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12 games to scratch your tarvel itch

12 games to scratch your travel itch

Here are our favourite travel-themed games - for all ages and abilities, for every device and none, many free to play and every single one a chance to reminisce about your last trip, brag to your family how well-travelled you were until last year or just teach the kids that there's a great big world still out there waiting to be explored.

1. Worldle

Mobile phone and browser
Play solo or in a group, 12+ for difficulty
Free to play

If you're already immersed in the Wordle craze, try Worldle - ity's Wordle, but with maps.

Every day, a new country in silhouette. Guess which one it is, and Worldle will tell you how far away the real answer is and in roughly which compass direction. You're then obliged to share the results om social media (if you got it) or quietly pretend you missed a day because you were too busy to play.

80days

2. Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition

Board Game
3-7 players, 10+ for difficulty but appropriate for any age
Free to download and print

Cheapass Games makes board games, rather more lightheartedly than most mainstream manufacturers and as you'd imagine from the name a lot more cheaply. For one thing they assume you already have all the pieces you need (dice, meeples, counters) so they don't sell you any more; for another dozens of their excellent games are free to download and print off their website.

Cheapassgames

One such free game, travel-themed to boot, is Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition. We cannot improve on the publisher's own blurb:

"Adventure! Excitement! These are the things about which you'll be lying through your teeth, in this non-daring romp that never sets foot outside London….You're all would-be adventurers who are terrified to go on any real journey, so you sneak around London collecting artifacts and stories, and then return to the Adventurers' Club and lie about where you've been."


3. 80 Days

PC/Mac, mobile and Switch
1 player, 12+ official PEGI rating
£12 Switch, £10.29 Steam, £4.99 mobile

80 Days is a mobile steampunk twist on the classic adventures of Phileas Fogg. Nearly ten years old - it won game of the year in 2014 and a stack of awards the year after - it stands up perfectly well in 2021 and was recently ported onto the Switch.

80days

You'll try to get Fogg around the world in - you guessed it - 80 days, via a variety of cities and modes of transport. The aesthetic is classic steampunk (a joke, perhaps, for fans of Victorian sci-fi since Jules Verne's original text isn't in the steampunk tradition but his other masterpiece, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is one of the steampunk sub-culture's foundational texts).


4. GeoGuesser

Mobile phone and browser
Play solo or in a group, 12+ for difficulty
Free to play occasionally, charges for regular play

Based on Google Maps, Geoguesser can be played in a browser or on a mobile device and simply flings the player into a randomly-selected Streetview anywhere in the world, awarding points for how close you get to finding it on a map.

Sometimes you'll get lucky and be asked to recognise your home town; far more often you'll be on a road in what for all you know could be the Australian outback, the American midwest or Scotland on a sunny spring day.

You get some guesses free per day, after which the app will start asking for money, if you'd prefer a completely free-to-play alternative, there are plenty - our favourite is CityGuesser, which asks you to guess the location from a selection of travel videos.


5. Travel the world from your dining table

Board games you can also play on PC/Mac
Various group sizes and ages
From free

Always dreamed of visiting the iconic walled city of Carcassonne? Keen to explore the markets of Istanbul? Or perhaps you'd prefer to stay closer to home and visit London or Glasgow. All possible simply by picking the board game of the city you love. These games tend to be on the more complex side, so we suggest you check out a YouTube video explaining the rules before you jump in.

For a travel-themed board game, you've got a couple of options. You can buy the box and play the game on your dining table with family and friends the traditional way.

Or if you want to play remotely with friends in another household, you can play a lot of the best boardgames for free on Board Game Arena.

Carcassonee

You can visit the French walled city of Carcassonne in classic board-game style!

Our favourite destination board games
  • Carcassonne
  • Puerto Rico
  • Alhambra
  • Incan Gold
  • Trekking the World
  • Colt Express
  • Niagara

6. The Magic Door

Smart speaker games
1 player at a time, age 5+
From free

The Magic Door is one of the best and most popular of the smart speaker adventure games. Mainly for the kids, it's a straight fantasy adventure with wizards and princesses. It's free, it keeps inquiring minds busy in a way you can hear from the next room and while there's no out-and-about to go, it's a virtul out-and-about that'll keep the family amused.


7. Where's Wally?

Books
Readers can collaborate, age 5+
From £5.57 on Bookshop.org

The famous and original book series in which Wally is lost in a sea of people somewhere in the world and the reader is called upon to find him. The renaming of Wally as Waldo for the North American market causes occasional confusion, but he gets by perfectly well as Hetty in Sri Lanka, Jura in Croatia and Hugo in Sweden too.

The books are suitable for almost any age - the publisher says 6+, three-year-olds often love them and a censorious school in Long Island once banned the whole series in the 1990s because of a woman bathing topless in one of the drawings, so make your own judgement.

Cheapassgames

The "Where's Wally" phenemonon has even lent itself to a series of spin-off satires in which the reader is asked to find contemporary political figures hiding variously around the UK or the US - see below for examples "Where's Boris?", "Where's Dom?" and "Where's Trump?". These are probably intended for older readers, though we can confirm from experiment that they'll keep an inquiring ten-year-old busy for hours.


8. Ubi

Board game
2-5 players, age 7+ (but really suited to adults)
About a tenner on eBay

The boardgame equivalent of GeoGuesser, Ubi is a vintage board game from the people behind classic Trivial Pursuit. Based on a world map, players are given clues and must identify the (tiny) segment of the map the clue is pointing to.

It's worth repeating "tiny segment" because a good game of Ubi can take hours, even for the seasoned world-traveller - trying to find the Memphis Shell where Elvis first played or Boudicca's last battle can test the sharpest cartographical skills. But if you're up for a real challenge and learning a bit about the world (specifically the world up to the mid-1980s, when the game was published) Ubi is proper test of your world knowledge.

Ubi is out of print, but there's ample copies on eBay and second-hand sites.


9. Minecraft

You can play Minecraft on practically any device
Multplayer world, 7+ official PEGI rating
From $6.99 on mobile, varies by platform

Not just for the kids - though they do seem to love it in here - Minecraft has seen people collaborate to create everything from the Taj Mahal to a working computer inside the game that runs Doom or, for at least ten years, even a version of Minecraft, inside Minecraft. The people who take ths place seriously are pretty creative and they get big things built out of the virtual blocks that make up the creative format of the Minecraft world.

There's also a survival mode, which is more straight video-game fare of surviving the night as zombies try to murder you. And the game/world offers plenty of opportunity for virtual exploring - it's quasi-infinite, though that hasn't stopped one record-holder (Guiness-certified no less) from walking 20% of the way to the edge of the map, a feat that it's estimated will take him another thirty years to complete. So if your feet are really, really itchy, maybe you can join him in his quest.


10. Ticket to Ride

Board game
2-5 players, 6+ or 8+
Varies depending on version - around £20-40

Relive the golden age of rail travel in this delightful range of games that sees you and your rival rail entrepreneurs collecting sets of cards and building rail lines across the world. With a map for almost everywhere in the world and a host of variants, you'll be transported away for the hour or so's play time. Just don't fall out with your friends and family when they steal your prime route.


11. Horizon Zero Dawn

PS4 and PS5
1 player, 16+ official PEGI rating
Currently £40 on Steam; other platforms vary

If you're on social media there's no doubt that you've seen the buzz surrounding the recent release of Horizon Forbidden West, a single-player adventure game based in a post-apocalyptic western United States. Nature has reclaimed the land - you'll find ruined but recognisable landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge have been transformed into lush green towers of thriving plant life - rendered in staggering beauty by next-generation graphics.

If what you miss about seeing the world has been basking in the glory of nature and getting out into the wilderness, Horizon Forbidden West is certainly going to scratch that itch.


12. Now Boarding

Board game
2-5 players, age 10+
Ships from the US for about £40

Finally, if it's not the actual holiday you're missing but the faff and hassle (or mystique and anticipation, according to taste) of the airport or getting on and off the plane itself...even that's been captured for you in board-game form.

Experience the thrill of loading planes full of passengers and preparing for takeoff in this clever new real time cooperative boardgame. You must deliver all the passengers to their destinations before they get too angry — and new passengers are constantly arriving! It's a tense and exciting experience as you and your friends race to beat the game.