There She Blows: Wind in Games

There have been a few times this past month where the wind has been howling wildly outside of our window. It’s loud enough to raise my anxiety a little bit, but apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg. Where I’m currently living, March is supposed to be windiest month. So, I better get used to it! With all of the noise going on, it was a *breeze* to distract myself by trying to think of some of the gustiest games I’ve ever encountered. Without further ado, here are the Top Ten instances of wind in video games!

10. Final Fantasy 6
(Super Nintendo 1994)

“I hear she fried fifty of our Magitek armored soldiers in three minutes….”

The War of the Magi, magic, Espers… Final Fantasy 6 hits you hard with some pretty big plot stuff within just the first few seconds of your new game. Once the epilogue is wrapped up, the camera settles on the image of a snowy peak where three characters are peering off toward their destination. Accompanying us through their dialogue is one sound: the desolate wind that is no doubt swirling around them. While the wind doesn’t effect the gameplay directly (unless you’re in an airship), this sound effect does well in setting the tone for the moment, and it comes back many times throughout the game when our characters are amongst the mountaintops. Surely, whenever I hear wind sounds now, I always think of the snowy cliffs of Narshe.

9. Super Mario Bros:
The Lost Levels
(Super Nintendo 1993)

The autumn leaves drift by my Mario.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to world 5-1, 7-1, or 7-3 in The Lost Levels, I hope you’re ready for rage. An already difficult game in its own right, these three stages add an extra layer of frustration by tossing in a wind mechanic while trying to navigate some tricky platforms. Easily, the worst level of them all is 7-3 which forces the player to use green “super springs” to launch your plumber off-screen over massive, long-distance chasms. Where will you land? You have no idea! Because your character is off screen, it is nearly impossible to tell where he is positioned. So, falling perfectly on a tiny platform is pretty much never going to happen. Thankfully, the SNES “All Stars” version of this game is quite forgiving in that it saves your progress after every level. If you’re playing the original NES rendition, though, may Miyamoto bless your spirit.

8. Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II
(NES 1989)

Cloudy with a chance of eye chunks.

This sequel to Wizards & Warriors is infamous for its box art which features a bare-chested Fabio holding a giant sword in front of mountains of fire. Ironically, the main hero in the game, Kuros, is completely covered by armor from head to toe. So… why this image of Fabio? Well according to one of the game’s designers in a September 2010 article from Retro Gamer, they “used it as an example of the lack of imagination of Americans.”

Anyway, in Kuros’s quest to defeat the evil Malkil, he must take on the wizard’s four elemental forms: wind, earth, fire, and water. Climbing his way toward the wind boss, Kuros must fight off an onslaught of birds while searching for an eagle’s lost egg. Once the egg is returned to its owner, the eagle carries our hero to the clouds above where he must now dodge tornados and….more birds…before confronting the cantankerous cloud. Years later, in 1999, these bird enemies finally got their revenge on our main character when one of them collided with Fabio while he was riding a roller coaster. Well played, birds. Well played!

Meanwhile, fun fact! Legendary Donkey Kong Country composer David Wise also wrote the soundtrack for this game!

7. Mega Man 6
(NES 1993)

Good point: good cook. Bad point: bad with bicycles.

A “Master of Wind” who guards the Mechanical Tower, Wind Man is a successor to the outdated #010 model that was Air Man of Mega Man 2. While Air Man was designed specifically for combat, Wind Man was created for the purpose of helping during harvest time in the farming industry. How exactly does wind help harvest crops? I have no idea! The events of Mega Man 6 lead to Wind Man being reprogrammed by the mysterious Mr. X in order to aid in his plans for world domination.

I would argue that Air Man’s “Air Shooter” attack is much more deadly than Wind Man’s gyro “Wind Storm” attack. However, Wind Man’s stage better fits the breezy theme represented by its respective robot master. Scattered throughout Mega Man’s path are a series of propellors that can push the blue bomber in various directions. On top of that, spikes, flying cannons, and of course, giant pandas (!) stand to get in the way.

Outside of the game, Wind Man was actually created by North American Michael Leader for a Robot Master Design Contest that was being held by Capcom. Many of the bosses featured in Mega Man 6 were the results of these fan submissions. I don’t know about you, but this was a pretty cool move by Capcom to offer their fans a chance to make something for the game. Too bad this didn’t carry over to present times when Mega Man Legends 3 was supposed to be a thing…

6. Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword of Chaos
(NES 1990)

“I think I feel a change in the wind, says I.”

In addition to the birds, horrible enemy placement, and disgusting pushback mechanic, the developers of Ninja Gaiden 2 had to throw in some wind to doubly ensure that young players would fully feel the chaos of the aforementioned Dark Sword. I think the most annoying part about the gales of Stage 2-2 is that the direction will change every few seconds which forces you to wait until the moment is ripe before attempting a difficult jump. In a game that’s supposed to be about fast-paced ninja action, waiting is the last thing that I want to do. Additionally, the rate of this directional change is often enough where it’s very likely to catch you mid-air, thus sending you plummeting to the murky depths blow. Amazingly, Ninja Gaiden 2 is supposed to be the easiest of the trilogy due to the game’s generous continue feature which sends Ryu back to the beginning of the level instead of to the beginning of the stage. I’ve never beaten it. Neither have you.

5. Tornado
(Nintendo DS 2008)

“Circle, with the music, the flow. All good things.”

The Nintendo DS was home to many games that experimented with the ways that you could play a game. Not only was it equipped with a built-in camera and microphone, but it featured both an upper and lower screen which could display two different sets of images. The bottom screen also included touch functionality with which players could interact by using either a stylus or their finger.

Tornado is a quirky little game where you play as Toki who is tasked with retrieving stolen Earth items from Prince (no, not that Prince). As a member of the “Cosmic Cleaners,” you are equipped with a “tornado machine” so you can Katamari anything that gets in your way. If you were a kid who used to circle toys in the JC Penney Christmas catalog, then you’ll be a pro at this game!

Grab your stylus and get ready to draw – because you’ll be doing it A LOT. The tornado machine activates by drawing circles around your character. Once Toki gets spinning, he becomes a full-fledged cyclone ready to take Dorothy to Oz and drop houses on wicked witches. Simultaneously, a meter in the lower right begins to deplete and can only be refilled by drawing more circles. And that’s….basically it! Beyond sucking up everything in sight in search of “Planet 69’s” lost items (nice), you also battle giant mechanical dinosaurs, and there’s even a stage where you face off against Earth’s greatest hero (essentially a superman clone) who has mistaken you for being the cause the planet’s recent problems. Somebody call Helen Hunt.

4. Pilotwings
(Super Nintendo 1990)

“Land on the land.”

“Ride thermal current to altitude of 500 feet, then land on the target,” instructs flight teacher Lance who, according to, “speaks fluently in six languages” and was “formerly an Air Force pilot.” Well, Lance, I better do what you say or….maybe you’ll kill me!

Hang Gliding always gave me the most trouble when playing the original Pilotwings for SNES. Your first objective, as noted above, is to find some wind to send your glider to new heights. These thermal currents are indicated by wavy white dots that are ascending upward. While they’re easy to find, it’s extremely difficult to tell when you’ll actually be close enough to trigger the climb in altitude. When it finally does happen, be prepared to lose all orientation as your character lurches toward the sky, completely losing site of the ground below you. “LAND NOW,” the game implores you upon reaching the required height.

The easy part is over. Landing is a matter of soaring in circles until you think you have enough space to descend perfectly toward your target. All the while, you can hold “A” to flare your sail to reach the ground more quickly. Of course, then you risk the game screaming at you: “RATE OF DESCENT TOO GREAT.” Once you think you’re close enough to the landing, you have to hold “A” one more time (which, again, causes the sail to raise and throws off what once was a smooth glide) and then touch down with your feet just short of the space with the most points – ideally so your character will walk a few steps forward into the best spot. It never works.

If you’re somehow good enough to get a perfect score on this stage, you’re rewarded(?) with this face:

3. New Super Mario Bros DS
Balloon Racing
(Nintendo DS 2006)

“I’m gonna need some privacy, so you guys can blow.”

Another game taking advantage of the unique features on the Nintendo DS, New Super Mario Bros DS included a plethora of mini games that used all of the above. One of my favorites (aside from the frantic touch screen version of Whack-A-Monty) was “Balloon Racing.” If you suffer from asthma, you might want to avoid this one. The goal is to guide a forlorn-looking Yoshi who was rigged up with balloons (no doubt by Wario or Waluigi in an attempt to reenact Up) to a flying airship high above Peach’s castle. How does one accomplish this feat? Holding up on the D-pad? Vigorously tapping the touch screen? Repeated pushing of the B button? NO! The secret was within YOU the whole time!

To move Yoshi upward, you must create a gust of wind by physically blowing into the DS’s microphone. With each burst of air, Yoshi will begin to ascend. All the while, you must avoid Fly Guys who are patrolling the skies above. I found that it was best to blow gently into the microphone. If I blew too hard, the action wouldn’t register and Yoshi would remain in the same spot.

To this day, I think this is one of the most clever uses of Nintendo hardware. It’s a feature that harkens all the way back to the Japanese Famicon which allowed you to destroy the “Pols Voice” enemies in the original Legend of Zelda by shouting into the system’s built-in microphone. What weird bodily feature will they incorporate into a game next?!

2. The Legend of Zelda:
(Gamecube 2002)

“Is that the best you can do? You’re gonna have to kill me!”

I can’t think of a Zelda game that *doesn’t* feature wind in some capacity. Here’s a short list:

The Legend of Zelda – Link plays a whistle which summons a tornado to transport him to different areas on the map.
The Minish Cap – Link acquires the “Gust Jar” which both sucks and blows in order to manipulate objects or defeat enemies.
A Link Between Worlds – The Tornado Rod creates a mini-tornado that can lift Link high into the air to reach new areas or flip over objects/enemies.
Phantom Hourglass – Making use of the DS microphone again, players can use their breath to physically “blow out” candles in the game which is a required feature that’s needed to gain access to one of the main temples.
Breath of the Wild – Link literally soars through the air on a Paraglider given to him by the King of Hyrule. Additionally, he can obtain the power of Rivali’s Gale which, like the Tornado Rod, lifts him high into the air.

Obviously, the most prominent use of wind can be seen in the game with “wind” in the title. In Windwaker, Link is given a conducting baton that allows him to control the direction of the wind so he may more easily sail the seas of a flooded Hyrule. Not only that but there is an entire temple dedicated to wind which Link must tackle with his companion Kokiri, Fado. Manipulation of gusts along with crafty use of the Deku Leaf is required to navigate the sprawling temple that centers around one large room with a massive fan at the bottom.

Some players out there have considered sailing to be a tedious form of travel, but I always found these sections to be completely relaxing. If boating is not your thing, Windwaker HD added a “Swift Sail” which can speed up your trek across the water. My only gripe with players who use this new item is that they’re missing out on the chance to hear more of the fantastic Ocean Theme music!

Honorable Mentions:

Chrono Trigger
(Super Nintendo 1995)

Super Mario 64
(N64 1996)

Blowing into your NES cartridges

1. Flower
(Playstation 3/Various 2009)

Loves me…?

One of the most uplifting, beautiful, and calming experiences in which one can partake, Flower is a game where you don’t just control the wind – you ARE the wind. Your objective is to guide a single petal through the air toward various patches of flowers. Each time you get close, you gain the petals of those corresponding patches which results in a potpourri of color swirling throughout the skies. At the same time, the game’s music, composed by Vincent Diamante, responds in real time with the player’s actions which adds to the overall harmonious environment that the game strives to maintain.

Flower won “best independent game of 2009,” and gosh darn it, it deserved it so hard. If you love exploration and want to feel warm for an hour or two, be sure to pick it up. I can recount so many times when I’d throw on the soundtrack to help me get through heaps of paperwork while applying for grad school. It worked like a charm. And hey, I might not be where I am today if not for this exhilarating music that kept me soaring above all of life’s difficulties.

Thanks for stopping by to read my post! What are some other great instances of wind in video games? Let me know in a reply below. Also, be sure to subscribe via e-mail to have my content delivered directly to your inbox the second it gets posted!

Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

5 thoughts on “There She Blows: Wind in Games

  1. Great read and something I’d never really thought about. One of my favourite “windy” moments is the clear the fog quest in Tomba! The furious tornado comes out of Grandpas mailbox – for reasons I have never really figured out.

    Liked by 1 person

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