Games don’t exactly fly off the shelves from mid-May to the beginning of August. While everyone’s out seeing the newest superhero movies and heading to the beach to get some sun, we gamers often struggle to keep ourselves entertained with a stream of titles. However, just because there aren’t many big titles getting released over the summer doesn’t mean that there aren’t already a ton of great games to play during the warmest months. The biggest criteria for making it on this list were fun and lasting appeal; these games can’t leave the disc tray after just a day or two when there are so few new titles hitting stores. Anyone looking for something to enjoy during the summer is in luck, because there are plenty of excellent choices available to play during the coming months.
Platform: Xbox, PS2, GameCube
Year of First Release: 2004
Developer: Free Radical
This is one title that I mention constantly to anyone who will listen, and with good reason. Not enough people have heard of or experienced Free Radical’s suspense-filled psychological thriller, and the hours of time players have to spend to get completely mesmerized by the game’s complex narrative make it a perfect choice to dive into over the summer. In addition, the inclusion of telekinetic abilities and unique combat make Second Sight a blast to play. Unlike other characters with superpowers, protagonist John Vattic feels underpowered in almost every encounter, and a large portion of the game is spent hiding and sneaking through levels. Add in a twist that no one can see coming, and players are looking at one of the most immersive experiences in the medium.
Mario Super Sluggers
Year of First Release: 2008
Developer: Namco Bandai
What some consider the black sheep of the Mario sports games also happens to be one of the best for some pure, dumb fun. Sitting around a room with a group of friends and picking from the huge selection of characters in the Mario universe is awesome on its own, but laughing as skilled players throw completely unhittable pitches past frustrated batters is where the majority of the fun can be found. The game’s classic cinematic style oozes classic Nintendo nostalgia, and the numerous hazard-filled fields offer an experience not available anywhere else. Ok, maybe it’s available on Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube, but that game doesn’t let players waggle their arms in the air like idiots! This game is also the best chance for inspiring players to go out and play some real sports.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Platform: Nintendo 64, GameCube, 3DS
Year of First Release: 1998
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Yes, it’s one of the best games ever made, but that doesn’t mean that Link’s first outing on the Nintendo 64 is any less deserving of players’ time during the summer. The game’s combat, setting and story speak for themselves, but Ocarina of Time’s ability to keep people playing for hours at a time is why it made this list. The 3DS version of the title also added vastly superior visuals and updated controls, making it the best version to play, especially when considering that it’s the only one that can be taken on the go. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it to go back and experience the original 1998 release on its native system, especially after spending a long day outside with friends.
Platform: Game Boy Color
Year of First Release: 2001
Mario has had a long history of serving and acing, but he’s noticeably absent for the vast majority of Mario Tennis on the Game Boy Color. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why the game is so captivating. Instead of controlling the famous cast of Mario characters, players take on the role of a new student to a prestigious tennis academy and face off against other students as they advance from JV to varsity and beyond. The game’s surprisingly deep tennis gameplay and emphasis on RPG elements mean that it will stay in Game Boys for weeks at a time, and players might want to go see if their tennis skills have actually improved at all after playing.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Year of First Release: 2001
No, it can’t be the HD remake on the 360; it needs to be old school, classic Halo. Call over some friends, order a bunch of pizza, hook up some original Xbox consoles and get ready for one of the best local competitive games of all time. Halo is what got me into serious gaming (I still consider it to be my favorite game) and I’d spend hours with my friends playing slayer and capture the flag on Blood Gulch with no time limit. That’s the only map that should be played for these marathon sessions, and for some added fun, partition the room that the game is set up in with a curtain and put a TV and Xbox on either side. No more screen-looking, you lying bastards. There’s no way you could’ve known where I was hiding.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Year of First Release: 2005
Developer: Intelligent Systems
It was released near the end of the GameCube’s lifespan, but Path of Radiance is still the best Fire Emblem game to come out stateside. Featuring a deep combat system, an impressive amount of supporting characters and a story that blows away all those that come before it in the series, Path of Radiance is a game that is best played alone and with a large chunk of devoted time. Yes, this is one summer game that should not be played with a large group of people. The 2005 title also includes social commentary on racism and a story that is far less black-and-white than any other game in the series. Its Wii sequel, Radiant Dawn, is incredibly hard to find, but fans of Path of Radiance should definitely check it out if they’re willing to pay a little extra.
Super Monkey Ball 2
Year of First Release: 2002
Developer: Amusement Vision
Sega’s awesome platforming-puzzle game is one of my favorites to play every summer because of its mix of unique, colorful levels and a collection of mini-games that can rival any party game on the market. Super Monkey Ball 2 might be a little more rage-inducing than some of the other titles included in this list, but its carefree whimsy and “pick up and play” gameplay make it a perfect summer game. Just stay away from the one on the Game Boy Advance. It’s horrible.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Year of First Release: 2012
It may be a small XBLA release, but RedLynx’s motorcycle platform-racer is one of the biggest time-sucks in recent memory. Playing against friends’ times and doing endless flips off of high jumps makes this well worth the money, and watching videos from gamers like SeaNanners and Hutch helps to add some laughs when players are away from their consoles. Add in the massive amount of user-created tracks, and this game will get endless hours of playtime.
That’s my list of the best games to play during the summer, but if my tastes and preferences aren’t the same as yours, feel free to let us know what some of your favorite summer games are! Are your criteria for a good summer game different from mine? Do you prefer to play your summer games on a different system? It can be tough going months without unwrapping a brand new title, but we can still have a great time gaming!