Summer is tough on the person who loves playing video games. How can one survive gaming's hottest, sweatiest and slowest season, whether hitting the beach with a Nintendo DS and PSP, or staying home and out of the sun?
If you're going on an extended road trip or vacationing to destinations far from home and video game console, learn to love—and make sure to protect—your portables this summer. Whether you're an aficionado of the Nintendo DS, PSP or prefer to get your gaming done in-between texting and phone calls on your iPhone, don't leave home this summer without some of these long haul games, perfect to get lost in while stuck in back seat of a car on that long drive to visit the World's Largest Ball of Twine.
And don't forget the accessories. If you're going to the beach, you're going to need some serious protection—sunblock for you to protect that gamer tan, sand-blocking cases and screen cleaning supplies for your portable platform of choice. If you're traveling internationally, don't forget one or more AC outlet adapters, like this all-in-one from Kensington.
The Nintendo DS library is rich with role-playing games, the ideal, long-term investment genre that can suck up an entire summer vacation. Just don't forget to look up from the screen once in a while to take in that gorgeous sunset, national park or aforementioned string ball.
- Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - Square Enix's latest role-playing game can turn backseat boredom into days worth of good clean fun. If you're traveling with a friend or RPG-loving sibling, adventure together as a group of up to four players.
- Picross 3D - With hundreds of puzzles and dozens of hours of gameplay, plus the option to download additional puzzles should you find a Wi-fi spot, Picross 3D offers your best gaming for the buck.
- 100 Classic Books - Having a reading assignment this summer? It's probably on this cartridge. If you'd just prefer to appear better read at your next clambake or woo some beach bunny with romantic Shakespearian quotes, get this collection of digital literature.
- Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Puzzles and role-playing? What a combo! Another big time investment with some clever play mechanics.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - It's Zelda! Bright and cheery like a summer day, Link's latest adventure is perfect for those gamers who don't become car sick while adventuring in 3D. Stylus controlled games like Spirit Tracks are ideal for hands slippery with sunblock.
Must Have Summer Survival Accessories
If you're planning on hitting the beach or plan on an extended summer adventure, you must bring a Nintendo DS case. Power A's Nintendo DSi XL Ultimate Travel Case can house everything you need, including a few cartridges, everything up to the size of an extra-large sized DS and a few extra styli. Hori's option (pictured) for housing your Nintendo portables, games and whatnots is also sound.
Practice common sense. If you're going to be spending hours at the beach, eyes glued to the LCD screen of your handheld, take precautions. Apply sunscreen liberally (or have a bikini model apply it for you), wear UV coated sunglasses to stay cataract-free and limit your exposure to the sun.
For maximum protection against gooey PSPs and DSs, keep your handhelds sunscreen slime free with Purell sanitizing hand wipes. (For your hands, not your electronics.)
To protect your DS's screens from glare, scratches and the dangers of greasy sunblock, a screen protector like BoxWave's adhesive ClearTouch Anti-Glare films will help keep your portable pristine.
Finally, don't leave the home fort without a back-up stylus (or three) and consider a DS car adapter to keep the handheld charged on long trips.
For the gamer who would prefer to keep his or her games, MP3s, movies and more with them at all times, bring your PSP. Like the Nintendo DS, there are plenty of recent long session games to play. If you're just now getting into the PSP ownership game, check out our first-time buyer's guide and stock up on dirt cheap UMDs before you embark on your summer quest.
And play these games!
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - Add some stealth to your summer with the newest adventures of Snake. In addition to solid solo play, Peace Walker lets players cooperate with wireless multiplayer. Settle your backseat differences with some Cold War era cooperative fun.
- Lunar: Silver Star Harmony - If you've never played this Japanese role-playing game classic, now's the time. It's gorgeously remade on the PSP and offers plenty of summer slaying grind to while away the hours.
- LittleBigPlanet - This adorable platformer adds dozens of hours of fun with its built-in level creator. Spawn your own LittleBigPlanet game types and worlds, then share them with a friend.
- Half-Minute Hero - Get your fix of PSP gaming 30 seconds at a time, eschewing grind for fast-paced action RPG fun. It's cute, colorful and offers a different take on the portable time-sink.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable - Driving cross country this summer? Let the latest portable version of Atlus' demonic role-playing game eat up all your free time's free time.
Must Have Summer Survival Accessories
Bring a back up battery, just in case. And speaking of cases, protect your PSP or PSPgo properly, either with a Logitech PSP PlayGear Pocket—a hard shell that also acts as a stand and sun shield—or with Sony's official case for the download-only go.
Hori makes some fine screen protectors, should you want to keep your PSP free from dangers of sand, seagulls and fruity tropical cocktails.
Download loads of PSone Classics that you never got around to during the original PlayStation era, scour your local game store's used bin for cheap UMD movies, just in case your thumbs get sunburned, and bring a cleaning cloth to keep that PSP screen nice and viewable. Quality headphones are a must!
iPhone & iPod Touch
If you have an iPhone, it does more than just occasionally successfully make a phone call, it also plays games! There are hundreds to choose from, some of which are actually quite good. Our iPhone and iPod Touch for gaming buyer's guide has everything new owners need to know, but if you're looking to game on Apple's platform this summer, get these games too.
- Plants Vs. Zombies - PopCap's occult horticultural real-time strategy game plays smashingly on an iPhone, preferably on a 3GS or better, and can't be beaten in an afternoon. Great for short or long sessions this summer.
- The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition - There's a laugh every few minutes in this classic adventure game, remade for the iPhone. Its tropical theme is perfect for rainy days at the beach.
- Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor - Adventure games don't get much better than this. Dozens of levels and plenty of hidden secrets are packed into Spider, which is also available for the iPad in HD.
- Canabalt - Steal a few minutes (or seconds) worth of iPhone gaming time with this simple but addictive platformer. All your friends will know just how much fun you're having on your summer vacation when they see that you ran 2316m before hitting a wall and tumbling to your death on your Twitter feed.
- Peggle - Stuffed with content and reliable peg-smashing fun, Peggle on the iPhone and iPod Touch is a great way to kill a few minutes or hours this summer.
If You're Stuck At Home This Summer
So, you won't be going to the south of France this summer? No beach blanket bingo or bonfires planned? Don't fret! The outlook for summertime gaming is still sunny.
Tackle That Backlog
Remember that flood of Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC games that hit this spring? How many of them are sitting untouched on your shelf, still in the shrinkwrap? If you're not planning on going outside this hot and sticky summer, burn through that stack of unfinished games for two very important reasons.
One, the next flood of games starts to hit as summer ends. Due soon are StarCraft II (July 27), Metroid: Other M (Aug. 31), Halo: Reach (Sept. 14), Civilization V (Sept. 21), Dead Rising 2 (Sept. 28), not to mention an injection of new sports titles, like the latest Madden and NBA Jam.
Two, if you want to play some of the summer's best games, it's time to clear some space. Finish those holiday and springtime games now, then trade them in for Microsoft Points and PlayStation Store cards. Here's why…
The Summer's Best Games Are Digital
While retail releases of big name games are on summer break, digital distribution never gets a day off. Stay close to the air conditioning this summer and play games DeathSpank (XBLA/PSN), Joe Danger (PSN only), and Limbo (XBLA only). Games to keep an eye on this summer include Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
There are plenty of Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network games on sale throughout the summer, so keep an eye out for deals.
Play Games Outdoors
If you insist on going out into the sunny elements, give some of Kotaku's Backyard Adaptations of Video Game Classics a try.
Have some summertime gaming survival tips of your own? Please share them with us in the comments so that we'll all swelter smarter together.