For hardcore gamers, summer is usually a lull—a calm before the fall storm. Games start releasing at a rapid-fire rate around September, but summer is slow enough that many view it as a time to catch up up on their backlogs of unfinished games. But this summer is packed with enough games to banish that notion from most players’ heads.
Whether you’re on break for the next few months and want to beat the summer heat, or you’re a working schmuck with a few precious nighttime gaming hours, you’ll have no trouble finding something to play this summer. In order of release date, here are some of your best choices.
SEPT. 9 2014; PS3, PS4, XB360, XB1
Sure, Destiny came out last September, but its staying power has surprised many of its critics. We’ve loved it since the beginning, but the recent “House of Wolves” expansion pushed the game to a new level. Destiny is finally the game it should have been from the beginning.
The expansion takes care of some of the complaints players had about grinding, opens up new options for old equipment, and adds new modes like the Prison of Elders and Trials of Osiris. Prison of Elders is a horde-mode style game that has you taking on waves of enemies, while the Trials is a weekly multiplayer event.
Destiny still has lots of life left in it, and many players will keep at it as the heat outside increases.
'THE WITCHER 3’
MAY 19; PC, PS4, XB1
CD Projekt Red’s new RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, is technically a spring game, not a summer game. But the sheer amount of world to explore and stuff to do in it puts the RPG firmly in Skyrim territory.
Usually when a developer describes the amount of time their game takes to play, they go with the best-case scenario of the obsessed player who accomplishes every sidequest and gathers every collectible bauble. We’re only a few days into the game, but from our experience and that of many reviewers and gamers, CDPR’s 200-hour estimate doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Sure, if you race through the main story or quit your job and stop sleeping, you might finish the game before summer starts, but where’s the fun in that?
'HEROES OF THE STORM’
JUNE 2; PC
If you’ve been curious about “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” (MOBA) games like League of Legends and Dota 2 but find them a bit too intimidating, you might think about checking out Heroes of the Storm from World of Warcraft developer Blizzard.
Blizzard has a knack for jumping into a genre and showing everyone else how to do it. While Heroes of the Storm might not have a chance of eclipsing League of Legends’ international mega success, Blizzard’s name and reputation—coupled with their more accessible take on the genre—could make Heroes appeal to a different, less-obsessed demographic of gamers.
The game is currently in beta and set for a June 2 release date, so you can dive in right now. Just be careful: like World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Hearthstone before it, Heroes of the Storm will probably be addictive as hell.
'LEGO JURASSIC WORLD’
JUNE 12; 3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, XB360, XB1
Maybe you’re home for the summer and want to play a game with your little brother. Or you want something you can play with your daughter. Or maybe you’re just an adult who thinks dinosaurs are great. This is perfectly normal.
The most adorable and family-friendly way to get that dinosaur fix this summer is with LEGO Jurassic World, which takes you across all four Jurassic films in the classic LEGO style, combining authentic LEGO creations with elements of the film to create some great slapstick comedy.
It’s also coming out on every platform imaginable, so no matter where you game, you can play it.
'BATMAN ARKHAM KNIGHT’
JUNE 23; PC, PS4, XB1
Just like The Dark Knight was a big step up from Batman Begins, 2011’s Batman: Arkham City was a big step up from the first game in the “Arkham” series, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Now, Rocksteady has a chance to do what Christopher Nolan couldn’t: finish their trilogy the right way.
Arkham Knight is Rocksteady’s third and final Batman game, and it looks like it will be the best yet, bigger than its predecessors in every way. The footage above of the game running on PS4 make for some of the best looking visuals we’ve seen on a console. This also marks the first appearance of the Batmobile as a driveable vehicle in the series—and in any Batman game in quite a while.
Batman isn’t alone this time, either. “Dual play” will have Batman fighting alongside some of his allies and players will be able to switch between him and characters like Nightwing, Catwoman, Robin and Batgirl. Not only that, but Batgirl is getting her own prequel expansion and some of the other characters will get their own DLC story missions as well.
There are a few questions up in the air, including whether the Joker will return for one final showdown with the Bat. Thankfully, there’s less than a month to go until we find out.
'GOD OF WAR III REMASTERED’
JULY 14; PS4
For straight up hardcore, twitchy action, Sony’s God of War III Remastered has everything you need. Kratos’s violent, cruel world was an instant favorite among action fans when it originally hit PlayStation 2, and has been a core franchise for the PlayStation platform since then.
It seems inevitable that a new God of War game will come to PS4, but for now we have this remaster, upgraded from the PlayStation 3 version with 1080p graphics running at 60 frames per second, plus numerous other improved visuals. If you played GoW 3 on PS3 when it came out, this might not be a significant enough improvement to warrant another purchase, but if you somehow missed it this will likely be the definitive version.
'EA SPORTS RORY MCILROY PGA TOUR’
JULY 14; PS4, XB1
It’s been a couple of years since we hit the digital fairway; after Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, EA took a year off the game to create something entirely new for the next generation of consoles, rather than trying to shoehorn the existing engine and content over. And that may have paid off.
The team at EA Sports built Rory McIlroy PGA Tour from the ground up on EA’s Frostbite engine, the one they use for games like Battlefield 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is best suited for big, organic spaces. A side effect is that this allows the team to build crazy mini golf-style golf courses in addition to the realistic, licensed ones. Shit promises to get crazy.
'MADDEN NFL 16’
AUGUST 25; PS3, PS4, XB360, XB1
If you’re a Madden fan, you already know what day it’s coming, and you’ve already told your boss you’ll be “sick” that day.
At the worst, we’ll get a better-looking, better-running version of Madden as compared to last year, something more optimized for modern consoles. That’s what usually happens every year, anyway.
We don’t know a ton about what we can look forward to, but the details so far include body-relative passing to get the ball into your receiver’s hands, and not someone else’s, as well as more realistic interactions between receivers and defenders. Best case, these changes are only the beginning. Either way, millions of players will hit the field in August.
'SHADOWRUN HONG KONG’
We have a lot of action and sports games on this list, but sometimes you need a change of pace—a more methodical approach, which is what Shadowrun Hong Kong will offer.
It’s the third standalone entry in Harebrained Schemes’ Shadowrun series, but you don’t have to play the first two to get into it—these are standalone games.
Once you’re in, you can look forward to a world of cybertechnology and magic, corporate espionage, and lots and lots of gunfights. For gameplay comparisons, check out X-Com: Enemy Unknown, another game that pits you against multiple foes in turn-based, grid format battles that emphasizes planning and strategy.
SEPT. 1; PC, PS4, XB1
This is a good year for fans of the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Not only do we have a great new Mad Max film, there’s also Wasteland 2 and (very likely) a new Fallout game on the way. Oh, and the Mad Max game, of course.
Like Rocksteady’s take on Batman, Mad Max is no movie license cash-in. In fact, the story in the game has nothing to do with what we see in the movie; they were developed completely separately.
What will carry over is the chrome-and-rust car combat the movies are so well known for, as well as elements like Gasoline Town, crazy sandstorms, and War Boys. George Miller, director of the Mad Max series (and Babe: A Pig in the City, lol), consulted on the game’s art as well, so there’s at least some visual crossover between the movie and the game.
It’s been a while since we’ve had some really good car combat in a game, and Mad Max will hopefully fill that void.
'METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN’
SEPT. 1; PC, PS3, PS4, XB360, XB1
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain wasn’t meant to be Hideo Kojima’s last game with Konami, but shifting desires of executives and shareholders forced a change in company focus. Free-to-play games with a small investment and quick turnaround are more interesting than the big budget, long development games Kojima specializes in.
As a result, Metal Gear Solid V is Kojima’s last game with Konami and may well be the company’s last AAA game ever. Silent Hills was lost in the transition, but this game is almost done, and Kojima is staying on to finish it.
The Phantom Pain promises to be the biggest, most impressive Metal Gear Solid game yet, with wide open spaces and new ways to approach stealth missions, not to mention some really impressive visuals that we got a preview last spring in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a short prequel to The Phantom Pain.
Along with Mad Max, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the perfect way to cap off the summer: a pair of massive, open world games that’ll carry you into the fall game rush and beyond.
Now, who’s excited for summer?
Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, and it’s been downhill ever since. He takes a multifaceted approach to gaming news and reviews, mixing business analysis, cultural studies, tech and design. Eric has written for outlets like Playboy.com, TechnoBuffalo.com, TabTimes.com, and Kombo.com. In his free time, he perfects his napping technique and pursues the elusive perfect cheeseburger.