Ah, summer. From Spiderman to the X-Men, from Godzilla to the Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s the biggest time of the year for skull-cleaving, eyeball-melting, action-heavy blockbuster movies. (Yes, many of these films are technically coming out in the spring. But in this case, “summer” means “safe to go outside without a parka and sled dogs.”)
When it comes to new video game releases, though, summer is the season of blowing tumbleweeds and chirping crickets. June through August is an absolute wasteland for new games, with July in particular having not one single major release hitting stores.
There are a couple of good reasons for this. One is the weather: when that strange fiery orb in the sky starts making an appearance, people tend to shamble forth from their darkened lairs to bask in its warming glow, rather than remaining cooped up in front of their screens.
The other is that video games straddle a line between entertainment and consumer products, and a lot of game companies want their titles to come out in the fall to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. A game released in July likely wouldn’t still be on the shelves come November.
But summer is also when a lot of us are on vacation from work or school, and not every day can be filled with sunshiney shenanigans. If you don’t have enough cash to go someplace fun for vacation and it’s pouring rain outside, planting your rump on the couch and exploring virtual worlds for a few hours is actually kind of perfect.
If you’re the type of person whose thumbs don’t go into warm-weather hibernation between spring and autumn, you’re not completely out of luck: April and May are still home to some high-profile new game releases. Here’s a look at some of the biggest titles coming out over the next couple months.
Child of Light (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, Wii U, PC) – April 30
Resembling a kid’s storybook come to life, Child of Light is an artistically dazzling game being developed by Ubisoft Montreal, seeking to blend the action of classic 2D games (think Metroid or Castlevania) with Final Fantasy-style turned-based combat. It looks gorgeous and stars a young female protagonist, a relative rarity in games.
Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS) – May 2
Summer is all about golf, and Mario – the plumber who never seems to do any actual plumbing – is a master of all sports. I’ve always been a fan of the Mario Golf series, and the way it mixes reasonably accurate golf physics with insane courses, over-the-top power-ups and characters from the Mario universe. Donkey Kong’s drive is a thing to behold.
MLB 14 The Show (PS4) – May 6
Speaking of summer sports, major league baseball finally makes its next-generation debut with the PlayStation 4 version of MLB 14 The Show (the PlayStation 3 and Vita editions came out earlier this month, much to the consternation of next-gen fans who have been itching to play ball.) Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie graces the cover of the game’s Canadian edition.
Wolfenstein: The New Order (Xbox One, 360, PS4, PS3, PC) – May 20
Next to zombies and aliens, there’s no video game villain more fun to fight than Nazis, especially when these Nazis have nuked New York City in an alternate version of 1960. The latest game in the Wolfenstein shooter saga comes from a lineage that stretches back all the way to the infancy of personal computer games, including 1992’s groundbreaking Wolfenstein 3D and 1981’s Castle Wolfenstein.
Watch Dogs (Xbox One, 360, PS4, PS3, PC) – May 27
This eerily prescient open-world action game imagines a near future when surveillance is everywhere and personal data is tracked, stored and ripe for the picking by well-equipped hackers. Hackers like anti-hero Aiden Pearce, whose quest for vengeance gets him mixed up with some powerful and dangerous people in the Chicago underworld. The game’s release has been delayed twice, but developer Ubisoft is finally ready to pull the trigger.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) – May 30
Must-have games for Nintendo’s Wii U console have been fairly few and far between, but longtime Nintendo fans will likely flock to this high-definition debut for the Mario Kart franchise, featuring tweaked racing mechanics and gravity-defying courses that turn upside down. The Rainbow Road course will be back, and you will, inevitably, drive off the edge of it again and again.
Murdered: Soul Suspect (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC) – June 3
The creators of the very good Quantum Conundrum and the very meh Dark Void are back with a supernatural action game that casts players as a murdered detective who returns as a ghost to solve the crime of his own killing. Concepts don’t get much higher than that – there’s even a girl who can see dead people – but it’s getting some decent buzz.
The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4) – TBA
One of the best games of last year, the gripping and gut-wrenching PS3 action-adventure title The Last of Us is getting a next-gen remake on the PS4, with improved graphics (impressive, considering the original game already looked amazing) and a few other additional tweaks. A specific release date hasn’t been announced yet, other than sometime this summer.
Games to play again this summer
If there’s a bright side to the absolute dearth of video game releases during the summer months, it’s that it gives us a great excuse to go back and revisit titles that we just never got around to finishing, or to explore add-ons that we haven’t had time to check out. Here are five games I’ll be returning to during the lean summer months.
Bravely Default (3DS)
This Japanese role-playing game has been getting a ton of great press, but I simply haven’t had time since its February release to try it. It’s a handheld game, which means a person could conceivably sit in the sunshine and play. Two birds, one stone.
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episodes 1 and 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
These downloadable add-on chapters for last year’s BioShock Infinite connect this incredible game to its equally incredible 2007 predecessor, BioShock. Since Episode 1 ends in a cliffhanger, it’ll be good to (finally) play them both, back to back.
Diablo III (PC)
A recent update to the clicky dungeon crawler (as well as a brand new add-on called, "Reaper of Souls") have drawn me back into the world of Diablo, and the game has been radically improved. This one can eat up as many hours as you care to throw into it.
The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)
While I’m a big fan of the Elder Scrolls game – especially Skyrim, the latest instalment – I’m less keen on so-called massively multiplayer online games. But The Elder Scrolls Online looks ever so tempting. Maybe just a little taste?
Minecraft (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS, Android)
Yes, your kid is a Minecraft addict, but this world-building game isn’t just for young’uns. A recent update to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game has added new features, and my giant fortress built into the side of a mountain isn’t going to assemble itself.