14 video game destinations you can visit in real life
From Liberty City to Kyrat, we’ve plotted out the ultimate travel route for gamers.
The stereotype that gamers don’t appreciate the great outdoors is a dated one. It’s an excuse boring parents used when you were more interested in catching a Pidgey than hearing them fumble their way through a romanticised memory of the Good Old Days™.
Exploration is in gamers’ blood. It’s what drives us to hunt down trophies, tick off achievements and discover hidden easter eggs. The assumption that gamers are cave-dwelling heliophobes is a load of rubbish conjured up by old luddites.
That’s not to say we don’t live and the breathe the culture, we totally do. That’s why finder.com.au has planned a globe-trotting adventure to satisfy every gamer’s travel bug.
For the sake of breadth, we’ve added both real life locations featured in games, like San Francisco, and locations that inspired in-game locales, like New York.
Silverton, NSW: The Great White
It may not be the most geographically accurate representation of Australia, but traditionally the Mad Max universe has been set in a dystopian outback and Avalanche Studios’ 2015 game is no different. While there are theories floating about that the Mad Max video game’s Great White locale is actually set on a dried out Great Barrier Reef, you really need to travel to Silverton in New South Wales to get the authentic Mad Max experience.
Not only is Silverton home to the iconic desert expanses of Mad Max, it’s where you will find the world’s only Mad Max 2 museum. Started by uber-fan Adrian Bennett, the Mad Max 2 museum has not one, but two interceptors, memorabilia, character costumes, replicas and loads of souvenirs, shiny and chrome.
Flinders Island, Tasmania: The Wumpa Islands
We all know Crash Bandicoot hangs his hat in these relaxing and sometimes chaotic islands, but we think we’ve pinpointed exactly where on the globe the Wumpa Islands are located. It’s commonly known that the Wumpa Islands are located off the coast of Australia, but did you know that the alternate name of the Wumpa Islands is the Tasmanian Islands and has been since the first game.
While there’s no official top-down map of the Wumpa Islands, we managed to track down a map that was created by a marketing firm to promote the never-released McWumpa burger from McDonald's.
Flip that map on its side and you get a group of islands that somewhat resemble Flinders Island and its neighbors, located north east of Tasmania.
Tenuous? Maybe. A good enough excuse to visit a land of glistening beaches and lush flora and fauna? For sure. Flinders Island is your typical island paradise where precious topaz glistens in the sand and dolphins frolic off the shores. It also has a higher concentration of wildlife than most parts of Australia. While you might not run into the hyperactive bandicoot himself, you’ll have no trouble spotting wallabies, brushtail possums, Tasmanian pademelons and fur seals
London: Getaway to Lara’s favourite destinations
London’s mix of contemporary and Victorian architecture makes it a great spot for movie blockbusters to take place. People just love to see magnificent structures decimated before their eyes and video games are no different.
A prime example of this is the PS2 classic The Getaway. Though the Grand Theft Auto series visited London years before in Grand Theft Auto 2, The Getaway was the first game to let players freely explore London in a 3D world. In 2002’s The Getaway, Team Soho recreated several iconic locations such as Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and historical landmarks like the London Eye and Big Ben. Team Soho did such a good job of painstakingly recreating London, that each location was identical to the real thing down to the advertising on the street and traffic light placement that was there in 2002. While that might not hold true in 2016, you’ll still be familiar with London’s layout if you ever played a tough-as-nails gangster or a hard-boiled bobby in the original Getaway game.
The Getaway isn’t the only game that’s visited London. Those who played the third installment of the original PlayStation’s Tomb Raider will distinctly remember polygonal representations of Thames Wharf, Aldwych Tube Station and St Paul’s Cathedral. While you’re in London, swing by some of Croft’s favourite spots.
Manchester: Too good to resist
There’s a lot we can thank Manchester for. It gave us The Smiths, Joy Division, Take That and Uncle Vernon Dursley (the late Richard Griffiths). But it’s also where military brute Nathan Hale launched an attack on a Chimeran conversion centre in PS3’s Resistance: Fall of Man.
Though it’s not teeming with insectoid aliens these days, Manchester Cathedral is still a truly awe-inspiring piece of architecture. With huge, magnificent arches and pewes as far as the eye can see, it’s the perfect place to go if you want to quietly imagine yourself being overwhelmed by alien hordes.
Manchester’s shit-hot music scene also means you can catch a live band almost any night a week, so make sure you hang around for a few nights to absorb the local culture.
Scotland: Like Uncharted with (hopefully) less grave robbery
This year’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End gave us freakishly life-like character models, high-octane action scenes and one relatively tranquil waltz through a snow-peppered graveyard in Scotland.
It was a standout moment in the globe-trotting game that was made possible thanks to Scotland’s natural beauty and the craggy coastline where it was set.
While the real-world version of Uncharted’s snow-capped cathedral is still in-tact, it’s no less beautiful than it was in A Thief’s End. St Machar’s Cathedral is found in Aberdeen in the North East of Scotland. Aberdeen is a coastal town about a two to three hour train ride from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Aberdeen truly is where sweet dreams are made. Not only is it home to the Aberdeen buttery (a cross between a pancake and a croissant) but it's also where Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox hails from.
Rome: Ezio does it
By this leg of your ultimate gamecation, you’ve probably had no choice but to fill up on chip buttys, Aberdeen butterys and every possible variation of fried potatoes imaginable. Not only will your next stop offer up a change of culinary scenery, but there’s so much to see and do amongst the sprawling ruins and ancient architecture that you will have worked off those carbs in no time. Just try not to climb over everything, that sort of thing will get you banged up abroad in real life.
While it’s kind of unfair to include just one location from the globe-spanning Assassin’s Creed franchise, Ezio is clearly the most popular Assassin of them all and Rome is a scenic pit-stop on the way to our next destination.
Prague: Get in before the augmented oppression takes hold
Though many beautiful landmarks are missing and the use of the Czech language is a bit ham-fisted, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is set in a futuristic version of Prague. If you managed to get your hands on Mankind Divided, you would have spent hours upon hours searching every nook and cranny of Deus Ex’s grim world.
While Deus Ex boasts murder mysteries, murder-bots and a religious techno-cult, the real-life Prague prides itself on its old-world charm and must-see structures like the Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock.
People with pacemakers and other technological augmentations may want to consider skipping this stop.
Pripyat: Stalk the streets of Chernobyl
The least desirable travel destination in the world is also the one that video games just love to visit. This is partly due to its nightmare-inducing history and partly because people love to put a supernatural spin on the effects of nuclear fallout. Famously, S.T.A.L.K.E.R used the 1986 nuclear plant accident as the catalyst for its survival horror storyline. While the real-life events were horribly tragic, you can rest assured that there are no bloodthirsty mutants freely roaming the streets of Pripyat these days.
A more accurate depiction of the city can be found in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s All Ghillied Up and One Shot One Kill levels. Modern Warfare depicts Pripyat as a gloomy, abandoned city crawling with overgrown vegetation, which is much like the real thing today.
While it’s mostly safe to travel to Pripyat, it’s only recommended with assistance of an experienced guide, as some areas still contain high levels of radiation.
As a wise man once said, “it’s dangerous to go alone”.
Nepal: A far cry from the digital Himalayas
While the fact that Far Cry 4’s most likeable character was a homicidal maniac speaks volumes about the game’s story, there’s no denying how gorgeous the game’s fictional country, Kyrat, is – nearly as beautiful as its real-life counterpart, Nepal.
Wedged between India and China, Nepal is a culturally diverse country nestled in the Himalayas. Its mountainous ranges, scenic walking tracks and hidden treasures are an explorer and fitness fanatic’s dream, but it's the people and the vibrant culture that make Nepal a truly special part of the world. Just keep an eye out for any snappily dressed tyrants, they don’t take kindly to tourists.
Hong Kong: Where sleeping dogs lie
The troubled (but criminally underrated) Sleeping Dogs puts players in the shoes of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer tasked with infiltrating a prolific Triad organisation in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s bustling neon streets provide a glowing backdrop for the game’s brutal fight scenes and city-spanning adventures. But don’t let the rampant crime and gory beatdowns deter you, Hong Kong’s mix of Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka and Fujian cultures makes for a diverse culinary experience unlike any other. For social sorts, Hong Kong also has a booming nightlife and is famed for its range of street markets and decadent shopping centres.
Tokyo: Jet set to Shibuya and Shinjuku
We have to much to thank Japan for. Mario, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Fire Emblem, Metal Gear Solid – the list goes on and on. For those reasons and more, we couldn’t make this list without including Tokyo as a travel destination and there have been plenty of games set in this bustling city to make a case for it.
Firstly, there’s the Yakuza series. Much like Sleeping Dogs, Yakuza is an often violent beat-em-up about gang warfare. Many games in the series are set in Kamurocho, a city that bares a striking resemblance to Shinjuku’s Kabukicho red light district. While Shinjuku itself is a welcoming place teeming with clubs and pubs, it’s recommended that you visit Kabukicho with caution at night. Get the advice of a local or someone who’s visited before.
Another popular in-game locale is Tokyo’s Shibuya district. You may recognise Shibuya as the city with the diagonal “scramble” crossings that are so often depicted in movies like Lost in Translation. The truth is, it’s no less hectic in real life and has been portrayed so in games such as The World Ends With You and Jet Set Radio Future. In this Otaku hub (a Japanese nickname for obsessed fans) you’ll find Pokemon centres and old-school arcades like Shibuya Kaikan Monaco.
California: Los Santos to New Vegas
Game devs have had a long obsession with setting their virtual hijinx against the sunny, sandy backdrop of California. What started with the stupidly addictive California Games soon spread to violent shooters like Duke Nukem, Grand Theft Auto, True Crime and the iconic 3DO classic, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties.
Outside of the famously touristy spots such as Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles also has a banging music scene, with 80s-themed rock clubs along Sunset Strip, the Newtown-esque hipster-hive of Silver Lake and loads of comedy clubs where you can catch up-and-coming comedians.
Miami: Indulge your vices
Though Miami provides the glamorous, drug-fuelled themes of the infamous Hotline Miami series, Miami was most vividly brought to life in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The Miami lifestyle and landscape has never been so accurately portrayed (or so effectively satirised) than in GTA’s sunny PS2 outing. The drugs, the parties, the palm tree-lined beaches and long strips of luminous neon night clubs, all at your fingertips.
While we don’t endorse all the cocaine and murder, we definitely do recommend checking out Miami. You can catch some rays on Miami/South Beach during the day, visit one of the many multicultural beachside restaurants in the evening and party all night at one of Miami’s many rooftop bars. Once you get bored of the colourful cocktails and poolside lounging, you can head to some of Vice City’s many locales, like Little Havana, where you’ll find a community rich with Cuban culture.
New York: GTA takes a few liberties
Yes, the Grand Theft Auto series has conquered the USA’s hottest destinations. However, without GTA III, we wouldn’t have San Andreas or Vice City. In fact, open-world sandbox games probably wouldn’t be the same. Most of us today have Liberty City’s map burnt into our brains.
Want to get to Staunton Island? No problem. Need to find your way around Sydney? Not a chance. GTA III, like GTA IV after it, showcases digital depictions of New York’s most iconic landmarks, including but not limited to the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Central Park. If you’re a GTA fanatic from way back, New York will feel like a second home.
While Grand Theft Auto has the most memorable depiction of New York in video games, last year’s The Division offered the most true-to-life, albeit apocalyptic, interpretation of Manhattan. The Division’s open world lets players explore the Rockefeller Centre, Madison Square Garden and Grand Central Terminal, each located exactly where they would be in real life. If you hit The Division’s level-cap a long time ago, why not spend some time in a much more peaceful version of the Big Apple.
- E3 2017: Microsoft showed four times more games this year
- Bungie on making Destiny 2 “compatible with real life”
- Where to find the best price on Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy in Australia
- This week’s best game deals: It’s getting Steamy in here
- E3 2017 by the numbers: 55% more gameplay on show than E3 2016