Best games to celebrate the Fourth of July

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Jul 04, 2013 09:54 AM EDT
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Today is the day we celebrate the founding of this fine country, traditionally by blowing up a small part of it. However, if you're too young to buy fireworks and/or drink a few cold ones while roasting some burgers and dogs, or you just don't like the great outdoors, there's still another way for you to celebrate the holiday - inside, with the A/C blasting, shades drawn, and a couple games to keep you company. Now, it'd be easy to pick something from the Grand Theft Auto series for its "come from nothing" story seen in so many of the games, but it's also pretty obvious. Likewise for Saints Row IV, but since it's not out yet, that doesn't count either.

In no particular order, here are some games to accompany your Independence Day celebration and get your patriotism on.

* Assassin's Creed 3 - Here's arguably your best bet. Celebrate the nation's founding by going back in time to witness and occasionally take part in some of the events that made this nation what it is today: native american genocide, learning assassin skills from a man who legally couldn't own land or vote, and playing checkers in a pub. Too cynical? OK, how about burying a hatchet in the head of a few redcoats, helping various heroes of the American Revolution, and witness some of the major events that built the foundation of a country, all from a French developer? Now that's globalization done proper.

AC3 may not have been the most impressive game in the franchise, but at the very least, it was honest. While popular history as made figures like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson almost god-like, the game itself showed gamers they were also men, subject to mistakes and faults just like the rest of us.

* Punch-Out - America loves an underdog story, and rightly so, as that's kind of how the whole nation got started (see above). Little Mac was nothing more than a pint-sized kid from the Bronx, with dreams of taking on fighters well above his weight class, before ultimately going up against one of the toughest boxers of the day, Kid Dynamite, AKA, Mike Tyson. What's more American than beating the snot out of stereotypes of various countries and cultures, especially far flung Pacific islands, respresented in the ring by their own Hippo royalty? Doesn't matter if you play the original NES, SNES, or Wii versions of this one, the gameplay is similar enough in each version, and each packs their own range of entertaining characters. Still, best to pay homage to the NES version, as it gave the entire series its legs in the first place. Make sure you give the Statue of Liberty a proper salute during the Rocky styled training montage once you get past Piston Honda.

* Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja - You get to resuce the president, for which he then offers you a burger. Doesn't get much more 'Merican than that folks.

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America's Army - It's not the most realistic of shooters out there today, or even the most fun. What warrants this game a mention on the list is that is was developed directly as a recruiting tool for the US Army. The game uses actual military lingo, so once you mosey from your couch to the recruiting center, you won't give your drill seargent an awkward look when he asks you about the head. It also emphasizes teamwork to accomplish a mission, rather than spray n' pray Rambo style. Don't follow the orders, and you wind up on your back, not unlike real life. It also happens to be free.

* NARC - Not the revamp that hit PS2 so many years ago, we're going back further than that, to the original arcade from 1988. Obviously, not a lot of these cabinets still stand some 20 years later, so most will have to dust off their old NES and settle on the port, or a ROM. Remember that "Winners don't do drugs" ad that would flash on most arcades one upon a time? Acclaim took that, and basically turned it into a game, making no attempt to hide the orgy of pure propaganda that this game was. The manual for the game even included the following message: "Playing NARC is one way to express a stand against drugs. The real test, however, is in your actions. So, spread the word that doing drugs is no longer 'cool,' and join Acclaim, Max Force and Just Say No International, in working to become the drug-free generation. Happy gaming."

NARC showed that over the top, unrequited violence is always a great way of dealing with the dealer on the corner. Agents "Max Force" and "Hit Man" team up to clean the streets of drugs and take down "Mr. Big" and his dealing henchmen, each specializing in selling their own personal favorite narcotic. Yes, that was the actual premise. Still, it was a fun game, if a little monotonous, but definitely fits today's theme.

* BioShock Infinite - I might be cheating a little here, as Infinite's floating city of Columbia isn't exactly American. Actually, it seceded from the nation shortly after taking to the skies. However, it still has the same roots as the amber waves of grain it flies so high above, warts and all. The citizens look on the USA's founding fathers with a reverance that'd make a bald eagle cry tears made of tiny little apple pies. A sci-fi theme helps keep the nationalism at bay.

* Almost anything with "Tom Clancy" in the title - This guy's penned more novels about espionage and black bag jobs than Stephen King has about spooky situations in New England, and more Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, and Rainbow Six games than there are The Sims expansion packs. 

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Medal of Honor and Call of Duty - Call it cheating a bit, or perhaps steering off the course, but hear me out. Sure, you could go with any old war shooter game and add it to the list, but with these two, the games themselves aren't the reason they're included, but rather, the companies behind them. EA catches a lot of flack, but the studio's also been known to do a bit of good, even if it is done under the guidance of PR. When Warfighter launched, so too did EA's "Project HONOR," a program dedicated to raising awareness and generating charitable contributions for fallen warriors. EA managed to talk Special Operations suppliers like Kaenon, London Bridge Trading, Magpul, SureFire, and others into provide the big bucks.


Likewise, Activision maintains a "Call of Duty" fund, an organization designed to raise awareness and help secure jobs for veterans. Shortly after
Black Ops 2 launched, the company dumped $2 million into the fund.

Honorable mentions: Wolfenstein 3D, Homefront, Fugitive Hunter, Fight Club (you fight Abe Lincoln, seriously)

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