The Top 7… Best summers in videogame history

Summer seems like the perfect time to play videogames. Every kid is out of school for three whole months, with zero homework and zero responsibilities. Every adult is searching for an excuse to stay indoors and avoid the oppressive heat of the tyrannical sun. And as a result, nearly every big-budget, blockbuster movie is shown within the sanctuary of air-conditioned theaters during this season.

Yet for whatever inexplicable reason, summer is almost always a neglected wasteland for games. Just look at 2010 – our rundown of releases for July and August was so barren we were forced to include a fan-made King's Quest sequel, the fifth Harvest Moon on DS and ten different examples of DLC.

Surely, it doesn't have to be this way… and sure enough, while searching for solace from this extremely dull summer, we remembered seven summers that weren't nearly as bad. In fact, they were pretty damn great. Care to journey back with us?

Summer of 1987

The games that made it memorable: While Nintendo had conquered the home console market by the fall and winter of 1985, the company's full and lasting legacy wasn't born until the summer of 1987. Sure, the first Super Mario was out, and the second was over a year away, but name any other classic 8-bit franchise that's still going strong today. Zelda? Metroid? Released just a week apart in August – Metroid on the 15th and The Legend of Zelda on the 22nd. Not enough? The original Kid Icarus arrived on US shelves in July, and Konami's original Castlevania came out in early May. And if you were already a teenager or adult in 1987? Well, forget about Nintendo… you had Sierra On-Line's Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards to keep you, ahem, occupied.

The big summer movie:

The commercial you saw over and over:

Summer of 1989

The games that made it memorable: This summer had something for practically everyone. June's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES may not have been as fun as the earlier arcade version, but every kid we knew played the hell out of that game. At least until July, when what many now consider the greatest of Capcom's old-school platformers – Mega Man 2 – arrived in stores. In August, those who weren't content to sit at home could buy the original Game Boy (plus Tetris and Super Mario Land!) while those who were ready for the next generation of consoles could opt for a new Sega Genesis (with Altered Beast, perhaps?) or TurboGrafx-16. Gamers more interested in thoughtful strategy than button-mashing action were catered to as well – this was the summer that legendary designer Peter Molyneux introduced his first God game, Populous, to the world. And should we mention the release of Dragon Warrior? Nah, because no one played that until Nintendo Power shipped it free with subscription in 1990.

The big summer movie:

The commercial you saw over and over:


Top 7

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  • egregious - August 28, 2010 12:41 p.m.

    2010 had Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dragon Quest 9, and, um, Transformers: War for Cybertron. Red Dead Redemption felt more like a spring release than anything. There were also the XBLA/PSN titles, but Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Limbo were the only ones I played. Crackdown 2 should have eaten up my whole summer, but its murkiness and the needless "zombies" convinced me to actually trade in for Halo: Reach. Completely trumped by last summer. 2003 was pretty big because I had graduated high school and would go to college that fall, having experienced the awesomeness of Silent Hill 3, Knights of the Old Republic, and F-Zero GX.
  • Rofl - August 27, 2010 12:47 a.m.

    and not the soon to be in the top 7, 2010 for halo reach , fallout new vegus, and red dead redemption
  • Strangleme - August 26, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    Fuck I'll say it again...BEST TOP 7...EVER!!
  • ThePeanutGangsta - August 26, 2010 3:44 a.m.

    I was born in the 90s but I do like to learn about the other stuff from the 80s, I had loads of that stuff though, I have had all the gameboys from the original up to gameboy sp and I still miss sonic on the sega megadrive and I realise alot of you wont care but my first word was in fact "sega" so I owe the gaming industry alot. The thing I love most about gamesradar is that no matter how old the game, it will always have a place in an article if it deserves to be there. Great article, keep it up.
  • gamewriter - August 26, 2010 3:05 a.m.

    I have to admit i agree that all of these are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!
  • GameManiac - August 25, 2010 11:15 p.m.

    Nice. I just wish my summers were in a colder place.
  • loganb4295 - August 25, 2010 10:33 p.m.

    that street fighter 2 commercial was freaky as shit...were the developers smokin crystal meth or somethin only thing funny was the dinosaur at the end
  • ASilentCircus - August 25, 2010 10:18 a.m.

    I had a ton of the games from 03 and 09, ah I remember it like it was just yesterday. Spending countless hours on KotoR, playing tons of multiplayer with my friends on FZero and gettin the crap scared out of me with SH3...good times.
  • JADENkOTOR - August 24, 2010 11:26 p.m.

    Holy Nostalgia-ville... 1991 Takes the cake by far even though its hard not to take KOTOR. With Sonic, Super Mario World, and T2 its impossible not to pick.
  • IceHawk79 - August 24, 2010 10:57 p.m.

    I cant make up my mind for the best year. All of them!
  • Pr0tonC4 - August 24, 2010 10:56 p.m.

    The good ole days...
  • GarysLaptop - August 24, 2010 10:18 p.m.

    Summer of 95. Best year of my life...
  • egregious - August 24, 2010 9:10 p.m.

    Awesome article. Damn. I didn't realize I played most of Summer 2009's titles. X-Men Origins Wolverine was a thousand times better than the movie. Summer 1989 for me meant Batman and Michael Jackson's Moonwalker in the arcades. I didn't get a Genesis till Christmas 1991 and an SNES until Christmas 1994.
  • Crimsonkingx - August 24, 2010 5:36 p.m.

    Good Article, but...come on man! Forgot the Dreamcast! And I am pretty sure there were a good list of PSone games being pooped out at the same time. Maybe Jet Force Gemini on the 64. Don't quote me on that though. Memory isn't what it used to be.
  • Batman - August 24, 2010 5:28 p.m.

    Summer of 1991 chose your side...???? you kinda left out the people like me who had both a Sega Genisis and a Snes .Win Win
  • lln35 - August 24, 2010 5 p.m.

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  • OriginalJonty - August 24, 2010 3:52 p.m.

    I was born in 1988 and caught up with gaming halfway through the Sega/Nintendo war. I was 5 and I was made to choose. Gaming turned me into a child soldier.
  • waffledragon33 - August 24, 2010 3:11 p.m.

    i love summer
  • DLSemen - August 24, 2010 2:44 p.m.

    this is a fantastic article, charlie!
  • FunkSoulBrother - August 24, 2010 12:41 p.m.

    This summer was TERRIBLE with game releases.