The Top 7... Coolest video game islands

Islands are the biggest 'get-out-of-jail-free' cards in videogame design. Firstly, they allow developers to create a defined perimeter without having to explain away invisible walls with forcefields or malaria. It also gives them license to plausibly fill said island with anything from dinosaurs to trifle. It's an island – it can be anything it needs to be.

It was playing Treasure Island Dizzy recently that became the basis for this list. The excitement of an uncharted island to explore may not have changed over the years, but its execution certainly has. Where we used to play on islands of treasure or rainbows, we now face convicts, pimps and ninjas. Both kinds have their merits, but which is best? Let's find out...


7. Isla Nublar

Jurassic Park - 1993

Why is it so great?
Michael Crichton's vision of a prehistoric theme park may as well have been designed as the setting for a videogame. It's a shame, really, that the film (and book) came out during gaming's relative infancy. Still, it gave us two of gaming's best-ever 'wow' moments.

Above: The painful realisation that these graphics were still ten years off

The first was a pre-rendered first-person area in the Mega-CD version. Sadly, these visuals cost far too much money to last for an entire game, so the visitor centre was the only place that looked genuinely amazing. Like this, in fact.

'One day', we thought, 'all games will look this good'. But we were brought crashing back to earth with the SNES version of JP, which gave our first proper first person shooting action on a home console:

Quite a come-down, looking at it with today's eyes, but back then, it was one of the most impressive things anyone had ever seen, ever.

Other coolness of note
Almost every console's version of Isla Nublar had something impressive to offer. On Game Gear it was running around in front of a massive diplodocus. On Mega Drive it was the overkill of using the heaviest Tranq rocket on a compy and watching the poor thing disintegrate on impact. Even the Game Boy version had decent egg-collecting gameplay and amazing music.

Above: Aww, it's looking at you! Best shoot it in the face with a rocket

Anything wrong?
Only really on the Mega Drive version. There's one section where you slide down jungle tree trunks until you realise it's just repeating and jump off. However, if you stay on it for enough repetitions, all the sprites besides Dr Grant disappear, leaving you with no ammo and no enemies. And subsequently 'no fun'.



6. Zack Island

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball - 2003

As islands go, this is right up there with the best of them. Just look at this list of awesomeness: There's a swimming pool to laze around in, cycle paths, shops, a casino, several sweet hotels, a water slide, jet-ski races around the bay, an on-site radio station, several volleyball courts, a coral reef to swim around and even a beach-side swing for those sunset moments. Seriously, that's one heck of an island Zack's got there.

Above: There it is, in all its glory. But that's a funny-looking mountain...

Other coolness of note:
Oh yeah, the island is full of supremely fit martial arts babes, who like nothing better than doing exercises in front of cameras in their beachwear and trying to knock each other into the pool using nought but their bikini-clad bums. 

Above: Zack Island - where it's always Spring Break

Anything wrong?
Alas, it had to be too good to be true. That 'funny looking mountain' is an active volcano, which has been known to erupt and destroy all of the above. Oh.

Above: You gotta feel sorry for poor Zack. This happens twice


Top 7


  • wiigamer024 - August 9, 2010 5:34 p.m.

    Angel Island, FTW! :D
  • erenelliekush - July 28, 2010 11:55 a.m.

    aw no koholint :( for shame, technically yoshi's island was the starting "world" on Super Mario World, you know, the one that has a bridge connecting it to the rest of dinosuar land although seeing how Yoshi's Island is a prequel, it is the first chronological appearance
  • DarkWeavel - July 20, 2010 4:38 p.m.

    first island i thought of was Crysis...
  • TheWebSwinger - July 19, 2010 5:08 p.m.

    You just KNOW that volcano on Zack Island is a metaphor for ejaculation
  • santaclouse37 - July 16, 2010 9:48 p.m.

    Shadow Moses is sadly missing. But great Top 7 regardless.
  • 4fromK - July 16, 2010 1:08 p.m.

    "Nintendo reportedly asked Miyamoto to make the game look like Donkey Kong Country. But he wasn't a massive fan of that game" didn't miyamato dispell this myth, when he actually directly adressed this question and said he didn't know where that rumour came from?
  • HonestGuy - July 15, 2010 1:33 p.m.

    thank heavens for JC2 and Panau, 'nuff said! :)
  • SausageLozenge - July 15, 2010 11:25 a.m.

    I really liked Sunshine. The music in Delfino Square was great.
  • t3rry747 - July 15, 2010 1:13 a.m.

    r u kidding me not even a whisper of wind waker (shame
  • OneWithWaves - July 14, 2010 9:16 p.m.

    I can't believe no one ever mentioned LEGO Island! Not any of the revisions in Island 2 or 3, no; the ORIGINAL LEGO Island. Nothing looked better on a PC in 98 and you really felt it was alive. There was always something going on and so many secrets to find! Not to mention you could customize the whole place to your liking.
  • ThePrivateer - July 14, 2010 6:03 p.m.

  • JosefMotley - July 14, 2010 5:41 p.m.

    how you can say isle "delphino" (it's delfino) is in any way good or celebrate anything about mario sunshine at all is beyond me
  • CARDYKEV - July 14, 2010 12:01 p.m.

    Ooops forget what i said
  • CARDYKEV - July 14, 2010 noon

    Lol whats wrong with an island in the shape of a monkey or a skull being called monkey island? Surely thats an obvious choice? A rock in Devon in the shape of a poodle is called Poodles rock, fail or just unimaginative locals?!
  • Bravo315 - July 13, 2010 6:25 p.m.

    I'm guessing you didn't count city-only islands like Liberty City, Empire City and Pacific City :D Thought San Andreas should've been there though. Purely because of the way you can reach Macros Bistro/Saint Mark's in LC if you fly too far East.
  • gatornation1254 - July 13, 2010 3:11 p.m.

    I always wondered why Monkey Island wasn't shaped like a monkey.
  • philipshaw - July 13, 2010 9:41 a.m.

    Akrham Ayslum is on a Island so if you can count that, it should be on the list
  • Gnome - July 13, 2010 7:15 a.m.

    I for one actually quite enjoyed Yoshi's Story I liked the storybook twist on it.
  • Nanook - July 13, 2010 6:40 a.m.

    Koholint!!!! And as long as we're Zelda representing, while all the island hoping and boat travelling got quite tedious by the time one finished Wind Waker, Dragon Roost Island is an Island triumph. Awesome, welcome-to-the-quest theme music that made you feel like you were truly adventuring swelled as the impossibly, incredibly tall island rose up over the horizon. Plus there's an awesome dungeon inside and a dragon on top! Also, you should be doing a worst islands list as well. Start with Bikanel Island from FFX and go from there.
  • redrum253 - July 13, 2010 6:04 a.m.

    wheres my vvardenfell?

Showing 1-20 of 78 comments

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