Memorial Day has come and gone and the official start of Summer is just around the corner. If you were anything like me as a kid, you probably spent a majority of your vacation not at a REAL beach but enjoying the tropical sights of your favorite virtual paradises. Below are the Top Ten instances of beaches in video games!
10. Spoonerville Island – Goof Troop (SNES 1993)
When Pete and PJ are captured by pirates after a day of fishing, it’s up to Goofy and Max to brave the perils of Spoonerville Island in order to rescue them. From the very first screen, the tropical tone is set and even the instruction manual tries to get into character by mimicking some of the language or the island’s residents. For example, one excerpt goes a little over the top when informing the player how to speak to the residents. It reads:
“Down at de shore, mon, or in de volcano.
De islanders always will tell you what dey know.
They’re not joining up wit’ you; they’re just being nice.
So press de B button, mon, and take their advice.”
I have no idea if that would be considered in good taste nowadays, but at least Capcom was trying to have some fun. Speaking of having some fun, if you’ve got the ability to “grab a friend” (shoutout to A Goofy Movie), this game is easily one of the best multiplayer experiences from the SNES era. Get your Goof on!
9. Chapter 2 Island – Startropics (NES 1990)
If we’re talking about beaches, I can’t help but turn to the island-hopping adventure Startropics yet again. Without a doubt, this game was inspired by movies like Indiana Jones and The Goonies while the gameplay itself is similar to the original The Legend of Zelda. The above picture stands out to me because it’s the first time in the game where you have to navigate hidden passages on the overworld in order to collect key items. And, of course, finding a message in a bottle washed up on the beach is so iconic to kick off an adventure.
Here’s a fun fact… (There’s nothing I love more than some juicy tidbits from those original instruction manuals!). Did you know that the main character, Michael (Mike) Jones, is from Seattle, WA? He is! Not only that, but apparently he took a helicopter from Seattle to visit his Uncle Steve on C-Island. So, given that information, the entire setting of Startropics must take place somewhere off the coast of Washington, and it needs to be close enough to warrant traveling to it by helicopter (granted it was a “long helicopter ride”). I’ve gone ahead and given my best guess in the following image.
8. Ft. Slaughterdale Beach – TMNT 3 – The Manhattan Project (NES 1992)
“Palm trees and warm sand. It’s a far cry from the steel and concrete back home. But Shredder’s sent some hometown boys to bring you back to reality by kicking sand in your eyes.” This game faced kind of an uphill battle. Not only was it released for the original NES months after the Super Nintendo had arrived, but the game’s sequel, Turtles in Time, was set for release on the new system just a few months later. Nonetheless, for those of us who couldn’t yet afford to get a Super Nintendo, The Manhattan Project was a welcome surprise when it appeared on the shelves at our local rental store. My friends and I, of course, were (and still are) huge TMNT fans (see my TMNT arcade game experience from Food-uary), so we picked it up as soon as we could. How was our experience? Well, either we really suck at video games or this is the hardest fighting game we’ve played in awhile. Yeah, I recall not even being able to beat the first stage without taking some time to really learn the mechanics of the game. Part of our problem was that this game featured the addition of special moves for each character that would drain your energy every time you used it. Did we care? No!! We were enamored by these new animation frames and we were never going to stop! We eventually realized what was happening and started to use the moves more sparingly. To this day, though, I don’t think I’ve ever finished the game. Add it to the list!
7. Toronbo Shores – Link’s Awakening (Game Boy 1993)
After surviving a ship-destroying storm while trying to return to Hyrule, Link wakes up on the sandy shores of Koholint Island that coincidentally makes reference to several other Nintendo franchises (“But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place, and you and you and you…and you were there! But you couldn’t have been, could you?”). In order to return home, Link must find a middle school marching band to play rowdy music outside the Yoshi-egg home of a giant, flying whale. His first task has him journeying to the south in order to recover his sword along the coast. How incredibly lucky is it that Link just happens to have a sword that is light enough to wash up on the beach, too? Once you’ve pushed around some Gordos from Kirby’s Dream Land, you finally recover your trusty weapon only to be greeted by an owl who spends eternity telling you important plot details. Meanwhile, I want to know where Link went before his ship was busted up by lightning. The manual says that he was on his way back to Hyrule after going on a “quest for enlightenment, in search of wisdom that would make [him] better able to withstand the next threat to [his] homeland.” So, what did he learn? Any guesses? This would have been after A Link to the Past and before the Oracle games. I’ve got nothing.
6. Brimstone Beach – The Curse of Monkey Island (PC 1997)
“The Brimstone Beach Country Club and Smorgy is the exclusive resort hideaway for only the most discerning pirates and their families. Here, you’ll be pampered by a courteous staff…ugh…always eager to meet your every need whether it be recommending a keel-hauling class, finding a fourth for bridge, or giving a golf lesson on our award-winning course designed by ‘Peg Leg’ Malloy. Free valet ship parking included.” – The Cabana Boy of the Brimstone Beach Club kiosk.
A few minutes later, our hero Guybrush Threepwood, after presenting his membership card, takes some towels, dips them in an ice bucket, and then whips the cabana boy right in the rear. I’m not kidding! Because of this, he runs off and you’re free to steal his oil. Thankfully, those towels are also put to good use by helping you get across the burning hot sand. (“With these holes in my shoes, I’ll never get across that hot beach”). Then, you get this clever exchange with a nearby sunbather:
Guybrush: Would you like to join my crew?
Sunbather: Oh no, babe. I’m not a sailor. I make my living off the hard work and talent of others.
Guybrush: You’re a project leader on a computer game?
::ba dum tss::
Proof that early LucasArts point and click adventure games were incredibly clever – and incredibly self aware.
5. Summers – Earthbound (SNES 1995)
Ah, Summers, the Eternal Tourist Trap – at least, that’s what Earthbound’s composers Hirokazu Tanaka and Keiichi Suzuki think of the seaside resort town. Their track for this sunny location is the most easy-going and relaxing piece in the game (aside from the coffee break). In the background, seagulls are chirping while the soft acoustic guitar perfectly chugs along to the light organ melody. Nothing says comfort more than this song. In lieu of writing anything else (I’ve already talked about this game during Blarch and my Iconic Mom’s article), I leave you with these sweet Summer sounds:
4. Gelato Beach – Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube 2002)
Truthfully, every bit of Super Mario Sunshine could be a candidate for this list – but Gelato Beach is the only level that actually has our theme as part of the name (also, no one cares about Sirena Beach)! I don’t think it’s the best level, by any means, but some of its most iconic moments include fighting a giant Wiggler, stomping on mirrors to launch away some Plungelos, and discovering a massive bird made out of sand. This stage also includes the most relaxing red coin mission where you simply swim around a coral reef until you’ve collected all eight. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, is the dreaded Watermelon Festival where Mario must find the biggest watermelon and bring it back to the refreshment stand. Any false move, though, and the fruit will burst, forcing Mario to start over completely. It doesn’t help that the beach is also suddenly littered with Cataquacks who are dead set on ruining your experience. Despite this one bad mission, Gelato Beach at least has some enjoyable steel drum music to set the mood. Now….where is that gelato?
3. Opassa Beach – Chrono Cross (PSX 1999)
I won’t lie… I played this game close to when it first came out. I didn’t understand the plot then. Even after reading about the game and watching a couple Let’s Plays, I still do not understand the plot. BUT, Opassa Beach is iconic because it’s the first time something weird happens. To sum it up, if Chrono Trigger was about time travel, then Chrono Cross is about alternate dimensions. In particular, the main character, Serge, is able to travel between two dimensions: one dimension where he had died as a child, and one where he lived his life normally. Beyond that, I have no idea what’s going. Later, Serge ends up exchanging his BODY with another character, and that’s where the game really lost me. I’m still holding out for a proper sequel to Chrono Trigger. Until then, maybe I’ll watch a few more Let’s Players try their hands at this game and see if they’re able to explain it any better.
2. Koopa Beach – Super Mario Kart (SNES 1992)
Koopa Beach was and still is my favorite track of the original Super Mario Kart. I liked it so much that many years later, I took the time to transcribe the music so I could bring it to a jazz jam that was happening downtown. Yes, we jazz jam’d to the music from Koopa Beach. I think a big reason why I enjoyed this course so much was the ability to try to cut corners by jumping over some of the deeper water. As I got better at the game, I did more and more to try and exploit these shortcuts and soon was able to handedly take first place nearly every time. (Donkey Kong, you bojo! Those karts don’t work on water – unless you’ve got power!!!”). Of course, eventually my friends started learning the same tactics as me and then I was having to deal with the occasional banana peel that would block my way. There have been many beach-themed courses in future Mario Kart games like Peach Beach from Double Dash and Cheep Cheep Beach from Mario Kart DS, but none will ever come close to my love for the original!
Final Fantasy X (PS2 2001)
Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast 1998)
Lurelin Village – Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Switch 2017)
N. Sanity Beach – Crash Bandicoot (PSX 1996)
Cool Spot (SNES 1993)
1. Destiny Island – Kingdom Hearts (PS2 2002)
I had the pleasure of watching a friend of mine play through the entire Kingdom Hearts game just the other week (she recently purchased the Kingdom Hearts collection for PS4 and is steadily progressing through all the games). While I’ve only played a few hours into the first game (I got lost during the Little Mermaid section), the beaches of Destiny Island do a fantastic job of establishing your character’s wants, needs, and relationships. Beyond just sparring with your friends or fetch-questing for raft items, the island urges you to explore and sets up one of the game’s bigger mysteries after finding the door in the cave behind the waterfall. I love the portrayal of Sora and Kairi as children here, and it’s fun to examine the walls to see the drawings they made so long ago. I’m not sure what part the island has to play in future entries of the series, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as my friend continues to play!
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