A review of the best surf video games in history

Alvaro Pastor's picture
Alvaro Pastor
07 · 19 · 2019

Since its explosion in the 1980s, when many young people spent hours with gaming machines, to today, almost forty years later, when an impressive economy is developing around e-sports, surfing, though not in the foreground, has been present in the virtual experience.

It has been a growth at a speed that very few expected, going from video games in square pixels, to the not so future and increasingly present virtual reality. On the way, magnificent playable works of art that have surprised us with each delivery, on different platforms.

Is now far away for many of us one of the first digital experiences with surfing, which it was and is considered the first video game in history in which our beloved sport would appear, being in a saga called "California Games". This relic was launched in 1987 by the company Epyx Sports Game.

This video game was initially designed for Apple II and Commodore 64 computers, but due to its great success it diversified into other consoles such as Atari, Sega Mega Drive, NES or Sega Master System.

This work of craftsmanship based on square pixels and 2D drawings, offered the player the opportunity to enjoy the different sports variants that then triumphed among the young people of the sunny city of Los Angeles. Skateboarding, inline skating, frisbee, BMX and, of course, surfing were the sports offered by this reference among video games.

Continuing with the classics it is necessary to mention a video game that was only developed for the Nintendo NES. In 1988 LJN Toys launched a extreme sports video game, seeing the success that the pioneer had had. The game, Wood and Water Rage, has two game options, skate and surf. To practice them, they gave the option to select as characters the four mascots of the Town & Country Surf Designs brand, the "Da Boys". Both modes worked with a side-scrolling action that skidded between obstacles or surfing a giant wave and in which to get points had to perform tricks, maneuvers and collect the various bonuses.

Now we come to what is perhaps the flagship and most famous of all surf video games in history. According to many, this has been the best surfing game ever created, as it follows in the footsteps of one of the best extreme sports action games, the Tony Hawk´s Pro Skater.

It was 2002 when Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer went on sale, and since then it has been the only one that has truly established itself as a reference surfing videogame. A game that provided good graphics and gameplay, to enjoy at home the days when the sea does not allow you to go out to catch a few waves.

The video game can be enjoyed on Xbox, GameCube, Ps2 and PC, as well as allowing us to control famous surfers such as Rob Machado, Bruce Irons or Tom Carrol.

In the same year the Transworld Surf also saw the light. Its creators wanted to be an alternative to Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer. Namco Bandai's game mixes real videos with video game engine sequences. It is important to highlight the first scenes of the introduction, which show us a real recording of the movements of some of the best surfers of the moment, this time, of course, without Kelly Slater. One of the moments left by this video game was to include among the scoring criteria a system called karma. Like what is said, what karma gives you, karma takes it away, only this time it comes in the form of a shark attack.

For a long time surf video games have been "disappeared" without great titles, until the arrival of Surf World Series. This is a realistic arcade; it's not a 100% simulator, but it's not a crazy game either.

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In it we face different tests, with a main challenge and other secondary, based on getting a certain amount of points, a certain trick, finish a round without falling, etc ..... This is divided along several tournaments organized by difficulty and 45 tests in five of the most emblematic coasts of the world. It also includes the online mode for the most competitive.

Currently, the technological experience associated with surf today is not guaranteed by video games, but by technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.  For example, enjoy 360 degrees of a surfing video. These applications will become a niche in the market. Imagine attending a surf class via video or analyzing each surfer's movement in total freedom of movement.