I love Millennium Kitchen’s running series of summer-vacation-focused adventure games. Call it Boku no Natsuyasumi. Call it My Summer Vacation, despite the titles never officially getting translated. Either way, it’s all about living the day-to-day of an elementary-school summer, complete with gleeful attention to every seemingly-mundane detail.. Less about doing, more about vibing.
They’re just the feel-good games of the summer. The same feeling of the slice-of-life subgenre, but bottled and redistributed as a game-shaped tonic. A wholesome and completely innocent experience that many modern indie games have been chasing for years. Unexciting, but in a genuinely affectionate way.
Unfortunately, we’re still champing at the bit for any core game in the series to release outside of Japan. Fortunately, other games are proudly carrying on that lackadaisical torch – even beyond the often-cluttered “farm life” genre. Sure, Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons can certainly be relaxing in their way. But there’s a sense of unpressured idling-about that really speaks to the soul of a Boku no Natsuyasumi game.
For seekers of the quiet life, here are just a few favorites that you can likely get playing today:
Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation
This one may be cheating a little, what with being a spin-off of the Boku no Natsuyasumi series. But it’s the closest we’ve ever gotten to a proper installment released outside of Japan, so here it goes at the top of the list.
Shin-chan himself has a much stronger personality than the series’ usual viewpoint, the ever-neutral Boku. Being surrounded by a more distinct and flavorful cast may take away from the series’ charm for some. For others, it injects a more vibrant color into an otherwise insistently-humdrum routine. Either way, if you’re looking for a way to experience the series, it’s impossible not to consider this next-best offering.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
This is the other most obvious “gimme”, what with being the only other worldwide release from developer Millennium Kitchen. Unsurprisingly, it carries a lot of the same spirit, giving you a child’s-eye view of sleepy rural Japan. While the kaiju and superheroes loom large in Sohta’s mind, the adults around him still exude that laid-back, sleepy attitude that makes these games feel quaint and nostalgic. It’s all about playing pretend in the collective backyard of a friendly neighborhood – or is it? Gotta find out by Friday!
While you can’t directly buy games through the on-system shop any more, you can still buy the game through Nintendo’s online store through March 2023 – grab this one now while you still can!
Available on: Nintendo 3DS
Rainy Season is overtly more melancholy than a bright, sunny day spent bug-catching. But there’s a beautiful honestly to a game focused around the candid experience of a cool day spent rained-in. More cramped than the sprawling open air of a hot August afternoon, sure. But Boku no Natsuyasumi is all about embracing mundane nostalgia, and that spirit is certainly alive in Rainy Season.
When one of a game’s noted features is “interact with the pickle jar”, you know you’ve found a game with the Boku no Natsuyasumi spirit.
Available on: Steam
I’m a huge fan of Haven Park – I adored it on its initial release, in fact. It makes a nice compromise between laid-back, pressure-free gameplay and something with a bit more structure. Its missions may not have a time limit and the game has no fail state, but it does at least have a little notebook of tasks to check off. That alone helps ground Flint’s summer spent tending to an island campground. Still cozy, but with a gentle thread to pull you along.
Boku no Natsuyasumi‘s devotion to open-endedness isn’t up everyone’s alley, even if its more general attitude is. So it’s nice to have a more structured alternative in Haven Park.
A Short Hike
A Short Hike caught so many of us on our good side for its open-ended sense of pacing. Like Haven Park, it offers a more concrete goal as a lifeline for players liable to peter out on their own. But that on its own is a fraction of what the game has to offer. A Short Hike is so much more about taking in your quaint scenery for all its worth – from talking to neighbors to spotting an unfamiliar house to popping a squat under an autumn-orange birch.
Intentionally dragging an hour-long trip out into a whole afternoon feels right in line with a purposefully-low-energy summer vacation title. Birds have to have their own little holidays, too, after all.
Banyu Lintar Angin – Little Storm –
Banyu Lintar Angin has a bit more focus on a story than Boku no Natsuyasumi, but not by much. Both games are enamored with focusing on and celebrating the details of their quaint casts’ lives. This charming trio gets up to just about as much as little Boku – going to school, hanging out with a cat, even just watching TV on the living-room floor. If the spirit of Boku no Natsuyasumi is reveling in young folks’ day-to-day, Banyu Lintar Angin has it in spades.
It speaks volumes enough that I have about fifteen minutes logged in this game on Steam, but still think about it years later. Consider this my challenge to put your “try new things” pants on and give a visual-novel-like game a shot. I promise, you won’t even have to read.
Available on: Steam
We’ve seen oh-so-many delightful games fall on our laps through itch.io’s generous fund drives for social causes. But it begs remembering that itch.io remains a farmer’s market for creators targeting under-served markets – including those craving a dose of Boku no Natsuyasumi. And while the structure is different, its attitude is oh-so alive in Off Day, a visual novella centered around gratitude for our very surroundings. It’s more direct than an open-ended adventure game, perhaps, but its softly-glowing scenery goes a long way toward reaching the same headspace.
Off Day is totally free and will take most people about half an hour to play. If you have enough time to read this and are chasing those pleasant vibes, this may be your shortcut to scratch that itch.
Available on: itch.io via your web browser
Co-Open is another that leans a bit more on the exploration-adventure angle, but in a way that feels blissfully free-form. It deliberately doesn’t even give you a shopping list for your “main quest” of picking up groceries. Rather, you’re free to either pick up a single banana and jet. Or you might loiter for an hour to chat with your neighbors, or turn over every nook and cranny hunting for secrets. The game-flow is just as invested finding that secret vent-dweller as you are – or aren’t.
It’s also openly inclusive, complete with little pronoun labels next to character names and abstracted bird-person designs that readily read as any identity. If representation is important to you in your games, Co-open might make a perfect little two-hour jaunt for you.
Just don’t give into the cat’s guilt-tripping. They have been fed.
Available on: itch.io
The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa
It admittedly feels a bit odd to include a beat-’em-up on this list; what’s less laid-back and calming than beating people with your bare fists? But there’s a meditative aimlessness in how the game sets you loose early on. Free to slip further into delinquency, try to build a routine to “turn your life around”, or just do what little you can to be there for your gang.
It’s that thoroughly down-to-earth quality that gives this young-adult brawler story an odd Boku no Natsuyasumi edge. It has its River City Ransom moments, to be sure, but those punctuate a melancholic everyday that borders on existential. A heavier Boku-like, to be sure, but that can be healing in its own odd little way.
Alba: a wildlife adventure
The last entry on our list might be the closest to a direct Western-made Boku no Natsuyasumi equivalent. It has it all. Explore a quieter slice of the world. Take photos of the beach and birds. Chat up the townsfolk you’ll be leaving in a few short weeks. Maybe develop an environmentalist streak. That last one is the closest Alba gets to pushing a direction on the player. Otherwise, it’s all about taking a long walk out your back door and seeing what you find.
This one is a proven award-winner, and one I’ve already lost hours to this week. Especially if you have a fondness for hiking and the outdoors, Alba will deliver that “exploring the nearby woods” aspect of childhood.
Halloween Bonus: Mizzurna Falls
Fan translation projects are a tricky lot to run on the original hardware. But regardless of your thoughts on emulation, it’s downright impressive that people were dedicated enough to an old, niche game to finally release an English localization patch in 2021, over 22 years after its original release.
Described by its admirers as “Boku no Natsuyasumi meets Twin Peaks“, this is the perfect game to accompany the spooky month of October if you’re up for something a bit creepy but not outright spooky. While it opens with a mysterious death in the woods, the main focus of the game is much more around the very town of Mizzurna Falls itself and its cast of residents. If you were charmed by the inevitably-doomed townsfolk of Majora’s Mask and their unflappable daily routines, Mizzurna Falls may be square up your alley.
Available on: Playstation 1, with some finagling.
…and many more!
There are so many more that quite nearly. Things like pseudo-MMO Book of Travels, with its focus on quietly taking in the grandeur of a land’s “empty space”. Quick hits like the episodic indie Monster Pub that serve as a bite-sized “hangout space”. Lake‘s championing of the quiet life of the woodland postal service worker. Some people even find it in Animal Crossing, chatting with Marina and literally smelling the roses between chores.
Do you have a favorite Boku-no-Natsuyasumi-like that we’ve missed? Please share it in the comments – we’d always love to play more games following in its spirit!