“…so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you—I am your support’…”
Aloha kakahiaka! Welcome back to the party. We missed you. If you haven’t already, you should read the top half of our list of 20 Beach themes, numbers 20 through 11. Once you’re ready, light the tiki torches and enjoy the warm, salty air. Word of the day is: Relax…
#10. “Beach Overworld” – Donkey Kong Country Returns
The Donkey Kong franchise is a fruit salad of Beach themes. Can’t get any happier than this. It’s a drum-rollin’, delightful, Caribbean romp through the palms on the shoreline, a playful search for more bananas. The cries of the gulls, the whisper of the waves over the sand, it’s the sound of summertime monkey business you’ll go ape over. Don’t be a chimp-pansy, go bananas at our party. If you don’t come, I’ll be a furious George. Other monkey puns.
#9. “Besaid Island” – Final Fantasy X
The isle of Besaid is a gorgeous, lush, shimmering paradise of waterfalls and simple citizens. It endeared itself to me largely because of Wakka, the blitzball captain who talked just like a Hawaiian local. Besaid seems like a place largely untouched with the terror of Sin, the destructive monster doing what monsters do across the world of Spira. This song is full of the sounds of sunlight on water and breeze in the trees. Piano is an instrument we haven’t seen too often on this list of Beach themes (so far), seeming more reserved for the Ocean themes. But it’s sweet gentility is the perfect underscore for a laid-back tropical paradise. This is not so much a party song or a resort hotel song. It’s the song of island life.
#8. “Secret Island” – Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Spicy as salsa, this is one of the hotter tracks off of the distinctly mellow Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It brings it’s Latin/piano flair to the Beach theme with more uniqueness, dodging the Caribbean reggae dominating the musical concept. Appropriate, since Epic Yarn is a unique game in the Kirby franchise. As cutesy and bright as the little pink powderpuff himself, this is the song of a spicy party.
#7. “Tototon Tototon To” – Breath of Fire IV
So happy that at least one fishing song made it on the list. Fishing is my favorite contact sport. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never played tackle-fishing and you’re missing out. The apocalyptic threat in Breath of Fire IV is punctuated by moments where the characters can take pause and just have a few minutes of fishing, when this song with a peculiar name is played. Not sure why it’s called “Tototon Tototon To” but I have an inkling it may be related to the musical timing involved in the fishing mini-game itself, where you have to tap the button to the rhythm of the music in order to emulate live bait. Fishing was one of my favorite things to do in BoF IV and this tranquil, bongo/flute-led track makes for welcome repose from all the RPG grinding.
#6. “Another Arni” – Chrono Cross
Guitar again, but this time it’s accompanied by a piano for a moving and strangely sad duet. There’s a sense of regret almost about this song. If you’ve played Chrono Cross, you’ll understand why there’s the tinge of sorrow here. That game was chock full of possible tracks that could’ve made this list, as the entire game takes place in a sheltered archipelago. It’s full of sailing across deep blue water and visiting rural fishing villages. Arni is one such village. There’s a rustic sound to this track, complete with the very acoustic noises of fingers sliding over real strings and frets. Not as boisterous as other Beach themes in Chrono Cross, the sadness feels like the remorse of lost love, of leaving your small hometown, or of saying goodbye to the sea.
#5. “Breezy” – Final Fantasy VIII
“Breezy” is played entirely by a solo stringed instrument, presumably a guitar, which makes for a song of stillness. It isn’t busy. It’s a day at the beach by yourself, without the crowds, without the children laughing, without the radio, as if it’s the song of the ocean air itself. The mark of good music is the emotion it can trigger. “Breezy”, paradoxically, provokes nostalgic feelings of longing for childhood and at the same time pensive, lonely thoughtfulness. Both complex emotions are appropriate for a trip to the beach by your ownsome.
#4. “Destiny Islands” – Kingdom Hearts
It was hard to understand why Sora and his companions wanted to leave Destiny Islands so badly. I mean, it was a childhood paradise of endless sunsets and swimming and swordplay. A whole island for a clubhouse. But it must’ve been a kind of island-fever, an itch for what’s beyond. Or maybe they just got tired of this relentlessly cheerful song. Just try and have a bad day after listening to this for hours on end. Kingdom Hearts had an excellent soundtrack, and “Destiny Islands” uses all of the by now familiar Beach theme tropes and combines them into a youthful hurrah. This is a song for kids, definitely, playing with each other on the shore. I can still hear a teenage Wakka saying: “Show me your stuff!” This song is simple and clean.
#3. “Koopa Troopa Beach” – Mario Kart 64
To be quite honest, this was the very first song to pop in my head when I thought about writing up our list of Top 20 Beach themes. As the last party-esque Beach theme on this countdown, “Koopa Troopa Beach” blends mental visuals of white sand and blue-green water, palm trees and coconuts, blue skies and white clouds with every Beach theme instrument in the book. You can almost envision the turtle shells being played like multicolored drums for this anthem to summer from the Mario racing franchise. Like I mentioned in the B-Side, Mario games could easily have dominated this entire list. I’ve never tried this, but I’m sure this is a great track for cruising to with the windows rolled down.
#2. “Summers, Eternal Tourist Trap” – EarthBound
With a title like that, how could this song possibly score any lower on this list? The vision of Americana in Nintendo’s SNES classic EarthBound isn’t complete without its depiction of the hazy, lotion-soaked and suntanned American beach. Slower in tempo than many of the tracks on this list, this is the soundtrack of the ritziest of five-star hotels, and the organ vibrato seems to place it further back in time, somewhere around the early-middle of the 1900’s. This is truly the timeless tune of an Eternal Tourist Trap, all saccharine and sunshine. It captures all of the heart of what makes the Beach theme so rich and luxurious.
#1. “Costa Del Sol” – Final Fantasy VII
In the end, there was no other possible contender. The shaker and the guitar begin their rhythm, then the bongos come in, and then the melody of the steel drums and flute, less sharp and more atmospheric than ever before. This is the Beach theme ideal. “Costa Del Sol” (“the coast of the sun”) is a paradoxical paradise of bikinis and drinks and sun when the world is in danger of ending. But really, who cares about a giant meteor hurtling toward the planet when there are tanning lines to worry about? That’s the gist of “Costa Del Sol” and that is at the real heart of beach-time amusement (amuse: from the Greek words a- meaning “not”, and mousa meaning “ponder/think”). It’s a worriless stretch of pure white sand and bronzed bodies, making Cloud and his crew seem awfully out of place with their weapons and armor on their way to hunt down Sephiroth. Indeed anything is out of place in Costa Del Sol that doesn’t get with the jive of summer-fun and summer-lovin’. The echoing steel drums and the gentle swaying rhythm of the maraca, like the swinging of a hammock, lulls the beach-goers to sleep, even in the face of impending doom. Nothing says “Beach theme” more than that. This is the ultimate track to play off of a battery-powered radio while sipping your favorite beverage under an umbrella on a blanket on the sand, just watching the tide slowly come in.
Bonus track: “Time’s Scar” – Chrono Cross
I told you there were too many songs to choose from off Chrono Cross. “Time’s Scar” wouldn’t be complete in the listening without the visuals of the previously jaw-dropping graphics of the intro, one of the best opening cutscenes from the PlayStation One. I don’t know what it is: the crescendo, the editing of the video, the poetry at the beginning (“…under cerulean skies”). I get goosebumps every time I hear it. But why is it on this list of Beach themes? Because that single image of Kid standing on the shore, looking out over the shallows, then turning and reaching, while the camera zooms into her eye is one of the most memorable and captivating images from Chrono Cross, accompanied by that high, solo violin.
Deez honorable mentions:
“Rice Beach” – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
“Tropical Island” – Mario Party
“Wave Man” – Mega Man 5
“Pirate Man ~ Marine Wreck” – Mega Man & Bass
“Yoshi’s Island” – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
“Dolphin Park” – Wave Race 64
“Home Arni” – Chrono Cross
“Home Guldove” – Chrono Cross
“Another Guldove” – Chrono Cross
“Dream of the Shore Bordering Another World” – Chrono Cross
“Fisherman’s Horizon” – Final Fantasy VIII
“New Bodhum” – Final Fantasy XIII-2
“Ruby Sunrise” – Final Fantasy XIV
“Outset Island” – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
“Dragon Roost Island” – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
“Beach theme” – Super Mario 3D Land
“Island (Day)” – Animal Crossing: New Leaf
“Cheep Cheep Beach” – Mario Kart 8
“Seashell Shore” – Spyro: Year of the Dragon
“Humilau City” – Pokemon Black v.2/White v.2
“Summer island” – Rune Factory Oceans
“Summer” – Rune Factory Frontier
“Blue Resort” – Bomberman 64
“Seashore” – Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
“Dee Jay’s theme” – Super Street Fighter II
“Pirate Lagoon” – Diddy Kong Racing
“Lullaby of the Waves” – Monster Hunter 3 (Tri)
“Wakeboarding theme 2” – Wii Sports Resort
“Oho Oasis” – Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
“Float Island” – Kirby Super Star
“Ice Cream Island” – Kirby’s Adventure
“Overworld theme” – Super Mario Bros.
“Overworld theme” – Super Mario Bros. 3
“Welcome! Yo’ster Island!!” – Super Mario RPG
“Moon Beach” – Streets of Rage
“Sunny Beach” – Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!
“Beach Bowl Galaxy” – Super Mario Galaxy
“Starshine Beach Galaxy” – Super Mario Galaxy 2
“Melee Island Map” – The Secret of Monkey Island
“Surfing theme” – California Games
“Wave 131” – Streets of Rage 2
“Beach theme” – New Super Mario Bros. Wii
“Title theme” – Star Tropics
“Summer” – Harvest Moon 64
“Summer” – Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
“Angel Island Zone” – Sonic 3
“Eddy Gordo” – Tekken 3
“Cinnabar Island” – Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green
“Treasure Trove Cave” – Banjo-Kazooie
“Gelato Beach” – Super Mario Sunshine
“Ricco Harbour” – Super Mario Sunshine
“Seashore War” – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
“Summer (Tropicala)” – Stardew Valley
Summer is from from over but unfortunately this list is. Now I really wish I was at the beach. Are there any songs you think should’ve made the cut, or at least get an honorable mention?
-The Well-Red Mage