The Fourth of July and sitting inside playing video games don’t necessarily go together like baseball and large leather gloves, but between lingering COVID troubles, record-breaking heatwaves, and the indisputable fact that we’re all a bunch of nerds, chances are you’ll have a bit of downtime to plug in your favorite console and salute your favorite independently-minded heroes. Besides, nothing quite captures the spirit of modern-day Americana like gathering around the television and watching fast-moving imagery, so if your mates try to tell you to quit with the video games and be more social, kindly remind them that there are only so many times you can watch the Tampa Bay Rays choke in the seventh inning before you need to blow something up instead.
You should celebrate the Fourth of July with these video games. And don’t worry my, fellow Americans; British loyalist Winston Churchill might have made a mockery of ending sentences with a preposition, but Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster says you can end any sentence with “with.” That’s freedom for you.
10. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
I know what some of you are thinking. “The spinoff? Why not just play the main game?” To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with choosing Assassin’s Creed III instead. It has its moments. But don’t you just find its main character Connor dry as wood? I suppose there’s something to be said for familiarizing ourselves with woodcraft on the Fourth of July, but at that point just get an ax and go chop down a cherry tree or something.
You’re much better off celebrating alongside Aveline de Grandpré, an African-French assassin and notably the first female lead in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Not only is her heritage emblematic of the melting pot of American mythology, but she’s simply cooler than Connor in every conceivable way. Her swagger and steely determination are practically precursors to Assassin’s Creed IV‘s excellent Edward Kenway. Fun fact: in Japan, Liberation was released under the subtitle of Lady Liberty instead. Sad truth: that’s cooler than Liberation.
You can play Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation’s HD remaster on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC. If you’ve still got a PlayStation Vita gathering dust somewhere, the original version launched for Sony’s ill-fated second handheld.
9. Star Wars Battlefront II
If your tastes in American ingenuity veer less toward the quasi-historical and skyward into space instead this Fourth of July — and yes, I just linked you to a Legend of Zelda article on word choice alone — then crack open a cold one and play out your Star Wars fantasies with Star Wars Battlefront II. George Lucas’ 1977 tale about a disgruntled teenager who ditches his desert in favor of the cold vacuum of space is about as iconic an American movie as they come and despite a notably bumpy start, the post-launch support team at DICE has done a fantastic job righting the (star)ship and giving fans the superbly diverse Star Wars game we craved.
From pew-pew starfighters to team deathmatch scenarios that ravage poor Mos Eisley and even epic full-scale showdowns from the Clone Wars era, Battlefront II has it all. Content updates ended a little over a year ago, but for a game with as disastrous a launch as this one, nearly three years’ worth of dedicated support was a welcome surprise. Few Fourth of July fireworks can compare to the video games that blow up a Death Star.
Star Wars Battlefront II is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The game’s player base is on the lower end on PC these days, but it still thrives on Xbox One and especially PS4, so it may be best to check there instead.
8. Independence Day
Is there anything more patriotic — if admittedly mind-bogglingly silly — as Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster, Independence Day? And is there any line in the movie better than the one when Bill Pullman’s President Thomas J. Whitmore tells a cheering crowd of exhausted heroes that they’re all about to celebrate Independence Day by flying high into the sky and blowing up alien invaders? Not long after release, all those kids who had eagerly watched the movie, again and again, got treated to a video game adaptation by the same name.
Honestly? It’s not that great. The gameplay maps feel cramped, the objectives are mostly slight variations of “destroy this one thing before it destroys you,” and sometimes important texture assets like the enemy starcraft you’re supposed to lock onto and obliterate don’t even appear on screen until you’re perilously close (or hopelessly lost). But for a brief period of time in early 1997, a bunch of us didn’t care. We banded together via two-player split-screen to declare our independence the only way we knew how: by listening to poor recordings of famous lines from one of our favorite movies as we repeatedly failed to blow up alien motherships.
You can, theoretically, play Independence Day on PC, Sega Saturn, and the original PlayStation this Fourth of July. But it’s missing from PC storefronts, the PS1 discs are a scalper’s paradise, and… actually, you can find the Saturn version at oddly cheap prices, but playing it would require, well, ownership of a Sega Saturn.
7. Grand Theft Auto V
In contrast to Independence Day, you can find a copy of Grand Theft Auto V so easily that there’s probably one hidden under your coffee mug even as we speak. The game first hit store shelves in 2013, but as recently as a year ago it was clogging up monthly American top 10 sales lists as if it was brand new. Grand Theft Auto V clearly brought the series to unthinkable heights, with over 145 million units sold as of this May. It is one of the quintessential games to fetch as soon as someone buys a console, due especially to the groundbreaking success of its online component.
But enough with the statistics. What does Grand Theft Auto V, of all video games, bring to the Fourth of July? Publisher Rockstar Games’ entertainingly cynical outlook of the American dream. From get-rich-quick schemes and patriotic parades to seething radio hosts and weekly yoga practice, no stone is left unturned in the game’s drive to offer tongue-in-cheek commentary — all while making ample room for a sizable number of players whose only real goal is to shoot people and steal their sports cars. Forget Grand Theft Auto Online; it’s the core campaign that makes GTA V worthy of a balmy July revisit.
Grand Theft Auto V, also known as a perennial bane to state lawmakers, is available on, deep breath, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. Yeah, it’s no great surprise that Nintendo shies away from Trevor Philips.
6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Few acts of valor scream America quite like killing Nazis. Setting aside the historical fact that way more Russians laid down their lives for the cause, there’s no denying that a whole heck of a lot of Americans did the same. Bethesda Softworks and developer MachineGames struck gold with Wolfenstein: The New Order, and its sequel, The New Colossus, reached even greater heights. Slaughter Nazis, tangle with an Obergruppenführer, hitch a ride on an airship, slaughter Nazis, attend a funeral, slaughter Nazis — Creative Director Jens Matthies says the theme of the game is “catharsis,” and who am I to disagree? Throw some ketchup on a few hot dogs and settle down for a session of telling narcissistic fascists where to shove it.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus comes to you by way of PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. Oh, I see how it is, Nintendo. You won’t let a psychopathic murderer like Trevor into your brand image, but you’re OK with blood-splattering absurdity. You know, that’s fair.
5. Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption 2 may be all the rage, but if you want to experience the full vision of the best and boldest representation of Great American Western heroism that video gaming has to offer, you really should start with the first game. The sequel is technically a prequel, so conventional wisdom might suggest that it’s a perfectly valid entry point. And it’s not a terrible way to go about things, but there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle setup moments in 2 that fly over people’s heads if they’ve not touched 1. Without getting into spoilers because seriously, Red Dead Redemption has one of the best narratives in the industry, the second game explains how John Marston came to be. It’s in its predecessor that we see the man fully realized. The sacrifices he makes, the gun-toting he masters, and the Clint Eastwood school of Western he’s obviously graduated from — it’s all right here.
The original version of Red Dead Redemption released on PS3 and Xbox 360, but if you’re subscribed to PS Now or — even better — own an Xbox One or Xbox Series console, you can play it on modern hardware instead. (The reason it’s best played on Xbox is that Microsoft has kindly given the game a few bell-and-whistle enhancements.)
4. Metal Gear Rising Revengeance
There’s a bit of inherent silliness in commemorating America’s forefathers by getting drunk and gorging on hamburgers, but that’s how we like it, right? No complaints. Perhaps that’s why the Fourth of July’s a wellspring for revisiting ridiculous video games like Metal Gear Rising Revengeance. It’s in the name: there’s no mistaking from the outset that this is going to be a crazy romp. And what a romp it is. The formerly brooding, somewhat controversial character of Raiden, who made his debut in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty before going on to become a sad yet rad ninja in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots finally got a game all for himself with Rising. Only, it wasn’t developed by Kojima Productions but by PlatinumGames instead.
PlatinumGames is big on fast-paced action games with outrageous stories like Bayonetta and NieR: Automata. With the freedom in their writers’ hands to create something equally outrageous, the developers opted to satirize the American way of life by making Rising‘s villain… a state senator with biceps like Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger’s. The aptly-named Senator Armstrong’s entire shtick is to revel in patriotism and outdated social Darwinism whilst mocking the more serious Metal Gear Solid games with every witty word. There’s nothing more vintage than bringing him down. Fourth of July video games that let you defend liberty against crooked politicians are few and far between.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is available on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and uhh… Nvidia Shield TV?
3. Duck Hunt
As we reach the end of the list, two out of the final three entries are going to seem kind of incredulous even relative to the rest. One of those is Duck Hunt, an NES game from 1984 in which the player used a gun-like peripheral called the NES Zapper to shoot ducks. Shoot enough ducks and advance to the next round. Failure was not an option for any player with pride; a dog would literally laugh at you as a result. But beneath the wicked, duck-slaying nature of the game’s premise, there is something inherently American about it all. What could possibly define “Fourth of July video games” more than the prospect of heading out into the country with your faithful hound, firing off a few rounds at fowl?
The only thing missing is dear old dad, who taught you the ropes and beams with pride when you end the life of an innocent bird who just wanted to live. But then, that’s what makes this one shine — your dad probably fiddled around with Duck Hunt as a kid, so bring the hunt back home and watch him bedazzle your entire family with high scores.
There’s no true replacement for playing Duck Hunt on the NES, but you can come fairly close with the Wii U eShop version. There’s also… this… for the Switch, but… it’s not going to scratch that itch.
2. Fallout 3
I promised that two out of these last three would be nuts, and this is your breather in-between. Fallout 3 is, well, nuts in its own right, but in the sense that since its acquisition of the Fallout IP, Bethesda Game Studios is always striving to deliver patriotism through a critical and clever eye. Fallout 4‘s Boston has it, Fallout 76‘s relatively few real quests have it, and Fallout 3 has it most of all.
Set in the ruins of Washington, D.C., players will roam through the rubble of oh so many familiar structures such as the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and what little remains of the White House itself. Flashes of America’s brilliance as a nation collides head-on with her scarier sides with a deliciously tense script that never relents. You’ll walk away from Fallout 3 with a newfound appreciation for this country as well as more than a little healthy skepticism, something perfect for your Fourth of July.
Fallout 3 joins Red Dead Redemption in being available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC as well as PS4 through PS Now and, once again ideally, through Xbox One/Series backward compatibility functionality.
1. Street Fighter V Except Everybody Plays As Guile
Is there any video game character manlier than Guile? Is there truly any contender in the realm of Americanism pumped to the maximum? Guile embodies everything the Fourth of July has to offer. No, he doesn’t scarf down hot dogs faster than Joey Chestnut. No, he’s never been seen guzzling a beer. (Or if he has, I don’t recall it.) But he’s a Major in the United States Air Force. He represents the USA with every iota of his vigor. He literally tells his crestfallen opponents, “Go home and be a family man.” The swagger on this video game character is off the charts — even Piccolo would admit that.
Sure, it’s Ryu who represents the Street Fighter franchise in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but that’s only because Guile refuses to be a co-star. This Fourth of July, convince your friends and family to gather ’round for Street Fighter V. Everybody, pick Guile. Crank the television volume to its zenith. Don’t be surprised when the entire neighborhood starts humming Guile’s Theme; it goes with everything.
You can find Guile’s latest game, Street Fighter V, on PS4 and PC.
That’s my picks for the video games you should play on the Fourth of July! Got any other games you can think of? Let me know!