Great Games and Podcasts for Summer

Yes, summer is about being in the great outdoors, but that doesn't mean you have to stop gaming. PopMatters writers recommend several of our favorite summer gaming diversions.

Yes, summer is about being in the great outdoors, but that doesn't mean you have to stop gaming. Here are a number of recommendation for engrossing games for your portable devices so you can play at the park or beach. For those rainy days, a few console faves are on offer. Lastly, take along some gaming podcasts with you on those road trips this summer.


Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution / Age of Empires / Age of Empires: Mythologies (Nintendo DS)

Summer gaming is all about portability. Who wants to stay inside screwing around with Playstation or XBox, or even your computer, when you can hang out at the park, the beach or any place with a little handy device loaded with pleasurable diversions? The main issue I have with the Nintendo DS is most of the games are aimed at a very young market, with cartoonish graphics and simplistic play. These three DS takes on classic PC strategy games are a few of the rare exceptions, providing adult, turn-based play on this convenient little device that, if you have kids, you probably already have around your house, anyway.

Civilization, Age of Empires, and Age of Empires: Mythologies are mainstays of every plane ride I ever take, and the games I most addictively play on the DS. Certainly not as complex as The Quest for iPhone, which I recommend farther along in this series, these stripped down versions of the PC classics are nevertheless engaging and challenging. Plus, you know you really want to plot world conquest from a deck chair -- and with these games, you can. Sarah Zupko

Not the DS version.


Burnout Paradise

Based in not-so-sunny Guildford, one of the main homes of the British games industry, Criterion Games will be aware that just because summer has arrived doesn't mean the weather will hold up. It's when outdoor pursuits are off the menu that videogames really come into their own, and the weather is always perfect in Paradise City, the fictional American conurbation that is the setting for Burnout Paradise. The city's wide, fast streets and soaring mountain passes are the ideal setting for Burnout Paradise's gleaming supercars to tear around. With hundreds of pick-up-and-play events to complete and dozens of vehicles to unlock, Burnout Paradise is perhaps the ultimate exponent of the arcade racing game and contains enough gameplay to keep you going until the sunshine returns -- and then some. Andy Johnson


Child of Eden (Xbox 360)

In 2001, Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Lumines) released Rez, a synaesthetic rail shooter best described as the inside of William Gibson's mind. In 2011, Rez is followed by its spiritual successor, the recently released Child of Eden for Xbox 360 (the PS3 version is coming later this year). Child of Eden is a technorganic flight of fancy which feels like an altered state in and of itself. Flying through lushly detailed stages representing the ascendency of life, dreams and memory, players are tasked with recreating the enigmatic and beautiful girl Lumi, the first post-Singulairty human born in space. Playable with both the Xbox's conventional controller and the Kinect motion sensor, Child of Eden is a dizzying electronic dance celebrating life itself, great for casual play or a more intense summer evening. Kris Ligman


Flower (PSN)

Sensate as a living thing, few games manage to capture the vibrancy of nature as well as Flower, thatgamecompany's 2009 PSN exclusive. Elegant in its simplicity, Flower casts the player in the role of a petal dancing on the wind, spiraling effortlessly through blossoming meadows and sunlit autumnal fields. The player gathers petals, blooms flowers and paints fields in color and light, liberating twisted cityscapes into a new ecological utopia. Few games would merit poetic allusions, but as a genre-less and beautiful digital ballet on the subject of nature, Flower truly is worthy of being compared to a summer's day. Kris Ligman


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PlayStation 2 / Xbox / PC)

Sun... sand... felony grand theft auto. Rockstar's invocation of Miami circa 1986 still holds up nearly a decade later. The controls are still a little unreliable and the graphics are a little dated, but the mood and tone that Rockstar manages to evoke through the cars, architecture, and especially the music of the decade will still leave those who remember this time nostalgic for a Florida vacation -- well, assuming you can imagine the trip having been catalyzed by a drug deal gone bad. You'll do some very bad things in a very pretty place, but isn't that what some beach-side vacations are all about? G. Christopher Williams

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