Sports video games these days are hyper-real. The latest versions of Madden and FIFA are so intense that I can barely stand it. I prefer my games a little more pixelated. It builds character. And if I wanted life-like sports action then I will just watch real sports. Which I do, all the time. But if you have a Super Nintendo and Mutant League Hockey then I’m coming over. So, let’s make some pizza rolls, get the bean bag chairs and blow the dust out of some of the best sports video games ever made.
I was born in 1985, so there aren’t too many legit sports games that are “before my time.” Odyssey, Atari, Apple Computers, Nintendo, Sega, Super Nintendo, Neo Geo, Sega Genesis, 32X, Playstation, Sega CD, Virtual Boy, Dreamcast, Xbox, Wii, PS4, Xbox 360—I’ve played it all. Plus all the handheld systems. Not just Game Boy, I mean everything. So believe me, these are the greatest sports video games Japan has to offer. I’ll break it down by sport because it’s too hard to rank them.
– Double Dribble
This Konami production was one of the first b-ball arcade games around. Full 5-on-5 action with fun cut sequences and even the singing of the National Anthem.
– Barkley Shut Up and Jam!
This game makes the list because it was the first I can remember to feature street ball. Tipoff takes place on outdoor courts and players go by cool nicknames like Funky D and Fly By. Clearly, Sir Charles was ahead of his time.
– NBA Jam
Two-on-two action with real NBA stars. No fouls, witty commentators and awesome secret code options for unlockable characters make this a classic. “He’s on fire!”
– Mutant League Hockey
Monsters? On skates? Yes please. One of my personal favs. It was colorful, brutal and lots of fun. And better than its football equivalent (Mutant League Football).
– Blades of Steel
Surprisingly good gameplay for 80’s standards. This release had full fledge hockey mechanics that blazed the trail for future titles. Plus it had fighting. So everyone loved it.
– NHL ’94
Maybe the best hockey game ever made. It had real players and teams and dope controls for super fun action. The replay value was off the charts.
– Wii Sports: Baseball
Maybe a little young to be a true classic but you get to really throw and swing using the motion-sensing controller. This blew everyone’s minds when it first came out. It also led to some property damage as my over-zealous friends threw the wii-motes around the living room.
– RBI Baseball
The first console game to get the MLB license so it could feature real ball player’s names. Pretty deep in terms of options for hitting and pitching.
This earns its spot on the list because of how complex it was. Nothing was as deep or advanced as Hardball!. Options abound in play and management. An epic accomplishment.
– Tecmo Super Bowl
What can be said about Tecmo that hasn’t already been said about Jesus? This was the standard to which all others will be measured.
– NFL Blitz
Like NBA Jam but for football. Smaller play books, less players on the field but maximum entertainment. Most memorable thing would have to be insane, bone-crushing hits. Let’s see that again.
– John Madden Football
This launched the biggest sports video game franchise ever. John Madden graced the cover. I don’t think he was worried about any curse.
7-on-7 football featuring robots of different shapes and sizes. The bots exploded if you tackled them hard enough. An arcade favorite for good reason.
– NFL Quarterback Club 96
Full NFL license for teams and names? Check. Depth of plays and modes? Check. Quarterback challenge mode? Check. Challenge mode lets you take one QB and compete in a series of tests and drills. It’s the best.
– Cruising USA
Still one of the sickest racing games. The arcade version rocks and can be found in bowling alleys and movie theaters around the country. This game was the model for all the fancy racers we have today.
– Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
Best boxing game ever. Also one of the hardest. But it makes sense because no one could beat Tyson back then.
– Duck Hunt
A Hall of Fame classic. Only thing I don’t like about this game is that fucking dog. If he laughs at me one more time, I swear we are taking him to live on grandpa and grandma’s farm.
– Road Rash
A motorcycle game where players compete in illegal street races for cash and glory. It’s the original Fast and the Furious. Also, you got to hit the other bikers with chains and clubs. You know kids liked that.
The original gangster of the sports video game world. There was nothing before Pong.
– California Games
The first surfing game ever. Additionally, it featured skateboarding, roller skating, hacky-sack, frisbee and BMX. I’m not kidding. Hacky-sack or freestyle footbag as they call it. I’m surprised there isn’t any avocado in there.
I’m sure I’ve left out tons of awesome video games. Leave a comment and if it’s convincing enough, I’ll go on ebay and buy it. But if you want to come over and play then you’ll need to bring snacks. Bagel Bites or better.
Pass the controller.