While I rarely have time to go to new places these days, that does not mean I don’t love traveling. I still remember my first visit to my family in Germany, my first musical and trip to a bar in London, and when I met my friend Casper in The Netherlands. That being said, I still want to go to places like Canada, Ireland, Japan, Italy, and more, so my bucket-list is still long. This fascination can be traced back to Video Games easily. Heck, Castlevania: Bloodlines, Street Fighter 2 and Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, really showcase that there is a vast world outside of Norway.
Actually, this is a good point to verify the rules I have been set up with: First, the game (or a level within) must be entirely set in a foreign country or be clearly inspired by one. Second, the reason it is on this list is because playing through that game made me want to visit that place in real life. Lastly, Whether I did or did not actually visit that place is irrelevant. And to just make it a little harder, I won’t add in Fighting games as they have arenas all over the world, and no Assassin’s Creed game made me interested in going anywhere (that even goes for the few titles I liked).
#12 Castlevania – Romania
It is a giveaway that I am a huge fan of the Castlevania franchise, so of course this one is on the list. However, while Castlevania takes place mainly in the count’s castle set in Transylvania, there are titles alongside that are inspired by locations and landscapes from what is today’s Romania, which can especially be seen in the architecture. This is low on the list since this is more due to my fandom for the horror-genre in general that makes me want to visit these places, and Castlevania simply thrives on it with plenty of mythical and gothic elements added in. Still, the old gothic horror reigns strong with lovely setups all the way from the 8-bit days to Lords of Shadow. The castle takes on different incarnations and is set in varied locations, but there is a strong reason for why its Romanian setting is the iconic one: it is the one fleshed out and diversely used between each instalment.
#11 Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within – Germany
Good things can come from the bottom of the barrel. Similar to how I kinda wanna visit San Francisco after watching The Room, The Beast Within made me miss Germany. While I can’t praise this game in many ways besides making me laugh and question where in Germany this is supposed to be, it does represent the diversity this country offers. Be it the small villages with old fashioned buildings, the lovely country-sceneries, depiction of mythology and art, the modern cities, or stereotypical aspects. Joking aside, The Beast Within’s representation of these aspects is adorable and hilarious, as they can’t make me take anyone’s acting seriously, but still see the effort. This is especially well made when you consider that the FMV was done in California during mid-1995. Which makes me want to see how Germany actually was.
#10 Far Cry 4 – Nepal
I have a soft spot for this series, as I think it is one of the more solid franchises from Ubisoft, despite noticeable issues. One of my personal favourites in this series is Far Cry 4 simply because of the verticality and location. I am not a fan of warmer climates myself, as I am used to cold winters and mountains, and Far Cry 4, while set in a fictional place called Kyrat, is still taking inspirations from Nepal and the Himalayan geography. I simply get intrigued by the diverse nature, the uneven terrain, and even the cultures. It is a wonderful location, with religious beliefs and many animals roaming around, making this world feel alive and insightful. While the NPCs in any Far Cry titles are hit & miss, their ability to make the players immersed in their worlds is always impressive, and with hang gliders, mountain climbing, and even boats at your disposal, it is hard to not get intrigued by the sheer size and atmosphere.
#9 Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Yemen
While I did enjoy Uncharted 2’s depiction of Nepal, I just love how consistently Uncharted 3 does so with Yemen. In a different manner that is more impressive to me, is how much I want to visit this hot place, even if I have terrible heat-resistance. Uncharted 3 provides varied aspects of Yemen to witness, such as the vast city, outside in the open fields, and within old ruins. Without spoiling much of the game as well, Uncharted is a series of treasure-hunting after old artefacts and history, which I simply love to discover. The intriguing theories about the ancient lore these lands hold, makes me want to learn about its story and today’s culture. Uncharted 3 gives me a sense of wanting to learn, witness, and uncover a land I am far from familiar with.
#8 Tomb Raider: Underworld – Thailand
Nathan Drake has travelled to many different locations all over the world, but it is the star of the Tomb Raider-series that is the reigning champion of exploration in video games, at least in my opinion. Lara Croft has definitely taken me to diverse locations and more areas than I can count, such as Siberia, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Ghana, Peru, Alaska, Venice, and plenty more. I was at first considering Greece due to her visit to St. Francis in the original title and its remake, but there was another place stuck to my mind. A flourishing location near clear water. I was unsure on what that was, and went on searching through my entire collection and behold: Thailand. It says something when I go through an entire series just to find one location, but I remember clearly the sculptures, structured temple, the landscapes, the mysteries and even the water itself. When I then started reading about their culture and got immediately sucked in, Tomb Raider sparked an interest in one location thanks to one level I remembered. That is impressive.
#7 Sleeping Dogs – China (Hong Kong)
During the development of Sleeping Dogs, the entire staff of United Front visited Hong Kong to conduct research for the visual environments and sound of this region, and that is how I got introduced to it. As a huge fan of the original Shenmue and Yakuza, I was mesmerised to see clear cultural differences, art, and structures. It is more in comparison to what I have seen otherwise that makes me personally more intrigued by Sleeping Dogs’ take on Hong Kong, but that is not to say it is any less of a distraction. The busy markets, different buildings, temples, the harbour, nightclubs, plenty of diverse areas show just how little anyone can grasp one location in mere days. It is also interesting just how in-depth you get within the country’s culture and unwritten rules, as a protagonist from this very city, making the connection become more personal. With how many ways you can travel around, Sleeping Dogs welcomes you to a city full of life, where you get to see as much as you want.
#6 ZombiU – Great Britain (London)
Great Britain’s history is one subject that I always have a soft spot for. Be it current, Victorian, or middle-ages, I am always intrigued by its development and always happy to visit London, even for a weekend, as there is so much to discover and see, you will feel fulfilled, yet always hunger to come back. I say this as somebody who also loved my time in ZombiU where there were tons of zombies, decayed subways, and landmarks to sneak through. Yes, this is the reason for why ZombiU is on this list: Despite how terrified I am, I always want to see the landmarks in-game, and it makes me want to go to London yet again. The Buckingham Palace, the metro, common streets, and more, are simply a treat to witness. I have already been there 2 times, and I still want to go back. I have been smitten, but thankfully not bitten.
#5 Caesar series – Italy (Rome)
Rome was not built in a day, and that is shown through the Caesar series. To be honest, this is also due to my studies in art-history where architecture was a big element, and I have always been interested in how much more practical the buildings were in the Roman times, while Greek architecture could be described more as an artistic approach. I have played every single title in this series (and even made reviews of them ready), and I never get sick of looking at planned waterways, how minor folks go through their daily lives, or even stats on how well I manage my city. This is also an interesting part, as it is mainly the buildings I want to see in Rome or similar places in Italy, with the Forum Romanum being my nr.1 spot to see. I don’t really care for the wine or food (although I wouldn’t say no to either in general), I just love the buildings and structures.
#4 The Bard’s Tale 4 – Scotland (Skara Brae)
Dungeon Crawlers and general CRPGs from the 80s are still, to this day, genres I treasure, as they take me on magical journeys, both in concept and available technology. While we then have our different Dungeons and Dragons-titles, The Bard’s Tale-series took on Scottish folklore and their interpretation of mythical beasts, which made them an interesting and inviting change of pace. I never knew Dwarfs were so much different, and just how funny their stories could be. The Bard’s Tale 4 is one especially strong beast with even taking on the ancient stories of Skara Brae, as for what it once might have been. This is a real place that is in ruins these days, and was under a dune until the 1850s, and dates back to about 3100 BC. This, alongside the beautiful nature, lore, and songs The Bard’s Tales 4 presents in Scottish tone, always made me want to go and see what magical ruins are left and what is now. And drink some good beer.
#3 Earthbound – USA
Let me just get this out of the way first: I could put the Silent Hill-series or even Resident Evil 2 here since both are based on North American towns, but are you really going to visit a place that is filled with horror of the worst level, either physically or mentally? NO! Instead, let Earthbound enthral you. With its world being heavily based on smaller America towns, Earthbound shows that familiarity in a settlement still will bring its own culture, landmarks, and sceneries. It really intrigued me by just showing what’s outside of New York and bigger cities. That is why I say “USA” because, while it is easy to put the whole nation in one bowl, it is easy to forget (at least for a European) how diverse the USA can be. Different climates, settlements, geography, culture and more, makes me realise how little I know. With whom is at the white house at this point and trademarks like “goop” existing, it definitely is a bizarre world out there, which Earthbound captures.
#2 Yakuza series – Japan (Kabukicho)
While The Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Shenmue created a spark of interest in Japanese culture, the Yakuza-series made me want to explore their world. It should be no secret that Kabukicho (or this game’s version called Kamurocho ) then comes first to my mind, but that is also because I want to see how similar everything is. Are the nightclubs similar, fast food joints, The Sega Club, and of course: is the culture similar? Yakuza goes hard with an idea of honour and taking everything at face value, and it had me intrigued by how it differs from mine. Everything is out in full force to make you take in their world and style, and I want to see and understand as much as possible. Also, after seeing the landscapes and the number of diverse elements, I almost felt like I have already taken a trip in virtual form. However, I won’t know for sure until I visit it myself. It is probably about time, when I have been seeing this place for the seventh time thus far.
#1 Broken Sword: The shadow of the Templars – France (Paris)
Broken Sword takes you on a trip through many different locations, but the first title’s main focus lies in the beautiful city of Paris. It is not just that it provides insightful mysteries and secrets this city holds, it is not just because of the artstyle being done by Eoghan Cahill and Neil Breen of Dublin’s Don Bluth studios and it is not just about the impressive recreation of what this city’s culture, architects, and art has to offer. It is because it paints a perfect canvas of Paris with every element mentioned. I have only been to Paris twice and both times I was excited about what new places I might be able to witness or rediscover what the art museums had on display. Yet, I have still not been able to scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. I will admit that Broken Sword made it already more magical to me, but that is not to say it could exist without Paris as its muse. And that is why it is the most impactful for me to travel: It made Paris even more magical than it already was.
First: I am so sorry for all the pictures I recommended, Casper. It is an easy habit to take many photos when going around the world, even if it is digitally. Travelling far distances is no easy task. However, for some there ain’t no mountain high enough, valley low enough, or river wide enough to keep them from achieving their goals. So who are the best explorers in your humble opinion? They have to be playable characters and whether their long journeys are for fame, glory, discovery, fun or piracy, is irrelevant. As long as they travel far distances, then all is good!