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  • Disappointing Last Level: Defender gets hit with this bad during Domain of the Enemy.
    • Also Welcome To The Machine in the original game.
  • Downer Ending: One interpretation of Tides of Time. You spend the Playable Epilogue chasing the Big Bad through Atlantis, trying to beat her to the Time Machine and destroy it before she uses it to mess up the timeline you just spent the whole game fixing. When you get to it, you use it instead. A scrolling title card (set to the rather chilling title theme) tells you the Vortex Queen beat you there and warped into prehistory, you went after her, and you were never heard from again. For another interpretation, see Gainax Ending.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Quite a few fans of the Genesis games hold this attitude about Defender, although the plot has almost nothing to do with the first two games anyway, so take that as you will.
  • Gainax Ending: The other interpretation of the Tides of Time ending. It is implied the Vortex Queen, upon arriving in prehistory, got stomped by the local wildlife (goddamned trilobites!), and was unable to dominate Earth's ecosystem, instead integrating into it and evolving into stuff we already had. Not weird enough? According to a Word of God interview -- god only knows how reliable the source, but it sure sounds cool and it's not like we're going to see another game -- Ecco knew this would happen and didn't even bother using the time machine to chase the Queen at all! He used it to go to the time of the Atlanteans, for "specific reasons reserved for the 3rd game."
  • Goddamned Crabs/Pufferfish/Trilobites: There are quite a few enemies in the Genesis games that make you see the positive side of driving things to extinction.
  • Paranoia Fuel - So you've just started Tides of Time. You're zooming around one of the first levels, enjoying the better controls, and suddenly you see a terrifying mass of blue chitin that kills you instantly. It was one of the alien enemies in the first game that you never saw till the last level. On the one fin you don't want to go that fast ever again in case more of them are floating around, but on the have to. Eep.
    • In Defender, seeing another dolphin usually indicated an area that was relatively safe, and promised conversation with an ally (or at least someone who wasn't actively aggressive). Then the Dolphin's Nightmare stages come along, and any time you see a dolphin swimming in the distance it might be just another friend... or someone out for your blood.
  • Porting Disaster: The GameGear version of Tides. It is now thought it was based on a prototype of the Genesis/Mega Drive game. The Game Boy Advance port of the original Ecco isn't quite so atrocious, but removed almost the entire soundtrack, replacing it with a 30-second loop heard during the time travel sequences in the original game.
  • That One Boss: Given the general difficulty almost all the bosses are well-hated, but the final boss of the first game deserves special mention. She actually isn't all that bad herself, but if you die you have to pick your way through Welcome to the Machine again. Worse, she has a move that will kill you instantly or even freeze the game forever if you have infinite life.
  • That One Level: Every game has at least one. Inevitable given the general difficulty, really.
    • Ecco the Dolphin features Welcome to the Machine: Five minutes of twisting, turning, auto-scrolling Hell. And just to make things even better, if you lose to the final boss you get to go through again!
      • The Japanese release attempts to ease the frustration by adding a level called "The Stomach". This level is gotten to by being swallowed by the Queen; while you are still in danger, you don't have to go through the machine to get back to fighting her.
    • The Hanging Waters levels in Defender of the Future, and by proxy the Skyway in Tides, can vary depending on the player. They're insanely hard, but both are some of the most beautiful things to come out of their respective consoles.
  • The Woobie: Several.
    • Ecco himself is a Stoic Woobie, particularly in the first game, where he's kicked into a globe-spanning adventure when his family is suddenly stolen from him by terrible, powerful forces he can't begin to understand.
    • In Defender of the Future, a pair of enslaved humpback whales provide the power for the Hanging Waters, a process that shortens their lives each time it's initiated. They're so amazed to meet a dolphin that's not abusive towards them, they willingly go through with it to help Ecco out.
    • Also in Defender, the Outcast dolphins come across as Jerkass Woobies. Yeah, they're bastards to the other marine life, too, but they're still, well, outcasts, and the Clan likes to cut off their food supplies and sic sharks on them for giggles.
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