The 10 Best Summer Video Games, Ranked

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The summer is a fantastic time to play video games. Many of us can recall fondly those days in July and August after school ended, waking up on a particularly humid morning while everyone else was still asleep, and setting up in the basement to play through some levels of GoldenEye on the N64. Being outside is great, sure. But when it’s too hot, and there are lawn mowers everywhere, and mosquitoes are biting you constantly, the outside world can be hell. The respite of retreating to an air-conditioned game room in front of your favorite console is unparalleled.

There is no defined genre for “summer games.” But when we say, “What is the best summer video game?” you’ll surely have some strong picks in mind. We’re rounding up our 10 favorite games to play in the summer, old and new, with a heavy emphasis on the titles that drew us together as kids—and continue to give us an excuse to avoid the heat to this day.

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10. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (2015)

This frantic, nerve-racking party game sees one player wearing a VR headset or holding a Switch with a bomb full of puzzles right in front of them. The key is communication. The player with the bomb needs to relay what they see to their teammate, who is equipped with a manual to help defuse the bomb. Suit up MacGyver, because you’re going to feel like the most badass team out there. Or, more than likely, you’ll scream and cry because no one can get their shit together. —C.S.

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9. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (2019)

Hitting shelves just a few weeks ago, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has already earned its spot among the best kart racers out there. It’s a fantastic party game with tons of customization, gorgeously remastered maps, a four-player option, and so much more. And the Grand Prix recently opened online with a wealth of new content, costumes, and characters. You’re definitely going to want some quality time with Crash this summer. —C.S.

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8. Fortnite (2017)

Say what you will about Fortnite, but the game has captured the spirit of the summer like no other. It is goofy, fun-loving, group-focused, and carefree. Roaming the gigantic map with your friends is a great way to avoid going outside in the real world, and the community on this game is so dense that you could get lost within it for days on end (don’t actually do this). Time will tell how long Fortnite lasts in the zeitgeist, but today’s kids are going to remember this era of Fortnite madness with fondness for years to come. —D.N.

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7. Wave Race (1996)

This is a title that doesn’t get much love anymore. But for those of us who grew up with an N64, the polygonal waves and smooth, synth-y sounds of Wave Race were defining summer moments of our childhoods. It may be the most “summer” game of all time—you could literally ride on a dolphin (and I know the cheat code that allowed you to do it by heart). Nintendo has tried time and time again to recapture this vibe in dozens of games since Wave Race, but there was something about this wave-runner racing game that really set it apart from the pack. —D.N.

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6. Vacation Simulator (2019)

Vacation Simulator is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed VR hit Job Simulator. This title sees you taking a wacky trip in a robot simulation of what a human vacation might look like. A fantastic cartoony style, tons of new activities, and hilarious writing make it a worthy successor. While the game is only one-player, it’s a blast to play as a group, handing off the controller and headset. It actively encourages dumb, goofy behavior, especially after a few drinks. —C.S.

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5. Mario Party 2 (2000)

How many nights of your life have you spent huddled around a sweaty couch, clunky N64 paddles in hand, screaming at the top of your lungs at the TV screen during a raging game of Mario Party? This hilarious party franchise from Nintendo has inspired so many delirious nights of unbridled joy, and the game is especially fun to play on a summer vacation, when the beer is flowing and the responsibilities of adult life are far beyond the periphery. For our money, Mario Party 2 for N64 really sealed the deal on this series. —D.N.

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4. The Jackbox Party Pack (2014)

Jackbox’s party packs, each with a ton of games, are all beautiful chaos. Jackbox lets players connect their phones via web browser to a room with other players to compete together. The games range from trivia to drawing, head-to-head joke battles, stealth games, and more. The variety is unparalleled, allowing everyone and anyone, gamer or not, to join the fun. For instance, I’ve played this with my parents, my grandparents, and 8-year-olds, and everyone had a blast. The humor can get crude, but there’s a helpful family filter. That being said, don’t play the drawing game with kids. Everything—and I mean everything—ends up looking phallic. —C.S.

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3. Rock Band (2007)

Not all of us were cool enough to be in a band. For that reason, we had Guitar Hero and Rock Band to fill the tragic void. These games brought us together in head-bobbing fun, making the least musically inclined of our friends into full-blown rockstars. Rock Band is a perfect game to get the friends together in the summer, and it’s a shame that Harmonix hasn’t been keeping the series going; I’d rock out with my buddies today if there was a drum set I could connect to my PS4! —D.N.

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2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)

The holy grail of summer gaming comes not from a classic mascot of video games, such as Crash Bandicoot or Super Mario; it comes from a real-life professional skater, Tony Hawk. The THPS games were the perfect titles to play after shredding up curbs and building rickety kick ramps on your neighbor’s lawn in real life. Those of us who skated as kids know how important the Hawk games were to the entire skating experience. We’d perform insane (mediocre) stunts out on the hot concrete streets, and then rush into the basement to “test out” potential new tricks in the video games. All the main-series Tony Hawk titles were extremely good. Why did I pick THPS 2? Because, of course, you can play as Spider-Man in it. Hell yea! —D.N.

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1. Wii Sports Resort (2009)

If there was ever the possibility of perfecting perfection, this was it. The already great Wii Sports got a follow-up on a tropical island resort in Wii Sports Resort, with new games like fencing, table tennis, frisbee, basketball, and so many more. The experience was completed with the Wii MotionPlus extension and a whole lot of wacky Wii-mote peripherals (like attachable foam fencing swords), making this the easiest, summeriest, and most accessible title for the whole family to have some good, old-fashioned Wii fun. —C.S.

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