My Top 10 Beach & Ocean Themed Retro Games

Beach Themed Video Games

I know, what an oddly specific topic for a Top 10 list. But here’s the thing: I’m taking my annual beach vacation as of today, so all of my posts this upcoming week will be related to the beach or the ocean in some fashion because that’s just the frame of mind I’m in. And since I typically blog about retro games anyway, I thought this would make for a fun cross-section of my interests since I love real beaches almost as much as I love pixelated ones.

So here are my Top 10 favorite beach or ocean-themed games from the 8- & 16-bit eras. Surf’s up!

#10 – Adventure Island

Year: 1988
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Adventure Island

This game is SO FRUSTRATING, but every now and then I play it as if one of these days there’s going to be a different outcome. Actually, this game kind of sucks. That, or I just suck at it. Regardless, I suppose it’s considered a classic Nintendo game, even if it is just an adaptation of Sega’s Wonder Boy. However, I’m only including it for the benefit of having ten games on this list, because without it I’d have only had nine. Ha! Take that, Adventure Island, you piece of crap.

#9 – Puggsy

Year: 1993
Platform: Sega Genesis/CD


Puggsy is a weird-looking orange alien whose spaceship crash lands on a tropical planet, where the object of the game is to get back to your ship. It’s a cool little platformer with some puzzle gameplay elements requiring you to pick up and use objects to get past obstacles. I can’t remember exactly how I discovered it (probably through Sega Visions magazine), but I remember renting it several times when I was young and having a blast with it.

#8 – Jaws

Year: 1987
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System


Who says all video games based on movies suck? Jaws was a rare exception for the Nintendo Entertainment System (although the game does have its haters, but to those people I offer this simple math: SHARKS > YOU). The gameplay was a weird blend of overworld boat navigation and underwater shoot ‘em up. You’d basically sail around until you hit “something” (sometimes Jaws himself) at which point the game switches to diver mode where you’d do your best to avoid being hit while shooting at anything that moves–hopefully Jaws.

#7 – Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

Year: 1988
Platform:  Nintendo Entertainment System

T&C Surf Designs

Just hearing the chiptune waves on the decidedly minimalist title screen for T&C Surf Designs (which is what I’ve always called the game despite its retardedly long full name Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage)  takes me back to childhood. The neighbor’s boy had this game and I didn’t, so naturally I was jealous of him. And he never let me be Thrilla Gorilla either, the stupid jerkface.


#6 – Cool Spot

Year: 1993
Platform: Sega Genesis
Cool Spot

Cool Spot was a surprisingly decent game for basically being a 7-Up advertisement. This side-scrolling platformer had bright, beautiful graphics depicting cheerful beachy backdrops and a pretty cool soundtrack with surfer-style tunes. And Spot himself (as well as all his little Spot friends who all looked exactly alike) was pretty freakin’ adorable.

#5 – Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude

Year: 1992
Platform: Sega Genesis

Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude

Not a terribly original game concept, or game for that matter, but Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude was tons of fun. Despite its terrible name–which was probably conceived at the pinnacle of surfer “dudestalgia” when movies like Point Break were all the rage–Greendog was a side-scrolling adventure game that had a lot going for it, like its cool calypso soundtrack, skateboarding levels, and vine-swinging action. (For some reason I love games where you get to swing on vines; I blame early exposure to Pitfall.)

#4 – Star Tropics

Year: 1990
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System


Oh Star Tropics, you magnificent bastard. Rarely does a game manage to be so effin’ weird but so much fun at the same time. It’s like The Legend of Zelda meets the top-down phases of Blaster Master, with bizarre characters and an even more bizarre plot. Oh yeah, and aliens.

#3 – Rainbow Islands/Bubble Bobble 2

Year: 1990
Platform: Sega Genesis

Rainbow Islands - Bubble Bobble 2

I’ve only ever played the port of this game for Sega Genesis (titled Rainbow Islands Extra), but supposedly its exactly the same as the original arcade game with a few minor differences. Rainbow Islands makes up for the fact that its protagonists aren’t the cute dragons you remember from the first Bubble Bobble (here’s why) by being a truly fun game. It’s challenging, has bright, colorful, over-the-top graphics and chintzy music; all the things an arcade game from this era should have. And what’s not to love about shooting rainbows?

#2 – Ecco the Dolphin

Year: 1992/1993
Platform: Sega Genesis/CD

Ecco the Dolphin

I probably wouldn’t hesitate to put Ecco the Dolphin on my list of all-time favorite Genesis games, let alone an overly-specific list like this one. The game is just freaking cool, as well as weird and trippy as hell (and I won’t even get into how strange the sequel is). And yet it was beautiful and peaceful at the same time, with a soothing, synth-heavy soundtrack not unlike something you might hear in a PBS ocean documentary. The gameplay was fun and challenging too, with some unique elements like the sonar system that helps you navigate your way through treacherous ocean depths. All right, I’ll just come right out and say it: I LOVE ECCO THE DOLPHIN!

#1 – The Secret of Monkey Island

Year: 1990
Platform: PC  (DOS)

The Secret of Monkey Island

The LucasArts point-and-click adventure game that has spawned a number of hit sequels and a devoted following. It’s a masterpiece; what more can I really say about it? If you’ve never played this game or any game in the Monkey Island series, we can’t be friends anymore you’re really missing out on something great.


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