It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain books and vacation are perfect for each other. Vacation reads are a whole category of literature which appear annually on lists of recommendations and fill airport bookstore shelves. Why not vacation games, then? Like its book counterpart, the ideal vacation game is vivid, exciting, and easy to pick up.
Need help choosing a game you can take to the beach or the mountains? That’s what this list is for. Some of them are mobile games you can bring anywhere, while others are PC or console games best saved for the down time in between beach-hopping, hiking, or road-tripping.
So pack that cooler, slather on that sunscreen, and grab your favorite gaming system, because we’re going on vacation, darlings.
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1. The Reigns Series
Vacation means travel, and long travel leads to inevitable boredom. But instead of pulling out your phone and scrolling through Twitter until your eyes glaze over, try out one of the Reigns games (Reigns, Reigns: Her Majesty, and Reigns: Game of Thrones).
Reigns looks and feels simple. You play as a fictional ruler faced with a series of decisions that have two possible outcomes. Swipe left for one outcome and right for the other. Try to balance the four forces of your wealth, the people, military, and the church, and survive as long as you can. Make a misstep, and you’ll find yourself invaded, overthrown, or burned at the stake.
But don’t worry, you reincarnate instantly. It’s a fast-paced game that works for the same reasons Tinder does, only here you don’t have to actually talk to anyone after you’re done swiping.
2. Ridiculous Fishing
Apparently real-life fishing is a chill thing that people do on vacation? Sounds boring as hell to me. But Ridiculous Fishing is anything but boring.
In this beloved mobile game from several years back, you do exactly what the title promises: you catch fish in the silliest way possible. First, you drop your line as deep as possible into the water. Then you reel it in. Then you fling the fish in the air. Then you shoot them. Then, of course, you profit.
The gameplay is simple, but compelling. It’s perfect for waiting in line, relaxing by a pool, or You could even play Ridiculous Fishing while waiting on your line while fishing for real, if you wanted to.
3. Butterfly Soup
When I’m on vacation, I reach for an engrossing YA novel more often than not. And Butterfly Soup is like the perfect YA read.
In this visual novel for PC and Mac, four queer, Asian-American high schoolers join a baseball team, crack jokes, and try to figure out who they are. It only takes a few hours to play this coming-of-age story, which makes the game ideal for a chill afternoon.
Butterfly Soup is touching, funny, and captures the feeling of being in ninth grade. Plus, it’s a game that prominently features queer women of color characters.
If you like diving, you’ll love Abzû, a dreamy, Zen exploration game that takes place entirely underwater. You take control of a diver navigating gorgeous underwater scenes filled with fish, kelp, and currents that tug you through the ocean. The game feels like Journey, but set in a world of water and wildlife rather than stone and sand.
Abzû is one of the few games that calms me down. It makes me pay attention to the beauty of the world around me, not only on my screen but out in the real world. That’s why I recommend Abzû for anyone in dire need of de-stressing. The game is the perfect accompaniment to exploring nature of any kind, from the woods to the depths of the ocean.
5. Katamari Damacy REROLL
The Katamari Damacy series is about rolling around a ball that is sticky enough to grab whatever it touches: furniture, people, entire landscapes. The games don’t make a lick of sense, and they don’t need to. They’re all about the joy of rolling around a giant ball and catching everything in your path. That might not sound relaxing or satisfying, but I swear on the Prince of All the Cosmos, it is both.
The first Katamari Damacy came out in 2004, and a remake, Katamari Damacy REROLL, came out last year. The remake is available on the Switch (as well as a bunch of other consoles), so you can play the game wherever you go.
6. 80 Days
80 Days, based on the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days, is the ultimate road trip game.
You play as Passepartout, a valet in the service of Phileas Fogg, an English gentlemen who has taken a bet that he can circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days. In this steampunk, narrative-driven adventure, you have to plan Fogg’s journey by boat, train, dirigible, and submarine.
I love 80 Days because it captures the excitement of travel. And because it’s available for iPhone and Android, I can play it while I’m traveling, too.
7. Slime Rancher
If you’re looking for a cute, relaxing farming sim, Slime Rancher is the game for you. Ditto if you watched too much Nickelodeon as a kid and have a fondness for all things green and slimy.
In Slime Rancher, you explore a planet populated by chubby little slime-creatures. When you take them back to your ranch, you can collect and sell their plorts (that is, slime poop). Then you buy upgrades, which make your ranch larger and more efficient. This all makes Slime Rancher the perfect way to while away evenings in the beach house. I mean, life just seems easier when your biggest worry is collecting as many slime plorts as possible.