The summer months are perfect for getting outdoors, whether you’re kicking back on the beach, hiking through the wilderness, or enjoying a tasty cookout. However, when the scorching heat sends us inside to bask in air conditioning, why not keep the good times rolling? We say you should embrace the summer vibes, boot up some retro games, and drench yourself in nostalgia.
To help you find the perfect retro title for peak summer gaming, we’ve whipped together a list that spans multiple decades and genres. Best of all, several of these games are better in multiplayer, so fetch your friends for some heated old-school competition. Listed in no particular order, here are five breezy retro games to help you cool off during the dog days of summer!
These Radiant Retro Games Will Brighten Up Your Summer
1. Wave Race 64
There are few things in life as joyful as riding a jet ski, and Wave Race 64 manages to emulate that blissful summer activity to absolute perfection. This upbeat and simple water-based racing game was released in 1996 as a launch game for the Nintendo 64, showcasing the dynamic physics and fluidity that 3D gaming had to offer.
There are no fancy weapons or power-ups like you’d see in Mario Kart 64, but the feeling of bobbing between buoys as you crash against roaring waves more than makes up for it. Complete with an exceptionally enthusiastic announcer, tropical stages, and an absolute banger of a soundtrack, Wave Race 64 is a must-play summer retro game.
2. Super Mario Sunshine
Like Wave Race 64, Super Mario Sunshine helped showcase the cutting-edge technology of a new Nintendo home console, in this case, the GameCube. Splashing onto store shelves in the summer of 2002, Super Mario Sunshine sees the beloved plumber going on a vacation to the tropical Isle Delfino.
Equipped with the flashy FLUDD water pack, Mario must search for 120 Shine Sprites across a slew of summery stages, all while cleaning up gunk and trying to rescue Princess Peach. Between the pleasant variety of tropical stages, awesome movement mechanics, and iconic Nintendo polish, Super Mario Sunshine offers everything you could want out of a satisfying retro game to play this summer.
3. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Released in 1999 on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and several handhelds, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater evoked a rebellious sense of freedom that felt akin to showing up at the skate park on the first day of summer break. With its incredibly high replayability, exquisite punk rock soundtrack, and creative trick system, the game transcended the sport and became a mainstream hit.
Now, dropping into a virtual half pipe while Goldfinger’s “Superman” blares on the speakers is an immediate nostalgia bomb for any 90s-era gamer. Thanks to its pick-up-and-play nature and continuously laid-back atmosphere, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a perfect retro game to play with your pals this summer.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Fusing the signature fantasy formula of The Legend of Zelda with breezy sailing mechanics and an archipelago setting, Wind Waker is a divisive GameCube classic that is infinitely more fun when played in the summer. Released in 2002, this cel-shaded adventure tasks players with sailing the high seas as they solve puzzling dungeons, battle beasts, and explore the endless blue expanse of the ocean.
While Wind Waker has everything you’d expect out of a Zelda game, it often plays out at a more relaxed pace, encouraging exploration and experimentation from the player. If you want to embark on a sunny and lighthearted adventure across the seas, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of the best ways to set sail.
5. Track & Field
What’s a summer without a little competition? As both an extremely popular arcade and NES game, Track & Field is a sports game that will actually test your physical limits. In this 1983 multiplayer gem, you compete in various Olympic-style events, including the long jump, javelin throw, 100-meter dash, and more. With a few exceptions, the majority of these mini-games will have you mashing buttons as fast as humanly possible.
Track & Field is fun enough if you play against the computer opponent, but local multiplayer is where it really shines. As a bonus, the extremely simple controls make it a perfect place for gaming rookies to join in. If you want to add some sweat to your summer and test your button-mashing skill, Track & Field is where it’s at.