It’s July, and with the start of the new month comes anticipation for one of the United States’ biggest holidays. Independence Day. Each year we set off explosives, grill hamburgers in the backyard, and watch Joey Chestnut shovel hot dogs down his throat. Or you can celebrate the American spirit with video games.
Over the years, several games have released with heavy patriotic themes, and they’re perfect for this time of year. The Fourth of July is a celebration of what makes America special, from our architecture, to our love of sports, to our hatred of Nazis. There is no one type of patriotic video game, but rather several different kinds that celebrate the Land of the Free.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Nazi-killing hero B.J. Blazkowicz spent the entirety of Wolfenstein: The New Order in Europe, but he took the battle back home in its sequel. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus sees America overrun by the Nazi menace, but B.J. and his pals are more than willing to purge the country of fascists and return American to its people. The game’s grim tone is lightened slightly by its over-the-top presentation and insane technology which, in their own way, feel very patriotic.
MLB The Show (series)
Unlike most games on our list, MLB The Show series isn’t overtly patriotic, but it’s the best virtual version of America’s favorite pastime to hit store shelves. Alongside the traditional franchise modes and multiplayer, the series includes “Road to the Show.” You can think of it as a very abbreviated version of the American Dream, with your young ballplayer eventually reaching the Major Leagues after…well, about a year of practice. If only it were that easy in real life.
The Contra series was overt with its chest-thumping patriotism, but Broforce doubles down. American iconography is everywhere in the game, and as you battle the monsters threatening your very way of life, you need to give them a healthy dose of freedom. It’s like if a 10-year-old with a few GI Joe action figures were given the budget and team to make a video game, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Division 2
Ubisoft can insist that The Division 2 isn’t political, but when it has missions taking place at the Washington Monument and tasks players with protecting a gun-toting president, we’re inclined to disagree. Set several months after a virus nearly destroyed the United States, the game positions the Division as protectors of America’s capital. Most of the threats come from other Americans, however, some of whom felt they were abandoned in their time of need. The plot isn’t great, with mediocre voice acting and so-so missions, but the moment to moment gameplay is excellent.
Assassin’s Creed III
The Assassin’s Creed series has been set everywhere from London to Ancient Egypt, but Assassin’s Creed III took the action to the soon-to-be United States during the Revolutionary War. Starring Connor – the son of a Native American mother and British father – the game examined the struggle of the indigenous population, which faced oppression from both sides of the conflict. The United States isn’t painted as a guilt-free figure in the game, but as a nation that must continue to grow and evolve in order to properly serve its entire population.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
A third-person shooter instead of a turn-based strategy game, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is far from the best entry in the series. However, it is set in America during the peak of the Cold War, with alien invaders serving as antagonists rather than Soviet troops. The game’s environments are classic middle-America, with diners and picket fences symbolizing the epitome of the heartland. It’s a bit of a shame that these places have to be soaked with alien blood, but we didn’t start the war.
Splinter Cell Conviction
The greatest threats to American freedom aren’t always external. In Splinter Cell Conviction, Sam Fisher leaves his globetrotting ways behind for a mission that takes place almost entirely within the United States. Facing a corrupt Third Echelon on the verge of gaining complete control over the country, Fisher is forced to go rogue and must place in trust in someone who has willingly lied to him before. Though silly and unlikely, even by Clancy standards, Conviction reminds us to rarely accept the word of politicians at face value.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. combines third-person shooting mechanics with XCOM-like strategy, and like in the latter games, you are fighting alien creatures. How exactly is it a patriotic game? Among the characters you can control are Henry Fleming, John Henry, and Tom Sawyer, and the entire mission is overseen by Abraham Lincoln. It plays out like something of a fever dream, especially since the characters weren’t all alive at the same time, but its homage to classic comic book designs and folk legends makes it a great choice for July Fourth.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV is the only game on our list that lets you play as the president of the United States, and we’re almost positive it’s the only game around that gives the president Hulk-like superpowers. Once again, aliens are the threat here, but rather than merely celebrate American culture, Saints Row IV is a hilarious satire of our classic action movies and the office of the presidency itself. You can drive around in a classic car and use firearms to defend the people, but why do that when you can jump in a jet that’s also a mechanical eagle, or smite your foes with the ‘Merica Gun?
An underrated (and under-performing) gem from Hitman studio IO Interactive, Freedom Fighters did first what Homefront failed to do several years later. Set in New York City just as the Soviet Union has invaded, Freedom Fighters puts you in control of a plumber who must strike back using guerilla tactics and organize a resistance force to stop the army from spreading further. It’s a classic tale of David versus Goliath, albeit with AK-47 rifles replacing the slingshot a lot more angry Russian soldiers. Despite releasing 16 years ago, Freedom Fighters’ sense of pace and tactical combat system still shine through.
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