Summer is upon us, and like most people you probably want to get away from the stresses of day to day life with a nice vacation. Unfortunately, your broke ass can't afford it. Maybe you just bought a new house, maybe you're struggling to find a job, or maybe your latest meth-fueled orgy went over budget. Whatever the reason, you're staying home this year.
Luckily your old friends, video games, have your back. It turns out you can put together a pretty decent fake summer vacation by playing the right games. Sure, it's no substitute for the real thing, but it beats looking at photos of past trips and quietly sobbing to yourself.
8. Wave Race
If you can't afford a vacation, you sure as hell can't afford a jet ski. Yeah, you could rent or borrow or steal one, but then you'd feel even worse about not owning one when it was time to return it or appear in court. Those who taste the jet ski want more.
Save yourself the anguish and play a Wave Race game, preferably Wave Race: Blue Storm on the Gamecube (the most recent in the series). The water effects hold up surprisingly well, and most of the courses have a relaxing summer vibe. In addition to looking way nicer than some crowded beach full of discarded beer cans and food wrappers, you're on the water winning championships instead of dodging errant children dogpaddling around. It's basically the sort of jet skiing you would do if you were a professional and/or a multi-millionaire. Which you're not, presumably. If you are, congratulations! That's pretty cool.
The rest of us are only pulling moves like this off in video games.
Also, you can ride a dolphin! Try doing that in real life without getting arrested or beaten to death by the very creature you tried to tame.
7. River King
You might think a simple, timeless summer pastime like fishing would be immune to budget problems, but by the time you factor in the tackle, fishing license, gas to get to a good spot and shark repellant the expenses add up. So unless you're looking to go all Huck Finn and fish with a stick you should check out a River King game.
River King is a long running series that's seen 10 entries and various spinoffs, although only four games have made it North America. They mix fishing with light RPG elements and simple stories, essentially making them fishing adventures. Fans of Harvest Moon, the relatively more popular series by the same developer, will feel right at home--the two franchises share a similar graphical style.
River King: Mystic Valley came out for the DS a few years ago, but if you don't mind the old school graphics you should track down the superior Legend of the River King 2 for the Game Boy Color (or get its predecessor from the Nintendo eShop). The two games practically ooze charm, and in a way the simplistic visuals are part of the appeal.
Note the lack of mosquitoes biting you.
Whichever game you try, I suggest playing it late at night. Lie in bed, open the window to let the warm summer wind in, and be amazed at how relaxing a game about fishing can be. At least until some stupid trout runs away with your bait half a dozen times.
6. The Sims
Some people prefer to let summer vacation come to them. By throwing a BBQ or a pool party you can have all the fun of a summer outing without having to leave the comfort of your home. But it's still a lot of work - you've got to coordinate schedules to make sure everyone can come, and then you've got to clean up the post-shindig mess left by your ungrateful guests. And that doesn't include the huge cost of food and drinks, because the cheapskates you know aren't contributing anything beyond a bag of Doritos and a six pack of Schlitz Ice. The Sims games take most of the work out of throwing a summer slammer. You can do it at the last minute with nary a cost, and you don't even have to have real friends!
The Sims is a series that prides itself on its vast customization options, so no matter what you have in mind for a party you can make it happen, and with just a few mouse clicks instead of a few long, expensive trips to the mall. Tiki pool party? Done. BBQ and dance-off? Sure. Want to toss the football around on a beautiful summer evening, and then shuffle everyone inside for a good, wholesome sex party? No problem.
Best of all, you're in total control. That means no drunken arguments and nobody throwing up in your pool - unless you want the awkward hilarity of a failed party with none of the real life social consequences, in which case get the fights started! You don't even have to put pants on - just try to get away with that at a real party and see how many guests whine about it. You can throw the dream party you never could in reality, because in reality your friends aren't robots that obey your every whim. Stupid jerks.
5. RollerCoaster Tycoon
Disney World is great, in theory. But after you fly halfway across the country, navigate hordes of screaming children and aggressive mascots, waste a bunch of money on overpriced souvenirs and vomit up the park's crappy food on Space Mountain, you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. Wouldn't it be great to be the one building the parks instead of wandering through them like a rat in a maze?
Who's getting lost on the way to the bathroom now?!
If you have any sort of gaming background at all you should be familiar with RollerCoaster Tycoon, which is either an elaborate theme park simulator or an elaborate torture simulator, depending on what kind of person you are. Either build amazing theme parks you wish existed in real life, or force guests to choose between riding a rollercoaster that might kill them or taking a path over a lake that could vanish and send them to their watery graves beneath the bumper boats at a single click of your cruel mouse.
If you're like me, playing the original game is a throwback to the slow days of childhood summer vacations. If you're not interested in nostalgia, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is a great modern update of the series. You could also play RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, if you're one of those people.