The summer is in full swing and the hot weather is taking its toll around the world. For some that means being stuck inside amid sweltering temperatures but, as retro gamers know, there are ways to enjoy the summer that don’t mean being outside. There are plenty of games that are set in the summer, allowing indoor kids like myself to enjoy the season of sun without leaving the air conditioned paradise of home. Let’s take a dive into five retro games to help you beat the summer heat.
California Games (1987, Epyx, Nearly Every Platform)
Originally an extremely popular Apple II and Commodore 64 release, California Games made its way to every console and quickly became one of the most popular party games of its generation. California Games finds players competing in a series of events all set in on the California coast. Events include Half-pipe, BMX, Flying Disc (Frisbee), Surfing, Roller Skating, and (my personal favorite) Footbag.
Footage Courtesy of NES Guide
The graphics are limited at best depending on what console the game is played on. While the NES and GameBoy versions are simple, the SEGA Genesis and Atari Lynx versions are highly polished and offer better controls. The tweaked controls are extremely important for California Games as most events play fast and loose, often with no direction. This is apparent in the Skating and Surfing events, both of which require precise timing to accomplish any reasonable score. California Games would later spawn a sequel and a mobile port yet none of the subsequent releases could quite catch the magic of the original.
Cool Spot (1993, Virgin Games, Multiple)
Who doesn’t love a good mascot? In the midst of the outrageous advertising of the early 1990s, 7-Up gave us one of the most recognizable mascots of the era: Cool Spot. Debuting in 1987, Cool Spot quickly fell into the favor of clear soda drinkers and rode the wave of what became known as “advergames”, titles that were no more than marketing tools to kids. Yes, the red dot on the can was not only a marketing hit but also brought his extreme attitude to nearly every video game console of the era.
Gameplay footage Courtesy of SNESGuide1
This platformer is an early era collectathon where Cool Spot must collect a certain number of tokens (in this case “spots” ) in order to proceed to the next level. Other requirements include basic puzzles and saving other Spots that are identical with the exception of being cool. Bonus stages are available if Cool Spot can collect letters that eventually spell UNCOLA (remember that?).
Kings of the Beach (1990, Electronic Arts, NES)
While there is surprising amount of volleyball games on the NES, the standard bearer is none other than Electronic Arts’ Kings of the Beach. This arcade style volleyball game is a simple as can be with very limited controls that make the game easy to grasp but hard to master. The game was originally released for the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS but truly caught a foothold with players when Konami, under their Ultra Games label, brought it to the NES.
Footage Courtesy of NES Guide
Kings of the Beach features the likenesses of real-life beach volleyball stars Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos, alongside many others. The real treat is the inclusion of characters from other EA titles. This means you get to square off against Lester from Skate or Die. The highlight of the game is the ability to argue calls with the referee which will sometimes end in a point being overturned. Argue too much and you get a penalty. Kings of the Beach is full of…well… beaches. Locations include Australia, San Diego, Waikiki, Rio de Janeiro, and the lush sandy beaches of Chicago (huh).
Super Mario Sunshine (2002, Nintendo, GameCube)
Super Mario Sunshine is perhaps one of the most subtly influential Mario games in the series. After the huge success of Mario 64 in 1996, Nintendo initially attempted to create a direct sequel to the beloved 3-D platformer. After several false starts, Nintendo decided that it was time for a new and unique entry in the series. This time around, a new villain called Shadow Mario has vandalized Isle Delfino (aka Delfino Island) and Mario is blamed for the deed. Now as ward of the state, Mario must clean up the island with the use of a new device called F.L.U.D.D. (Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device).
Video courtesy of Waffle Robot
Making their first appearances in the franchise are Shine Sprites, Petey Pihranha, Cataquacks, and Bowser Jr. , all of whom would become staples of future games. With a stable of new villains and the return of classic characters like Peach and Toad, Super Mario Sunshine has all the major staples of the Mario canon. So why is it now as acclaimed as other entries? This most likely rests with it being a GameCube exclusive and currently the only Mario game unavailable outside of its original console. Also, the use of the F.L.U.D.D. was actually quite divisive at the time and caused some players to overlook it as gimmicky. Oddly enough, a similar device was employed in Luigi’s Mansion and no one seemed to care.
Windjammers (1994, Data East/SNK, NeoGeo)
Sometimes Frisbee goes extreme and the most extreme of those times are all found in the NeoGeo hit Windjammers. The game essentially plays as a pong clone but adds enough attitude to blow its predecessor out of the water. Players stand on opposite ends of a beach court throw a rad flying disc at the opponent’s goal. Much like air hockey, the disc can bounce of the walls and players can use the angles to their advantage.
Footage courtesy of WesScosS
Windjammer, aka Flying Power Disc in Japan, features six playable characters with six different courts from around the world. Locations include Italy, Korea, Japan and Germany. The gameplay is spiced up via a variety of special moves that are unique to each player. My favorite is the Missile Throw from Gary Scott, the most blandly named video game character ever. In 2017, Windjammers made its way to the PS4 and PS Vita via a digital release as well as a physical version from Limited Run Games.