Emerald Coast is the only video game beach worthy of a summer vacation

I need a few weeks to get my beach body ready

It has been one hot-ass summer and every day the temperatures hit triple digits, I sit back and soak in sweat as I imagine I’m any place but here. Antarctica, New Zealand, the northern tip of Greenland; they’re all much more desirable places to be when it’s hot this many days in a row. I would go to all three of those places and more if I were made or money — or was that clueless New York girl who gets thousands of dollars every month from her parents — but I’m not so the best I can do is the occasional weekend trip to the beach.

There’s nothing like the feeling of blistering hot sand beneath your feet as you make a b-line for the water to cool your ass off before remembering you forgot to put on your SPF 80. I enjoy a nice trip to the beach so much that it became my topic for this week’s Destructoid Discusses. The only problem is I had a difficult time coming up with an answer.

There are obvious beaches I could have gone with. Wind Waker, my favorite game, is nothing but islands so its full of beaches. But none of them stick out, and after some back and forth with online searches, a lightbulb clicked. Obviously, the best beach is Emerald Coast from Sonic Adventure

This was the first Sonic game I saw through to the end and one I have no desire to replay because I know my rose-tinted view of the slick-looking launch title for my beloved Dreamcast would be ruined if I booted it up today. But watching this level, it has all of the things I love about the coast: sun, sand, water, fancy hotels, a boardwalk, cabanas, lighthouses, and a kick-ass Orca, which as a Washingtonian was a massive part of my upbringing. Free Willy anyone?

So yeah, this was a tough question, but I’m absolutely resolute in my assertion Emerald Coast is the best beach level in gaming and I’m sure all the examples below from my fellow Destructoid writers will stink on ice!

Chris Hovermale

As great as the beach is, I personally prefer the thrills and chills of a seaside water park. I like to stay cool rather than sunbathe. I prefer swimming over running, and a park gives so much more to do in the water than a shore. Sure, I’m not a great swimmer (maybe not even a good one), but having the freedom to swim up and down and everywhere within a pool makes me feel more flexible and mobile than I am on land. In my eyes, swimming in a pool is a magical way to expand my abilities, not unlike Mario donning a Wing Cap.

Super Mario Sunshine’s Pinna Park is more of a theme park than a water park, but F.L.U.D.D. has more than enough water to keep things cool! The rides and structures of the park make an excellent playground for F.L.U.D.D.’s abilities. It offers a very similar level of freedom and playfulness as any water park attraction. It’s one of my favorite levels to explore and mess around with in Sunshine thanks to its colorful attractions. And bonus, it’s on its own island with a couple of lovely beaches to relax on too!

Peter Glagowski

Call me predictable all you want, but I am absolutely in love with the Okinawan beach setting that Yakuza 3 starts with. The location of Kiryu’s Morning Glory orphanage, this beach looks like an absolute dream to live near for the short time we see it in the Yakuza series. It thankfully makes one last return in Yakuza 6, but I’m already making myself sad knowing I won’t be able to go back.

Some of the best character moments for Kiryu happen on this beach and it makes me pine for the kind of family he cultivates. Giving orphans a chance to live the life he couldn’t, Kiryu puts on a wrestling match, plays baseball, goes fishing and even collects trash to make the world a better place. He really is just the best guy around.

Jonathan Holmes

I hate the beach. It’s a place where people often go to forget about their real problems. I don’t like that. I like knowing what my problems are. It keeps me ahead of them, or at the very least, it keeps them from being as quick to sneak up on me. 

Make no mistake about it, a lot can sneak up on you at the beach. Sunburns, dehydration, jellyfish, overpriced pizza, the list goes on. And don’t even get me started on the sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. 

Not like things in No More Heroes beach stage, featuring Holly Summers. There, everything is soft and smooth, especially Holly. She epitomizes the smiling, mask-like face of a trauma victim who has compartmentalized her damage with mechanical precision. The parts of herself she has lost to violence have themselves been replaced with tools of violence; cold, robotic and numb. She’s smooth and serene on the outside, right up until the point where she puts a grenade in her mouth, and her head explodes. It’s just a guess, but I think on the inside, she wasn’t doing so well. Maybe, like so many others, she was at the beach, trying to forget about her problems. Eventually, her problems caught up with her, so she checked out.  

Don’t go to the beach. 

Rich Meister

While I agree with Peter’s sentimental attachment to Okinawan beach and Chris’s love of seaside theme parks, my favorite video game beach comes from Halo of all places. 

“The Silent Cartographer” is the fourth level of the original Halo, and it starts with a Pelican transport dropping the Chief and a Warthog off on a scenic beach front. While there are plenty of grunts and elites to blast on the sandy shores, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to do sweet donuts on the beach, or see just how far you can drive that Warthog into the water without sinking it. 

Josh Tolentino

Being a watcher of anime and player of JRPGs, I am no stranger to beach escapades. Frolicking in the sun and dressing in revealing swimwear is a time-honored tradition of most of my favorite types of media.

That said, though, the beach level I’ve probably spent the most time on by volume isn’t from any JRPG or anime, but from Star Trek. I am, of course, referring to the pleasure planet of Risa. First highlighted in The Next Generation as a planet with weather control so advanced its civilization could devote itself entirely to galactic tropical tourism, it’s featured in Star Trek Online as the main zone for its yearly summer event, with players congregating for a month or so each year to run hoverboard races, hold dance contests, and buy up zone-exclusive swimwear costumes.

The zone has grown year by year, with more easter eggs, attractions, and little doo-dads added by the developers at Cryptic, and the giveaways — which include decent, playable starships — are nothing to scoff at either. In fact, this year’s event is ongoing right now, and when I log in, I make sure to play Final Fantasy VII‘s “Costa del Sol” theme on loop.

Salvador G-Rodiles

In order for a video game beach to win my heart, it has to give me relaxing feeling. All it takes is for it to show me an area with gorgeous sand and clear blue seas. Whether it’s Chrono Cross’ Opassa Beach or the Canaan Islands in Ys VI: The Arc of Napishtim, I enjoy being reminded of the setting. I guess it has to do with my fond memories of visiting the keys in Venezuela.

If there’s one thing that can top an area with a beach, it’s a whole region that gives you the full vacation experience. One area that fulfilled this element is Liberl’s Ruan Province from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. As you enter the area, you come across the Manoria Byroad, which lets you see the ocean from its cliffs. During the walk, you get to experience the ocean sounds while you make your way through the rest of the region. Before you arrive in the first town, you have the option to take a turn to visit the Varenne Lighthouse. Old man Vogt lives there and he’s known for treating those with good manners well. That said, you may become a better person if you help him with his requests.

Once you hit Manoria Village, you can enjoy some great seafood and sandwiches as you sit on a bench where you can see the relaxing waters. Then there’s the Gull Seaside Way, which is filled with many beaches. Even though the place has land sharks and other dangerous aquatic creatures, a person with good fighting experience can defeat them before he/she goes for a relaxing swim.

At the end of the stop, we hit the City of Ruan (a.k.a the Seaside City). The place gives off a Venice vibe as it shares its space with the sea. From the luxurious Hotel Blanche to its restaurants, there are many activities for those who want to take a break from the beach. With the NPCs being one of the Trails/Kiseki series’ great aspects, the locals manage to make you feel welcomed. When I reached this area for the first time, it reminded me of the times I got to go on tropical adventures during my childhood. It helped that the place feature a track that uses the same beats found in songs with island and summer themes.

Marcel Hoang

Before we got Pokemon Sun and Moon with the islands of Alola, the original Pokemon beach and island was Cinnabar Island. This small, charming, quaint, and some may say dead looking island barely has any life on it. When you first arrive, it’s a tiny habitat with a Pokemon Center, a Pokemon gym, and an abandoned mansion/research facility. It’s home to Blaine, the fire-specialist of the gym, and not only do you get a dose of fire and poison-types throughout your time there, it’s apparently home to a volcano.

Cut a return in Silver/Gold and the entire island is in ruins because that volcano has erupted. While there are textures and landscapes in these older Pokemon games for sandy beaches, Cinnabar Island doesn’t have any sand, leaving the impression that its shoreline is more a barren, craggy shore than a beach.

Still, reaching Cinnabar Island is your first major experience after Pokemon’s now standard Surf function introduces itself. It’s a brief but abrupt respite after a long, watery journey across the sea. Even if it’s not as relaxing or sandy as most proper beaches, Cinnabar Island is still a fun little oasis in the middle of the ocean for travelers.

Chris Moyse

There has been an abundance of great video game beaches, but for me, one of the quintessential coasts has to be the opening stage of Yu Suzuki’s 1986 classic, Out Run. The glorious coastline from which our nameless driver and his gal with a death wish begin their cross-country race is not only a beautiful vista of warm sands, palm trees, and cool ocean waves, it’s the typification of Summer itself.

Out Run is a game that was played more often that not in the arcade, back in an era where the best place to find arcades was, indeed, while on vacation. As such, Out Run’s beach opening is tied in with childhood memories of being at the beach yourself, playing sand-filled sit-in cabs in tacky Bermuda shorts, letting the salty sea air and the blissful tones of Magical Sound Shower carry you away from school and homelife, placing you in a sun-soaked boulevard by the bay where all that mattered was impressing your girl by recklessly risking both your lives, and never taking your foot off the accelerator because that time limit was bullshit.


Everybody point and boo at Holmes for the Attack of the Clones reference.

CJ Andriessen
Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games.