07/05/2013 12:26 pm ET Updated Sep 04, 2013


Summer is finally here. The sun is out. The birds are chirping. There is no school. So clearly, the most logical thing to do is sit in a dark room and play some video games! At least, that's what video game fanatics such as myself will be doing. Now is the perfect time to try out those games that you couldn't play when studying for the SATs or completing those mountains of homework. Since the Xbox One and Playstation Four will be coming out in just a couple of few months, this could be your last opportunity to play Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 games. Not to mention that the Steam Summer Sale and its plethora of cheap games are only days away.

Teens should use the new free time that they have to play classic and innovative games that will be much harder to find in upcoming months as the 7th generation of consoles is phased out. I'll be going through a list of some of my favorite video games that I've played over the past several years that all gamers should try while they have the chance (I own an Xbox 360 so you won't see The Last of Us or Heavy Rain on this list). These games are unique, ground­breaking, and not just any ordinary Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed rip­off. Get these games as soon as possible.

Bioshock Series

I'll just start off by saying that I LOVE these games. My ringtone is even Bioshock-themed. Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite are some of the scariest, intellectually stimulating, and innovative games out there. I was trying to figure out a favorite to put on the list, but I honestly can't make up my mind so I just put all three here. Bioshock and Bioshock 2 take place in the underwater dystopia of Rapture, an objectivist paradise that fell apart after a Civil War. You fight off drug­induced, hook­wielding citizens (called splicers) and giant "big daddies" in weapon­enhanced scuba suits. Bioshock Infinite throws you into the flying city of Columbia, where you fight robot versions of the founding fathers and anti­government revolutionaries. The games not only take you to a unique environment with brand new enemies and a pretty good combat system, but they explore deep themes such as free will, the dangers of extremism and the downside to American exceptionalism. The memorable characters such as Andrew Ryan, Sophia Lamb, Elizabeth and the Luteces make the game even better. You will find yourself exploring the nooks and crannies of Rapture and Columbia, thinking about the games for days after you finish, and never looking at another video game the same way again.

Tomb Raider (2013)

Lara Croft has probably never been in a better game. Tomb Raider is not only a fun, blood-­filled adventure, but it is also rich with symbolism, emotional impact and innovative gameplay. This origin story takes archaeologist Lara Croft to a mysterious island off of the coast of Japan, which is filled with both rare historic artifacts, and of course, bloodthirsty cult members. The game almost feels like a movie with its "cinematic camera," and makes you feel completely immersed in the story. It's really difficult to tell when the cut scenes begin and when they end. As you explore the island, you will be impressed at the vivid landscapes and the dynamic environment. Buildings collapse around you, animals scurry away when you make too much noise, and the controller vibrates when strong wind blows at Lara. The island itself is rich with snowy mountains, ancient Japanese palaces and flooded shipwrecks. When visiting these unique settings, Tomb Raider offers you additional objectives that can make the game last for hours longer. For instance, you can find all the lost relics, light all the religious altars and collect all the GPS caches. The game also challenges you to experiment with new weapons and abilities such as the rope arrow, making the combat always interesting. In this game, Lara Croft, despite past controversy, is a strong­willed and resourceful character who feels very realistic. I highly recommend this game for people who want a different and unique single­player game as well as new gamers who want a starting point. The combat and controls of the game are pretty simple, and I've often showed the game to curious friends who don't play video games. With a spectacular environment, a thrilling story, and a memorable protagonist, this reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise is a resounding success.

Borderlands 2

Probably one of the funniest games on this list, Borderlands 2 is easily one of the greatest first­person shooters around. Borderlands 2 takes place on the planet of Pandora, which contains toxic wastelands, arid deserts and bustling cities. You are one of four playable "Vault hunters," treasure­seeking mercenaries, tasked with defeating the evil corporate dictator Handsome Jack. In this game, you have plenty of opportunities for customization. Not only can you choose your character class, but you can also upgrade particular abilities to make your character even more unique. But perhaps the best example of the game's customization is the game mechanic of "loot." There are literally 17 million different guns (along with several million shields, grenades and other equipment) in the game, all of which have different strengths and weaknesses. As you travel across Pandora, you can find this "loot" in treasure chests and on dead enemies, allowing you to always upgrade your arsenal and customize your fighting style. Will you use a sniper that sets enemies aflame? Or a grenade launcher whose grenades multiply when killing an enemy? No two players will ever have the same Borderlands 2 experience. Additionally, the characters in Borderlands 2 are memorable, personable and freaking hilarious. From the annoyingly loveable robot Claptrap, to the mentally unstable 13-­year-old Tiny Tina, each character will make you laugh out loud. Even after finishing the main game, you can still spend hours completing side quests, collecting new guns and leveling up your character. You can even play this multiplayer game with your friends and level up together! Definitely check out Borderlands 2 if you are looking for a hilarious shoot­em­up that isn't just another Call of Duty rip­off.

Batman: Arkham City

With Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" franchise bringing Batman back into the film industry spotlight, Batman: Arkham City pushes the character into new and exciting frontiers in the video game industry. In the game, Batman enters Arkham City, a massive and unregulated super­prison in the heart of Uptown Gotham (who thought that was a good idea?). He must stop the prison's insane warden Hugo Strange and face off against typical Batman villains such the Joker, Bane and the Riddler. The main campaign was written excellently, and its ending will leave your jaw dropped. Arkham City, while it may be a cesspool of crime and poverty, is an excellent in­game environment. It is incredibly rich in detail, personality and size. Arkham City is dark, jagged, and really feels like the seedy underbelly of a major metropolis. You can tour the city by soaring from building to building or by checking out the city on foot. There are plenty of places to explore, with an almost endless amount of side missions and challenges. The game's combat is fun and exciting, and as the Dark Knight you have plenty of gadgets to help you take out baddies. This game is easily the best superhero game ever made, and its predecessor, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a similarly excellent and moody video game. Before its sequel Batman: Arkham Origins comes out this fall, be sure to get Batman: Arkham City and experience the environment, characters, and combat for yourself.

Portal 2

"Let's have fun with science!" This tagline, from Portal 2's trailers, pretty much captures the entire essence of the game. In Portal 2, you play test subject Chell, who is trapped in Aperture Science, a testing facility with no way out. You must use your portal gun, which can create an orange and a blue portal, to solve puzzles in order to escape. Along your way, you meet the idiotic Wheatley and the diabolical GLaDOS, hysterical robots who guide you through the facility. The puzzles in this game are mind­-bending and incredibly challenging, so you must have your wits about you when playing. You will find yourself laughing out loud when you listen to GLaDOS' sharp insults or Wheatley's moronic ramblings. The game also includes a co­op mode, where you and a friend can work to solve a whole slew of new puzzles together. The puzzles can sometimes be a bit challenging, but the controls are easy enough to learn and casual gamers usually pick up the gameplay quite quickly. While the stark­white environment of the game is certainly not as detailed as some of the other games on this list, the game's characters and writing still give Aperture Science a lot of distinction. If first­person shooters aren't your thing, check out Portal 2, the king of puzzle games.


Stealth games these days are never really about being sneaky. In games like Assassin's Creed and Hitman: Absolution, you can pretty much kill anyone and create a ton of chaos with almost no penalties. Shouldn't the point of being an assassin be to not kill everyone in sight? Dishonored actually avoids this common pitfall. In the game, you play as Corvo, a former royal bodyguard who has been framed for the empress' murder. Armed with a wide array of weapons and supernatural abilities, you decide to take revenge on the true murderers. The game takes place in the fictional steampunk city of Dunwall, where old­-timey Victorian architecture is combined with electric technology that even modern cities don't have. In Dishonored, stealth is key. If you are caught, it is near impossible to escape. And even silently killing guards can come back to haunt you as the level of security in later levels and the ending of the game are determined by how many people you kill. These incentives made me go beyond the call of duty in trying to not kill anyone, not even my assigned targets. That's right, even main targets in the game can be discretely eliminated without being killed. In fact, you can complete the entire game without killing a single character. The game also offers you an enormous amount of choice.

Because you can not only customize weapons and supernatural powers, but also find new pathways around the city, no two playthroughs ever look the same. The city of Dunwall is created beautifully and the environment of the game certainly only adds to the experience. While the story and side characters may only be so­so, the actual missions are some of the best stealth­based challenges you will ever play. If you are looking for a truly challenging and in­depth assassin game, stick with Dishonored.

So there you have it! Those are some of the best video games I have ever played on the Xbox 360. Personally, over the summer I also want to check out Far Cry 3 and The Walking Dead (Telltale), which I've heard are fantastic games. Not to mention that I am psyched for WATCH_DOGS and Grand Theft Auto V which are coming out sometime in the upcoming several months. I can't wait for the next generation of consoles to come out, but before they do, make sure to catch these modern classics.