forget to stop by Fox Hollow, the magical village where potteries are gifted by the Earth itself. It was overrun by bandits just before Geralt cleared them out, but the village now maintains a healthy trade route for its magical urns and crockery. They make fine souvenirs.
One word of caution for any adventure seekers: Steer clear of the Tesham Mutna Ruins, once used by ancient vampires to farm humans like cattle for their blood. Rumor has it one vampire still resides there, trapped by their bloodlust.
Take a detour and visit the Sansretour Marsh, formed after the Nazairi Duke Adam tried to reshape the floor of the river to form his likeness. Mind your step, though. Giant, armor-scaled centipedes wreaked havoc on the olive groves of the De La Croix family, and they’re still known to hang about. They’re an unwelcome subterranean surprise that could spoil your stay.
Toussaint may be demilitarized, but tradition is sacred here … and the citizens enjoy blood sport as much as anyone else in the Nilfgaardian Empire. Stop by the Tourney Grounds near Beauclair and wager your money (or your life) against the ferocious Shaelmaar.
For the history buff
Greece from ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’
What only exists in our present as ruins and remnants of a civilization long gone becomes a vibrant and expansive world to explore in “Odyssey.” Straight from the times of the Peloponnesian War, monuments and temples loom in their original splendor. While it may be hard to find some R&R with all the ongoing bloodshed, there are moments of peace to be found in Ancient Greece. Find the right locals and they’ll point you toward some breathtaking sights or send you on lovely side excursions throughout the countryside.
The Ancient Greek peninsula is filled with several small, beautiful islands to explore, making it an exemplary coastal vacation destination. Be sure to spend some time walking through the streets of bustling Athens to marvel up close at landmarks like the Parthenon, Theater of Dionysos, Temple of Artemis and a grand marble statue of lightning-hurling Zeus.
Be mindful when you’re gawking at your surroundings — pickpockets abound! And you’d do well to stay away from shady characters sporting cowls; you never know what they have up their sleeve.
There’s a lot to see and do in Ancient Greece, including meeting historical figures such as Socrates, who is always ready for a philosophical debate. Military history buffs won’t have to settle for reenactors either. You’ll be able to watch the Athenians and Spartans skirmish in real time.
To soak up as many sights and civilizations as possible, you can take advantage of the region’s various modes of transit. Sail the Aegean Sea or travel by horseback. Want to take it slower? There is no shortage of opportunities for long, scenic walks. Climbing enthusiasts will be stoked as well, with potential free-climbing sites everywhere you look.
Hunting is also a popular activity, particularly searching for predators like bears and boars. If you’re feeling particularly daring, try tracking down some two-legged game by targeting those marked by a bounty.