There's no FIFA of surfing games. While EA has released a new FIFA game to coincide with the World Cup, there's no official ASP World Championship Tour game. So, with the Billabong Pro Rio and Rio Women's Pro events coming to Brazil this week, we've taken it upon ourselves to take a look back at some of the best surfing games in history.
Surfing is a sport that's been sadly under-represented in video games, but while there hasn't been a truly fantastic surfing game there have still been some decent efforts over the years so even if budding Jordy Smiths, Julian Wilsons and Adriano de Souzas can't live out their dreams digitally in an official title, they could check out these games.
1. Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (2002: GameCube, PS2, Xbox)
Arguably the best surfing game ever released, Pro Surfer was developed by Neversoft, the same team responsible for the incredible Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. With similar trick controls to the Tony Hawk games, Pro Surfer let players take to the waves in a number of different locations including South Africa, Hawaii, Australia, Tahiti, Spain and North America. As well as Slater, it also included a number of other real-life surfers, including Lisa Andersen, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Nathan Fletcher, Bruce Irons, Rob Machado, and Kalani Robb. Sadly, even though there have been countless Tony Hawk games, there was only one game in the Kelly Slater series.
2. California Games (1987: Apple II, Commodore 64, NES, Master System)
The first truly memorable appearance of surfing in a video game was Epyx’s classic sports compilation California Games. As the name suggests, it was a collection of different sports enjoyed in the warmer climate of the US state, such as rollerskating, BMX riding, skateboarding and Frisbee throwing (sorry, we mean ‘flying disc’). Our favourite, though, was the surfing stage in which players had to keep up a good speed while trying to score points by making well-aimed jumps off the waves. Angle your landing badly and you’d plunge into the water, sometimes followed by a shark. Yes, failure in California Games was potentially a serious business.
3. Sunny Garcia Surfing (2002: GameCube, PS2, Xbox)
Here’s an interesting one. When you’re making a video game about surfing, why necessarily limit yourself to real-world locations? Sure, you can licence real surfers if you want – which is why this game features legendary Hawaiian surfer Sunny Garcia and a number of other stars – but why use actual surf spots when you can create the ultimate one? That’s why Sunny Garcia Surfing is set in a completely fictional island 300km east of Fiji which has no continental shelf, giving it some of the largest waves in the world. Naturally, it isn’t all paradise – you still have to look out for sharks, jet skis, reefs and the like.
4. Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (NES: 1988)
Proper old-school, now. This NES game was released back in 1988 and was sponsored by world famous surfboard manufacturer Town & Country. T&C was famous in the 1980s for its shirt designs, which featured a number of cartoon characters called Da Boys. This game lets the player take control of said ‘Boys’ as they take part in numerous skating and surfing events. So if you’ve ever wanted to surf as Thrilla Gorilla, Kool Kat, Joe Cool or Tiki Man, then not only do you have oddly specific desires but you can also have those desires met by this vintage NES game.
5. TransWorld Surf (2002: GameCube, PS2, Xbox)
Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer wasn’t the only surfing game to go for full realism – Namco Bandai’s TransWorld Surf also licensed a load of real-life surfers and also featured ten real-life locations, including Huntingdon Beach in California and Jeffries Bay in South Africa. Interestingly though, it also featured a unique system called the Karma Meter. Just like real karma, if you act badly – getting in the way of other surfers, spraying them with your wake or messing with the marine life – bad things will end up happening to you, including other skaters bumping into you or, yes, shark attacks. What is it with surfing games and sharks?