Everyone always claims they're waiting for summer, but the second the sun pops its head out and starts blazing down on everything, a significant proportion of people will start complaining it's too hot.
That's perfectly reasonable, of course; being too hot is just as unpleasant as being too cold. But sometimes you miss out on that unmistakeable sense of "summer spirit" by locking yourself up in your house and turning the air conditioning up full. Sometimes you want that feeling of enjoying summer, but preferably without all the risk of sunburn and heatstroke. Or perhaps where you are doesn't enjoy a particularly sunny summer, and you're envious.
Enter video games, who specialize in taking us to far-off worlds and allowing us to enjoy them whatever the weather. If it's just too hot to go out this summer -- or indeed if you're missing the sun where you are -- close the drapes, sit back, relax and check out these favorite summer titles recommended by the USgamer team.
When I think "summer games," I think of Epyx's Summer Games. And then I think about how boring that game was because it was all the standard track and field events that make me fall asleep during the Summer Olympics. So then to make myself feel better, I think about Epyx's World Games, which was objectively awesome.
"World Games, which used log rolling as the representative Canadian minigame instead of the safe/lame choice of curling..."Brendan
World Games, which introduced me to caber tossing. World Games, which let me delight in cliffdiving, which I would alternately play as if it were a cliffbellyflop competition and then a cliff-dashing-your-body-against-the-rocks competition. World Games, which used log rolling as the representative Canadian minigame instead of the safe/lame choice of curling. World Games, which was how I spent my first few glorious months with a 386 PC that had a clock speed of 10 MHz (but only when you had the "turbo" button pushed in) and a four-color CGA monitor.
I also think of the summer I spent playing Final Fantasy Legend on the Game Boy, but we talk too much about JRPGs here and that one was pretty no-frills, so let's move on.
And to prove Brendan's point, I often think of Japanese RPGs like Chrono Trigger and EarthBound when I think of "summer games." Partly because summer is when I had the free time to play such involved adventures, partly because they tended to come out during the summer. And also, the scratch from summer jobs helped fund them. You see how it goes.
But most of all, the phrase "summer games" denotes escapism, and I can't think of any greater escape than those provided by an RPG. You immerse yourself into another world with games like that, venturing to faraway lands for dozens of hours at a time.
"The phrase 'summer games' denotes escapism, and I can't think of any greater escape than those provided by an RPG."Jeremy
That was especially true of Chrono Trigger, which came out toward the end of summer 1995 and had me hooked immediately. That summer, I was toiling away at one job during the day and slogging on to another at night, trying to store away enough cash to fund my way through the coming semester. When Chrono Trigger came out, I needed to find a way to clear some time and play more. So… I kind of didn't show up to my evening job one night. And then the next. I meant to call in sick, but forgot, and after a few days I felt too guilty. So I stopped going altogether.
A few days later, well into a New Game Plus playthrough, I bumped into a coworker. "Hey," he said, "the boss wants to know if you're planning to come back to work."
"Ummm," I said. "I guess not? Because... classes start up soon."
He shrugged and wandered off. I lost my job and a few hundred bucks of pay for hours I skipped… but it was worth it.
Like Brendan, the first thing that came into my mind when Summer Games was mentioned was indeed the classic Commodore 64 game, Summer Games. I loved all those old-school Epyx multi-event games - whatever season it was. And now I'm thinking about them again, I'd love to see a modern re-release of those titles. What I particularly liked about them was their simplicity, making them fast and fun to play, and generally more entertaining than some of the more modern multi-event sports games I've played more recently. But anyway, I digress.
"I get an excuse to stay in and play whatever new stuff I happen to have, and not feel guilty about being outside in the sun getting all healthy and stuff."Jaz
The second thing I think about when it comes to gaming in the summer is arcades. I grew up in a seaside town in the UK, and while I frequented its arcades all year round, during the Summer when school was out, I'd spend every day and most of the night there. The place was always heaving, since there were so many tourists, and oftentimes when was going for a record score, I'd end up with a big crowd watching me play. Back then I couldn't quite understand why someone would want to watch somebody else play a game - but these days nobody thinks twice about it with millions now watching people play on Twitch TV. Shame it wasn't available back then, I'm sure I'd have garnered a good following!
When I think of gaming in the summer today, I'm not thinking of the same thing that most people think of in terms of summer. I live in San Francisco, and as anyone who's been here at this time of year will tell you, it's freakin' cold, because it's fog season. You can always spot the tourists, because they're the ones wearing newly-purchased "I love San Francisco" hoodies, shivering and wondering what the hell happened to the legendarily moderate California climate they'd heard about. Yep, as the oft-quoted Mark Twain mis-quote says, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
So in that sense, my summer gaming is a little more like everyone else's winter gaming, which suits me just fine. I get an excuse to stay in and play whatever new stuff I happen to have, and not feel guilty about being outside in the sun getting all healthy and stuff - because it's freezing bloody cold and I can barely see the houses on the other side of the street.
What is more "summer" than kicking back at a tropical locale and making new friends? My favorite "summer" game is Avalanche Studios' Just Cause 2. The game drops you on the fictional island of Panau somewhere in Southeast Asia, and asks you to cause as much trouble as possible.
"Just Cause 2 is one of those open-world games that I'll never beat, and that doesn't bother me."Mike
Just Cause 2 is one of those open-world games that I'll never beat, and that doesn't bother me. The game has a permanent spot on my hard drive and whenever I feel like it, I load up and wreak some havoc. It's light, brainless, and the wanton destruction feels so good. Just Cause 2 doesn't want much from you; the game is relatively slim when it comes to different gameplay systems. It's you, your grappling hook, a parachute, a bunch of vehicles, a bunch of guns, and your targets. After that, you just let the imagination ride. The only other game that hit that same sport was Mercenaries for Xbox and PlayStation 2. Ah, the memories.
The Steam Summer Sale is coming soon, meaning Just Cause 2 might be even cheaper than its $14.99 price tag on Steam. If you don't have it, pick it up and have some fun.
Up until the last three years ago, I didn't really have a concept of summer. Malaysia, in general, can be separated into two seasons: 'drown-you-in-too-much-water' and 'so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg'. The notion that people might want to sit in the sun, relishing the heat, wasn't just foreign but absolutely terrifying. Why would anyone do that to themselves when they could sit in the air-conditioning?
"They weren't so much games as they were housemates, entities that existed alongside me."Cassandra
Still, I suppose my favorite summer games would probably be Bastion and The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. It was my first summer after a Scandinavian winter. The games were long, immersive. They weren't so much games as they were housemates, entities that existed alongside me. When I wasn't actively playing them, the games were running in the background. Of course, all good things still come to an end, but I still have incredible memories.
...that's the best I've got. I'll have to go through a few more summers to get a proper idea of this works.
So you're all leaving it to me to bring up the Dead or Alive Xtreme series? Great.
Actually, I joke, but those are some of the most "summery" games I've ever played, largely due to their relentlessly cheerful soundtracks, bright colors and at least semi-fun (if shallow) events. Okay, they're also thinly-veiled... actually, make that completely unveiled fanservice and not particularly good games, but I have only a tiny bit of shame in admitting that I've actually had a bit of fun playing them in the past. But they're not what I really want to talk about today.
At the risk of making Brendan clutch the sides of his head in anguish while shouting "WHY?!" at the heavens, I'd like to talk about Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII was my introduction to role-playing games. Not just JRPGs, but role-playing games in general. I'd played role-playing games in the past, but I'd never really understood them. Final Fantasy VII was the first that really "clicked" with me -- and it was the same for several of my friends from school around the same time.
The reason I inextricably associate Final Fantasy VII with summer is because of the time my parents took a trip away, leaving me on the house in my own. While I did throw a typical teenage party (and got into a lot of trouble after being unable to fix some of the things that had been broken during the course of said party), the main thing I remember from that long summer was hanging out on a nearly daily basis with my friend Woody, who was just as enamored with Final Fantasy VII as I was.
"Playing Final Fantasy VII together was the perfect excuse to hang out for hours on end, drinking dodgy Polish vodka and trying to figure out if we liked tequila or not."Pete
We both lived in fairly remote countryside locations, so we both relished the opportunity to socialize. And playing Final Fantasy VII together was the perfect excuse to hang out for hours on end, drinking dodgy Polish vodka and trying to figure out if we liked tequila or not. (We didn't.) We'd play the game non-stop for hours at a time, and if one or the other of us looked like falling asleep in a drunken stupor, we'd hit each other over the head with couch cushions. It didn't always work, but it was amusing.
My most enduring memory from our Final Fantasy VII marathon sessions came one day, long after the hot summer sun had gone down. Woody had given in to sleep, and my energy levels had dropped so low I couldn't be bothered to clobber him again. There was a moment of calm as I drifted off on the floor alongside my tipsy friend -- I believe we were exploring the Ancient Forest at the time, so the somewhat hypnotic music had a strongly soporific effect when combined with all the alcohol we'd consumed -- and then Woody suddenly sat bolt upright.
"What's an X-Walker?" he asked, urgently, as if it was the most important thing in the world.
To this day, we have no idea what he was talking about.
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