Google Maps is an essential tool for anyone planning a day trip or holiday, providing a clear yet detailed overview of locations and how to reach them. More than that it provides a simple way for all of us to find our literal place in the world, though it cannot help with the more figurative notion of belonging.
Google Maps was already amazing, and then a few years after its launch Google Street View was added to the mix. At which point the opportunity to take a virtual trip around real towns and cities revealed itself. Google Street View coverage now includes more than 60 countries, with ground-level panoramic views (often containing strange sights) for huge swathes of those locales available to view online.
However, Google Maps, and in particular Google Street View, isn’t only good for planning routes. There have been some fantastic Google Street View mashups created over the years, and there are also websites which use Google Street View to help you do some virtual globetrotting.
And then there are games built on top of Google Maps and Google Street View, five of which are listed here for you to enjoy when you’re bored at work.
Real World Racer is a simple Google street view game that offers exactly what the title implies it should. While most racing games rely on either completely imaginary routes or rough approximations of real-world locations, Real World Racer lets you race on real roads around the world.
OK, so the visuals aren’t going to win any awards, and the controls are rather limited, but for those people who miss the days when top-down racers were as good as it got, Real World Racer should hit the (nostalgic) spot.
You choose a route — either a pre-existing one from the eight on offer or one chosen by yourself by simply inputting a start and finish point — and then race your car against the computer-controlled opponents. The first to cross the finishing line wins, obviously, though you win nothing more than the satisfaction wrangled from besting poor AI.
Street View Quiz is another Google street view game whose title says it all. This is a website full of quiz questions based on Google Maps and Google Street View. Some of the questions make more sense than others, though they can all conceivably be solved by using nothing other than the image presented to you.
Rather than answering any from the homepage you’re better served clicking on individual entries and tackling them one at a time. If you get stuck trying to use the image alone then a simple Google search should suffice in helping you to answer any question posed.
GeoGuessr presents you with an image from Google Street View and asks you to locate it on a map of the world. It sounds easy, but it’s actually maddenly difficult. Thankfully it’s also very entertaining and more addictive than it has any right to be.
Each round consists of five destinations. At the end you’re presented with a chart showing how far out your guesses were each time, and the total score acquired. You can then start the process all over again to see if you can improve.
It’s a lot harder than you may imagine to guess which country you’re in just from a single image. Road signs, the terrain, and the weather can all give clues, but you’ll be amazed how far away some of your guesses will be. Or perhaps I’m just geographically dumb.
Pursued is very similar to GeoGuessr, with the same basic principles applying. However, rather than dropping you somewhere completely at random and asking you to vaguely point to it on a map, Pursued features pre-approved levels and asks you to name the city or landmark you’re seeing.
This is also more of a complete game, with a plot of sorts — you have been abducted and need to tell your friend where to find you — and level packs, achievements etc. Which all helps add to the intrigue and innate playability of Pursued.
The whole thing comes across as very professional, with the only annoying aspect being the need to jump through social networking hoops in order to play more levels. Still, there are user-submitted levels aplenty for those who aren’t willing to participate.
Streetview Zombie Apocalypse is a clever little Google street view game that works despite its obvious flaws. Especially as the street cred of zombies has never been so clear thanks to The Walking Dead and other zombie-focused fayre.
The premise is simple… you choose a location where you want to get dropped, and as soon as you pitch up in said location the undead hordes start to chase you in order to eat your brains. Which would be a whole lot scarier if the zombies in question weren’t tiny little sprites you could flick away with one finger.
The aim of Streetview Zombie Apocalypse is to stay alive for as long as possible. To do so you need to run from your starting point, avoiding the undead as you go. Choose your location with care, as some will lead you to a premature death thanks to featuring a rat run of narrow alleyways and dead-ends.
These games are not only entertaining they’re also educational, revealing parts of the world perhaps previously unknown to you. Google Maps is a powerful tool in this regard, in the same way Wikipedia is a powerful tool for learning about new people or uncovering previously unsolved mysteries that can actually be easily explained.
What do you think of the Google Street View games on this list? Do you have a favorite? Perhaps you know of another game which utilizes Google Maps; if so, we’d love you to share it with us in the comments section below along with your thoughts on the subject at hand. All comments are read, and most are afforded a reply.