The Best Summer-Themed Games And Levels

The Best Summer-Themed Games And Levels
Image: Nintendo

Summer is here. But, likely, you live in a part of the world where recent heat waves and high temperatures have been prevalent. So, I don’t need to tell you it’s summer. But while summer is often a time when the world gets very hot, it’s also the time of year when many people start going outside again, visiting the beach or taking a break from work or school to travel further afield.

Sure, fall remains my favourite season of the year, but I do still enjoy a nice dip in the pool or summer camping trip, and these 11 games provide some good summertime vibes without needing to wear sunscreen or pay for a hotel.

Oh, and if you prefer winter and snow, we have a whole different list of games to check out!

Super Mario Sunshine – The Whole Game!

Screenshot: NintendoScreenshot: Nintendo

Sunshine is not my favourite Mario game, but it does a fantastic job distilling summer into an interactive experience. I especially love its shimmering ground effect, that really helps sell you on the idea that Isle Delfino is a very hot place.

Ratchet & Clank – Pokitaru

Screenshot: InsomniacScreenshot: Insomniac

Tropical trees? Check! Beautiful blue water? Check! Summer vibes? Check! The late-game planet of Pokitaru is a stand-out in both the original PS2 Ratchet & Clank and its fantastic PS4 remake. It truly feels like you’re running and jumping around a fancy summer resort.

Sonic Adventure – Emerald Coast

Screenshot: SegaScreenshot: Sega

The opening level of Sonic Adventure is one of the franchise’s most iconic and beloved. A big reason for that is the summer vibes it emanates, thanks in large part to its bright sunny skies, blue ocean, and big ol’ whale. And that music!

Pokémon Sun & Moon (Gen 7) – The Whole Game!

Image: Nintendo / The Pokemon CompanyImage: Nintendo / The Pokemon Company

It turns out that if you set an entire game on a tropical Hawaii look-alike, you end up with a perfect summer game. Pokémon Sun & Moon’s Alola region is heavily inspired by the Hawaiian islands, complete with beautiful beaches and lots of sunny weather. Even some of the Pokémon found there sport more summer-ish looks.

Dead Island – The Whole Game!

Screenshot: TechlandScreenshot: Techland

The island resort featured in the open-world zombie action-RPG Dead Island is a fairly nice paradise that would be great for a summer vacation, if you could get rid of all the zombies and dead bodies everywhere. But zombies can’t ruin a perfect summer vacation with your child…oh god, yes they can!

A Short Hike – The Whole Game!

Screenshot: AdamgryuScreenshot: Adamgryu

Another perfect name for this short but lovely indie game would be “Summer: The Game,” as it features loads of activities and places I mentally connect with summer, including hiking, visiting the beach, collecting seashells, and chilling by a campfire.

Psychonauts – Summer Camp

Screenshot: Double FineScreenshot: Double Fine

I never went to summer camp as a kid. And thinking about it today, I probably would have hated it anyway. But a small part of me still wonders what it would have been like, and games like Psychonauts let me experience summer camp as an adult. Did all summer camps contain wildly powerful psychics? Maybe I really did miss out on something special…

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Summer Season

Screenshot: Nintendo / KotakuScreenshot: Nintendo / Kotaku

Technically, you could toss Nintendo’s most recent Animal Crossing game on any seasonal list and it would work. But summer in New Horizons is a treat, with weddings, fireworks, and even nightly meteor showers. Plus, you get to do all of this with your favourite island residents and online friends.

Astro’s Playroom – Cooling Springs

Screenshot: SonyScreenshot: Sony

We’ve praised Astro’s Playroom here a lot, so shocker: Here are a few more nice words about the cutest PS5 platformer! While all of the levels in this free game are great, Cooling Springs and its gorgeous beach might be my favourite. I spent a long time just running around the sandy shore, checking out all the PlayStation-history Easter eggs and soaking up the sun.

Yakuza 6 Onomichi

Screenshot: Sega / KotakuScreenshot: Sega / Kotaku

There is something very relaxing and chill about a small, sun-soaked coastal village. And in Yakuza 6, players get to explore one of the best of these tiny villages ever created in a game. Onomichi reminds me of those places you might visit during a summer vacation. It’s the kind of place that isn’t just fun to visit, but has such perfect vibes that you dream about living there.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Most of the Game

Image: NintendoImage: Nintendo

Of course Nintendo’s 2002 Zelda-series swerve Wind Waker is on this list. It’s a huge, brightly coloured world filled with islands, beaches, and oceans to explore. As a kid on summer break, I would play outside with friends and create worlds that feel ripped right out of Wind Waker. Playing it today is like going back in time and reliving those summer memories, minus the heat and sunburns.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, as there are plenty of other video games that perfectly capture the feeling of a hot summer day or a quiet trip to the beach. In fact, there’s a very good chance you’re thinking “Wait, where’s [INSERT GAME NAME]!?” In which case, I am deeply sorry. If you’ve got other summer faves, share ‘em with the world in the comments below.

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