Six of the best summer games to beat the heat

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Summer is apparently here, at least in the British Isles, and as such it’s become so blisteringly hot during the daytime that it’s most desirable to stay indoors with fans blasting and all the curtains closed. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sunshine, though, because there have been a bunch of great games over the years that create an absolutely perfect summer vibe, allowing you to enjoy the atmosphere of the season without the risk of skin cancer or all your particularly sweaty bits getting even more fragrant than usual.

So with that in mind, then, we present to you our list of six of the best summery games to beat the heat, drawn from the game libraries of both yesterday and today.

OutRun 2

Summer games: OutRun

This month’s Retro Gamer magazine had an extensive feature on the marvellous OutRun 2, and it acted as a solid reminder that this is still one of the absolute greatest arcade racers of all time — and one of the best summer games ever.

Eschewing any sense of realism whatsoever in favour of simply transplanting the original OutRun’s core gameplay into full polygonal 3D — plus adding an incredibly enjoyable drifting mechanic — OutRun 2 is an absolutely joyful experience from start to finish, and even more so if you pick up the expanded version OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.

Unfortunately, due to Sega’s licence with Ferrari expiring, there are presently no official means of buying OutRun 2 on any platform, and because Microsoft’s “backwards compatibility” nonsense on modern Xbox platforms isn’t true backwards compatibility, neither the original Xbox game nor the Xbox 360 downloadable version work on today’s systems.

However! You can pick up a PS2, original Xbox or PSP for not-very-much money these days, and either OutRun 2 or OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is available on all of those platforms. The PC version of Coast 2 Coast, if you can find a copy, is also surprisingly straightforward to get up and running on modern systems, and there’s a swathe of fan patches out there to add things like widescreen support and all manner of other goodies.

In the meantime, there’s also the excellent version of the original OutRun as part of the Sega Ages collection on Switch. While obviously a lot more dated with its sprite-based visuals, it’s still a fine summer game.

PowerWash Simulator

Summer games: PowerWash Simulator

FuturLab’s excellent PowerWash Simulator has designed to be enormously relaxing and enjoyable, regardless of circumstances. However, one aspect of the game makes it particularly pleasant during the summer months, and that’s the fantastic sound design.

Such care has been taken with the sound of spraying water and the way it splashes off things, that it almost feels like you’re hosing yourself down while playing. Of course, standing in the direct firing line of a real power washer is probably inadvisable — and if you’re the one doing the washing, I bet those rubber suits get really hot inside — but gaming is all about escapist fantasy.

Couple this wonderful sound design with the beautifully colourful graphics that strike a good balance between cartoonish stylisation and believable realism, and you have a game that is absolutely perfect to enjoy during the summer months.

Kandagawa Jet Girls

Summer games: Kandagawa Jet Girls

Kandagawa Jet Girls is a bittersweet game for many folks, as it was one of the last games Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki put out before departing Marvelous for Cygames, where he has been making rather “safer” games ever since. Takaki specifically cited the increased difficulty in getting sexually provocative games localised, particularly on PlayStation platforms, as one of the main reasons for his departure, with Kandagawa Jet Girls being one of his “last hurrahs” in this regard.

While the fanservice is toned down a little by Senran Kagura standards — there’s no ripping clothes or ability to poke the girls in their squishy bits — there are still plenty of saucy costumes to unlock, plus some of the most beautiful young women who have ever appeared in a Takaki joint. And, in true Takaki tradition, it’s more than just empty objectification of these characters, too; each and every one of them is an interesting, well-defined character with their own story to tell over the course of the game as a whole.

The game’s core jetski racing action has a lovely summer vibe to it, with the same sort of highly colourful visuals that make OutRun so appealing. It’s a bit of a shame that the story mode is so incredibly easy to beat — though with 64 stages, it’s at least fairly lengthy — but honestly, the focus here is on the story, and that keeps things breezy and enjoyable.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game

Summer games: Tokyo 2020

The troubled 2020 Olympics may have been and gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying Sega’s excellent video game adaptation. Featuring an incredibly robust character creator that allows you to create not just your own athlete avatar but your entire nation’s team of sporting reprobates, the official Tokyo 2020 video game is a delightfully summery affair, full of Sega blue skies and a wonderfully cheerful atmosphere.

There are lots of ways to play, too. The single-player mode allows you to practice individual events or compete in a full tournament for a specific event. Alternatively, you can put together a medley of events to play one after another and see where you come in the rankings. You can play with a friend locally, or up to three friends online; it’s a bit of a shame the latter aspect never really came into its own, as the “scheduled events” aspect, attempting to recreate the feel of the real Olympics, was a really nice idea.

Still, even without online competition, the Tokyo 2020 game is still an enjoyable arcade-style sports game with a lovely summer vibe to it, and well worth spending some time with.

Gal*Gun 2

Summer games: Gal*Gun 2

Honestly, any of the Gal*Gun games could fit neatly into this category, but I’m going to pick Gal*Gun 2 because I don’t feel that game gets enough love compared to Gal*Gun Returns and Gal*Gun Double Peace. Also, the fact that you play as “yourself” rather than as a set character gives the game as a whole a really pleasant “summer romance” sort of vibe to it, particularly once you start calling up the various girls and going on “dates” with them outside of the main action stages.

Gal*Gun 2 differs from its two predecessors in that rather than being a crosshair-based rail shooter, it instead unfolds a bit more like a first-person shooter, albeit one in which you can’t move freely. By moving your perspective around, you blast the incoming girls with your Pheromone Shot to incapacitate them with “euphoria”, and over the course of the game as a whole, work to sort out angel Risu’s problems with her employer.

It’s a delightful game with some truly memorable characters, and the perpetually sunny backdrop gives it a wonderfully summery vibe. Definitely a great game to play in the summer, particularly with its chipper soundtrack.

Food Girls

Summer games: Food Girls

Gonna come a bit out of leftfield with this one, but it’s definitely a worthwhile inclusion in a list of games that feel summery. In Food Girls, you’re tasked with helping out an ailing Taiwanese street market, primarily by interacting with three heroines who each run their own food stall. Aurora serves chicken cutlets, Lulu serves minced pork bowls and Bubbles serves bubble tea.

Each heroine has her own distinct personality, and all of them are a pain to deal with in one way or another — but that’s part of the fun of the game. Your aim is to try and ensure the market as a whole survives some hostile business shenanigans that are going on, but depending on your actions you can also end up striking up a relationship with one or more of the girls in question, and even digging deep into the “investigation” angle in order to discover what’s really going on.

With some lovely, expressive animated characters and plenty of surprises in the narrative to discover, Food Girls is a game that simultaneously feels like you’re enjoying a nice sunny holiday somewhere, but also provides an intriguing mystery to solve. There’s nothing quite like it — except perhaps for its sequel — so it’s definitely a solid recommendation from us.

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Pete Davison
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