The first month of summer is when the whole hemisphere sends a collective middle finger toward cabin fever. After six full months of its tyranny, tents are unpacked, witbiers are cracked; the dream of outdoor restaurant seating becomes reality, and the sea breeze, once a dread specter, becomes a welcome companion.
But sometimes it’s alright to have a night in. We had the right idea as kids: a few friends, a couch, a game console, maybe a pizza. Adult extravagance can have its place here, though; all it takes to elevate the classic game night is a capable host. Once you accept that responsibility, there are plenty of benefits to enjoy. For instance, your friends come to you. You choose the entertainment. And you decide what everyone’s drinking tonight. That said, hear out our recommendations before getting too drunk with power.
Mortal Kombat X
Pairing: Classic Prairie Fire Shot
Newfound maturity aside, this is Mortal Kombat we’re talking about, so your drink of choice should bring the pain to match. Not that a Prairie Fire shot — one shot whiskey (preferably Jameson) and a dash of Tabasco sauce — will hurt like your character’s onscreen disembowelment. But two or three Fatalities in, it’ll feel like enough. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, then honor Scorpion with the aptly named Bitchin’ Scorpion: a shot of Cuervo (or try something more upscale), a shot of DeKuyper Cheri-Beri Pucker, a quarter teaspoon of honey and lime juice, and half a teaspoon of Frank’s Red Hot.
Playstation 4 Pick: What better way to relive summers past than with the franchise that ate up a lifetime supply of quarters? Revisiting the Mortal Kombat franchise is like catching up with a friend you haven’t seen since high school: It’s had its rough patches (the late ‘90s; that cool-at-first-but-ultimately-kinda-lame DC Comics crossover), but it seems to be have grown up a lot. The excess features of its lesser installments have been shed; the cast of fighters is surprisingly diverse and inclusive; the story, as many reviewers have noted, is every bit as entertaining as it is campy. But most importantly, it’s Mortal Kombat; you’ll be disemboweled through the mouth, eaten alive by bugs, sawed in half from top to bottom, punched through the face, made into a pop culture reference, and much more. Though it’s available on the Xbox One as well, the game is a bit more at home on the Playstation 4 because of its DualShock controller, which is more intuitive for fighting games. But non-sticklers will have fun regardless.
Pairing: Cigar City Hotter than Helles Lager
You may be honoring years of racing-spectator tradition by knocking back some Buds while you live out your track fantasies, but you sure as hell aren’t honoring the beer snob within. Strike a compromise: Cigar City’s Hotter than Helles Lager, in a race-ready can goes down easy enough to keep you focused on the (virtual) road, but has the right lager complexity to sate your grown-up palate.
Xbox One Pick: Full disclosure: it is this writer’s opinion that you can’t have a true racing game without go-karts and projectile turtle shells. Granted, these things are subjective, so for you motorsport fans, Project Cars is the racing sim you want — at least to hold you over until Forza Motorsport 6 comes out. First, there’s Project‘s pedigree: it was made from the ground up by Slightly Mad Studios, the developer behind the Need for Speed franchise. But what really sets Project Cars apart from its older half-sibling and franchises like Forza is the fact that Slightly Mad let Kickstarter donors test the game and provide feedback throughout its development cycle — essentially resulting in a game by and for motorsport and video game fans. The downside: there’s no local multiplayer, so you’ll be passing a controller around. But if you’re a motorsport fan, then watching someone else drive is probably nothing new for you.
Pairing: Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieur
The spirit once thought to be hallucinogenic is a perfect complement to a downright trippy game. (So is an actual hallucinogen.) Seek out Crispin Cain’s Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieur, an old favorite of ours; with its bubblegum-like citrus and mint notes, you’ll feel just like a kid/squid. (Alternatively: make jello shots.)
Nintendo Wii U Pick: Reviewers agree on two things about the recently released Splatoon: that it’s weird, and that it’s a lot of fun. It looks like a Saturday morning cartoon on acid. Plays like one, too: you control a humanoid squid creature that fires colored ink, which splatters over the environment when it lands. The object is to cover more of the environment in your team color than your opponents before time runs out; you can harm opponents by hitting them with your ink pellets, and you can hide from them by “swimming” through any surface — over floors, up walls and onto rooftops — that bears your color. Upgrades like paint rollers and Super Soaker-like paint guns are also available. (Note that this game is at its best online.)
Tower of Guns
Pairing: Bunnahabhain 8 Year Old Single Malt
Did you mean to have a night in, or did your plans fall through? Whatever the case, pick up a bottle of Bunnahabhain 8 Year Old; it’s cheap enough that you’ll still save money by staying in, and good enough for you to imagine yourself a romantic, lone Scotch connoisseur — whether you’re sitting on a leather, high-backed chair, or a plastic one with wheels.
“Me-Time” Pick: A solitary challenge for a solitary man: you, versus a tower of guns (natch). You get one attempt to clear out all the automated enemies (cartoonish cannons, robots, giant spinning colossi primarily composed of — you guessed it — guns) in the eponymous tower, which is made of randomly generated rooms, meaning no two play-throughs are the same. All the while, you’ll be scouring the barreled Babel for loot and new weapons ranging from the functional to the absurd. The only other humans you have to worry about are the jerks hogging up all the space on the online leaderboard. But by 3 a.m., dammit, they’ll have met their match.