Flashback: Jaws

By: Jonny Casino

Jonny CJaws (NES) – 1987  In 1975, Jaws was the first summer blockbuster movie. It was the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office. The music is iconic. The shark is iconic. I bought Jaws, for the NES, because I found it on sale, and it had really good reviews. I was skeptical because, let’s be honest, how good can an NES game based on Jaws be? I had no idea what to expect from this game, and I didn’t want to watch any gameplay before I played it.

The gameplay is simple. You sail a boat around until a random encounter happens. You swim left and right shooting jellyfish, rays, and small sharks. You collect what they drop, which can be stars, shells, or nothing at all. The shells are the currency required to upgrade.


Once you have enough shells, you sail to one of the two ports and upgrade. You must go back and forth between the ports and keep upgrading until you are at a high enough level to take down Jaws. If you get hit by an enemy, you lose a life, lose half your shells, and lose half your level.

As the game progresses, you will have to deal with more rays, more small sharks, and jellyfish that will dart your direction as they swim upwards. There is also a submarine you can find if you are lucky. Having it makes your movement quicker, but it will disappear if you are hit. At least you are not killed in one hit. I only found the submarine once, but I enjoyed using it that one time.

As you sail your boat between ports, you will see the iconic fin poking out of the water. While at a low level, you try to avoid him. Once you have leveled up to four or five (from what I’ve read), you can hunt him down. When this encounter begins, it is very similar to the other random encounters. The jellyfish, rays, and small sharks are swimming around. The difference is that you are on your ship and get to lob cannonballs at Jaws until he quickly runs into you. At that point, you are forced to shoot harpoons at him the same as with the other aquatic predators.

Sadly, I have not been able to beat the game yet. It is very short, approximately 35 minutes, but, as with most retro games, it’s difficult and takes a lot of practice to beat. I eventually watched some gameplay to see how it ends. Once you take Jaws’ health down far enough, you are taken into a first-person view from your boat. Jaws swims towards you and you hit him with the bow of your boat. Then it is over!!

The big question is if the game holds up after all these years. My opinion is that it really holds up. I was excited to continue to go back to it in hopes of taking down the iconic great white shark. The gameplay, although difficult, never made me want to throw my controller. It just made me want o get better so I could win. If you are someone who is not into retro games, this one will probably not change that for you. If you are into them, I believe this is a must-play.

Screenshots via MobyGames

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: