Some of the most impressive structures in video games are castles. Maybe that’s not surprising, given how many fantastical constructions dot gaming’s spurs and ridges. A handful of real-life castles can also be found in ludic garb – plenty to fill out a crowd-free, virtual historical holiday. Here are 5 historical castles that can be visited in video games.
The virtual castles on our list of the best castles in games are ones which you can pull up a car next to, scale the stonework of, or stomp around inside. As much as we love the familiar donjons of Age of Empires II, we’ve instead opted for gamified versions of Bamburgh, Masyaf, Wewelsburg, Burgh and Hohenwerfen.
1. Bamburgh Castle, Forza Horizon 4
Overlooking the North Sea, the expansive Bamburgh Castle is a former royal fortress, home of the early English kings of Bernicia, and then a string of owners until its restoration by industrialist William George Armstrong from 1894. In racing game Forza Horizon 4’s open world, which stretches from Edinburgh to the Lake District, Bamburgh Castle is the focal point of the east coast.
Whether you’re touring south from Arthur’s Seat or roving off-road in the Northumberland sand dunes, Forza Horizon 4’s Bamburgh Castle makes for a pleasant rest stop. Edinburgh Castle is also included in Playground Games’ open world racing experience, along with historical curiosities like the Uffington White Horse.
2. Masyaf Castle, Assassin’s Creed & Assassin’s Creed Revelations
The Order of Assassins were prolific castle builders in the Muslim world. Their enclave in western Syria was knotted between fortifications, particularly the keep and enclosure castle of Masyaf. Caricatured by their adversaries as hashish-smokers, the “Hashashin” were notorious for their tactics of covert murder.
As a member of a fictionalised take on the Order of Assassins, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad spends much of his time at an embellished version of Masyaf in the first Assassin’s Creed game.
It makes another appearance in Assassin’s Creed Revelations, in which protagonist Ezio Auditore makes two fateful visits to regard the views in 1511.
3. Wewelsburg Castle, Medal of Honor: Underground
The current structure of Wewelsburg Castle, in the west of Germany, was built in the 17th century. However its notoriety leads from its occupation by the SS under the direction of leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler. Before the German defeat in 1945, Himmler had begun developing Wewelsburg into a monumental, pseudo-religious cult site for the SS.
Wewelsburg features in the Playstation game Medal of Honor: Underground (2000). In the fourth mission, “Wewelsburg: Dark Camelot”, French Resistance agent Manon Batiste must break into the castle, steal whatever she can find, then escape from SS soldiers dressed in suits of armour. It probably also inspired the titular castle in the Wolfenstein games, thanks to its SS and occult history.
4. Burgh Castle, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
With their Norse and East Anglian allies in tow, Eivor Varinsdottir leads a siege of Burgh Castle early on in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The castle in the game is vast, heavily fortified and sits directly on the North Sea. The real Burgh Castle in Norfolk lies 10 kilometres upriver from where the Yare joins the sea in Great Yarmouth.
Burgh Castle is substantially smaller than its depiction in-game. Today it’s a rectangular Roman fortress which retains three sides of its aged walls. They mark out a perimeter about 380 metres long, inside of which a Norman motte once stood. If you tried sailing up the Yare and ramming a boat laden with explosives into the fort today, you’d soon find yourself trapped in sedge and bog.
All the same, Valhalla’s Burgh embraces authentic English weather. Accessible via longship and parkour, it’s a choice spot for some castle admiring.
5. Hohenwerfen Castle, Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Its situation squeezed within a pass in the Austrian Alps may mean that the magnificent, 623-metre high Hohenwerfen Castle is out of your range. In that case, have you considered exchanging a visit to the material 15th century fortification with a digitised version, crawling with pretend zombies?
Hohenwerfen Castle is explorable in the map called “Der Eisendrache” (Iron Dragon) for the Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops III. It features, incredibly, a dragon and an armoured zombie known as a Panzersoldat. It was released as part of the Awakening DLC map pack in 2016.