“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s June and summer begins in just a few short weeks. Time to hit the beaches and flash those abs! Or in the case of some of us, just mayonnaise tubs. Gotta work on my farmer’s tan, personally. Mages don’t get out much.
While we’re on the subject of music, you may recall that we’ve already discussed the video game Ocean theme and discovered two different modes: a lighter, gentler sound of the shallows and a darker, more sinister and mysterious sound of the deep. When it comes to the Beach theme, however, I originally was going to lump it together in the Ocean/Water category. But what I found as I began to bring songs to mind and inspect various soundtracks was that there is a distinction here. There is a line drawn in the sand, as it were, between the Ocean and the Beach theme.
Less delicate than the Sky, less brooding than the Forest, less majestic than the Ocean, the Beach theme is much more energetic, friendlier, kinder and fun-filled. It’s livelier. Another word for it would be “Tropical”. It fits the description of “Party”. It’s far and away something entirely different than just the Ocean.
The Beach theme is the sort of relaxing song you’d hear at a shoreline hotel, sipping on an ice-cold lemonade in the sun, or the kind of upbeat tune you’d tap your toes to at a bonfire bonanza beside the sea. Steel drums, marimbas, tambourines, maracas, that one noise you can make if you push a straw in and out of a lid… these are the sounds of summertime at the beach. So get ready to don a little grass skirt and a coconut bra and shake your proverbial booty, because we’re headed for a sunset luau with our Top 20 list of the best video game themes of the Beach, you lucky dogs.
#20. “Wipeout” – Cool Spot
Nothing says “summer” like product placement, and one of the most shameless-shameful plugs ever had to be the 7up video game Cool Spot. Yes, the soda 7up. Not seven extra lives. Probably more like one shorter-than-average life if 7up is all you drink and Cool Spot is all you play. Cool Spot was based on the antics of the anthropomorphized red spot in the 7up logo. The Spot who was cool would surf on a plastic bottle of 7up. Which is technically littering in the ocean? What makes this song even
worse better is the fact that it’s not even an original composition. It’s just a tinny, garbled rendition of the surfing classic Wipeout. Still catchy as heck, though, from a game that’s hilariously dated.
#19. “Game theme” – Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this was a worse game than Cool Spot. Despite it’s misleadingly long name, Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (or T&CSD:W&WR not for short) was far from “awesome” or “tubular” or “groovy” or “righteous” or other surfer words. Which is a shame since it’s named after a surfboard manufacturer from my home state. But it was too hard. It’s frustrating. It had incomprehensible surfing controls. It was a poor excuse for actual skateboarding and actual surfing. But man, this song that played over every round is still “just super”. If I surfed with a walkman, you can be sure this is the song I would have leading my playlist. I’d be soooo cool. Or maybe it could be the theme song to me running along the shore in my red bathing suit.~
#18. “Area 1 Round 1” – Adventure Island
Aw yeah, learnin’ the young ‘uns ’bout that NES. Hudson’s Adventure Island brings that tropical whimsy and aloha, and it brings it in hard. Apparently (and I had to look this up) you play as some tomahawk-tossing kanaka named Master Higgins. Okay…. And he’s off to rescue his wahine named Tina in-game, or in the manual: Princess Leilani (which is a common Hawaiian name for “heavenly flower”! We’re learning!). In Adventure Island III, you can see the two lovebirds snuggling under a palm tree before poor Leilani is kidnapped by aliens. It’s the South Pacific. What do you expect? The very first stage in the very first Adventure Island has an almost Mario-level tropical sound. It’s an island. The protagonist is wearing a grass skirt. What more could you want?
#17. “On the Beach” – Pokémon Snap
Alright so maybe there’s a trend here: lots of good Beach themes appear in really rubbish games. Pokémon Snap was not one I enjoyed. Redefining “catching ’em all” to capturing portraits of Pokémon in their “natural habitat” took all the fun out of brutally forcing these innocent creatures into cruel combat with each other in bloody cockfight fashion. But this song, though. It’s not the last time you’ll hear this Caribbeanish reggae sound. It’s definitively beachy: uplifting, lighthearted, positive and fun. So much unlike Pokémon Snap itself.
#16. “Summer” – Harvest Moon: Magical Melody
The Harvest Moon series bears a plethora of Beach/Summer themes, given that the games typically revolve around four changing seasons. Narrowing it down to just one was tough for me (be thankful) but I did it. Magical Melody’s “Summer” song has got a steel drum, percussive-driven melody, underscored by the occasional cowbell. The world will always need more of that. What made this song stand out to me more than the others are a few things: it’s one of those that combines childish fun with a feeling of taking it easy. Many Summer themes fall into a rut with sounding too hectic and too stressful. Too busy. This one sounds easy-going. And it seems to sound like it’s coming from everywhere. From out of the air. That’s what it felt like when I was playing the game, too. It’s an atmosphere of a day at the beach.
#15. “Veniccio Coast” – Dark Cloud 2
So a quarter of the way through our list we come to the first song that fits the bill of a seaside hotel. “Veniccio Coast” opens with what sounds like a guitarist serenading you, and then the egg-shaker comes in. You can almost feel yourself slipping into a food coma reclining in a chair on the sand, the warm and salty breeze playing with your hair, the sound of children laughing in the distance, just as the flute begins its melody. As I recall, most of Dark Cloud 2 felt very relaxing. This is a whole style of Beach theme that really seems to put you there if you just close your eyes and use your imagination. Evocative.
#14. “On the Beach” – Yoshi’s Story
This little ditty from Yoshi’s Story is pure childhood innocence and probably the song that plays through a toddler’s head when playing in the sand. It combines everything we’ve seen before with the soft serenading of the guitar and the rolls on the steel drum. A little simple and repetitive, but it gets the job done. Makes me want to build a sand castle.
#13. “Fall Island” – Rune Factory Oceans
Taking a cue from Dark Cloud 2, this track off of the Harvest Moon inspired action-RPG Rune Factory Oceans (aka Tides of Destiny) is all sweet, sweet leisure and recreation. There’s more of that nylon guitar than ever, picking away at all your stresses and alleviating them. You’re watching the white clouds sailing across the deep blue horizon. Once the melody picks up and the percussion ramps up the energy, then it’s like someone tossed you the volleyball. All in a fun day at the Beach theme. And this song is just beautiful to listen to, as well.
#12. “Delfino Plaza” – Super Mario Sunshine
Oh an accordion intro! To me, “Delfino Plaza” sounds more European than other titles on this list, but I hear they still have beaches in Europe, right? It was only a matter of time until Mario reared his red-hatted head. But I’ve got a penchant for red (can’t you tell?) and Mario couldn’t escape this list. His music has traditionally sounded like the concept of the Beach theme since Super Mario Bros. “Overworld theme”. A track of the same title is another pure Beach theme from Super Mario Bros. 3. Heck, his franchise alone could fill up this list, but choosing “Delfino Plaza” seemed like a step off the beaten path, not to mention a variation on the Beach theme with its faster pace and choice of instruments.
#11. “Windfall Island” – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Here’s another game that yielded tons of tracks that could’ve made this list. The Wind Waker is a world with more islands and beaches than you can count, spread across a wide and adventurous sea. Upon reaching Windfall Island, this song begins to play and you’re greeted by the bright visuals and friendly faces of the citizens, many of whom seem to move in rhythm to this chipper somewhat ethnic-sounding tune. It makes me want to climb in a small sailboat and push away from shore, or just lie in the sand and watch the sky scroll by. Or maybe I’d like to dance. Just like this guy:
This tide has come in, but it’s not time to pack up and head home yet. The party’s just started. “Pig’s in the ground” as they used to say back in de islands. The best is yet to come. I can almost taste the pineapple. What hot songs need to make it to the final 10 of our Top 20 in your opinion? Can you guess which Beach theme track will surf all the way to number 1?
-The Well-Red Mage
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