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While it might not officially be summer, it’s hard to not feel like we’re entering the summer months. The weather is starting to approach scorching temperatures, school is finishing up, and it’s about that time to be coming up with some vacation plans. That also means that we’re about to enter a time of the year where the video game release schedule typically eases up a bit. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any major releases at all, but traditionally game studios keep their major releases for the fall/holidays and late winter/early spring.
Because of that, it leaves a lot of us with free time to play older games, and with it being so hot outside we’re gonna want something that can keep us occupied inside for hours on end: something like an RPG. Maybe it’s just me, but the summer was always when I wanted to dive into a lengthy RPG of some kind, and since we don’t have any must play hits on the horizon this feels like a good year to do just that. These are the games that I’ll be spending my time playing throughout the summer.
Final Fantasy XIV
For awhile it started to feel like the MMORPG was a dying breed. Popular constants like World of Warcraft were slowly losing their popularity and the era of everyone trying to make one is a distant memory. While we still aren’t getting a new MMO every year like we used to, we do have a really great option for fans of the genre in Final Fantasy XIV. While the game was first released in 2010, it underwent a massive transformation that completely changed how it played. Multiple expansions since that transformation and it’s become one of the most popular games in the world, largely behind its story.
MMOs historically aren’t well received for their story, but more for how fun they are to play and the ability to let friends experience that fun together. Final Fantasy XIV meanwhile is one of the few MMOs that managed to make its userbase fall in love with, and overwhelmingly praise, its plot. Its most recent expansion, Endwalker, was beloved by fans with many of them saying it paid off plot threads over a decade in the making. If there was ever a time to get into a game that fans and critics have praised endlessly, it’s now. Experiencing everything Final Fantasy XIV has to offer can take hundreds of hours, but the experience will be well worth it.
Yes, everyone is still talking about Elden Ring and it’s hard to not see why. While it can be a bit of a challenge to get into because of its difficulty, everyone that has managed to break through the difficulty curve has had an experience that is completely their own. What makes Elden Ring so special is that it manages to capture that same level of fun that exists in something like Dungeons and Dragons, where the player experience thrives on how the player responds to everything. Through the open world of Elden Ring, the player is always on their own individual quest where every discovery is their own and only they can decide what direction they go in.
It helps that the world of Elden Ring is also MASSIVE. While players are making a point right now of beating the game in less than 15 minutes, the average Elden Ring playthrough can range well over 100 hours depending on how much the player wants to explore and do. Be warned that this game isn’t for everyone, its challenges are frustrating and can create an early roadblock, but with endless time this summer there might not be a better time than now to fight through it.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 was one of the best JRPGs on the PlayStation 4 and one of the best games that came out in 2017. However, it also took something like 80 hours to beat and could go well over 100 for players that wanted to do even more. So when Persona 5 Royal was announced, and it advertised that it had even more stuff to do, this easily felt like it was going to be a 100-hour game at a minimum. With such a time commitment to a game that’s admittedly more of an expansion than a new game, it was hard to justify playing Royal when it was first announced.
It’s that long playtime that makes Persona 5 Royal such an intriguing option for the summer. Back when some of us were children, or in college, and had the summer to ourselves it wasn’t unusual to play a game like this over the summer break. It might even be the only game we played during that break. Persona 5 really is a great game, and Royal is by all accounts an even better version of that game, but we needed the free time to experience it. That free time is right now.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
Some of the best games ever made is the Mass Effect trilogy. Originally released during the Xbox 360/PS3 era of consoles, these games took the player’s own Commander Shepard on an adventure to save the galaxy. While some might argue that it’s not technically an RPG, but instead a third-person shooter with RPG elements, we feel it fits thanks to the franchise’s customization options and dialogue tree. It’s the dialogue tree specifically that made Mass Effect feel so special at the time. It let so many players experience their own personal playthrough with their Commander Shepard where we each got to save the galaxy with our own brand of hero or scumbag.
Now that the trilogy is available in a package with the Mass Effect: Legendary Collection we can’t recommend the franchise enough. While the first game’s story is very good and can stand on its own, the series is best experienced as a trilogy. That’s what makes it a perfect summer game. Spend a month, or two, blasting through the franchise at your own pace. Maybe replay them if you fall in love the way many others did and experience one of the best RPG experiences out there.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Few games are as openly weird the way Yakuza: Like a Dragon is. On the surface, it’s an emotionally gripping crime drama featuring ex-Yakuza Ichiban Kasuga and his friends who all reside in the gray area of Japan’s laws going on the adventure of a lifetime. In this adventure, they’ll face off against the Yakuza, rival organized crime gangs, and the government itself as they try to solve the many issues of Japan’s underworld. When you dive into the game though, what you find is maybe the only game in the world where the player can simultaneously run a sweets shop while collecting different types of criminals for a digital encyclopedia. This is most likely the only game where a player can summon a crawfish for help in battle through an app called Poundmates and later on be on the brink of actual tears because the game’s plot can be that gut punching.
Like a Dragon is simultaneously a one of a kind game, but perfectly fitting for the franchise its set in, and that also makes it one of the best entry points into it. Like a Dragon is the first, and so far only Yakuza game, to be a JRPG and while it isn’t perfect it manages to merge into that setting exceptionally well. The main plot takes a little over 40 hours to beat on average, but it can take longer for players that really dive into its world it will likely take 60 hours. We strongly suggest diving into the world. It’s ridiculous, fun, and there’s something really neat around every corner. It’s a fantastic crime drama in a fantastic series of them and it’s a great way to spend the summer.