April is rapidly approaching and this means that college students everywhere are gearing up for/finishing up spring break. I recently spent three days up in the mountains of Colorado but many of my friends weren’t as lucky. A lot of people I know were stuck either at work or at home wishing they could travel now that the sun is starting to slowly emerge from hiding. Well, if you are one of the many that are stuck daydreaming of packing your bags and bailing on responsibilities, I have a solution for a quick retreat. Don’t run away from daily life, run away from reality! It’s far less expensive and you can do it in the comfort of your home. Here are 5 game locales that are great virtual escapes.
5) Eagleland- Earthbound (SNES)
I know that not all of Earthbound is pie in the sky adventure time. Some subtle details and the last couple chapters (and final boss) of the game can be creepy and dark, but the majority of the game is just filled with heart and an innocent feeling of adventure we don’t see very often anymore. Earthbound has a Calvin and Hobbes quality that gets the player sinking into their favorite chair with a sweet smile as they play for hours forgetting stressors and responsibility. The mix of a modern day Americana setting, NPCs rich with quirky personalities, and strange enemies make Earthbound a wonderful mix of the absurd and the familiar that is fun to lose yourself in. Eagleland, the country the game starts in, is just so amusing and charming. The feeling of a world that’s both so close to and far from the American reality makes Eagleland a tempting place to get lost in for a while.
C’mon, who wouldn’t want to explore Saturn Valley?
4) Space- Space Channel 5/ Part 2 (Dreamcast/PS2)
Sometimes when we look to escape into fiction for a while we don’t want epic quests with lengthy adventure. Sometimes we just want to lose ourselves in something fun, funny, and silly. That’s where the various interstellar settings of Space Channel 5 come in. Nothing in this game is serious, everything is meant to be absurd and funny. Here you can dance your way through a TV Broadcasting space station or groove your way out of a speeding ticket with the galactic police. Love cute robots, pastel aliens, music and campy anything? This is the place for you. Let Ulala and her crew shuffle on into your life and I can guarantee it’ll put a smile on your face as logic goes out the spaceport window.
I want in on this crazy space ship party
3) Nightopia- NiGHTS into Dreams (Saturn)
Who doesn’t love dreams? They can be beautiful, relaxing, exciting, or sad. The idea of falling into a world of dreams holds so much potential. Lucky for gamers everywhere the worlds in Sega’s 32-bit classic, NiGHTS into Dreams do not disappoint. Each dream world in Nightopia is unique with different tones, environments and quirks relating to how they can be explored. Want to fly through springtime mountaintops? You’ve got to burst through the rushing winds. Explore the secret caverns of a mystic forest. Slide through icy slopes of a Winter landscape or climb towering canyon walls as high as you can. There’s so much to see and so many ways to see it. Everything is visually appealing, even if the game looks it’s age. Nightopia is a magical game world and it is a big reason NiGHTS fans are so devout. Take a tour. You won’t be disappointed.
2) Peach’s Castle- Super Mario 64 (N64)
This was so close to being number one! On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to Princess Peach’s castle. You might think, sure there are some hidden areas and secret rooms, but it’s just a castle. A building. A finite area of space. Well, there might be some truth to that regarding the structure of the castle, but you mustn’t forget it holds entire worlds within it. Snow worlds, desert worlds, grassy field worlds; each with their own challenges and secrets to unlock. Some of you are probably thinking, “Hey! Putting all of that into one slot is cheating!” and while I admit it stretches the rules, they are MY rules. So zip it. Sure nowadays you can power through Super Mario 64 in no time but to really explore the depths of the paintings takes time and a personal investment. Easily enough to loose some vacation time in.
More than meets the eye!
1) Hyrule- Most of the Zelda games (Nintendo Systems)
There is something so magical and inviting about the land of Hyrule. It’s expansive, it’s varied, there’s puzzles to solve and secrets to discover. What makes Hyrule a truly special place to take a mental vacation to in my opinion is that it is enticing and vibrant in pretty much every one of it’s incarnations, from the NES to the Wii. Of couse, we all have our favorites. Mine is a tie between the Hyrule from A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. Still, I find each new Hyrule to be engaging yet unique in some way. I bet many of you do too. The lakes, the mountains, the fairies, the forest, there’s just so much. I always lose track of time in this world. I forget everything else. And isn’t that what a good escape should do?
I know many of you probably have your own games worlds and locales that you like to escape to, and I know I had a few of my own that didn’t make the list. Let me know in the comments below what you would put in your “Vacation Game” list.