Summer isn’t usually the time of year you think of when you’re reminiscing about your favorite gaming experiences, but when you grow up in Alaska, sometimes Mother Nature hits you with a deluge in the middle of July that keeps you from doing much of anything outside.
So what is a kid to do? Well, when I wasn’t running around outside getting soaked (because I did love me some rain) it was board games, yummy food, movie marathons, and sitting down to play some rad video games. In fact, some of my favorite gaming memories are sitting in my bedroom as a kid with a controller in my hand, hearing the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. So in honor of summer’s arrival, I’m breaking down my favorite childhood summer gaming memories!
Secret of Mana – This is the first game that comes to mind when I think of my favorite summer gaming experiences. While the game came out in August the year before, in the summer of 1994, we had a solid week of some of the coldest and rainiest weather you can imagine, and that had me and my friend Kevin posted up in the big basement of his parent’s house playing some video games. We dabbled in some Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that summer too, but the thing that really blew our minds was Squaresoft’s Secret of Mana. The main reasons for this were it was a completely different playstyle from other games we had been playing, but it was the first time I can remember being able to truly play a game coach co-op. So, instead of us taking turns in LoZ, we both got to pick up a SNES controller and save the world together. We dominated that game throughout the whole week of crappy weather, and to this day it’s not only one of my favorite games of all time, but truly one of my favorite gaming memories.
Secret of Evermore – Secret of Evermore shares a lot of similarities with the aforementioned Secret of Mana. Made by the same company, is an action-RPG with real-time combat, radial menus, the ability to play more than one character, starts with “Secret of”, and overall a very similar structure. However, these games aren’t related story wise or anything, and in fact, Evermore doesn’t include the awesome ability to co-op, which was a bummer for Kevin and me, as we had planned on playing it together. That being said, this game still became an absolutely amazing summer gaming experience for me. The summer of 1996 saw me spending a decent amount of time at the local video store, called Home Video, where I picked up Evermore and played through it over the course of two weeks (and, therefore, two separate rentals. Thanks, mom!). The game was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, I think, as far as storytelling and setting go. I love this game, and now that I think about it, it’s been many, many years since I played it – maybe the summer of 2019 is a good time to dust this one off?
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Okay, so when Ocarina first came out during the holidays in 1998, you bet your sweet bippy I played that bad boy right away. That being said, the next summer I had my step-sister Danielle visiting from Colorado, and we had the infamous July downpour that relegated us to mostly indoor activities, and as such I got the Nintendo 64 out and showed of the newest Legend of Zelda. Danielle fell in love with the game, and after a few short days we had knocked this game out completely. Fast forward to three summers later, Danielle visits again and we make it a point to bust the N64 out again for another round of Ocarina – this time, we wanted to see how quickly we could speed run it. Over the course of a weekend, we must have played through the game three or four times, which was probably one of my first forays into competitive gaming of any kind, as a friend of ours came over and we dueled Ocarina on two different TVs. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is clearly the summer gift that keeps on giving!
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – I remember all of my Elder Scrolls memories fondly, but easily my favorite memory comes from a particularly damp summer in 2006. It was the year I graduated high school, and it was one of my last hurrahs with my best friend growing up before we went our separate ways for college. That year we spent a ton of time together, tubing on his lake, watching the World Cup (which was the year Zinedine Zidane headbutted a guy, so ya know, it was an interesting World Cup to watch), and playing Oblivion. On the days when it was just too crappy for us to do stuff outside, we bundled up in his family’s den and vanquished evil as a Dark Brotherhood Khajit Assassin. We didn’t have wares, but we would take your coin (and your life!) if we wanted to! It was truly an amazing summer – I have fond memories of a paused Oblivion in the background as we quickly cooked hot dogs and burgers on the barbecue, one of us working the grill, and the other shielding the grill from the torrential rain coming down. I will be seeing Ben again this summer, so I look forward to what kinds of shenanigans we can get into now that we’re in our 30s with kids… Gotta be at LEAST as exciting, right? Right!
Heavy Rain – My final entry in this might be one of my favorites, as it’s a really awesome memory I have with my little sister, Haley. Heavy Rain came out in the spring of 2010, the year I graduated from college, and I came home that summer to find that Haley had followed in my footsteps a bit as a budding gamer. She didn’t much like competitive games but had very much taken to the more immersive RPG kind of game, like Elder Scrolls or Fallout. I had tried Quantic Dream’s newest interactive storytelling adventure game a bit the month before, but I knew this would be a fun way to hang out with her when I got home. I waited for a particularly drab, rainy day (which, for better or for worse, happen off on and every single summer in Alaska), and busted out the PlayStation 3 to show it to her. The immersive and interactive gameplay was something she had never seen before, and we got immediately sucked in. And the fact that this was a game with multiple routes to take and choices to make, we ended up playing through it a couple times that summer – and we loved every single minute of it. Now that the game has been somewhat remastered and re-released on PC, maybe I’ll give it another try with her when I go home to Alaska this summer!