USgamer Community Weekend Discussion Thread: Summer Break Gaming Memories

Too hot to go out? The USgamer team shares its favorite "summer games" for that authentic summer experience with none of the sunburn.

Article by USgamer Team, .

Remember your summer breaks? Those months of long, hot summer days where you spent all your time outside having fun? If you do, what are you doing reading this? Clearly you're not a gamer! Those of us who are spent their summer indoors, hidden away from that horrible yellow thing in the sky, working on whichever game we'd just spent our pocket money on.

Were you one such person? If so, which games do you associate with your summer vaccations? We'd love to hear your memories. In the meantime, here are ours:

To my knowledge, there hasn't been another game involving caber tossing since World Games.
Brendan Sinclair Contributing Editor

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 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.

Chrono Trigger: destroying promising careers since 1995.
Jeremy Parish Editor-in-Chief

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.

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.

Divers had it hard in the olden days. Jumping into an 8-bit swimming pool was like cannonballing into a bucket of blue lego bricks.
Jaz Rignall Editor-at-Large

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.

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.

Screw the beach. I'm doing THIS!
Mike Williams Staff Writer

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. 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.

Kat remembers the Summer of '97.
Kat Bailey Senior Editor

My summer gaming memories revolve primarily around tying up the phone by playing X-wing vs. TIE Fighter at all hours of the day. In those days, I was a member of a squadron called the Obsidian Order, and I spent most of my time challenging other pilots to duels on Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone. Believe it or not, I was pretty good! At one point, I was even in the Top 25 on Case's Ladder. My skills stemmed in part from building custom furballs against Top Ace level AI opponents and working on my accuracy in a TIE Fighter. After a few months, I could snipe an opponent at range without a problem. It was just like Beggar's Canyon back home.

Of course, all that time spent on the computer had a slight impact on my social life. Trapped in the suburbs with my parents gone at work for the entire day, I had little to do except hang out and play PC games (despite my parent's best efforts to sign me up for things like tennis). Eventually, my friends had stage and intervention and showed up at the door to bodily drag me outside to enjoy the summer (no seriously, this actually happened). But I'll always cherish those hours spent downing TIE Fighters while avoiding the hot, humid Minnesota summers.

Earthbound: far more interesting than splashing about in a swimming pool.
Bob Mackey Senior Writer

So, EarthBound! I'm one of the privileged few that can say I've been on board with this cult RPG since day one—and you can thank Nintendo Power for that. Nintendo's propaganda machine gave EarthBound months of in-depth coverage throughout the spring of 1995, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing: All of my favorite RPG stuff, but set in (then) modern times? Over the coming weeks, I slowly accumulated the necessary $72.99, placed an informal pre-order at my local Software Etc., and counted down the days until EarthBound's release—well, I would have the game had a concrete release date. (Simpler times, folks.)

I was so primed for EarthBound that disappointment could have easily overtaken me, but its captivating weirdness grabbed me from the first minute. My most vivid memory of the game involves playing it that very first afternoon, as my window-mounted air conditioner hummed along steadily in the background. My mom came into my room, asking if I wanted to join the rest of our family in the pool, and I had no choice but to decline. Thankfully, she's always been supportive of my interests.

And it was this day I learned to appreciate games instead of just having fun with them. While I could have easily pulled an all-nighter on yet another aimless summer vacation day, at some point during the night I forced myself to stop playing, just so I could savor the experience. On the whole, EarthBound didn't last me more than five days, but during that summer of 1995, I'd end up playing it a half-dozen times, and it would eventually become one of my favorite video games ever. So please, don't hassle children for wasting time inside during summer vacation—these experiences can be very formative.

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Comments 27

  • Avatar for Mindwater #1 Mindwater 4 years ago
    What? No love for T&C Surf Designs?
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  • Avatar for MattG #2 MattG 4 years ago
    I must speak up for Super Mario Sunshine. It's not perfect, but is still a lot of fun. It has weak parts, but when it's good, it's really good. Plus it evokes that summertime feel so very well. I swear, in some levels you can almost feel the heat and haze coming off the screen.
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  • Avatar for cassandrakhaw #3 cassandrakhaw 4 years ago
    @MattG I would totally play that in front of an air-conditioning unit. D:
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  • Avatar for kyleyadlosky64 #4 kyleyadlosky64 4 years ago
    I do have to admit that JRPGs are the best summer games. It's the only time of the year that I can look at one and not think, "Who the hell has time for that?"

    I still remember spending night and day on the tail end of one summer rushing through Persona 3 before school started.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #5 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    @Mindwater Preach on with your T&C gospel. Also a little love for Kings of the Beach and Super Spike V-Ball, please
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  • Avatar for Mindwater #6 Mindwater 4 years ago
    @kidgorilla SSVB, definitely! And as long as we're on volleyball, might I also mention Beach Spikers.
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #7 kingaelfric 4 years ago
    toobin. Toobin. TOOBIN! I speak of course, of the game based on the life of legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, in which pressing "b" while holding up causes your player to write an incisive breakdown of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's voting record.
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #8 pjedavison 4 years ago
    @Mindwater Ooh, Beach Spikers. Good call. Played a lot of that multiplayer back in the day.
    @kingaelfric Ahh, Toobin. I had that on the Atari ST. One of the most awkward control systems I've ever encountered, as I recall.
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  • Avatar for Mindwater #9 Mindwater 4 years ago
    @pjedavison Just thinking... when is Nintendo gonna make another Wave Race?
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  • Avatar for Shinta #10 Shinta 4 years ago
    @MattG Yeah, it really doesn't get better than Mario Sunshine. It's still my favorite 3D Mario, which is saying a lot.
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #11 Jaz_Rignall 4 years ago
    @kingaelfric Damn dude! TOOOOOOBIN'. I freakin' loved that game. Cheers for sparking a memorygasm.
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  • Avatar for TPaulBuzan #12 TPaulBuzan 4 years ago
    @MattG, Eurogamer has a great retrospective of Super Mario Sunshine over on their site. Makes for a good read.

    Persona 3, for myriad reasons, is probably my ideal summer game. I played it my first summer of living in Korea and it helped to ease my transition into a seriously foreign culture. Plus, you can go on summer break in the game!Edited July 2013 by TPaulBuzan
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  • Avatar for ethanhammersmith72 #13 ethanhammersmith72 4 years ago
    Doom. Prior to that, I really can't remember what games I played in the summer. Maybe taking treks to the local 7-11 that had a few coin-op machines, namely Street Fighter 2.

    I also agree with Mike that, more recently, Just Cause 2 is a good one.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #14 MHWilliams 4 years ago
    My favorite summer game is now $2.99 on Steam. *cough*
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  • Avatar for ob1 #15 ob1 4 years ago
    I love whatever-games from Epyx.
    And Chrono-Trigger too.
    But To the moon made my day.
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  • Avatar for qwilman #16 qwilman 3 years ago
    My first paycheck I ever got was from working in a little barbeque restaraunt when I was in high school. This would have been 2001 I think, because I spent my entire first paycheck on a used Dreamcast, Jet Set Radio, Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, an extra controller, a VMU and a rumble pack. I'll always associate the Dreamcast with that warm, exciting, clean feeling of summer. It's a big part of why the system feels so timeless to me.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #17 Stealth20k 3 years ago
    My favorite summer game?

    Oracles of Seasons of course! If it was Winter, I could make it Summer.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #18 jeffcorry 3 years ago
    As a school teacher, I still have my summers off! I spend a lot of them catching up on my backlog. This summer has been filled with Arkham Asylum, Lightning Returns, Shovel Knight, Mario Kart 8, and Final Fantasy far...
    But if I go back, I can remember the summer of 97 right after I had graduated high school. I had bought a Playstation in anticipation of Final Fantasy VII. While waiting for that game, I picked up Wild Arms on a whim. That game is a perfect summer game. I loved the story and music. A few years ago, during the summer, while working on my Master's Degree I went through and finished it again. It was just as good as I remembered...and holds up...possibly much better than Final Fantasy VII.
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  • Avatar for bullet656 #19 bullet656 3 years ago
    I love to see the references to Summer Games,even though some were negative :(. I was a C64 kid, and have fond memories of both Summer Games I and II as well as all the other Epyx "games" games (and now I'm just remembering about how my brother and I referred to the company by the letters E-P-Y-X instead of as a word).
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #20 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    I didn't really have rituals like that; I really was an outdoorsy kid. Now summer outdoorsing is either in short bursts (headed to Virginia mountains last month) or early morning yardwork while the temp is still below 80.

    Much better to sit back and attack a backlog (Raidou 2 in this case).
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  • Avatar for metalangel #21 metalangel 3 years ago
    Here in Southern Ontario, summer means cottage, which is both car trips to and from the cottage, and times up there when you can't do outdoor activities. The Gameboy, which came out fortuitously when I was 9, revolutionized this.

    Therefore, my summer games are the ones I remember best from sitting in the old armchair at the cottage when I couldn't be down on the beach or swimming in the lake or smashing the shuttlecock (we had a badminton set) off into the trees. Super Mario Land, Robocop, Radar Mission, Gradius: The Interstellar Assault.

    Back in the city, it was what you could find in the arcades when you were old enough to be allowed out with money in your pocket, so stuff like Total Carnage, Hard Drivin', Cisco Heat, T2: The Arcade Game, and especially Lethal Enforcers.
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  • Avatar for sakicfan84 #22 sakicfan84 3 years ago
    I'm another one that closely associates JRPGs with summer time gaming. The long summer days of having nothing pressing to do and staying up late were a perfect fit for the extra time needed to complete those games. Probably my fondest, or at least most prominent, memory of this was playing Dragon Warrior 4 overnight. It was a marathon session lasting over 10 hours that culminated in me beating the game for the first time. I think that's the the only game I stayed up all night to play (not including overnight WoW sessions which I would like to forget).

    I do miss those days. It seems like there is barely even a single day that I can devote to just playing games. There is no way I'm finding 10+ hours to play games in a single day anymore. I'm lucky if I can get that many hours in an entire week sometime. That being said, I think I value my experiences with games more. I don't play as many games, but I appreciate the ones I do get to play more than I did when I was younger.Edited July 2014 by sakicfan84
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  • Avatar for IPA #23 IPA 3 years ago
    Summer brings me back to the SNES days.

    Yoshi's Island, Super Castlevania IV, and Ocean's underrated platformer The Addams Family.
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #24 kantaroo3 3 years ago
    So many summer games, so many memories...
    King's Quest V, Head over Heels, Loom, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Wing Commander, WarCraft, StarCraft, New Super Mario Bros Wii... But two memories stand out:

    One summer almost consumed by the original Civilization - spending an outrageous number of hours building empires. One of my most satisfying summers I should add.

    And also one of my most frustrating experiences as a young gamer: playing Everyone's a Wally in my rubber key ZX Spectrum (Jaz will know what I'm talking about) from start to finish (back then there was no saving your games), with my best friend sitting next to me... and when I had finally completed all of the tasks and all I had to do was walk into the Bank and claim my reward... my mom bursts into the room and yells "You've been spending all of a glorious summer morning playing this silly game! You should be out in the swimming pool!" and then she pulled the plug and I lost all my progress! We were left speechless. I am traumatized to this day.

    There's definitely something magical about playing games in the summer. As Bob said, it's partly the fact that you have time to immerse yourself in a game and not care if you play for too long because you have nothing terribly important to do the next day.
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  • Avatar for Pacario #25 Pacario 3 years ago
    Great summer games? Here are two from the Zelda universe(s)...

    The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker--Tropical weather as far as the player can go in this game, with crystal blue waters and sandy shores littering the landscapes. The game is pretty good, too.

    The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening--The first and arguably still best portable Zelda game saw Link trapped on a desert island and tasked with waking something known as the Wind Fish. It's a great summer getaway title, and there's even a spot of romance (with someone who isn't Zelda!).

    And then there's always the Zelda-ish game known as StarTropics...
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  • Avatar for Bremenacht #26 Bremenacht 3 years ago
    Too many. Bard's Tale and Baldur's Gate immediately spring to mind though.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #27 hal9k 3 years ago
    People have mentioned some great ones I remember playing over summers: the Epyx games, Mega Man 2 (discussed last week), StarTropics, Link's Awakening. Final Fantasy Adventure, instead of Legend, was the one for me, still my favorite of the Mana series. X-Wing vs. TIE came out at the end of my freshman year in college - I loved it, but unlike Kat I could never find a game. I went to an engineering school with a predictably high number of gamers using the school network, but I guess all the cool kids were playing Quake (ugh).

    My summer story is about my worst gaming purchase. In the summer of '94, I was entranced by the new CD games. My uncle had Mad Dog McCree and 7th Guest on his PC, what was I still doing with an SNES? CD-ROM was the future! So I sold my entire Nintendo collection to Funcoland for pennies on the dollar, and saved up my summer job earnings. I looked at CDi and 3DO, didn't want to wait for Saturn or that weird Sony thing that would surely fail, so I bought a Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X all at once. I was young and foolish! I did get to play Heart of the Alien (wish I'd known about Snatcher), and a 32X port of Doom was a highlight, I guess...

    One year later, I sold all that junk and pooled some higher summer job pay to get my first PC. Pentium 75 MHz, and a coupon for a free upgrade to Windows 95 when it came out in a couple of months. The Start menu would never die, and Encarta was all the encyclopedia I'd ever need. My first purchase was Wing Commander 3. It had FMV (Mark Hamill!) and was such a better game than anything I played on that Sega monstrosity (I didn't go back and play the good Genesis games until years later), so I guess it all worked out in the end.
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