California Games: the 1987 Commodore 64 video game had impressive graphics for its time

The first surf game in the history of computers is "California Games." The Commodore 64 video game was released in 1987 by Epyx, and it was a total success.

In the 1980s, video games ran on audio cassette tapes. What do skateboarding, surfing, and BMX have in common?

They're not just some of the Golden State's favorite pastimes - they're also the star attractions of a beloved classic in the world of video games, "California Games," which also featured other sports.

"California Games" is a gem from an era when arcade games ruled the earth, birthed by the talented minds at Epyx in 1987.

More than just a game, it's a pixelated time capsule of the late 1980s Californian lifestyle and the advent of the extreme sports culture.

It combines traditional sports with the sun-kissed, laid-back culture California is known for, setting players against the backdrop of the Golden State's iconic locales.

The game, designed for the Commodore 64, was a hit, and its popularity soared.

Six Events

"California Games" isn't just a single game but rather a collection of different events, each bringing a flavor of the West Coast to the screen.

There are six games or events to choose from:

  • Half-pipe skateboarding: It lets players grind, flip, and slide their way to a high score;
  • Footbag (or hacky sack, as most of us know it): It tests your agility and timing as you keep a small beanbag off the ground;
  • Surfing: It demands players to navigate monstrous waves while performing tricks to impress the judges;
  • Roller Skating: It takes you on a roller coaster ride down a sidewalk full of obstacles;
  • BMX: It challenges you to execute daredevil stunts on a rugged off-road track;
  • Flying Disk: It is all about precision, as players throw a frisbee to their partner standing far away;

Each game requires its own set of skills, and mastering them is no easy task.

The graphics and gameplay mechanics might seem rudimentary by today's standards, but "California Games" was groundbreaking for its time.

They were vibrant and detailed, full of personality, and the game was filled with an energy that encapsulated the spirit of California.

More importantly, the game managed to balance the difficulty, making it accessible to newcomers while providing enough depth for the dedicated gamer.

The Surf Competition

In the surfing competition, players had to perform the best possible moves and tricks, although they were not that complex.

Only a bottom turn, a few cutbacks, aerials, and tube rides could boost your final score.

Playing "California Games" was great at the time.

If the surfer wiped out, a shark would appear, and the famous theme from the movie "Jaws" would be heard. A true classic.

Get a Virtual Life, Dude

After Commodore 64, "California Games" was ported to Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari 2600, Atari ST, Atari Lynx, DOS, Sega Mega Drive, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo Entertainment System, MSX, and Sega Master System.

In 1993, "California Games 2" arrived with better graphics, improved sound, and new sports.

Surfing is replaced by bodyboarding, and at the end of your wave ride, you'd get a nice message: "Get a virtual life, dude."

System 3, the company that owns the title, recently announced plans to re-release "California Games" on future video game consoles.

Luckily, Nintendo's Wii might be the first to duck dive into revival and nostalgia.

Top Stories

The world's first city center wave pool is ready to welcome surfers. Meet RiF010, the Dutch answer to urban surfing.

Three foreign surfers were murdered while on a surf trip through Baja California, Mexico.

Bianca Valenti, Alo Slebir, Wilem Banks, and Jojo Roper were the standout wave riders of the 2024 Mavericks Surf Awards.

Have you ever missed a very good-looking wave after losing precious time spinning your surfboard to start paddling?