Admit it, you’re in need of a break. We’re right there with you, but it isn’t always possible to hop on a plane or train to escape our daily lives. Fortunately, as ever, video games are here to whisk us away from tedium. If you’re feeling the lack of a sunny escape in your life right now, these eight summer-themed games will get the vacation vibes flowing within your home. They may not put sand between your physical toes, but we guarantee that they’re way more fun than hanging out 2023’s hundredth load of washing to dry. It's time to get away without going anywhere.
Exploring an archipelago digitally won’t deliver the same sun-soaked warmth and water of visiting one in person. That said, any real-life adventures won’t let you have quite so much creative fun as Tchia will. In this Pacific sandbox playground, you have the ability to possess any animal or object you encounter. Soar through the skies as a gull, stalk the shallows as a shark, or just roll around as a deflated tyre like the world’s least effective poltergeist. The choice is yours!
There’s a story to work through, sinister figures to fight, and an evil tyrant to overthrow. But we’re not looking to complete chores right now. So grab a glider, fling yourself off a tree, then jam out on a ukelele while the sun goes down. Now that’s a holiday.
Tchia is available on PC, PS5, and PS4.
If your vacation trips are anything like ours, half of your phone’s gallery will be taken up with pictures of weird and cute animals you encountered on your travels. Pupperazzi takes this idea to the extreme, employing you as a canine photographer in a variety of entertaining locales. You are a literal walking camera whose only purpose is to build up a portfolio of puppy pictures. In other words, the ultimate lifeform.
For maximum vacation vibes, we recommend heading to Lighthouse Cove, where you can snap shots of beach-loving pooches sunbathing during the day or partying it up with a boombox at a night. Just remember to share your holiday pictures with pals afterwards.
Pupperazzi is available on PC, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
What’s this? A horror game which primarily takes place at night on our summer list? It’s more likely than you think. The Quarry certainly features its fair share of monsters in the dark and blood-curdling screams. But it is, in its very essence, an homage to summer slasher flicks. A group of summer camp counselors ignore the foreboding advice of their camp leader and decide to stick around for one more night of revelry. Beer might be on their minds, but blood is more likely to be on the menu.
If you’ve played Until Dawn or any of The Dark Pictures Anthology, you’ll know the gist here: decisions and quick-time events will determine who lives and dies over the course of a single night spiraling deeply out of control. The Quarry is best enjoyed as an interactive group movie night, where each player takes control of one of the ill-fated stars for their turns in the spotlight. Prepare some popcorn, but make sure your hand is on the controller when lives are on the line.
The Quarry is available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Forza Horizon 5
We prefer to keep driving to a minimum during our international trips. But then again, ours don’t involve cruising down the coast of Mexico in a supercar. That’s a dream unlikely to be realized in reality. But in Forza Horizon 5? It's just the start of your getaway. You can hop in a monster truck to career around an active caldera, engage in races through narrow town streets, or spend time tinkering with a garage full of engines like they’re your personal summer project.
It’s an unapologetically cheery motorhead’s escape, but Forza Horizon 5 features arcadey enough racing controls that even the automobile ignorant can have a blast. The real shame? You won’t be able to enjoy Mexico’s magnificent cuisine unless you cook it up yourself before playing.
Forza Horizon 5 is available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
How long has it been since you last took a tour of your island? Days, months, or maybe even years? If you fall into the latter group, we have some bad news: you’re gonna need to do some weeding before your island is back in shape. But that time spent away will make the return all the more worth it as you rediscover the delight of fishing alongside a favorite village friend.
For those who’ve yet to establish their digital home away from home? You’re in for a treat. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the epitome of relaxing vacation spirit. It doles out its upgrades and activities at a leisurely, almost languid, pace. Establishing the core infrastructure of your village isn’t something that can be accomplished in a single day. The only meaning of hustle in this laid-back life sim is just how many Bells you’ll owe a certain raccoon upon arrival.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available on Nintendo Switch.
Dead Island 2
Forget Final Fantasy 15, Dead Island 2 is the closest to a road trip with your mates that video games can offer. And you won’t even be behind the wheel of a car. This zombie-filled land of narcissistic superstars is the perfect set dressing for a raucous co-operative adventure. Hop online with your friends and prepare to dropkick zombies in the face across beaches, movie studios, and luxury apartments.
There’s nothing special going on here in terms of mechanics or plot – though the voice acting for some of the lead characters is surprisingly solid – but it’s hard to keep yourself from laughing throughout. Once minute you'll be battering a hulking zombified bride with golf clubs, the next you'll be using explosives to blow shambling hordes into enough red mist to make even Quentin Tarantino blush. Switch your brain off, hit the beach, and bash some brain-eaters together with your mates.
Dead Island 2 is available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Hooked on You
A caveat before the complaints roll in: Yes, Hooked on You is a spinoff from asymmetrical multiplayer horror game Dead By Daylight. But this comedic visual novel wants you to hook up in a very different manner. The ridiculous premise has you wake up on a mysterious beach resort home to far more saucy versions of DBD’s Trapper, Huntress, Spirit, and Wraith Killers.
With the help of survivors Dwight and Claudette, you’ve got to win over the heart of one of them, and hopefully not end up as their next sacrifice in the process. Enjoy the breezy atmosphere, flirt outrageously, and try not to get horribly murdered. If that isn’t a great summer vacation, we don’t know what is.
Hooked on You is available on PC.
For the landlocked of us, a real summer break means a chance to dive into the deep blue. The sea is a special treat, though most of us will barely dip our real heads below the surface. Abzu, by contrast, offers the ultimate indulgence in it. Rich in color, this scuba-diving journey provides a joyous, musical celebration of life beneath the waves.
There’s some mild peril along the way, but you’ll likely spend the bulk of its two-ish hour runtime grinning in wonder as you playfully spin around shoals or hitch a ride on a whale’s back. We dare you to find a more welcoming digital water to bathe in.
Abzu is available on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
If you’ve got any go-to summer-themed games of your own, let us know so we can bask in their glory.