We just passed the summer equinox, which means it’s time to talk about games you play in the summer! Between being a teacher for 13 years and having summers off as a kid, I’ve done A LOT of summer gaming in my life. My birthday is also the first week of August, so growing up I’d usually be able to get a new and highly coveted game during the season, just before school started. Let’s talk about the games I have the most nostalgia for around summer!
I’ve already written about several of these game elsewhere on The Chozo Project. What I want to focus on in this post are the specific summer memories associated with them! I plan on doing similar lists for the other seasons in the coming year. These are roughly arranged in chronological order in terms of my life, but no one is more important than another. Time to bust out the sunscreen and reminisce amount summer game nostalgia!
Super Metroid (SNES)
One of my best childhood friends and I spent several summers trying to beat this game. We were young and didn’t have a guide, but we did have plenty of free time! The amount of hours we spent exploring the labyrinths beneath Zebes on hot summer afternoons was astounding. And the sheer joy we felt each time we *finally* learned how to progress was unrivaled. Super Metroid remains one of my top 3 games of all time to this day. It’s also one that brings a lot of nostalgia (especially the Lower Brinstar theme, which reminds me of summer heat).
E.V.O. The Search for Eden (SNES)
An underrated diamond in the rough! I recently talked about it my retro games that need a sequel post, largely because I loved my time with it during summers as a kid. My best friend and I would literally act out stages of the game in our neighborhood pool-we’d pretend we were fish, then get EVO points and evolve into amphibians by the pool chairs (obviously we were the cool kids in elementary school).
I spent a lot of time at pools and swimming holes growing up in Texas. The “life before land” stage music in E.V.O. really reminds me of swimming in all that refreshing water during summer:
Don’t you just want to swim around in a primordial ocean after listening to this? Nope, just me?
Sonic 3 (Sega Genesis)
This was my favorite Sonic game as a kid! I got it for my birthday back in 1994 and was obsessed. There was so much to love about this entry. The introduction of Knuckles, new shields, a manageable special stage game to get Super Sonic, seamless act to act transitions, and a rockin’ soundtrack! Gorgeous and infinitely replayable to this day, Sonic 3 is fully representative of gaming during the summer as a Sega kid.
Star Fox 64 (N64)
Back in 1997, I somehow convinced my parents to get me a Nintendo 64 early as a birthday present (it was the last console they bought me, making it extra nostalgic). I was pretty ecstatic, but did get a little sad when my actual birthday rolled around in August. My Mom was kind enough to take pity on me and buy Star Fox 64 from Toys R Us as surprise gift, and boy was it a revelation. I ran through that game an insane amount of times the rest of that summer and had every course nearly memorized! Star Fox 64 is the still the pinnacle of the Star Fox series to this day, and I always think of it during summertime.
Mario Golf (N64)
I recently wrote a feature for the excellent Switch Player Magazine about my memories of this game, called “Mario Golf and the Last Hurrah of Childhood”. This was one of the final titles my friends and I enjoyed the summer before we all got driver’s licenses and jobs, and I have very fond memories of it for that. It was so fun to 100% every aspect of the game-something I rarely have time for these days.
My wife and I still pop in Mario Golf for a quick round of mini-golf every now and then, largely for this fun and relaxing music:
Star Wars Episode I: Racer (N64)
I know Episode I is by no means the “fan favorite” Star Wars film, but it was pretty dang exciting when it released back in summer 1999! You have to admit Duel of Fates and Darth Maul alone were pretty awesome. I got pretty sucked in-I bought the Episode I novel, some action figures, and of course, Episode I Racer on my Nintendo 64! This was a birthday present I got in August, so it always makes me think of the tail end of the “Star Wars is back” summer. The game has its flaws, but as I said in my N64 Star Wars games ranking post, it holds up pretty well!
Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
This is the game that got me into Final Fantasy. Into JRPGs. And into Playstation! I actually bought a console just to play it, after spending a ludicrous number of hours playing with a friend. I got a PS1 the summer before FFVIII released and was able to catch up and near 100% the game. Sweet mother, the summer hours I spent leveling and chocobo breeding just to beat Emerald and Ruby weapon! I still remember the feeling of jubilation sitting in my room when I finally took those jerks down. A game that still holds up well today, in original form or its stellar remake!
Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
I soaked up this game right before my first year of teaching started. To me it represents the final bit of college summers before true “adulthood” took over. I dove into the gameplay for hours and hours (many just on Crystal Calamity…I have some choice words for that level) in a way I’d rarely be able to do once I had a permanent job. Dual Strike is also an insanely good, addictive strategy game that made great use of both screens on the DS. Worth checking out, especially with the announcement of recent Re-Boots of Advance Wars 1 and 2 from WayForward (the stellar developers of Shantae). Add this one to games you play in the summer too!
Donkey Kong Country Returns/Tropical Freeze (Wii/Wii U)
My wife convinced me to pick up DKC Returns for the Wii after being off and on from gaming for a few years. And it didn’t take long for me to get completely addicted-Donkey Kong Country has always been one of my favorite series, and the gameplay really recaptured the magic from the SNES era.
A few years later I got Tropical Freeze for my birthday just after picking up a Wii U and ABSOLUTELY LOVED it. I 100% completed Tropical Freeze in less than a week before teaching started that year-I just couldn’t stop.
Both the Retro DKC games are amazing platformers and both very reminiscent of the season. Plus, “Windmill Hills” from Tropical Freeze always reminds me of the carefree days of summertime. I could listen to it for hours on end!
Splatoon (Wii U)
I played embarrassing amounts of Splatoon on my Wii U the summer of 2016. The game was so easy to pick up and play but had a deceptive amount of strategy involved when you really dug in. The quick matches were very addictive and cultivated a “just one more” mindset. And it’s just fun, colorful, and ridiculous. What style! The summer I played it was both twilight of the Wii U era and our then “no kids” lifestyle since my wife was pregnant with our first daughter! Splatoon 3 will no doubt be excellent, but I’m always have summer nostalgia for the first game.
Octopath Traveler (Switch)
The most recent game on the list! I played this one a few months after my second daughter was born. Between having two kids 15 months apart, and several stressful and costly run-ins with the health care system, this game was the relaxing, nostalgic escape I needed that summer. Plus, it’s so reminiscent of FFVI (my favorite in the FF series, which I also played in the summer for the first time), in terms of graphics and mechanics. I spent many a summer night grinding levels in the game, both because the combat was so fun, and for the simple nostalgia of addictive games I played as a kid.
What are the games YOU play in the summer? This is 100% subjective, so I’m really excited to hear what games you associate with the season, and why. Let me know in the comments below!