The 5 best virtual holidays in gaming – Reader’s Feature

Disenchanted with the summer holiday ritual, and worried by the coronavirus, a reader suggests the best video games to get away from it all with.

‘I’m ready for this, there’s no denying’… Jet2 would have you believe that a summer getaway is an impossibly romantic break with your other half, holding hands through days of sun-kissed empty beaches, plunging down extreme flumes at water parks and eating lobster in a five-star restaurant, overlooking the sea as it gently laps against pristine shores.

The reality is that it won’t be your hand that the other half is holding.

No, their hand will be too busy holding a selfie stick and updating their social media.

The beach won’t be empty, it will be jam-packed full of fellow sun-seekers jostling for the best spot.

And at the water park you will be banging your coccyx on the way down an aptly named slide such as Kamikaze or Death Plummet, only to emerge from the water with a lung full of chlorine, telling yourself this is fun and you even have a bruised spine to prove it.

Lost luggage, people clapping when the plane lands, not to mention now coronavirus and being quarantined. Real holidays? Who needs them?

Isn’t it time for virtual escapes? Like Douglas Quid in Total Recall? I mean, I don’t need to get my arse to Mars or anything. I am quite happy to have a relaxed getaway, just without all the fuss that goes with it.

With VR advances, maybe we won’t be too far from such experiences.

But for now, I can escape into what ‘holidays’ games can currently offer.

And I don’t mean game worlds we wished we could visit, as that is a topic that has been done before. Here I am looking at games that actually attempt to provide a holiday style experience. So unpack your suitcase, leave the passport at home and get ready for the ultimate in digital stay-cations.

Animal Crossing

An obvious choice maybe and yet how could I have a virtual holiday game list without it? Animal Crossing feels like a holiday simulation and reminds me of summers away with my parents, staying in a chalet or caravan at a seaside holiday park. When I play these games, I can almost smell the sea breeze and feel the dew on the grass as I spend lazy days collecting fossils, looking for seashells on the beach, and legging it from angry bees.

The slow rhythmic pace of the game and it’s simple yet enjoyable tasks, interspersed with trips to the local coffee shop and browsing furniture stores, creates the feeling of a charming second life away from the often fast-paced and chaotic world we seem to live.

With it’s beautiful new camping and seaside theme, New Horizons looks even more like a holiday getaway than before, and I simply cannot resist its pull and the need to get away again spending time with KK Slider and co.

I missed out on the first Animal Crossing on the N64 but sank many hours into the DS version Wild World and then again on New Leaf. [The N64 version only came out in Japan, the GameCube port was the first to reach the West – GC]

I’m slightly concerned about diving back in again with New Horizons to be honest, because of that.

I once played Wild World in bed one night, and my then girlfriend said, ‘don’t stay up late’. Well, she woke up the next morning and there I was in the same position, still fishing for new additions for the aquarium.

Test Drive Unlimited

Rumours of Test Drive Unlimited 3 have been around now for ages and yet there still seems to be no sign of the game and it is a real shame we didn’t get to see it on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. I would have even taken an HD remaster of 1 and 2, and either game seems perfect to port to the Switch.

Test Drive Unlimited is not a great car racing game. The handling is a bit off and the races are not very exciting, truth be told.

But both Test Drive Unlimited 1 and 2 are still unique and relaxing driving games, in that they purposefully created that holiday atmosphere right from the start with the plane flight and hotel pool party.

I would happily spend hours doing nothing more than cruising around and enjoying the sights. You could just come off road, pull up by the sea and watch the sunset, sometimes joined by other drivers playing online.

If you felt so inclined, you could event shunt other drivers into the big drink.

The first time I pulled out of the garage in this game and realised I could play around with the car by opening and closing the roof or simply moving the car windows up and down, I knew I was going enjoy just relaxing in this world.

I always thought it was a shame you couldn’t get out of your car and walk around, seeing as you had created your avatar and could new buy new clothes for them.

It would have felt like a chilled version of GTA.

There was more than just racing too, including picking up a model and driving them to a destination, which gave Crazy Taxi vibes.

Both games also have great soundtracks and I ended up downloading quite few of the songs to listen to in my own car.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 had the addition of a virtual casino and in my ideal follow-up I would like to see more additions like this, such as shopping malls, roof top bars, and maybe the chance to leave the car behind and jump on a jet ski around the island.

Speaking of islands, I was a bit disappointed that Test Drive Unlimited 2 didn’t portray an accurate version of Ibiza in the game and there was no opportunity to visit the iconic clubs. Ibiza holds a special place in my heart, it being my first lads holiday destination away, with fond memories of a few days of just me hanging out with a blonde Swedish podium dancer.

Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

I happened to be in a GAME store the day the original Xbox version got released and overheard two workers saying this would attract all the sweaty perverts as they put the new game on the shelves.

Well I don’t know if it did but at some point I myself, who I would say does not fall into that stereotype, picked the game up cheap hoping that it would at least provide a decent game of beach volleyball, as I was a big fan of Sega’s often forgotten Beach Spikers.

It has to be said that the volleyball part of it wasn’t great, with very basic controls. Despite this and the slightly voyeuristic nature of the game, I appreciate what it was trying to achieve. A stress0free holiday away on a pretty island, with equally pretty girls and no more of a goal than chilling out.

It must have been quite successful as it got a sequel on the Xbox 360, which Edge magazine rated quite highly I seem to remember. I didn’t play it, but it added new games including jet ski races and trying to push each other off a float with your just your bare bottom.

The graphics where better and the enhanced power of the Xbox 360 allowed for greater jiggle where required.

The series is still going with a third iteration that has not been released in the UK as it is considered too risqué, but you can pick up an import copy from Amazon if you wish, even on the Switch. I mean, you may get some off looks playing this on your commute but at the same time, it may be the ideal console to play it in private….

Xtreme Beach Volleyball deserves a lot of it obvious criticism. Despite that, the idea of an island getaway where you can play sports and games whilst hanging out with attractive virtual peeps is a sound one. Imagine this island with elements of Pilotwings or sports games equal to the quality of Wave Race, Beach Spikers, and Virtua Tennis. That sounds like a virtual holiday island I want to visit.

Go Vacation

Originally a Wii game, you can now pick up this holiday simulator from Bandai Namco, of all people, on the Switch. If you hadn’t guessed by the title, this is about you having a virtual vacation by visiting an island and playing around with a plethora of mini-games including horse riding, sky diving, karting and snowboarding, as well as just exploring the island with your Mii style avatar.

This game is silly as heck and childish to boot, but the game gives it a good go at trying to fulfil a getaway experience at home.

It looks utterly charming and has some beautiful scenery, despite it’s fairly rudimentary Wii graphics. The game is relaxing and genuinely quite funny at times and also has multiplayer so you can bring your friends along for the trip.

It’s the sheer variety that makes this a winner for me. No games are amazing but if you get bored you can just go and move onto another.

To be honest though, any game with cute virtual dogs in it gets away with a lot in my eyes and this has plenty of cut pooches to hang out with as well.

I feel this could be the template for all of the above combined, bringing together the island, the sports and the community feel; it just isn’t quite there.

Maybe if the game has some success on the Switch then a follow-up will get made with improved graphics and an online mode. Which brings me to….

PlayStation Home

Say what you like about PlayStation Home but this may be the closest ‘game’ we have had to a viral holiday, and it’s a shame it was not on PlayStation 4 with VR capability.

I didn’t do much in Home but if I wanted to chill out after a hard day’s work, often I would visit Home and go and find a nice secluded area with great views and just sit and watch the virtual world go by.

There was plenty of places to explore, games to play, and people to chat to, with a surprising amount I could have interesting conversations with.

The amount you could purchase with real money got out of hand, and may have led to its demise, but it whilst it lasted, the chance the hang out in the Mos Eisley cantina and bump into a few virtual buddies was gold for a time.

Maybe it will make a comeback for PlayStation 5. After all, real holidays may soon be a thing of the past if aviation goes down the swanny and package holidays become a distant memory you can talk to your grandchildren about.

Home, or a variation of it in full VR, may be a genuine option for us all.

By reader Relaxed Chimp

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email [email protected] and follow us on Twitter.

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