Ecco the Dolphin

aka: 3D Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco
Moby ID: 6677
Genesis Specs
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Description official descriptions

Travel through time along with Ecco the dolphin, in the only game that could call itself a "dolphin simulator". Indeed, you can do pretty much everything a typical dolphin does, including eating fish, surfacing in order to breathe, using your biological sonar and of course, jumping out of the water to amaze your friends.

The storyline is actually deeper that one may think by looking at the box illustration. As Ecco, you are the only dolphin who managed to escape from a giant whirlpool which sucked down your entire pod. The five shining stars on your forehead show that you are the chosen one to save them. But that task will be not be an easy one, as you will have to travel through time and space with the Atlantean time machine, and meet the mystical Asterite in order to defeat the Vortex Queen.

The main part of the gameplay in Ecco the Dolphin relies on exploring various aquatic levels. They are usually nonlinear, with submerged caverns and tunnels branching out from the main bodies of water. The navigation is impeded by islands that must be hopped over, volcanoes that spit hot lava, powerful currents, deadly spikes, and dangerous predators such as octopi and giant eels. The sonar ability has multiple functions: you can communicate with friendly animals, map out the nearby area (echolocation), activate glyphs, and eventually defeat enemies. Activating glyphs is necessary because they can unlock unexplored parts of the current level, including the exit that leads to the next area; some of them can even bestow the gift of invincibility on Ecco for a limited time.

You must keep an eye on the life and breath meters. Dolphins can't stay underwater for a long period of time and must return to the surface for air. However, the cavern systems may hide the occasional pocket of air as well. Every time you are hit by spikes, lava, or an enemy, Ecco loses health, and once it reaches zero you will have to replay the level from the beginning. The life meter can be replenished by eating fish or by finding healing clams, called the Shelled Ones, and communicating with them. It's possible to avoid most enemies, but Ecco can kill troublesome creatures using the death sonar or by charging them head-on.


  • エコー・ザ・ドルフィン - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Genesis version)

33 People (23 developers, 10 thanks) · View all



Average score: 76% (based on 51 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 133 ratings with 4 reviews)


The Good
If you're reading this, you probably know the story already. You're a dolphin who goes off on his own to find its pod after a turbulent underwater whirlwind, if we can call it that. From there, it's you again the deep big ocean.

And that's how it feels too.

I don't think I've ever gone through the whole game, but it doesn't matter to me. Everytimes you start a new game, you're sucked into this whole underwater world of solitude and isolation and strange myths. Something I've always loved, and found somewhat eerie, is that humans don't seem to matter at all in this game. It's not the surface-dwellers' world you're part of, it's all about the underwater kingdom and their extra-planetary concerns.

Gameplay? Oh, right... gameplay.

You could call it a platformer, I guess, but most of the time you actually have to jump out of the water and OVER platforms. This game is just beyond genres. Sometimes you just have to make your way through underwater mazes (watch it down there cuz you gotta catch your breath every now and then) and sometimes you have to help your fellow dolphins. You can communicate with crystals, or at least extract information from them, or to other mammals such as the aforementionned dolphins or with orcas. Oh and there's a whale too... a big, long whale, peacefully swimming in the cold waters. I was just awed by the size of that thing on my TV back then.

Of course, there some hazards to deal with. As I've mentionned before... air. You're a mammal and you like to breathe. Sometimes you'll need to surface and sometimes you'll need to find underwater pockets of air. So when you're exploring an underwater maze, things can get quickly claustrophobic. Not only that, but you'll have to cope with the usual baddies such as sharks, jellyfishes and some rather bitchy octopuses (you know how these things get). To discard these enemies (minus the octopus), you have your thrusty (haha!) nose to ram into your opponents or you may, in some cases, make use of your radar (after proper upgrading, of course.) Ahhhh yes, the radar. Now that's one of the reasons this game is so interesting. You don't have an in-game map per se, but you can get little segments of it by using your radar (Your name is not Ecco for just no reason you know.)

Sound is actually pretty good for a Genesis game. I especially loved the sound orcas make when you talk to them. But the music is... it's just amazing. It seems that there's always a song that's suiting for the current situation and it contributes extremely well to the overall ambience.

The Bad

The Bottom Line
It's this kind of weird games the Genesis was good at churning out. The game is pretty straightforward and you're given very little explanation about what's going on. Great! I'm always ready to surrender to this kind of stuff. It's nice, simple and clean.

Genesis · by J. G. (7) · 2005

Cult Classic

The Good
Ecco the Dolphin (1992) is something of a cult classic video game that people tend to love or hate. The humble dolphin must explore the vast ocean where he will battle (as well as aid) sea creatures and H. R. Giger inspired space aliens, solve difficult puzzles and unlock ancient secrets. The Sega CD version features some incredible music that is probably some of the best tunes associated with a video game. This, along with the great animation, graphic, game play and storyline found in the Sega Genesis cartridge version makes this game a classic.

The Bad
The Sega CD features some incredible music that has to be heard to be fully appreciated. However, the game's graphics are still done under the 64 on-screen colors (out of 512) and their are only a few other additions to the CD version. This game is very hard and will require a tremendous amount of patience, precious timing and interest in science fiction, puzzle solving and philosophy. Many games have tried to mix arcade action with more intellectual, graphic adventuring and come up short. This game succeeds where most failed, but gamers need to be aware of what they are getting themselves into.

The Bottom Line
Ecco the Dolphin (1992) for the Sega CD features the great animation and graphics of the Sega Genesis version with amazing music, new passwords and a few other additions. If you own the cartridge version, then you will probably want to play this version for its music but will notice few other additions.

SEGA CD · by ETJB (428) · 2010

The Most Beautiful Game Music Ever Created.

The Good
To be certain, my header is a strange way to introduce a game. But if you are able to find a copy of the amazing soundtrack that accompanies this game, you would understand my claim.

I'll get to that aspect in a second, however. Ecco is one of the Genesis' "unique" titles. Titles that you would never find on a Nintendo system, as this was the time of a very innovative Sega. Gamers are put into the role of a dolphin with slight telepathic powers on a quest to save his pod from an alien race from the future. The concept is definitely "out there" enough for a video game plot line, but the initial levels betray nothing of the sci-fi twist the story will take.

From the start, Ecco traverses a dark and somewhat barren ocean, speaking to other friendly sea life, and fighting more hostile sea predators. The graphics are beautiful in the game, as is the animation. Playing as Ecco, there is a sense of freedom swimming through the oceans and leaping into the sky. This is all marked with responsive enough controls for controlling an underwater creature.

The levels themselves are rich and detailed, with plenty of variety as Ecco goes deeper and deeper into the ocean, discovering the truth of what happened the day his pod disappeared into the sky.

Now for the music. The music for the CD version haunted me for years until I was lucky enough to find the soundtrack online. I remember just listening to it as I explored the levels. It so accurately conveyed the empty expanse of the ocean, the beauty of the sea, the loneliness of being alone in the game.... Very rich and new age in feel, and very dark and foreboding in the final levels.

The Bad
The controls are good, but there are some issues with controlling Ecco through the waters or in making difficult jumps. It is manageable, but frustrating at really crucial times.

The game does have FMV unlike its cartridge counterpart. However, the FMV is very grainy, even by the standards of the time. It would be totally unacceptable now.

Other than the brief FMV and music changes, there is very little that separates it from the cartridge version of the game, which was all to common for Sega CD ports.

The Bottom Line
Ecco the Dolphin, however you play it (Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Genesis Collection on PS2/PSP or Wii's Virtual Console), is a game that does not happen very often. Even the Dreamcast sequel does not fully capture how wonderful and original this title is. Incredibly unique and innovative for its time, the game still retains a sense of originality to it.

Few games struck me the way Ecco did, not even the cartridge version of this game. The music made the title seem all the more epic, all the more unique, and all the more special to me. It's one of those games that you can simply find joy in being the character (Super Mario 64 was another comparable title that made simply being the character itself fun), and that's a big rarity in a lot of games.

The original Ecco is making its comeback via the current generation's compilation packs and emulators. It's a worthy game, even without its beautifully haunting score. But it you manage to find a copy of the CD version's soundtrack, you'll understand why the Sega CD version was the one that was meant to be played.

SEGA CD · by Guy Chapman (1748) · 2006

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
win 3.x compatible eXo (346) Jul 28, 2014
Favorite level music from Ecco the Dolphin Johnny de Alba Aug 29, 2008


1001 Video Games

Ecco the Dolphin appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Cut content

There are two spots high above water along the left and right walls of Origin Beach where there were once glyphs (Or some creature) that was removed from the game. However if you use your sonar against those walls you still get messages from them.

The left one says:

*"We hear song in the ocean!"

"We hear our kind in the sea!"

"Never have we heard songs in the sea!" The right one says:*

*"You sing our song under the waves - who are you?"

"Could we sing in the sea? Could we live in the sea?"

"Perhaps we will try!"*

Ed Annunziata explained that this was the answer to the question Ecco was asked in Home Bay "Why do Dolphins live in the sea?"

Ecco was supposed to be talking to his prehistoric ancestors and convincing them to join him in the deep! Unfortunately they were removed to time constraints.


  • FLUX
    • Issue #4 - #100 in the "Top 100 Video Games of All-Time" list

Information also contributed by Big John WV


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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Cochonou.

Wii added by Corn Popper. Game Gear added by yprbest. Nintendo 3DS added by Michael Cassidy. Windows 3.x added by eXo. SEGA Master System added by Tibes80. Nintendo Switch added by Kam1Kaz3NL77. Xbox 360, SEGA CD added by Kartanym. iPhone added by Sciere. Linux, Macintosh added by Foxhack. Windows added by Tomaweezi.

Additional contributors: chirinea, Opipeuter, Deven Gallo, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, Starbuck the Third, FatherJack, Harmony♡.

Game added June 10, 2002. Last modified April 9, 2024.