5 of the best games for a virtual vacation

Beat the winter blues with an adventure holiday – without the costs, crammed airports, tummy bugs or pickpockets
Far Cry 3

During the gloomy wet monsoon season, with the haze being, well, a hazy memory and clear skies far in the distance, our thoughts naturally turn to getting away from it all.

With the economy being what it is, though, that five-star holiday is a fool's dream. So fire up one of these games and venture to virtual foreign climes – whether you're looking for fun in the sun, an educational visit to historical settings, or a winter break, we've got you covered.

Far Cry 3 (2012, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

White beaches, turquoise seas and exotic wildlife are the main draws of the unspoilt Rook Islands, but there’s plenty to amuse the less sendentary holidaymaker, including jet skiing, wingsuits and ziplines. The ancient ruins are also worth a visit – though if you're venturing off the beaten path, beware of the island's diverse wildlife, which includes everything from komodo dragons to tigers. A broad range of accommodation is available, but steer clear of the bamboo cages offered by Vaas Tourism.

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Forza Horizon (2012, Xbox 360)

Stunning mountain scenery and wide expanses of American asphalt make Forza Horizon's Colorado the perfect place for a driving holiday – especially for thrill seekers. Unobserved by state police, you’re free to open the throttle on an enviable selection of cars. And should you tire of your choice, there are plenty of options to swap rides en route.

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Xbox, PS2, PC, Mac, iOS, Android)

A city break is the perfect opportunity to cut loose, and what better setting than the neon capital of 1980s hedonism, Vice City? Sure, it was last on the tourist radar in 2002 – but Vice City is back, and these days you can carry it around in your pocket on iOS and Android. Explore the golf courses and shopping malls, take an off-roader onto the wide, sandy beaches, and revel in the synth-tinged sounds of the 80s.

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Midwinter (1989, Atari ST, Amiga, PC)

If fun in the sun isn't your cup of tea, you could escape the British weather in favour of a jaunt on the post-apocalyptic isle of Midwinter. Nuclear winter may have led to the collapse of society and the rule of dictator General Masters, but its snowy peaks are perfect for skiing, snowmobiling and even hang gliding.

The game's open-world setting – years ahead of its time – offers plenty of replay value, as you assemble a Heroes of Telemark-style resistance movement in a fight for freedom. If the game's 16-bit graphics and blocky, polygon vistas are a bit limited, we've got good news: the game is getting an HD remake, with a Kickstarter set to launch later this year.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013, Xbox, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U)

A Caribbean cruise is the perfect way to unwind – and in the latest Assassin's Creed, you can sail the ocean waves, put into port and explore the historical locations of Kingston, Havana, Nassau and their many and varied distractions. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, explore Mayan ruins and go swimming in search of hidden treasure.

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READ MORE: Stuff's 200 greatest games of all time, updated daily