The sun is sizzlin’ and that means we’re in the prime of summer! And what better way to spend summer than sitting inside playing video games, right? Just like your parents always told you.
Well I’ve compiled a list of games to play on your Nintendo Entertainment System to help get in that summery spirit! So go grab a Ninja Turtles popsicle from the ice cream van and settle in, we’re gonna have fun dammit.
(Cross-posted from Tumblr. Originally posted July 2015.)
Ah, nothing quite says summer like beach volleyball right? The sun, the sand, the sea, the sparkling ripped dudes in speedos. Yeah alright sure.
Kings of the Beach ― A port of the computer game by Electronic Arts, produced by Konami. Looks clean, plays well. Maybe has the simplest, most accessible controls of this trio of beach volleyball games: “A” to bump, “B” to set, “A+B” to spike.
Super Spike V'Ball ― Probably the best volleyball game on the NES. Brought to you by Technos, creators of such fine classics as Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and Super Dodge Ball. Heck, Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon are even a playable team in here. It’s also one of the few NES games to have 4-player support!
The controls are a little more complicated than Kings of the Beach. Basically, “A” hits the ball, and “B” jumps (which is followed by hitting “A” to spike). Also there are a few special moves to pull off.
Venice Beach Volleyball ― Here’s an unlicensed volleyball game from a developer called Idea-Tek. It’s sorta the odd man out of this lot. Looks rough, plays rough.
It honestly feels like a cheap clone of V’Ball. The controls and even the game over screen are nearly the same. Not much reason to pick this over the other two.
But it’s volleyball and it’s on the beach so here it is! Woohoo~
Palm trees, the open ocean, and raw ass danger at every corner. Heck yea.
Adventure Island ― An early release, Adventure Island was port of the arcade game Wonder Boy, minus Wonder Boy himself. (These two series have a ridiculous and complex history which I won’t go into.) Hudson decided to replace the main character with their spokesperson in Japan, Takahashi Meijin (famous for being able to press a button 16 times per second), who was renamed Master Higgins for the game’s international release.
Master Higgins has a hunger meter that gradually declines, which he needs to constantly keep up by grabbing tons of levitating fruit. I guess he has a fast metabolism. The game is impossibly difficult. Seriously, just impossible.
Adventure Island II ― The sequel stepped things up quite a bit. It added a world map, an inventory system, and several rideable dinosaur friends. Also the difficulty level is much more reasonable.
Adventure Island III ― The third game is basically more of the same. It continues on with what Adventure Island II did and doesn’t really add much of anything new. It even uses the same soundtrack for the most part. But it did add two new dinosaur friends to ride… though they’re recolors of two dinos from the previous game. Still a fine game though. And the graphics are pretty stylish.
Dig Dug II ― A port of Namco’s arcade sequel to Dig Dug. Everyone hates on this game because it plays nothing like the original but honestly I love it.
This game completely shakes up the formula of the original. It takes place from an overhead perspective, where the goal is still to take out all the enemies on screen. But notice those notches in the land? Well, this time you have a jackhammer. You gotta use your jackhammer on those points to split the land, taking out enemies by connecting cracks and sinking large swaths of land.
At least that’s how you get the most points. You can still cheese it and just use your pump if you have to.
It plays more like a puzzle game than the original. Each level sort of has its own optimal solution, but you don’t necessarily have to follow it. Also protip: enemies can’t walk over cracks. (They do not wish to risk injuring their mamas’ backs.)
And if you’re doubting the tropicality of these islands, the subtitle on the box is Trouble in Paradise, and paradise is always tropical. So there.
Gilligan's Island ― Awww yeah here we go. Thanks to its endless syndication on cable TV, everyone’s favorite sitcom from the 60s finally got its own video game! Join the Skipper and Gilligan on the action-adventure of a lifetime!
Explore the island, escape danger, collect items, and talk to the various castaways you find. Gilligan and the Skipper are always exchanging quips during the game, as pictured above. Also Gilligan is always getting lost or trapped and you always gotta save him.
…Why was this game made again?
StarTropics ― A lovely action-adventure game from Nintendo. You play as Mike Jones (no not that Mike Jones) as he travels tropical islands in search of his uncle Dr. J (no not that Dr. J).
The overworld sections look like your typical JRPG from the time, where you’ll travel about, talking to townsfolk. The dungeons, though, play more like Zelda. There are lots of jumping tile puzzles to solve. And monsters to fight off with your trusty… yo-yo.
The sequel, Zoda’s Revenge, is all about time travel so it’s not quite as summery as the original game. Sorry.
It ain’t summer without a buncha kids and gorillas tearin’ up da streets on their boards.
720° ― A port of the Atari/Midway arcade game. It… could be better.
Skate around the map, compete in events, use your earnings to buy new gear. And keep doing it over and over. Be sure to avoid the swarm of killer bees.
Menace Beach ― An awful unlicensed game from Color Dreams. Demon Dan kidnapped your girlfriend so that means you gotta fight ninjas and clowns and Elvis impersonators to get her back or something. Between levels your girlfriend yells at you while, um… her clothes deteriorate. Okay.
It was later given a Christian makeover and rereleased under the name Sunday Funday. Instead of seeing a scantily-clad girl, you get to see your disappointed Sunday school teacher. Improvement? Only God can be the judge of that.
Skate or Die ― Another computer game by Electronic Arts brought to you by Konami. Compete with your friends in 5 different events; the most famous probably being the Pool Joust pictured above. Beware of Bionic Lester and his cool dad.
Skate or Die 2: The Search for Double Trouble ― The sequel was an NES-exclusive developed by Electronic Arts themselves. It went in a completely different direction, becoming more of a sidescrolling action-adventure game. You can pick up items such as cassette tapes, french fries, and tacos, which are used as currency for buying new skateboards and tricks, just like in real life.
You’ll want a new board too cause the one you start with is slow as molasses and can barely hop a few inches off the ground. And the controls in general are a bit confusing.
Double Trouble is the name of the ramp you can skate on at the end of the game. But you can skip all that story stuff and access it just by pressing Select at the title screen, and faceplant on it all day to your heart’s desire.
At least the game had that famous title screen track. “SKATE! OR! DIE! SKATE - OR - DIE! DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!”
T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage ― Town & Country Surf Designs is a Hawaii-based surfboard manufacturer that had a series of surfing cartoon mascots named “Da Boys”. Of course they were the perfect candidate for a video game.
Published by the dreaded LJN, but developed by Atlus, this game features both skateboarding and surfing. Each sport has pretty much one level that just repeats over and over again.
The skating level has you riding from the start to the end point within a strict time limit, dodging various obstacles along the way. Your lives will quickly whittle down depending on how hard you beef it.
The surfing segments feature some of the most infamously confusing controls on the NES. Seriously, no one can figure them out. Chances are you’re gonna get gobbled up by the oncoming wave or drift off the bottom of the screen before you get to do anything cool.
At least it has a pretty rockin’ soundtrack. And I mean that singularly since there’s only one song in the game.
T&C Surf Designs: Thrilla’s Surfari ― Apparently the first game was successful enough to warrant a sequel. This one focuses solely on a single character, Thrilla Gorilla, as he skates through the jungle trying to save his human girlfriend.
This one was developed by Sculptured Software though, not Atlus. It plays more like a platformer/obstacle course. It’s ridiculously difficult due to the fast speeds, limited control, and ridiculous amount of obstacles littered everywhere.
But it does have some amusing wipeout animations, including one where the gorilla literally explodes into pieces.
I remember renting this as a little kid and having no idea what the fuck I was doing. I don’t think I made it past the first incline, let alone the first level.
…The other stuff.
The Blue Marlin ― Not the only fishing game on the NES, but totally the summeriest. I say that because it features several beaches from Florida and Hawaii. Also the intro screen says:
THE ENDLESS SUMMER....HAWAII.
I mean how much more obvious can you get?
BurgerTime ― Alright now just follow me here. What’s a major summer staple we may be overlooking in all this? Muthafuckin’ cookouts, that’s what. Nothin’ smells like summer more than burning charcoal. So slap some burgers on the grill and slap BurgerTime in your NES. Yeah man now we’re summer as hell.
California Games ― A port of the Epyx computer game, handled by Rare. Contains 6 radically extreme sports, each one’s controls as perplexing as the next!
Half Pipe! Foot Bag! Surfing! Skating! BMX! And last, but certainly not least… Flying Disk!! Do you think you can handle it?!?! You probably can't.
Eliminator Boat Duel ― Boat racing! …Combat boat racing…
This is one of those birds-eye-view racers (for the most part), similar to the Micro Machines games. But with boats… in the ocean. Or a swamp. Yep.
Piko Interactive owns the rights to this now and brought it to the Nintendo Switch Online app for some reason. Now what’s your excuse?
Hoops ― Basketball in general may not be considered a specifically summery sport, but street basketball totally is! Hoops has you playing 2-on-2 (or 1-on-1), half-court, on either the east coast or west coast. It may not be the best basketball game on NES but it’s one of the only ones to take place on the blacktop. Or browntop…?
Jaws ― Another LJN published game, this one developed by Westone, creators of the aforementioned Wonder Boy series. It’s typically considered by NES fans as one of LJN’s better offerings. Not great, or even particularly good, but… above average for LJN’s standards.
It’s also considered one of the shortest games on the NES. Well, shortest games that were designed to end at least. It can be beaten in a half hour or less.
The majority of the game amounts to traveling back and forth from two points on the map where you will frequently “hit something”. This means you gotta get out of your boat and shoot spears at jellyfish and stingrays for a few minutes until the game tells you to stop. Killing these hapless sea creatures makes them drop conch shells, which can be used to buy power-ups at the harbor. You need these power ups in order to get strong enough to defeat Jaws.
You’ll occasionally encounter Jaws either while sailing or diving. He’s big and gray and swims left and right. Once you get powerful enough to whittle down his life bar, you’ll battle him face to face in your boat where you gotta poke him in the belly with the pointy thing. And then the game ends.
Despite the title, the game is actually based mostly on the universally reviled fourth movie in the series, Jaws: The Revenge. I guess they didn’t really want this game associated with that mess of a movie, so they dropped the subtitle. Probably a smart idea.
Rad Racer ― Ah, the classic OutRun knockoff from Square. Hop in a sports car or an F1 (nobody chooses the F1) and take off down the road to reach them checkpoints. Hold forward to initiate turbo when you’re at top speed. Also includes a hardly-functional special mode for 3D glasses by pressing Select, plus music from the famous Nobuo Uematsu.
The first course takes place on a beach, like all good racers should. It’s named Sunset Coastline… how rad is that, huh. Pretty rad.
Bonus challenge: Try beating it with the Power Glove.
Rad Racer II ― The little-known sequel is pretty much more of the same. Even the track settings are similar. The graphics are maybe a little better, and now your car can do a turbo boost when it’s stopped by holding Down. Unfortunately the car doesn’t do several flips in the air after it wrecks anymore. Also they ditched the F1.
Like the original game, the first track here also takes place on a beach. The tracks in this game are based on real locations, so this is supposed to be Key West, Florida. Be sure to switch the music to something appropriate like… “Coast to Coast”! Yeah that sounds appropriate.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project ― …Well, the first couple levels at least. The game opens up on a beach in Key West (hey!) where the turtles were vacationing. Then they see on TV that the Shredder unearthed Manhattan and turned it into a floating city in the sky, for some reason. Oh and he also kidnapped April again. So the turtles gotta go back and save everything.
The first level begins on the beach next to the shore, then moves onto a pier. The second level has the turtles riding high-speed surfboards… from Florida to New York. Then they raid a battleship. And then they visit other not-exactly-summer-related locations. That’s it, have fun.
Toobin' ― Another port of an Atari/Midway arcade game. This one’s an unlicensed Tengen game though. To quote the manual:
It’s rad! It’s bad! TOOBIN’ is so awesome, dude!
Paddle your way down a perilous river in an innertube, dodging various pointy things such as tree branches and fishing lines. Be sure to pick up all the random cans of soda you find floating in the river. They’re probably not that safe to drink though so you only use them as projectiles to hurl at fishermen.
Also in single player mode, both controllers can control the character at the same time. Could be some fun co-op maybe.
And if you’re ever in trouble, just heed the words of Jet:
Jet’s Motto: A patch in the hand is worth two of anything in the bush. Don’t get spastic and wipe out if you miss something. Like, just keep cool, man.