Wintery weather and dark nights are not for everyone, below we take stock of the games that can transport you back to the warmth of Summer!
In Europe particularly, matters get pretty chilly and dark come November, some places have only a few hours of sunlight daily. The Winter lasts resolutely until Spring bustles through in March, a period of months that, for those who enjoy sunny warmth, can be a little testing. Distracting ourselves from the ice outside and taking our minds elsewhere is possible through books, films and music, but one medium I just so coincidentally like to use to remind me of Summer and its untroubled innocence is video games. Of course, you have your behemoths, Red Dead Redemption, God of War, Far Cry, and Grand Theft Auto, some series having multiple games, but you already know that all of these are extensive campaigns capable of transporting you to other lives and locations, what about some of the underdogs?
The Legend of Zelda
You can’t have a proper discussion about cheery feel-good games without mentioning The Legend of Zelda, whether that be in relation to Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild or even Majora’s Mask, the Zelda games and their adoration of hero archetypes are a perfect play to take your mind elsewhere. Bright graphics, serene environments, Link’s hilarious battle cries, a calming soundtrack and a plot arc that captures your heart from the get-go may be all you need to ride out the occasional gloom of Winter. There is an indefatigable and refreshing wholesomeness to Zelda games that, irrespective of season, never fails to put but a little smile on your face. If you’ve got a Switch and you haven’t played any Legend of Zelda games, you are sorely missing out my friend! And no, it’s not a kid’s game!
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
If a taste of all things Summer is what you are after, it would be hard to rival the palatable Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. As it says on the tin, this game is an adventure, negotiating all things Ancient Greece from Mount Taygetos to Naxos and up across to Kephallonia, Alexios and/or Kassandra travel a massive map full of sprightly forests, omniscient oceans, and battles to be won, decisions to be made. Our task, to reconcile our family, to prevail over The Cult of Kosmos, and to favour and fight for the force of good – talk about valour! Spilling blood is inexorable, but for what purpose? Slay evil, develop your warrior, and travel alongside your trusty companions, Ikaros and Phobos. With a mission so noble and a world so vast as Odyssey, this sunburnt game fully deserves its place at the feel-good-game table!
Ghost of Tsushima
In the same vein, Ghost of Tsushima is a similarly compelling play, overcoming evil and whatnot. Here we are Jin Sakai, a Samurai of Tsushima shunned and left for dead by the invading Mongols, only we are not dead – our tale has only just begun. We negotiate an irrefutably stunning landscape complete with the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen in a game – it is enough to drop your jaw in Summer let alone Winter. It’s an uplifting story, Ghost of Tsushima, and an intriguing one at that; Jin must triumph in many battles and make many difficult decisions, but this is a game about friendship, loyalty, and human spirit – and the combat involved is also sublime. We humans grew up nomadic by nature, so perhaps it’s not so much a bad thing to let your mind take in completely new environments. encapsulating the beauty of Ancient Japanese culture, injecting it into a game and placing you at the heart of such culture, Ghost of Tsushima was for good reason the first game to spring to mind when devising this list.
Perhaps it is less the sun or warmth but the freedom of Summer that you long for, in which case Ubisoft’s Riders Republic might be a little more up your street (or trail). Myriad adrenaline-fuelled races and solo-ventures wait for you at the XGames, set in several natural American landmarks notorious for being breath-taking – why wouldn’t you want to ski, snowboard, cycle, wingsuit, or jetpack around these places? Beats me. Either way, I found Riders Republic to extinguish a bit of that nervous energy you are susceptible to the Winter – performing some risky tricks under clear blue skies with no consequence has a good way of doing that.
Life is Strange – True Colours
Merely the name ‘Haven Springs’ sounds idyllic and precisely where you might want to be during the Winter months, just wait until you see the place! Life is Strange: True Colours begins on a rather sombre note, but swiftly has you emotionally hooked on the characters and their attendant stories. True Colours is bright, it’s warm and sincere and, due to its decision-making nature, plunges you into Haven Springs as if you were a lifelong resident. There is a reason such a buzz surrounds Life is Strange games – they are welcoming, enchanting and moreish – an ideal cocktail to ameliorate the feelings caused by some of the colder months ahead.
Ori The Collection
It is said that caring for something, a pet, or a friend, can be among the best distractions we can go for when we might be in need of a leg-up? Well, perhaps a video game character might be an alternative – an ethereal spirit named Ori is a good place to begin. The Metroidvania games that are the Will of the Wisps and Blind Forest are two plays that, although short, are an immediate escape – Ori is our responsibility; we must shelter them from the dangers ahead, keeping them safe and secure. Mirroring the unfolding of the seasons, Ori games tend to have a narrative that revolves around dealing with darkness and through toil and task conquering it, then replacing it with the fresh air of morality and good fortune. Better still, you can play both games in the Ori The Collection pack! Don’t overlook this cute little spectral creature when searching for a play this Winter, this game has grown adults weeping with both joy and sadness.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
When lost in the minutiae of life can things get a bit hairy. In times like these, to relieve ourselves of arduous weights and fatigue, it is sometimes best to contemplate the bigger picture – the cosmos and such. It would be a shame to do that alone, hence why I am prescribing to you Ratchet and Rivet from, shock horror, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Go on a vibrant and rather eccentrically designed sojourn from planet to planet to save the universe, contend with Dr Nefarious and from him usurp the conduit of ultimate omnipotence, the Dimensionator! Get stuck into colourful battles with a range of weapons, eliminate your adversaries in a seemingly innocuous way, and make stellar friends while doing so. If nothing else, Ratchet and Clank games are virtually always fantastically written, using dry and self-deprecating humour to have you cackling away as you blast away your enemies. It’s an oddly restful experience, playing a Ratchet and Clank game – it leaves a nice aftertaste in your brain.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
OK – I know I said no behemoths, but you just have to mention The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt when talking about games with massive immersive pull and a feel-good factor. Whether you are collating a list of games with the best graphics, lore, gameplay, or characters, TW3 will likely make an appearance in all. On a drizzly Wednesday evening, sometimes you want to be wrapped up in the whirlwind of a story, a different world, for a few hours – who better to become than the man known as the Butcher of Blaviken or the White Wolf, Geralt of Rivia himself? More, TW3 dons a non-linear plot arc, meaning the smallest of your decisions alter how the game concludes; you just cannot help but become sewn into the fabric of the Wild Hunt tale from the first minutes. From the Isle of Skellige to Novigrad, Oxenfurt and Velen, a slew of NPC’s, storied monsters, and gorgeous vistas wait to be galloped over with Geralt’s sidekick, Roach. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows on the Continent, but it is the trials and tribulations that keep you forever on your feet with Silver and Steel sword brandished throughout the minimum 50-hour playthrough. In the same vein, when there is cause for celebration and revelry, players are so deep into the story that they become completely engulfed by it.
Forza Horizon 5
This one might admittedly be a touch obvious due to the fact it only released two weeks back and already has well-over 10 million players – a record breaker – but if you’re craving a bit of heat, Mexico-themed Forza Horizon 5 might well be your jack of all trades. Strangely enough, pushing the peddle to the metal as you zoom around desert, beachside and lush jungle alike is quite the cathartic experience. The intense focus needed to take the podium in races and not wreck your custom-tuned supercars is enough to subtly sap your adrenaline. Unwinding after a long, troublesome day might be as easy as getting in a virtual car, parachuting out of a plane, and racing through a sandstorm – it’s often the simple stuff that works, eh? Plus, with some superb (and raytraced) graphics guiding you through a map 50% larger than the games predecessor, FH4, the sprightly racing game feels more than real enough to allow the warmth of the Mexican sun to radiate through the screen.
Yes, this game hasn’t come out yet, but in the search for comfort it can be the case that nostalgia is a reliable friend. In the wake of Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Infinite (out on December 8th) zooms in on the man we love most: Master Chief. Installation 07, better known as Zeta Halo, has been overrun by the Banished, and Cortana, the AI with the power to erase the universe, is still worryingly M.I.A. Just in time to prevent anything going full-on FUBAR, Chief is found floating about in space by The Pilot, gets back to work in mere minutes. Zeta Halo is an immaculately Halo-esque backdrop; alpine forestry, mountains, and twisted steel… and plenty of classic guns and vehicles. It’s less summery than some of the games mentioned above, but it still has endless hours of fun – mid-air battles and exploiting gadgets – to be had. Infinite is simultaneously a truly next-gen title and a love letter to Halo games been and gone. If nothing else, the buzz of again playing a Halo title is enough to free us from the shackles of frost and snow.
Naturally, there is an entire portfolio of gaming titles at the ready to have you back in the spirit of summer, the above list is merely the most pertinent examples that most have heard of in some capacity. We first hope that you do delve into some of the titles featured above, but we would love to hear any other suggestions this list may have sparked in you too. If we get enough of them, we’ll write up a part two! All the same, the oft-gruelling Winter period doesn’t have to be as dark as nature would have you believe; we have electricity, and with that voltage a whole host of worlds are born, each with their own charm and allure. The wonder of the National Grid!