What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Final Fantasy 6

Summertime And The Playing Is Easy

Considering the qualities of the ideal “summer break game.”

By John Teti • August 9, 2013

Since a bunch of Gameological staffers are headed out on vacation next week, myself among them, I hope you’ll indulge my use of the What Are You Playing This Weekend? space to talk about something a little different: something I’ll call “summer break games,” for lack of a better term. I’d bet that many of you, like me, had the experience of getting deep into one particular game during the dog days of summer when you were growing up.

I’m not talking about 24-hour binges that turn you into a zombie, but rather about games that you tuck into at a steady, leisurely pace—for a couple hours or so after the day’s barbecuing/swimming/summer job/whatever activities wind down. The relatively huge timescale of summer vacation allows you to take this more relaxed approach. All those shorter vacations that checker the calendar are too abbreviated for you to build up momentum on a truly deep game. And when you’re occupied with school or work, free time is unreliable and intermittent. But for a student in the summer, when you’ve got a seemingly endless stretch of days before you, you can afford to take your time and discover huge games in easily digestible chunks.

Not all huge games are created equal, and certain works make better summer break games than others. I came up with a little list of criteria that I think makes a game fit well in an extended vacation. For all you major-deciding, thesis-writing eggheads out there who are going hit the books again in a month or so, feel free to borrow my criteria—and to suggest some of your own.

A good summer break game should reward you for putting time into it. You could read this as another way of saying “it should be a long game,” but it’s not just that. I fondly remember playing through the dystopian role-playing game Final Fantasy VI (pictured above) one summer, which at 80 hours plus certainly qualifies as a long endeavor. But another year, many evenings were given over to the snowboarding slopes of SSX, which is not really “long,” per se. It does, however, have a long difficulty curve that makes gradual mastery a pleasure. So you want to ask around for games that, in one way or another, keep giving something back to you after many repeated visits.


The original SSX

Because you’ve got other fun things to do, you also want a game with well-defined stopping points, so that you feel some sense of accomplishment or progress even if you just play for an hour or two. My lazy summer self welcomed the boss fights in Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, for instance, because they punctuated the addictive exploration of Dracula’s castle with moments where I could put the controller down, satisfied with my heroic, huge-eyeball-slaying exploits. A game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, conversely, can be tough to manage in the same way. You’re always getting new things to do, and your work never feels finished. Don’t get me wrong; I love Skyrim. I’m just wary of its ability to consume my days. A summer game is more fun as a dependable treat on the side than it is as the main course.

This one’s optional, but I find it’s best when a summer break game is not something you’d otherwise be likely to play. What better time than the sweltering, lazy days of August to try something new? Because let’s be honest: Once the usual grind starts up again, you’re not as likely to experiment. You’ll be tired, and you’ll be stressed, so you’re going to seek out games that you think you’re going to enjoy. And there’s no shame in that at all. But with the luxury of added time, you can afford to take a risk and maybe discover something. As a tyke, Dragon Warrior introduced me to the concept of building a character by “leveling up.” That was cool and exciting. Another summer, I spent a number of nights on the chess-like battlefield strategy of Dynasty Tactics. Turns out it wasn’t my favorite kind of game, but even still, I got a kick out of learning something new.

My years of dicking around for three months every year are behind me, but the spirit of summer break remains. I’d like to hear about your summer break game recommendations past and present. And, of course, tell everyone what you’re playing this weekend.

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194 Responses to “Summertime And The Playing Is Easy”

  1. Merve says:

    My perfect summer break games are probably Mass Effect 2 and 3. The games break into easily digestible chunks, and they reward you through a simple level-up system.

    This weekend, I’m going to play a bit more XCOM, if I have time, but I think I’ve gotten somewhat bored of it. It’s starting to feel like a repetitive grind, and it often seems unfair. On the other hand, I’ve been playing Rayman Origins, which is fun, goofy, and charming. I think I’ll be playing a lot of that this weekend.

    • zebbart says:

      Origins is also a great game for multiplayer because as long as one person is decent at it all the others get dragged along no matter how much they die. My eight year old daughter can barely beat the first levels herself but we beat the game together and she was as invested in each run through as I was even when her main role was to stand still in case I needed to be revived by her. So it’s nice when family/friends/significant others are around and you want to play something that includes them and yet is part of your own ‘serious’ progress. Which makes me think of a possible inventory – tag along games. What are other games where two players of vastly different skill can play together and it’s fun for both?

      • Merve says:

        If you don’t mind my saying, that’s adorable.

        I think the Super Mario Galaxy games have a sort of tag-along feature as well. One player controls Mario while the other controls the cursor by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. The second player isn’t really needed, but he or she can genuinely help the first by collecting star bits and firing them at enemies.

        • George_Liquor says:

          It does, which I thought was a genius move by Nintendo. The older of my two nephews moves Mario around the level, while the younger collect those ammo stars & shoots enemies. They both get to play, they’re cooperating instead of competing (and eventually fighting) and they’re both happy because neither one of them is dying in the game too often or getting left behind by the other. 

      • Greg Buck says:

        I forget which of the 1,000 iterations it was, but one of the newer Guitar Hero games had a “free play” mode to where, basically, you could miss as many notes as you wanted, but the song would never kick you out for failing.

        When Christmas time rolled around and all my family would be gathered at my parents’ house, I could get a full band going with 3 of my baby cousins, and they could play their little 3 to 5 year old hearts out on Free Play mode along with me, while I played for real on the Hard mode.

  2. PugsMalone says:

    FF6 is nowhere near 80 hours long. I remember quite clearly that I had played for 33 hours at the last save point before Kefka on my first run through the game.

    I think that Uncharted Waters: New Horizons would be a good choice for this. I played it a lot, but never actually finished any of the characters’ paths.

    • Nudeviking says:

      It most certainly is 80 hours if you decide it is imperative that everyone including Strago and Relm can cast Ultima.  Or if you need your primary party to all be level 99…

      • mattymaxxx says:

        of course Strago and Relm can use Ultima, Relm is my favorite magic user in the game! 

        • Nudeviking says:

          I know they can use it.  Everyone* could.  But at least among my friends and family members no one ever used those two and Ultima took hella long to learn, so if one wanted those characters (or whatever other rarely used character) to learn it, one could theoretically have 80+ hours easily.

          * Neither Gogo the Mimic and Umaro the Yeti can learn spells but because they are hidden characters they don’t actually count as everyone anyway.

        • PaganPoet says:

          I was kind of a freak. I wanted Ragnarok the Sword AND Ultima the Spell. I would always grind to uncurse the Cursed Shield and then pass around the Paladin Shield to each member so they could still learn Ultima.

        • Nudeviking says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus That was my preferred method as well…which is probably why someone claiming to spend 80 hours on FFVI seems reasonable.

        • aklab says:

          Hey, if wanting both the Paladin Shield and the Illumina sword makes you a freak, then consider me… well, a freak too I guess. My first playthrough of FFVI was close to a hundred hours, because I wanted to find everything but I didn’t know when everything stopped. By the end everyone knew just about every spell, including the useless ones, I had plenty of Genji Armor to go around, etc. 

          …of course this was the savefile my dumbass cousin saved over a few weeks later. 

      • Anthony J. Rand says:

        I tried to teach everyone every spell once, for kicks, and gave up when I realized I wasn’t using magic all that much anyway.

      • Unexpected Dave says:

        It’s scary when you stop and consider how many hours you can sink into a game grinding unnecessarily.

        • aklab says:

          The internet has actually made me much less of a completist. Back in my heyday, finding every single item/powerup/sidequest in a game meant literally probing every corner, x-ray-scanning every wall, equipping a thief in every dungeon, etc. Now that I can so easily just look up anything I want, I usually don’t even bother.
          So even when I’m replaying an old game, I just get what I remember, enjoy the game, and don’t worry about getting 100%. 

    • Anthony J. Rand says:

      It took me a long time to play through VI when I was young, but as an adult I find it much much easier of a game.  Too easy, actually.  It’s my favorite game of all time, but I wish there was a hard mode.

      • PaganPoet says:

        I started a “no grinding” playthrough a few months ago. The idea is I will go straight through the game. No stopping to raise levels or learn spells. I agree with you that it’s too easy, and I’m hoping this helps the difficulty a bit.

        • Anthony J. Rand says:

          That’s how I always play Final Fantasy games (hence why I recently got pretty stuck on the first disk of IX, which is way harder than the others), and it didn’t slow me down on VI.

        • Harrowing says:

          If you’re interested in turning up the difficulty, you could try playing without Espers entirely. It’s still not super hard, but when your only magic users are Terra and Celes, the other characters’ special skills really get to shine. Blitz, Tools, Throw, and some of the superpowered weapon/relic combos are beautiful, and Gau is an absolute superstar.

    • huge_jacked_man says:

      If people manage to total over 2,500 hours in Skyrim then they can most definitely get 80 hours in FFVI.

      • JamesJournal says:

        2500? It felt like that game had completely consumed my life at around 100 hours of me playing through the main quest, nearly ever guild and a bunch of faffing about

        I wasn’t exactly blitz playing through FF6 and that was still 35 hours. Final Fantasy 7 probably took 40-45

  3. PaganPoet says:

    I will be in The Land of Enchantment this weekend thanks to work, so no gaming for me. I will, however, be eating my share of roasted green chile, buying blue rock candy from the shop that makes the “meth” for Breaking Bad, and also checking out the Sante Fe Opera House for the first time. La Traviata will be playing. As far as operas about prostitutes falling in love just as they’re dying from consumption, it’s not one of my favorites, but the Santa Fe Opera House is famously beautiful, so why not?

    For some reason, I’m drawn to action RPGs in the summer. Mana, Zelda, Alundra, Okami, etc. I guess that sense of world-exploration makes me feel less guilty about not being out hiking or biking or…spelunking or whatever it is outdoorsy people do in the summer.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Green Chile is the enchantment.

    • Raging Bear says:

      Say, I’m in the Land of Enchantment every weekend! Despite which, I have no tolerance for chile.

      • PaganPoet says:

        No? I love me some green chile. I put it on everything.

        • Raging Bear says:

          Well, you’re coming to the right place. The place with the meth-themed candy also has various green chile candy (or maybe just peanut britle with chile, at the very least, so you should go wild.

          Oof. I need a glass of milk just thinking about it.

    • neodocT says:

      La Traviata is one of the only two operas I’ve seen, and the one that settled for me that I really don’t like operas. But, enjoy!

      • PaganPoet says:

        La Traviata is not a good example, at least to me. It may be one of the most popular operas, but it’s one of the most boring in my opinion. My favorite operas are Tosca, Salome, Vanessa and Lakme. All of them are about crazy women.

  4. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Personally, when I have a large block of vacation time, I tend to binge on one or two games. I’ve spent far too many late nights thinking to myself, “Just a little more and I’ll stop.” This is especially true for blockbuster games like Zelda and Bioshock (the game equivalent of popcorn munchers, basically) or mechanically engrossing games like FTL and Rogue Legacy.

    Speaking of which, I’ll probably be playing more FTL this weekend. I’ve only unlocked three of the eight other ships so far, but I am loving this game. After who-knows how many attempts, I’ve beaten the boss two or three times with two different ships. I don’t know how much more time I’ll try to put into it, but at a minimum I’ll probably try to unlock every ship, excepting the alternate layouts.

    Also, for all of you who voted for FTL for the Steam group’s Game Revue: why aren’t you talking about it? C’mon, people! These games aren’t going to talk about themselves!

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       I have played at least two dozen times but have only unlocked ONE extra ship.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       There’s no link to that discussion thread in the main Gameological Group.  I actually went out looking for it last night.

      Though I did vote for Alan Wake and currently hate everyone for not doing so as well.

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        It’s in the “Weekly Gaming Revue Club”* sub-forum. There’s a link on the right-hand side if you’re looking at all the discussions. I don’t know what causes a thread to show up on the main page, but I think it favors threads with a lot of posts, or a lot of recent posts.

        * Less weekly than advertised.

      • djsubversive says:

        The discussion for all Weekly Game Revue-related things can be found in the Weekly Game Revue subforum (link is on the right side of the discussion page).

  5. stanthelovebot says:

    I really dig those game “requirements” for a good summer game. I would personally like to add that it is a great game to play with friends, without being a multiplayer game. Since summer months lend themselves to kids hanging around doing nothing, video games were often played together. There is something about taking turns and working on a game together that can really enhance some single player games. Which bring me to my pick…

    The original Crash Bandicoot trilogy. I have fond memories of that game growing up, and I’ve always played it with friends. The summer months leading into my senior year at college were filled with my friend and I (and occasionally my girlfriend) beating levels and collecting gems. We made sure that we got 100% on each game. We even went on a real life hunt tracking down Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. I eventually found it in a gem case at a flea market. My friend was ecstatic and we immediately went home to play it. Never did get all those time-intensive runes though…

    • CrabNaga says:

      I usually groan at time-trials-for-completion in games, but the ones in Crash 3 are pretty solid. I think it’s because the levels aren’t particularly difficult to just run through; most of the challenge in that series was getting all the boxes in a specific level. The addition of the time crates that freeze the clock is nice as well, because it both rewards your quick thinking and allows you to create a more perfect route through some levels. The fact that the final upgrade you get (for beating the final boss) is a pair of running shoes that almost doubles your run speed on the on-foot levels also helps a lot.

      That being said, I always feel like Crash 2 is the best of the original bunch. The third game gives you a ton of new features (powerups from bosses, time trials, etc.), but I feel like the challenge, level design, and minigame-style levels were better executed in 2. If only I could get a version of 2 with some of the better elements of 3 mixed in.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       Crash Bandicoot 3 had a pretty legit Jet skiing minigame so I’m sure that cements it as a Summer staple.

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    Well, summer-break doesn’t mean all that much to me, time-wise. I try to get as much gaming in as I can on any given day, but in the summer I don’t play more, I just finally have time to do other stuff as well, things that might suffer from lack of time due to the combo of work and gaming.

    I don’t so much need games I can play in manageable chunks, but rather games I can pause and go away from for a while, then just sit back down and continue later, without having to get into the game per se. Obviously you can pause almost every game, but many games need you to be “in the zone”, for lack of a better term. Games like Civ V or CK2 don’t require that. A quick glance over the screen and you’re as much in the game as you were an hour ago when you left.
    I really like that, because it prevents me from being “glued” to the screen. I had a lot of that when I was playing WoW like a maniac and I am pretty sure I ignored my lovely lady over wanting to finish this one quest. With CK2 I press space and the world is good.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Typical Effie. Using the nice, sunny weather as an excuse to not commit. Grow up.

    • SamPlays says:

      Summer breaks are what younger people get when they’re not in school. The best I can do is take a couple weeks paid leave. Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddos!

      • Effigy_Power says:

        You have just this very second become old, Sam. I remember when I told someone younger than me to enjoy school while it lasts. Right after I bought some hard-candy and shook my head at someone driving by with loud rap music.

      • JamesJournal says:

        Well now that I have a full time job and am out of college I feel like I have more time for hobbies than I did before (and spend less time playing video games despite this) But I haven’t exactly hit the full brunt of adulthood either. No wife or kids or whatnot. 

  7. Unexpected Dave says:

    Summer is definitely the time for exploration and experimentation in gaming. We always spent a few days at my aunt’s cottage, away from cable television and video games. My older cousins were only too happy to teach my brother and I how to play Monopoly, Risk, and more obscure board games such as Bargain Hunter and Superfection. This was also the time to learn grown-up card games like Scat, Crib, and Forty-Fives. 

    Back home, a lazy afternoon often led to a trip to the video store to rent a game. Almost anything would do; I can only recall a few games that were irredeemably awful. 

    I also do a lot more portable gaming in the summer. They’re handy for long car trips, and other cramped environments with little privacy. And some days it’s just too damn nice to be inside. 

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      “Summer is definitely the time for exploration and experimentation…”

      Did something happen at Summer Camp you wanna tell us about Dave?

      Also yeah, summer car rides and the gameboy with Wario World, Pokemon Red or Super Mario World 2 were my jam for years and years.

  8. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    Nothing said Summer Break for me like a good JRPG.  Long stories, lots of grinding, characters you can really chew on.

    And then there’s the local multiplayer games for me and my bros to brawl over.  Soul Calibur II, Tekken 3, and Mario Kart 64 were all the preludes to many a shoving and punching on hot stuffy afternoons when we were trapped inside where the temperature and tempers ran high!


    Ah, summer…

  9. Citric says:

    I’m on holidays too! Vacation high fives! I also find I play games less on vacation, since I use it as an excuse to visit people I haven’t seen in a while. So my summer vacation game is something portable and easy to pick up for a bit, while also being easy to put down when it’s time to do stuff. The Mario and Luigi series is a pretty safe bet.

  10. Civilization 5 is the ideal summer game.

    Hell, ANY RTS is great for the summer.

    I remember spending an entire month playing Red Alert 2 along with trying every mod out there.

    Any maybe, open world games like Skyrim and Dark Souls with hundreds of mods would make the game much more enjoyable.

    • Marozeph says:

      Civilization is indeed a great summer game, since it’s very suitable to be played in short bursts and you can easily leave a running game at any point and come back.
      Too bad i’m absolutely terrible at it…

      • huge_jacked_man says:

        You play Civ in short bursts? Or is that what you tell yourself you’re doing before you realize it’s 5am. (note that I haven’t played V so I don’t know if it’s very different from previous versions)

        • Marozeph says:

          I admit, Civ-sessions usually tend to be rather long – in theory however, it’s a great game for short bursts. The last Civ i played was number 4, but i don’t think 5 is much different.

  11. Nudeviking says:

    Back when I had a summer vacation I’d always try to play through at least one JRPG game, but the majority of my summer gaming memories is random multi-player stuff with friends: Street Fighter II, NBA Jam, and Mortal Kombat in the 16-bit era; Goldeneye, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party in later eras.

    Even now, when summer vacation is a thing of the past, when the temperature gets into the 90s, I still want to put Soundgarden Superunknown or Metallica’s Ride the Lightning on the stereo and play Mario Kart Battle Mode.

  12. edincoat says:

    Pikmin 3! Holy cow is this game amazing. I don’t have summer breaks anymore, but this game makes me feel like I’m on one.

  13. rvb1023 says:

    Summer is a time to be silly, so Dragon Commander it is. Hats off to Larian for making a fun genre mash-up that so far holds up.

  14. caspiancomic says:

    God I miss summer vacations. Like a couple of other folks have already mentioned, summer is JRPG season in my household. I think my ultimate summer game is Final Fantasy IX. I have particularly fond memories of late August in the summer between grades 11 and 12, I think. I had dedicated the entire summer to a leisurely re-play of one of my favourite games, and by August I had the story almost totally under my belt. I was tooling around, playing Chocobo Hot and Cold, prepping my party for a battle with Ozma, stealing from random encounters to grind Zidane’s Thievery skill up to 9999 damage, etc. In the final week before school started though, I decided I had to bite the bullet and finally finish the game with the sidequests left hanging. Now I have this weird psychological connection between the end of Final Fantasy IX and the end of summer vacation. A lot of bittersweet memories tied up in that whole shebang. I’ve been meaning to play it again recently, but I just haven’t got the time to play a 60 hour game to completion any more. I miss marathon sessions…

    Actually, speaking of marathon sessions, this weekend will involve two for me: a six hour bus ride tomorrow afternoon and another on Sunday. I’m visiting a buddy out in Montreal, which means circa Sunday evening I’ll have clocked 12 hours of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask.

  15. Buttersnap says:

    All my xbox shit got stolen right as summer proper was beginning. First rule after a burglary: don’t replace it because they’ll be back.

    So I cheered myself up by spending the replacement cost of a 360 in upgrades for my desktop pc. They can come and try and take that thing…everything is in the cloud there.

    The point though is that I was about 4 hours away from completing the d & d themed dlc for Borderlands 2. I rebought it super cheap and had to start all over on the PC. It looks and plays entirely fresh on the PC and I’m really having a blast catching back up.

    So for that, Borderlands 2 PC is my game of summer.

    P.s. next console generation, I’m not buying another damn game on a disc. Hardware comes and goes but when you lose your physical software hits hard. The digital ownership part of DRM seems to always be forgotten.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       That just sucks.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      Who goes into someone else’s house and takes their shit?  Like at what point in someone’s life do they think, “Yeah, this is totally an okay thing for me to do.”

      Ugh, people.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        Seriously. People work hard for what they own. And other people who think they can just damage or take those things are scum.

      • neodocT says:

        I don’t know, man. I get it. Sometimes you need to practice your Sneak, or the Thieves’ Guild needs some specific item. Or maybe you just can’t be bothered to go buy a soulgem or forage for alchemy ingredients, you know?

        • aklab says:

          And you never know. They could just be doing a chaotic-evil playthrough this lifetime! 

        • Buttersnap says:

          I won’t lie, having stolen all sorts of shit throughout Tamriel, I felt like I had a better understanding of the process. I’ve scoped out patterns to know when the home owner is out, looked for the easiest way in without being seen, and have tossed places looking for anything. You, as a player, are entirely detached from the owner, instead you focus on the process. Being robbed felt very intruding but I feel as though real thieves are just as disconnected. It still does sting but being randomly hit is just that.

          I even looked at the games to get a better understanding of how to discourage another hit. Sadly that doesn’t help much as I didnt have a shotgun to booby trap my doors with. A big swinging spike wall was outside my contractors ethics.

        • neodocT says:

           @Buttersnap:disqus I love getting involved in other worlds and then trying to apply all that knowledge in the real world. Like trying to figure out which business are money laundering fronts, after watching Breaking Bad, how to walk without rhythm in the sand after Dune, stuff like that.

          I have a few friends that had their phones stolen, but were able to track if afterwards with the Find iPhone app, and get it back with the help of the police. That always seemed kinda fun, to be honest! Like some instant comeuppance, or something.

        • MisterTeapot says:

          Gamelogical Society

          We walk without rhythm in the sand

      • NakedSnake says:

        I definitely look askance at the people who are trading in whole binders full of games at Gamestop, especially because they’re often so sketchy about it (and don’t bother to check on the prices they are getting).  The irony is that the actual thief doesn’t benefit that much from the theft of the games. They get pennies on the dollar on what they stole. It’s the Gamestops who are making out like bandits off of every theft. Or Fences, to be more precise. 

        • The_Helmaroc_King says:

          The tragedy, of course, is that the thieves only get store credit.

          (Unless they go to a pawn shop, but I suspect that they might be more diligent about these kinds of things.)

        • Buttersnap says:

          This ties into why i don’t even want to bother with physical media any more. Outside the fact that a getting new 360 seems pointless given this upcoming winters releases, it felt so cost prohibitive to replace my favorite games.

          Compound that with the fact that games are nearly worthless used, I just drew a line in the sand and decided digital only from now on

        • NakedSnake says:

          @Buttersnap:disqus I know what you mean about the physicality of games, but the door swings both ways. When Steam goes out of business one day (all companies meet this fate in our brave new fast-changing world), our games will all disappear and be unrecoverable. Or who knows how long Steam will update the games to fit with every new OS? One of the reasons I like consoles is the fact that they are all-inclusive. If you have the game and console, you don’t need anything else (well, besides a TV). Now, there are serious drawbacks when it comes to damage/theft/loss. With DRM games, you don’t have to worry about theft, but you do have to worry about losing access to your games (Steam can ban you from all your games if they feel you’ve violated their TOS). And you can lose digital games. How many games have I bought online through services other than Steam and GOG that I have completely forgotten about? There is a definite edge on the “damage” front, though. Disks just do not hold up very well over time. It’s so frustrating to fire up an old PS2 game and find it just doesn’t work any more. That was actually a big factor in why I bought a 3ds: cartridge-based games. They last forever, and I can collect the whole DS cannon, too! But yea, if I lose that folder years from now I’ll be devastated. 

    • neodocT says:

      I’m sorry about that, dude. I’ve been robbed before a few times, and the worst part of it is that feeling of powerlessness that comes with it. Ugh.

    • PhonyPope says:

      Where did you find the B2 D&D DLC for cheap?  I’ve kind of been looking for a reason to revisit Borderlands 2.

      • Buttersnap says:

        I got borderlands 2 and the season pass off of green man gaming for 15 or 20$ a couple months back. Best deal I’ve ever seen for it.

  16. OT: Could someone please point me in the right direction? I plan to get a PC so I can play Skyrim. What’s a good way to make sure the PC meets the system requirements (for a given level of quality, say “Ultra” or “High” and/or for a given budget)?

    My googling hasn’t yielded many recent, clear build recommendations.

    http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:System_Requirements at least seems easy enough to follow, as far as it goes.

    • stakkalee says:

      Are you looking to buy a pre-built PC or are you going to build your own?  Either way, the first thing to do is set your budget, if only so you can get a little morbid chuckle when you eventually exceed it.  For a game PC you’ll want to focus on the video card and the RAM.  A 1GB video card will do everything you need, but if you’re looking to A)get to Ultra video settings or B)extend the life of the PC go for a 2GB card.  RAM is relatively cheap so load up on that too.  You don’t need to worry about a monster CPU, and since this is for a gaming PC you don’t need too many cores either, so don’t go higher than quad-core.  You could probably get away with dual-core if you found a fast enough processor but there really isn’t too much of a price difference between dual and quad.  Finally, and this is just a personal recommendation, get a solid state drive for your system drive.  They’re more expensive so you’ll be buying a smaller one (probably in the 250GB range) but the boot times and load times are worth it.  You can always shell out for a larger SATA drive for storage space if you find you need it.

      • Extending the life of the PC sounds good to me; I intend to get into Everquest again once Next comes out. (It seems info about system requirements isn’t available yet.)

        Thanks for the recommendations; they make sense!

    • CrabNaga says:

      I recently built a new computer using one of the tiers recommended on Logical Increments, and so far I’m please with the performance. The site also appears to update often with new deals on various parts, so it appears as if you would be getting a good deal as well.

    • Buttersnap says:

      I just recently upgraded my 3 year old pc’s video card and system RAM. I put in a gtx 660 ti with 3 gb of vram expecting to get decent results at the high settings at 1080. Turns out Skyrim runs, with everything at max setting, around 40 fps for me, even with the official hi res textures. I’m very happy with that card. You may not need the 3 gb of vram though. The added cost from 2 to 3 may cover the cost of going up to the next gpu (the 670 or something). I went with more vram as I intended to mod the heck out of skyrim

      • Yeah, I love the prospect of modding the game. Thank you!

      • huge_jacked_man says:

        Skyrim like most open-world games is CPU-intensive so upgrading to a faster GPU wouldn’t have changed much. You’re likely bottlenecked by the 3-year old CPU at this point. 

        Also make sure to look for performance mods that fix some of the engine’s idiosyncrasies (like loading every texture at once when entering towns). 

    • Louisjab says:

      I built mine in March. I started with one of the build from Tom’s hardware. every quarter, they do a challenge for 3-4 different budgets. They optimize it for performance, so it helped me going around the regular traps. I wanted to build it myself, so I went to PCpartpicker.com and it’s great to have good prices and there are completed builds over there too, so I could see what people that know what they’re doing do for a budget similar to mine. 

    • George_Liquor says:

      tomshardware.com is a really good resource for specing out home-built PCs. They routinely build gaming rigs in the budget, mid-tier and enthusiast categories, and do a price/performance comparison between them. The gaming PC I use today was based almost part-for-part on their late-2007 mid-tier build. It’s held up remarkably well over the years, with only a few subsequent upgrades. They spec their builds with an eye toward overclocking too, which can add significantly more computing bang for your buck, if you’re the adventurous type.

    • A_Shogun_Named_Marcus says:

      Well, it’s happened. I’ve been forced out of lurking.  I’ve created yet another ridiculous internet alias.  I simply can not in good conscience let this question go by without pointing you to THE definitive guide to building your own PC.  None other than one of the years best bloggers, our own John Teti, has got your back. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-05-20-how-to-build-your-own-gaming-pc-article (I suck at hyper-words).
      The article is a little dated, but the wisdom is timeless.

  17. Crusty Old Dean says:

    My most magical summer gaming memory is of Super Mario 64. I’d go to my cousins house every day and beg to play, but nine times out of ten he’d be all “No, it’s summertime, let’s go swimming/play tennis/etc”. Bastard.

    So, upcoming weekend: I just finished Earthbound. I was thoroughly charmed, even though I probably didn’t really ‘get’ it. I feel like it was a satire of something, but I don’t know what… I was pretty impressed with how dynamic the world felt, compared to other RPG:s from the same era, like say FFVI where you rigidly move your little sprite around caves and towns that look kind of same-y. In Earthbound most settings look unique, the character’s appearances change with various afflictions, and you can hop on bicycles, wade through marshes and just move around more freely in general. If I have any complaints it’s probably that sometimes it was a bit unclear what you were doing – you would come to a new place, pick up hints from NPC:s about where to poke around, but without any clearly defined short term goal (for instance, bailing out the band in Foursome leads to the department store opening up for some reason, setting the rest of the plot in motion). Also, battles were sort of dull but at least they were quick. All in all, I’m a big fan.

    Played a few hours of Pikmin 3 and love it, though I guess there isn’t much that sets it apart from its predecessors outside of the shininess. Not sure how I feel about the time restriction returning (there are infinite days, but the crew consumes fruit each day so you don’t want to loiter). It stresses me out a little, but I guess that’s what makes it a GAME and not just a garden simulator.

    • Raging Bear says:

      Also Pikmin 3 for me. I’ve fully doubled my Wii U library!

      I haven’t played it a lot yet (or either of the previous games), but the time restriction is really killing it for me. Such a completely beautiful environment, and I want to take my time and explore and use the gamepad camera feature and experiment with/learn the controls, but I can’t just stand there lollygagging, because OH SHIT TIME’S RUNNING OUT HURRY HURRY HURRY THE SUN’S GOING DOWN OH FUCK.

      If getting every goal/piece of fruit in a given stage turns into a constant speed run of making absolutely every second count, I’m seriously trading it in, which I really don’t want to do because it really is insanely cute.

      • long_dong_donkey_kong says:

        On the surface it’s insanely cute, but the screams of left-behind Pikmin are haunting, and you don’t think much of having Pikmin kill things until your five-year-old walks in and asks why you’re killing the butterflies. Still, it’s my favorite game on the system and it makes me eager for the Wonderful 101 next month.

        • Raging Bear says:

          I did redo the first level when I accidentally left a few behind, and the cutscene of them running around in terror as predators descend upon them broke my heart.

  18. feisto says:

    If I had a summer holiday (and I haven’t in over a decade), I would continue my quest to play and finish all Megami Tensei games, because I don’t know about the later games, but in the earlier games I end up spending hours just testing and taking notes on demon combinations. I’ve finished the first two Megami Tensei games, and I’m now in the middle of the first Shin Megami Tensei. I sometimes finish work and tell myself I’m going to play some SMT tonight, but then I remember that my current roster of demons is way too weak to tackle the next dungeon, which means I need to go recruit demons and test various combinations and then I remember I’m too tired from work and then just not play the game. Oh man, do I need a summer holiday.

  19. Girard says:

    Despite typically being a teacher, and presently also being a student, my nominal ‘summer break’ this year has been too busy to really change up my gaming routine (busy doing fun stuff like teaching art camps and green screen video camps and video game camps, but still, busy). I think I actually played less games, proportionally, during this summer than I did during the ostensibly busy school year during which I made it through a number of overdue Bioware games as well as a number of indies.

    I’m still in DC, so apart from playing this week’s crop of kid games, I may go to the building museum and play their giant mini-golf exhibit/course with holes made by architects and designers, which is supposed to be pretty cool.

    • Rick Joyce says:

      Oh man, I need to get to that before it closes. And I live literally across the street from a Metro station, so I have no excuse not to.

    • Roswulf says:

      DAMN IT! I was bored and stuck in DC up until yesterday, and NOW I hear about this.

    • NakedSnake says:

      I love how the cities most boring-sounding museum (Building Museum? What is that?) routinely has some of the best exhibits. It’s an underdog museum. They’ve got to try that much harder to get noticed. Meanwhile, when was the last time the Spy Museum changed anything up?

  20. Girard says:

    Oh, and related to discussions this week about Dragon’s Crown, Tropes vs. Women, and the general state of sexism in video games, let’s close out the week with this thoroughly depressing statement by Leigh Alexander (stick around until about 1:03:45).

    • Swadian Knight says:

      Jesus Christ. That’s not just depressing, it’s terrifying.

    • Roswulf says:

       It is utterly bizarre to me that a group of people can listen to such a well-articulated, profoundly disturbing statement of personal and professional oppression…and IMMEDIATELY lapse into a weird riff on not liking Bethesda.

      I’m not accusing the male participants of monstrousness- but I don’t understand how Leigh’s comment doesn’t dominate the conversation. Instead it HASN’T EVEN GENERATED WAVES OF HORRIFYINGLY SEXIST YOUTUBE COMMENTS. What universe are we in?

      • Girard says:

        I typically enjoy their podcast a lot, but Leigh was a totally refreshing presence and definitely threw their typical dorky “man-facting” tone into sharp relief.

        They tend to acknowledge the problematic parts of game culture, but don’t tend to engage with it, perhaps because, unlike her, as dorky white men in the game world, they’ve personally been less required to respond to that kind of abuse.

  21. EmperorNortonI says:

    I always think of summer more as a time for reading than for gaming.  I always game, but the long summer driving and camping vacations my family used to take were prime reading time.  Even recently, this has held up.  I’m at the tail end of my fourth summertime trip to Chiang Mai, and this is the first one where I’ve done substantial gaming.  Well, last time, I brought my Memoir 44 set, and my friend duked it out over beer, but that doesn’t really count.  But despite all the gaming, I’ve plowed through the 5th Aubrey and Maturin historical, a Rebus mystery, the latest of the series about magic cops in London which started with Rivers of London, over half of the god-awful Angelmaker (it’s damn rare when I quit a book, but I quit that one), and am about halfway finished with the truly excellent Player of Games.

    So, last week I was playing Fallen Enchantress, but I think I’ve got the measure of that game and am not sure if I want to return.  So, I dug into Wargame – AirLand Battle.  That is a seriously awesome RTS.  You can use common sense and a sense of real-world tactics effectively, and are not overwhelmed with the game-ified nature of the simulation.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot about Company of Heroes, but I always felt like I was playing an artificial game with silly rules and strange oddities that were put in because it was trying to stay recognizable within the RTS genre, and not be a real-time War in the East.  Wargame AirLand battle feels like a real sim-heavy wargame, but fast and fun and interesting.

    The setting is interesting as well.  It’s based on a hypothetical engagement in 1986 between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in Northern Europe.  I’m normally not a big fan of modern-era games, because I find the lack of an enemy that can fight to be a pretty serious problem, and don’t really enjoy simulating glorious colonial curb-stomping expeditions.  However, the old Soviet Union would have been a worthy adversary (if, you know, the two sides had actually fought with armies, instead of just nuking each other).  I’d still rather the game be WWII, just because it’s the best warming setting ever, but 1986 works well too.

    This analogy might almost work.

    Crusader Kings 2 : Civ 5
    Wargame Airland Battle : Company of Heroes

    It’s an RTS were APM is a totally meaningless concept.  Check it out.

  22. DrFlimFlam says:

    I like the idea of warm, sunny weather more than the reality. The reality is that I wish it was a high of 65-70 every day, and although it has been a very cool summer in the midwest, even 80 is too warm for my preference. And while I like the idea of large, crystal blue bodies of water in theory, having originally grown up on the west coast I can say that I did not generally enjoy sandy beaches or salt water.

    This is all why I enjoy a vacation in the sun-baked El Nido Archipelago, where I can properly enjoy the ideal of a warm, sea salt community without actually having to remove sand from my body or the crust of salt water from my skin, where I never have to sweat or roast under the sun and, alongside the game, I can wonder about the myriad paths my life could have taken.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      As a fellow West Coaster, I can say that while we do have an ocean and beach, it’s a brutal and fairly cool ocean.  You have to go somewhere totally different to get those gorgeous crystal clear tranquil oceans.

    • SamPlays says:

      The reality is that no one likes sweating their ass off while sitting or laying down. I haven’t been to a West coast beach but I’ve been to the Caribbean and their beaches are very nice. The key lesson here is that overly warm weather sucks unless you’re on a beach, drunk and doused with sunscreen.

      • Roswulf says:

        I’ll never understand this logic. If I’m going to be lethargic and sluglike, I’d much rather have a fan on full blast, if not the holy balm of AC.

        If I’m going to endure the sweat and oiliness of the beach, I’m going to be doing something beach-specific, be it wandering the shoreline or plunging into the chilling surf.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          Nothing sounds worse to me than being hot, buzzed (and warmer because of said buzz), and greasy from sunscreen.

        • SamPlays says:

          The only point of going to a beach, for me, is to float in the water, which totally accommodates being lethargic and (sea)sluglike. Nothing beats the feeling of low gravity in clear blue water. AC is great for the short-term but that shit will only spread germs, give you dry skin, exacerbate breathing problems and make you more intolerant to warm weather (an root cause of heat related deaths). 

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          @SamPlays:disqus, man, if I had a pool I would live in it and enjoy summer weather just fine. Now to become a megalomillionaire.

        • SamPlays says:

          @drflimflam:disqus Now we’re talking! All the benefits of the beach without the crowds. I think a backyard pool is relatively affordable (2-3K for something nice maybe?) but the challenge is getting through any municipal by-laws/community policies that might prohibit such a thing. I guess if you’re a megalomillionaire, you could probably buy-out the city and do whatever you please. I would retrofit all city parks with the fun (read: dangerously life-threatening) toys of my childhood. Then I’d get on my bike and I’d ride off. On the grass.

        • miltthefish says:

          I have an inground pool in my backyard and I can tell you with 100% certainly that I am nowhere near being a millionaire. They are not that expensive really. But the bloody landscaping and patio work around the pool often costs more than the pool itself.

  23. huge_jacked_man says:

    I’ve played through Stalker: Call of Pripyat this week after putting off the series for years and immediately purchased Shadow of Chernobyl. Hardly a summertime game but right now there’s nothing I want more than get lost in the brutally depressing Ukrainian decay of the Zone. 

    Too bad Steam apparently managed to run out of keys for the game even though it’s a 6-year-old game that’s not even on sale. Would be nice if they warned you on the product page that you might have to wait days to weeks before you can enjoy your impulse purchase…

    • djsubversive says:

      Shadow of Chernobyl is an amazing wonderful fuck-you-player game. It does such a great job of setting the mood and atmosphere right away, and never lets up. The first mission gives you a leather jacket and a rusty Makarov and says “hey, try to kill about half a dozen dudes with this.” And the Zone itself hates you and wants to kill you from the moment you step out of the bunker. Plus, SoC has Agroprom Underground, and that’s where I fell in love with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. :)

      Call of Pripyat is a much tighter game (it’s actually perfectly playable right out of the box/download button!), but it has a very “theme park” feel, with all the anomalous zones and major points of interest marked on your map (which doesn’t magically stop time when you look at it! huzzah!), and the safe zone is generally in the middle of the map. Compared to SoC, where the only real “safe zone” is the Bar/Rostok area (and even that can turn unsafe real quick if you side with Freedom rather than Duty). I also didn’t like that Bandits were neutral. It made walking through the Zone feel too safe (as much as that’s even possible).

      The sidequests in CoP are much better, though – I didn’t care for the randomized “kill this dude” or “get me animal parts/artifacts” missions in SoC, but the unique specific side missions in CoP are great. I loved the bloodsucker lair/”Loner Murder Mystery.” Also, recruiting your team for the Jupiter Tunnels and getting drunk with Zulu.

      Basically, what I’m saying is: you made an excellent choice, and I hope you can play SoC very soon.

      • huge_jacked_man says:

        CoP was great but it was a lot shorter than I expected, Pripyat especially, and I’m pretty sure I did most of the side missions (blood sucker lair, murder mystery, mutant hunting etc) so I’m left wanting more of the atmosphere and gunplay. That Jupiter tunnel to Pripyat was the sickest thing I’ve seen in a shooter in years.

        I did attempt to play Clear Sky at release and it is still the buggiest pile of shit I’ve ever tried to run on a computer so SoC it is. I did my research and indeed ZRP and Complete 2009 ended up on the shortlist, I might just go with the latter just because it’s easy to install and I can’t be bothered adding graphical/weather mods to ZRP although some of the gameplay changes bother me somewhat. 

        • djsubversive says:

          The repair service in SoC is a bit unbalancing, but it also serves as a money-sink. Since just about every gun is capable of murdering a dude with one or two bullets, it becomes more about what you want to carry than about “the best gun” (although the Abakan and Vintorez are excellent choices).

          The sleeping bag is just convenience so you don’t have to sit in the Bar until dawn. :) (but sleeping too long without food/drink will kill you, since sleeping was sort of hacked-in for SoC).

          I don’t know if Complete 2K9 has it included, but if it doesn’t, you should get the “real weapon names” mod.

          And, of course, Master difficulty or bust. If you’re playing anything less, it’s just silly – bandits shouldn’t be able to take multiple bullets to the face, especially if the only armor they have is a windbreaker. You also die more quickly, but that just pushes you to play more cautiously – avoiding unnecessary fights and maneuvering for position in the necessary ones.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I tried SoC with no idea what I was doing and died so much. I liked it but it was also a lot of time to spend dying and confused. I will try out CoP.

        • djsubversive says:

          Like I said, Call of Pripyat is a better game, but it loses a lot of the mood that Shadow of Chernobyl has. It’s still one of my favorite games, though.

          Also, the repairman at the first base requires vodka to perform his best work (for the best prices)! 

  24. stakkalee says:

    Since summer is always more fun when you’re a kid I’ll always associate summer break gaming with my old NES.  Legend of Zelda 1 and especially 2, the Super Mario games, Batman, A Boy And His Blob, all the games for the original system.  Maybe it’s just the rosy glow of nostalgia, maybe it’s the learning curve of older games versus newer games, maybe it’s the desire to be a child again, free of responsibilities, but when I think of “summer vacation” that’s where my mind always goes.
    This weekend is more two-fisted gaming, this time with Fall From Heaven, EVE Online and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.  I’m actually going to try to do a low-kill runthrough of AC – it’s always bothered me that this shadowy group of assassins leaves a triple-digit bodycount of mostly bottom-rung guards that are just trying to make a paycheck.

    • miltthefish says:

      Yes, my childhood summers were filled with Nintendo and SNES gloriousness, when my biggest problem in life was completing the second quest in the original Legend of Zelda as a 9 year old.

      But nothing says summer holidays like the holy triumvirate of PS1 classics: FFVII, Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid.  

      I feel sad for kids these days that they will probably never experience such an incredible leap in quality. Going from 16 bit sprites on the SNES to 3D and animated cut scenes literally overnight when the PS1 was launched, was simply amazing.  It was like my generation’s moon landing, which is as a sad as it sounds.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        And as I draw my last breath, struggling for air, I will make my final words: “Mode 7. We had…. mode 7.”

        *death rattle*

  25. Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

    I’ve put a bunch of the games I was playing on hold for now and will instead probably be putting more time into Saints Row and Vanquish. After looking for Vanquish for so long I’m very happy that I’m enjoying it so far and haven’t been disappointed at all. Its dialogue and story may be super cheesy, but the game is so fast paced and so much fun. After playing for a couple hours last weekend my thoughts on it were that it’s like Gears of War on crack. Then I found a quote of someone else saying that online, so i guess it’s probably a pretty fitting description.

    I might also play some Dishonored if the mood hits me, but it’s the polar opposite of Vanquish since I’m going to be trying to take the stealth route. Very slow and methodical. Careful. Frustrating. I’ll probably just save Dishonored for later.

  26. Jackbert says:

    Summer time is MLB: The Show time.

    This weekend I’m playing Cram as Many Games as You Can Into the Three Weeks Before You Go to Boarding School Without Gaming Systems. Ni No Kuni, X-Com: Enemy Unknown, Sleeping Dogs, and Batman: Arkham Asylum. I also finally got Internet back, so I can play Steam games again. Finally, today is payday, so I’m going to blow part of my last paycheck from work on a couple 3DS games.

  27. duwease says:

    The Final Fantasies must be popular, because my thoughts immediately went to playing Final Fantasy VII on PC my first summer of college,  spent back home with my parents.  My hometown had a lot less going on than college did.. so I got the Golden Chocobo and the whole shebang.

    Right now working on Dragon Age II.. I’m sad I ever believed the hate for it instead of trusting Bioware.  Just started Act II, and it is indeed an enjoyable game.  Still have a ways to go in the story, so it’s not time to compare it to the first yet.  Bioware sure does get the things I enjoy in a game, though.  The only downside is that I’m already tempted to do a second playthrough on Nightmare and try new story strands and allies, and part of me knows I just don’t have the time for that sort of thing anymore.. I’d like to try Bioshock and Last of Us before the year is out, dammit!

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      My only annoyance with DA2 is that a certain class goes better with a certain plot thread that goes through the entire game. So whereas i always play BioWare game at least twice, I don’t know if I would want to do it again.

      There is a definite lack of exploration and wonder in DA2, but the game that is there is still pretty good, and the core elements of the BioWare experience are all there. The cast is good and, more than any of their other games, flawed. Which makes for interesting disagreements and less of a gaming of the relationships.

      • Unexpected Dave says:

        I really liked the friend/rival aspect of the relationship system.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          It was interesting because Anders and I did NOT get along at any point but I had to have his class in my party. Which was both super furstrating and also kind of interesting.

    • Unexpected Dave says:

      I enjoyed Dragon Age II, but it made me feel like a beta tester.


      In particular, it seems like I made a combination of choices that the game’s ending didn’t know how to reconcile, so it just ignored some of them.

    • JamesJournal says:

      Dragon Age 2 wasn’t a good as the first game. But the criticisms against it where overblown. That game murdered my Spring Break two years ago. 

      And while Kirkwall was physically underdeveloped (you can set your whole game in one city, but that city can’t just be a dozen different rooms) I liked dealing with the political hoopla of one persistent place as a contrast to the standard “travel the world and collect all the things” style adventure.

      I actually liked the supporting characters better this time around. Varric was the man.

  28. Chip Dipson says:

    I just started 3D Dot Games Heroes. Has anyone else played this? I’ve been wanting a new Zelda game for a while and this is the perfect methadone.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      Don’t we have someone with a 3D Dot Game Heroes avatar here? I think it’s the last game that I played in ludicrous 6+ hour sessions, so I’d say I enjoyed it a lot. Loved the soundtrack too.

  29. MrTusks says:

    I just picked up Red Dead Redemption through Gamefly, it nails all of these pretty perfectly. Although I’ve probably spent more time playing poker than shooting outlaws.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       You’ll spend lots of time enjoying the countryside while people yell about politics. Which is just about the last thing you’d expect.

    • NakedSnake says:

      Red Dead Redemption is a perfect summer game. It’s almost a vacation on a disk. It doesn’t even matter if you achieve anything. You just want to go there for a while, and come back happy. 

  30. snazzlenuts says:

    My usual game of the summer is Final Fantasy Tactics. Fire the game up, play a couple of battles, give your characters a new job that is better than your own, then go outside to drink beers. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  31. zebbart says:

    I only have two memories of really digging deep into a game during summer vacation, one that failed the criteria miserably and one that nailed them wonderfully. Rampage was a great arcade game for a 12 year old but a terrible NES game. No save point, dozens of repetitive levels, and a lame excuse for an ending. But I spent all summer beating it, maybe just so I’d never have to play it again. Final Fantasy I was a fantastic summer game, made more so because I had a friend whose house I could bike to to play it with and the Nintendo Power strategy guide to keep us progressing. There had never really been a game like it in America before that gave you the sense of really exploring a world, finding secrets, and growing to reach some unforeseen triumph. That was the summer before junior high where the friend somehow became a popular jock and I solidly settled into nerddom, and then the SNES came out, so a great end of an era game for me too.

  32. Jer Link says:

    My game last summer was Xenoblade Chronicles. I had an internship in a small town where I knew no one, and had no internet. I sure I would not have finished this game if that were not the case

  33. Matthew Burke says:

    This one might sound strange, but Kirby Air Ride is one my most fond “summer” games. Mostly based on sheer nostalgia, I absolutely love playing this game. I remember my brother, my cousin, and I used to pour hours upon hours into playing one particular mode. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was multiplayer and you would fly around a city for a given period of time. The goal was to find a good ship and then collect as many power-ups as possible before the time ran out. Once the time ran out then there would be some sort of competition, sometimes it was just a regular race other times it was all about flying, so that’s why you had to make sure your ship was well-suited to everything. It was just a really fresh multiplayer idea. It was free-roaming throughout the city, there were random events that would occur like meteor showers and ufo’s, and it just ate up the summer months for the three of us.The learning curve was quite steep, you needed to know what ship did what and where the best place to find power-ups was, obviously you could pick up and play or stop anytime, and it’s a game that I would never even have looked at if it had not been summer, so perfect summer break game. I win.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Yet another GC game I never should have sold. The gameplay was fairly simple but it was still lots of fun.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       There’s an obscure one, I swear me and my brother’s played that game all the time and we still don’t have a solid grasp on the mechanics.  You press A to slam the star down on a rail, but I’m not sure if this makes you go faster, also you don’t need a button to accelerate and uhhhh… multiplayer in the city was fun though!

  34. Boonehams says:

    My summer break game of choice is Sengoku Basara.
    For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a PS3/Wii game by Capcom that’s similar to Dynasty Warriors, but it takes place in feudal Japan. It’s really over-the-top and has a sense of humor.  There’s 17 different characters, all of which have several storylines to complete, weapons to collect and moves to learn.  It’s mindless, button-mashing fun that allows you to shut off your brain for a bit while you grind levels and collect Trophies.

    Sites have estimated that it takes around 200 hours to get the Platinum.  Lucky I have some free time (and virtual soldiers) to kill.

  35. Dunnstock says:

    For some reason I’ve always felt like winter is a better time for immersing myself in a fantasy world, whether that’s a book series like the Belgariad, watching all 3 LotR movies at once, or playing Skyrim for hours upon hours.  I haven’t played it for a few months, but I never finished it or downloaded the expansions, so I’ll probably dive back in come January.  Skyrim is especially fitting for the winter because it feels weird trekking around the frozen north when it’s 80° and sunny out.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Playing Skyrim in the basement in the dead of winter is too real. Now playing in those frosted peaks in the basement in the summer is more my speed. Feel that cold, ignore that heat.

      • Dunnstock says:

         If I had a nice cool basement to retreat to I’d definitely be more apt to play in the summer.

        Funny side story – I just bought a condo and the only thing the previous owner left in the basement is a creepy-ass wooden clown statue that looks like it’s 100 years old.  I definitely don’t want to spend a lot of extra time down there…

    • Citric says:

      I agree, when it’s an inhospitable snow-covered wasteland outside, it’s a much more appealing prospect to sit inside and wander around a world that’s much less cold and crap. Also, modern consoles and PCs can help warm your home.

  36. neodocT says:

    Summertime? Geez, stop being so Americacentric, guys, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere! It actually snowed here in southern Brazil a few weeks ago. Very, very little, but it’s still awesome to see snow in Brazil.

    My favorite summer gaming memories are playing old Final Fantasies, especially IX and X. I vividly remember walking into a friend’s house during the summer while he was playing FFX. I’d never played too many RPGs before, other than Pokémon and FFVIII, and seeing a full-fledged 3D RPG on the PS2 with that heavy summery smell in the air is still a strong memory. I immediately got the game, and spent that summer slowly making my way through older RPGs as well.

    Last summer (in December and January!) I bought the Mass Effect Trilogy, and made my way through that whole thing for the first time, so I guess the old tradition of playing RPGs in the summer isn’t gone, even if the RPGs themselves change.

    EDIT: Oh, and I’m moving this weekend, so I guess the only thing I’ll be playing is the occasional Infinity Blade II, as I wait in the airport. I’d also play Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP on the iPad, but I need to remember to pack my headphones in my backpack for that.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      If you pack the headphones, check out The Nightjar.

      And nothing says summer like BLITZBALL.

      • neodocT says:

        Thanks, I’ll check it out. It sounds pretty neat!

        And I wish I could have back all those wasted hours playing Blizball, but then I’d just waste them all over again playing more Blitzball.

    • miltthefish says:

      I’m saddened that there are those out there who consider FFX as “old” because that makes feel as old as a WWII veteran, and I’m only in my early 30s. 

      • neodocT says:

        Oh, FFX had just been released at that time, it was brandspanking new! The older RPGs I was talking about were the NES and SNES ones, which will make a different crowd feel old, but those grandpas probably haven’t figured out this “internet” thing yet, so we should be safe.


    I think games like Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, etc. would make excellent summer break games now. On average, you can get several runs of Spelunky in during a half hour between other summer activities and you could end up spending the whole summer trying to master any of those games (at least, at my abysmal skill level).

    My own summers as a young Thrillho were spent on such classic JRPGs as FF6, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and FF7. That and Resident Evil, which in its earlier incarnations were perfect for nights where you could turn out all the lights and play into the wee hours because you can get up whenever.

  38. Andy Cliver says:

    My friends and I spent an entire high school summer playing Wiffle Ball outside during the daylight hours, followed by World Series Baseball for the Sega Genesis at night. But not entire games of World Series, mind you, just the Home Run Derby. Constantly. Without fail. Every night. The 80 hours you spent on FFVI, I spent using 1995 Darren Daulton to hit 25 homers in one Home Run Derby round.

  39. djsubversive says:

    The Shadowrun Returns editor has been eating all of my free time for the last week or so. I made a flop hotel (with god rays through the windows!), a dive bar (I’ve made it even thinner than that picture, to get rid of a bunch of empty space), and a fancier hotel (with a snooty elf desk clerk). 

    I also figured out how to set up a simple Reputation system using variables and triggers, and can use that to lock out/unlock new conversation options (and/or gear, nuyen, and Karma).

    I discovered recently that the lighting is tricky – it’s offset by about 2 points on the y-axis, so to have lights on the floor, you need to drop them below the ground. After finding that, I spent a few hours tweaking light-placement, checking how it looks in-game, and going back and tweaking some more.

    The editor is able to do a lot of neat things, but the documentation is somewhat lacking, and it takes a little while to figure things out. As HBS says, it’s “ugly but powerful.”

  40. Cloks says:

    This weekend I’ll play a little bit of Ni No Kuni before heading out to the foreign lands of Toronto. I know quite a few posters here are Canadian, so if you have any must-dos while I’m there, let me know! 

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Sorry, I live in Western Canada; I am legally obligated to denigrate any province outside of my own.

      Torontooooo… sucks!

      • Citric says:

        Me too! While I think it’s a Canadian law that everyone outside of Toronto must hate Toronto, that goes double if you live in a western province.

        Though I’ll be going there too next week, mostly to sit in an airport and wait a flight for three hours.

        • miltthefish says:

          I live in Ontario and I hate Toronto, mostly because every time I drive through it to get somewhere I get stuck in traffic for hours.

      • Matthew Burke says:

        I hope you’re in BC, otherwise, by your own rules, I’ll have to take back my “like.”

    • Citric says:

      I find myself hoping you fly out of Toronto on Thursday evening just because the airport is going to be so booooooooring. (I’ll be there from 4-7 or so, arrrrgh.)

      • Cloks says:

        Driving, sorry.

        • Citric says:

          That doesn’t mean I can’t complain about having a three hour layover in smelly Toronto.

          Though I understand Pearson is at least marginally more entertaining than the airport in St. John’s, where a friend of mine was stuck for five hours.

        • SamPlays says:

          I live in St. John’s and the airport is a zillion times better than it was 10 years ago. That said, it still sucks compared to pretty much every other airport (except Moncton).

    • signsofrain says:

      If you like arcade games the Playdium in Toronto is fun.

    • SamPlays says:

      Etobicoke Ikea

  41. Marozeph says:

    I hope to get some paid leave soon, if i do, i’ll try to finally finish Ni No Kuni. I took a break from it approximately halfway through, but now i’m in the mood to get on it again.
    Apart from that, i’ll probably make my way through Journey again and make some progress in Rogue Legacy.

  42. George_Liquor says:

    Even though they’re not super-cold, winters in Colorado basically last from October to mid May, with summer in between. Therefore, when I did get Summer breaks, I spent a lot more time outside, and would only play games in short spurts after it got dark. These days I don’t spend nearly as much time outside as my fat ass demands I should, but that tendency to stick with casual, low-commitment gaming has remained. Lately, I’ve been knocking out a level or two at a time in Rayman Origins, getting a few sets in Mario Power Tennis (Playing sports is exercise, right?) or playing some Left 4 Dead online with friends. I’ll pick up the Skyrims and Borderlands and Bioshocks again, when it’s back to getting dark by 5:00, and I’m trying to ward off seasonal affective disorder.

  43. mizerock says:

    My “Dan Cave” is almost complete! 2 tiny CRT-TVs, one 27″ CRT, one low-end HDTV, to be hooked up to PS1, PS2, PS3, Wii, and SNES [may be dead – anyone have a power supply they can lend me?]. I should be ready to host a retro games meetup by the end of this month.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Some people don’t understand why you would need a CRT television.

      I don’t know, dumb people – maybe for 30 years of video games?

      • miltthefish says:

        I just ordered one of those Retron consoles that plays NES, SNES and Genesis games. My NES is dead and I can’t find my SNES anywhere, but I still have dozens of games from each console that I haven’t played in years.  This summer and fall is going to be all retro gaming until the new systems are released.  FFIII here I come!

        • mizerock says:

          Wow, looks like a great option for me if my SNES is indeed dead. I’m encouraged to read that the RF adapter is often the weak link in my system, that’s a cheap fix to try. I already ordered one on eBay a few days ago.

      • mizerock says:

        Those old systems don’t need a big TV, in fact they often look worse when upconverted to HD. And rhythm games were killed by lag inherent in HD. Now when I fail at PaRappa the Rapper, I’ll know it’s from my lack of skill (which can be overcome!)(somewhat), and not audio + video lag (impossible to overcome with no callibration setup).

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        I have a couple of CRT TVs for use exclusively with my old game consoles. One’s a fairly modern Sony with component & s-video inputs, stereo sound, PIP and all the trappings. And I shit you not, this TV cost me all of seven bucks at a thrift. I also have an older RCA set with just screw-type antenna terminals for the really old stuff. That one appears in my Magnavox Odyssey write-up. It cost me four bucks and change, but it was really hard to find; nobody, not even thrift stores, keeps TV that old around anymore.

        From an aesthetic standpoint, I just like CRTs better. I like the overscan, the interlacing, the flickery scan lines, the slightly blurry pixels and the vague hint of static from a game system that just not quite completely tuned in. NES graphics blown up to enormous HDTV sizes just look awful to me. Plus there are the practical problem: Accessories like light guns don’t work at all with HDTVs, and some HDTVs have so much input lag that they screw with your timing. Some modern HDTVs have input lag as bad as 100ms, which is very noticeable.

  44. aklab says:

    How appropriate! I just started a new game in Final Fantasy Tactics last night, celebrating the, what, 15th anniversary of its status as an incredible summer game. 

    As for summers past, JRPGs all the way. One summer in particular, my dad had just lost his job, we were broke, and the 5 of us moved into my grandparents’ spare bedroom. This should not have been a good experience for anyone, but I had a blast! I had a SNES and a stack of RPGs in a corner of the room and that was it. (And books, I had books too, but this ain’t the Book Society.) 

    When we beat Lufia II, my cousin and I were huddled in the corner, watching the credits and unwinding from the boss battle, when my grandpa burst in the room. From the way we were sitting and the music he thought we were watching porn, so he starts yelling, “what are you doing watching those dirty movies?! In my own home?!” etc. We turn around, and we’re both clearly sobbing, because Lufia II has a really sad ending. My grandpa just turned around and left and never mentioned again. 

    I’ve always wondered if he thought we were having some weird sad circle jerk or what. 

  45. NakedSnake says:

    I expect that everyone will enjoy this song on repeat while playing their summer games.  

  46. Duck Pirate says:

    I’ve found Final Fantasy IV to work perfectly for summertime.  It follows a relatively basic structure (that later ‘fantasies’ would come to vary at least slightly) of Town, Explore, Dungeon, Boss, New plot point, make for easy stopping points amounting to about an hour or hour and a half for each sitting.

  47. Andy Tuttle says:

    I’m stumped as to what game took up my summers. Actually, you know what games did that for me as a kid, sports and fighting games. My friends and I would sit around and play these in a round robin, Street Fighter II, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat (on the Genesis for blood), and Ken Griffy Jr. Baseball on the SNES. These games defined my summers for at least three years, I fondly remember going over to my friends apartment, I lived in a big complex, and playing with him and the kid who lived right next to him. Not only that but we would go out and buy baseball cards and comic books, watch the alien movies, and then watch videos on MTV. I grew up in an urban area so there wasn’t a lot to do outside, but we would play two hand touch football and basketball at the local elementary school, we had to hop the fence and break in to do it though. Seems weird to break IN to school during the summer. When I got into high school I started working at a summer camp full time, for a couple years video games were not a summer activity, but then I brought my computer up and on break from raking leaves and running activities, we would play You Don’t Know Jack. My summer gaming hasn’t changed much in recent years. I still play games with my friends, Borderlands 2, Rock Band, etc, the biggest difference now is that most of the time we play from different houses over the internet instead of sitting on my friends bed and floor. I Still drink Coke while I do it though.

    • Greg Buck says:

       my go to summer game was always Ogre Battle:  March of the Black Queen.  It takes pretty much the whole summer to finish the game, and there’s literally infinite ways to play through the campaign each time.

  48. evanwaters says:

    After being kinda frustrated by the Lungfish battle in Psychonauts I saw an LP of it and was able to get past that, to the really fun part- it’s really nice of them to follow up a somewhat annoying boss battle with what is probably the best level in this or any videogame.

    So far The Old Gods DLC for Crusader Kings feels almost like easy mode. I am now king of Scotland- well, Skotland- though I need to press a couple of De Jure claims to get the entire kit-and-kaboodle. My only worry is that my heir’s getting rather old himself since my character just refuses to die.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      YouTube has been a godsend for me. Seeing what people do to get past tough boss fights is so helpful.

      Except the boss in the fourth Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon Mansion. That was old-fashioned frustration until I won.

  49. beema says:

    Summer break? People get those?

    I just beat Skyrim after 2 years, does that count?

  50. JamesJournal says:

    Man, the good old days of blowing through JRPGs in the summer. The last good memories of this I have was from Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts 2 and Final Fantasy 12 which feels ancient to think about now.

    In middle school/high school older games like Lunar, Grandia, Skies of Arcadia and .Hack would function as substitute for television during school breaks for my friends and I. We’d stay up at night either watching anime or passing the controller around through a mutually unplayed JRPG, with me going MST3K on it sometimes if it wasn’t something I thought was stupid (see Final Fantasy 8)

    This summer, the only big effective adventure game I got into was “The Last of Us.” Maybe I should pick up Ni No Kuni or Xilla, but it won’t be the same.

  51. Jeeves says:

    I’ve spent the summer with two games. One is Xenoblade, the sprawling adventure of which has been perfect for sinking my teeth into over the months. It’s allowed me to play the game the way it deserves to be played.

    The other is Skullgirls, which I suppose fits into both the “rewarding over time” and “trying something new” categories, as it’s my first serious attempt to become skilled at a traditional-style fighter. It’s been fun watching myself improve.

  52. shitty_bumppo says:

    Vagrant Story.  Completing it has been my Holy Grail quest that never succeeds.  I’ve attempted it around three times since it came out but I always start to lose focus until I’m just utterly lost.  This was a game I was thinking about diving back into this summer.