If youve been gaming as long as I have, youll probably recognize the malaise youre feeling right now. No, those virtual tumbleweeds arent a mirage--weve once again reached the dreaded summer video game drought. Unlike the film industry, which sees a deluge of celluloid blockbusters all season long, video game releases slow to a dribble, leaving us desperate for something--anything--to play. Sure, you could just go outside and find something to do but its hot out there. You could get heat stroke or something.
Dont worry, though, because Ive got your back. Ive compiled a list of some amazing single-player adventures that will eat up plenty of your time. Many of them clock in at over 50 hours--and thats not even including their side missions and extras. When the summer trickle turns into the holiday downpour, youll be begging them to slow down so you can finish your outstanding quests.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
This one is cheating a little bit because its technically two games, but the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is well worth playing. Final Fantasy X is a classic JRPG, putting you in the shoes of reluctant hero Tidus as he travels across the sunny shores of Spira, attempting to stop an ancient evil from continually being a major buzzkill. You can easily hit 60 hours as you hunt for everyones ultimate weapons and get neck deep in Spiras national pastime: Blitzball.
If Final Fantasy X is brooding and somber, then its sequel is the peppy friend that listens to nothing but J-Pop. Eschewing Xs turn-based combat for a more manic battle system, heroines Yuna, Rikku, and Paine change outfits on-the-fly to adapt to their foes. Far more lighthearted and cheeky, but no less jam-packed with content, X-2s numerous mini games and multiple endings will keep you occupied just as long--if not longer.
Completion Time: Easily over 100 hours for both games. [Buy it on Amazon]
Grand Theft Auto 5
The Grand Theft Auto series isnt exactly known for its lack of content, and Grand Theft Auto 5 is no different. Its adrenaline-fueled heists and twisting narrative require at least 30 or so hours to finish, but the city of Los Santos is the real star here.
Fly an airplane up as high as you can, then parachute out and dive into the ocean below. Take part in underground street races. Buy up property out in the middle of the desert. Beat up random strangers for no apparent reason. Go visit your shrink. Or just relax with a surprisingly competent pick-up game of golf or tennis. And all of this is before you even start to explore the mayhem its online component provides. Los Santos beckons you to explore every corner of its sprawling metropolis, and it rewards you with near-endless opportunities. And then you can play it all again on PS4, Xbox One, or PC later in 2014...
Completion Time: 30-40 hours, with tons of minigames, side missions, and online modes. [Buy it on Amazon]
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim - Legendary Edition
Skyrim is basically every ADD kids dream come true--and every completionists worst nightmare. Being a Dragonborn isnt easy. Theres always some villager out there with an item that needs finding, or a bandit that needs killing, or a woodland creature that's just asking to be set ablaze by your dragon shouts. And while the main storyline is continually dangled in front of you like a carrot on a stick, side quests, hidden caves, and ancient dungeons are strewn around like candy, constantly tempting you off the beaten path. Its possible to skip the plot entirely and just wander the numerous forests and clifftops that dot Skyrims landscape. Or, you can simply pick up everything that isnt nailed down and hoard it away--you know, for later.
If that wasnt enough, the Legendary Edition adds even more content, letting you take charge of your own village, discover your ultimate Dragonborn power, or even become a vampire. Good luck getting to it all befo--oh, look, a cave!
Completion Time: Around 40 hours if youre mainlining the story, but countless side quests make it feel endless. [Buy it on Amazon]
Persona 4: Golden
Some of you out there are likely on summer break, so the last thing youd want to play is a game that puts you right back in school. Luckily, Persona 4 is nothing like your typical school experience. Sure, youll spend time during the day hanging out with friends, building relationships, maybe taking on an odd job or two for some extra cash--but youll also meet a giant stuffed teddy bear in a world inside a television set, fight demons, and solve murder mysteries.
Like real life, your school year in Persona 4 will take you a long time to finish. Each day is filled with events and activities to experience, classes to take (yay?), and the decisions you make on a day-to-day basis have direct consequences on how your character grows and develops. Unlike real life, theres nary a swirly in sight.
Completion Time: At least 40-60 hours, with a New Game+ which carries over all of your stats. [Buy it on Amazon]
Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition
Bioware is an expert at making massive worlds, and nowhere is this more evident than Dragon Age: Origins. What seems like your standard elf/dwarf/human fantasy fare quickly gives way to a story filled with enough dark undertones and political machinations to give Game of Thrones a run for its money.
Origins refers to the unique background for each race and class in the game--that is, you can decide whether you want to be a hoity-toity nobleman or the dwarven version of Russell Crowe from Gladiator. Its more than a simple splash of flavor text--youre actually given several hours of content specific to the character youve created. Playing as a slumdog city elf will be vastly different from that of a mage, and each intro sets up how the world views your actions. With six different origins to choose from, plus all the extra quests and a complete, 15-20 hour-long expansion, youll quickly wonder where the hell your summer went.
Completion Time: 40-50 hours, and at least another 15 to finish the included expansion. [Buy it on Amazon]
Civilization 5 is a different beast than the other games on this list. If were going off of the time required to complete a single playthrough, it can be the shortest game here, as length is determined by customizable variables. But Civilization 5 defies you to only play one game.
Youll innocuously start a game one afternoon. Youll negotiate peace with Ghandi (only to have him backstab you later, the jerk), and build a military force large enough to make your enemies wet their pants. Youll then discover that days have inexplicably passed. And as soon as one game ends, youll want to start up a new one--perhaps playing as the Romans this time, on a massive map covered in water. One more turn starts as an excuse to keep playing, but it quickly becomes a mantra, a state of gaming nirvana that you can approach but never attain. Civilization V is strategy bliss, and few can touch its replayability.
Completion Time: Games take around 8-12 hours on average, but you could pretty much play this game forever. [Buy it on Amazon]
Borderlands 2 - Game of the Year Edition
What happens when you combine the first-person shooting of a game like Call of Duty and the compulsive loot grind of Diablo? You get Borderlands 2, a massive shooter that supports up to four players, and is just as chock-full of hidden secrets and super-powered weaponry as even the fattest RPGs.
The base game is a meaty endeavor on its own, taking nearly 50 hours just to see everything on offer. The Game of the Year Edition adds two new classes and five additional quests to shoot and loot your way through. And if you still cant get enough, additional DLC raises the level cap even higher, while Headhunter missions provide time-attack challenges for the most hardened adventurers. I have friends on Steam who have easily clocked over 150 hours on this game, often spending big chunks of that time in the game's excellent online co-op.
Completion Time: at least 40-50 hours, with DLC tacking on dozens of hours. [Buy it on Amazon]
Fallout: New Vegas - Ultimate Edition
Fallout: New Vegas asks a simple question: How fun would it be to wander the nuked-out remnants of a society perhaps a little too obsessed with the Jetsons? Turns out the answer is Are you kidding? Sign me up! Like Skyrim, there are tons of little hideaways and buildings to explore outside of the main quest, and with three different factions all vying for control over a futuristic version of the American Southwest (one of them made up of Roman Empire-obsessed psychopaths), theres plenty of reason to revisit the Mojave Wasteland several times.
The Ultimate Edition adds all five previously-released sets of DLC into one package, most of which take you outside the Mojave Wasteland into bizarre, fresh settings. Dont get discouraged by the numerous technical hiccups--a fantastic game lies underneath all the blemishes.
Completion Time: 40 hours, but different factions, additional content, and multiple endings tack on considerable length. [Buy it on Amazon]
Dark Souls is bleak. Harkening back to gaming days of yore, it makes no attempts to hold your hand as it kicks your ass up and down the decrepit kingdom of Lordran. Death is the great equalizer here--it teaches you how to respond to its innumerable challenges, and it keeps you from getting too cocky. Oh, and you lose all of your unspent experience points and half of your health when you die, making it even harder. This may sound like the worst way to spend what little free time you have, but theres a feeling of accomplishment in finally beating that skyscraper-sized boss that few games can replicate.
A single playthrough can easily take 50 hours, and its even possible to miss out on entire areas in your quest to cheat death. And once you finally conquer it, you can carry your stats over into a new game--making it considerably more difficult in the process. Have fun!
Completion Time: 50 hours, not including side areas and a New Game+ mode for true masochists. [Buy it on Amazon]
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Hayao Miyazakis Studio Ghibli has a special place in my heart, which is why I'm ecstatic that seasoned JRPG developer Level-5 worked with it to create a Pokmon-style monster-collecting adventure. You play as Oliver, a young, wide-eyed kid whose mother dies of heart failure. Shortly after, one of his toys comes to life, proclaiming himself Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Fairies. He and his adorable Welsh accent whisk Oliver away on a grand adventure, all rendered in Studio Ghiblis fantastic art style. Bizarre? Most definitely, but it's awesome nonetheless.
The plot is a bit conventional, and it doles out new concepts very deliberately--finally letting you actually catch more than a handful of creatures after six or seven hours of play. But Ni no Kuni is so bright and cheerfully optimistic that whatever issues it has are easily forgiven. Plus, running around and catching every monster in the game to do your bidding will leave your hands plenty full.
Completion Time: at least 40-50 hours, longer if you want to capture every monster. [Buy it on Amazon]
Square Enix has more or less abandoned the style of traditional Final Fantasy games--which makes Bravely Defaults existence even more amazing. Hell, if you squint just right youd think you were playing the next SNES-era Final Fantasy game. With more jobs (i.e. classes) than you'd know what to do with, and all of the classic spells, equipment, and summons making an appearance, Bravely Default is a game no JRPG lover should go without.
For reasons I wont spoil here, Bravely Defaults endgame is massive, and if youre a fan of the JRPG battle grind, youll be right at home. There are even some additions made to speed up the game. Fast-forwarding through turns and adjusting the frequency of random battles makes each encounter much more palatable to your personal play style. Even with all of these enhancement, more obsessive types can easily squeeze over 100 hours maxing out everyones jobs.
Completion Time: 50-60 hours, though leveling each class to their maximum potential will easily double that. [Buy it on Amazon]
Few games come along with as much style and grace as Okami. As the sun god Amaterasu, your goal is to clear out the spiritual toxin that pervades ancient Nippon, using your Celestial Brush to draw symbols on-screen to place bombs, cut bushes, or conjure wind out of thin air. Utilizing the same aesthetic of Japanese ink wash paintings and featuring gameplay similar to The Legend of Zelda series, Okami is an artistic masterpiece that feels both strangely familiar and unlike anything else. It also takes forever to finish.
When most games decide its time to pack it in, Okami is barely even getting started. It fakes you out around 20 hours in, only to pull the curtains back and reveal the rest of the adventure. It recycles a few boss fights near the end of the game, but its already so full of unique ideas by that point that a little padding can hardly bring it down.
Completion Time: 50-60 hours, with hidden items and side quests galore.
Beat the heat
Even one or two of these games should get you through the rest of the summer, but if youre daring (or just a little insane), tackling this entire list should cover you until well into 2015--which just so happens to be when all those sweet games you saw at E3 finally come out. Let us know what your favorite summer time-waster is in the comments below!
Speaking of E3, be sure to check out our favorite games of the show this year. Dont have a next-gen console? No problem--heres a list of 15 fantastic-looking games still headed to current-gen.