Most of you probably aren't all that into sports games, or sports in general, for that matter. I, however, grew up playing sports and continued to participate in athletics up until I retired from wrestling (and yes, professional wrestling is a sport). I don't play many sports games these days, but growing up they were my absolute favorites. But I'm not going to limit this list to sports-simulation games, this will be all inclusive. And even though I just made the argument that professional wrestling is a sport, I'm not going to have them on this list, because I'm working on a top 5 wrestling games list as well, so we'll just save those for that list.
For variety purposes, I'm only including one game per sport, now let's get started with a couple honorable mentions.
Don't even sit there and try to say that you didn't have a blast with Wii Sports. Even today it's a great party game. The Nintendo Wii and it's pack-in game revolutionized the videogame industry and made the system one of the most sought after pieces of hardware in history, two years after it was released it was still hard to find.
I knew a lot of people that bought the system and never bought another game for it because Wii Sports was all they needed, and there's nothing wrong with that. I would also like to point out that I'm undefeated in Wii Sports Tennis, and I'll take on all comers.
Few franchises have suffered from the annual release schedule worse than Tony Hawk. I was with the series all the way up to American Wasteland, which is a lot longer than most people that I knew. I remember getting a Playstation demo disc from Pizza Hut that featured the Warehouse stage from the original THPS, and that was enough to convince me to buy the game. Then the sequel came out and made the game even better.
My best friend and podcast co-host, Christopher Craig Cramer, actually wound up getting third place in the world at the game in the official tournament run by Activision, so he's my go-to source when it comes to the early Tony Hawk games, and he says THPS2 is the best in the franchise, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.
I prefer my sports games to be over-the-top in a lot of cases. I'm much more likely to play a sequel in The Bigs franchise than I am MLB 15. Though there were definitely arcade titles that made their sports seem larger than life before this, NBA Jam was the first one I remember seeing first. It pulled it off incredibly well, also, and is one of my favorite arcade games ever. It did eventually find itself ported to the home consoles.
When the sequel came out, you better believe I put every last quarter into it. I had to have the SNES version, and I played it to death. The addition of the tournament mode gave us something to do other than just play exhibition games. Here, you pick a team and try your best to beat every other team in the league (which is not how tournaments work). It was pretty difficult, but I managed to do it thanks to the fact that I was a sore loser and would turn the game off if I lost before it had a chance to save my shame.
Compared to the Madden series, Tecmo Super Bowl seems like small potatoes, but to this day I still think it's the best football game ever. It improved on the original Tecmo Bowl, but it's didn't do so much to make it feel like it strayed from the gameplay that we loved. Anyone can pick this up, play it for a few minutes, and understand it completely. At least, that's what I thought. I had a couple teenagers in my youth group play it and they were complaining that they couldn't understand how to play. I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or hit them.
Tecmo Super Bowl is famous for also including one of the most broken characters in videogame history, Bo Jackson of the Los Angeles Raiders. But let's be honest, Bo Jackson isn't broken in the game. If you're old enough to have been around for his heydey, you'll remember that the dude really was unstoppable. If it weren't for a hip injury suffered during a game against my Cincinnati Bengals, Bo Jackson would probably be recognized as the greatest running back of all-time. But that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes...
While the original Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is the one most closely tied to my nostalgia, the Wii update added so much more personality to a game already bursting through the seams with it and decided to let you play with the exact same control scheme from the original if you so chose. This version of the game is a prime example of a true remake of a classic title. It also added a new last ditch effort for Little Mac if you take too much damage in a round. This was a nice surprise the first time I encountered it, I had already put the controller down because I thought I had lost. We at Error Machine love this so much that we made an entire video expressing our affection.
It provides a tough but fair challenge, and the difficulty ramp is never so much that you feel outclassed, which is exactly what you want in a game like this. I would like to see another sequel on the Wii U, but only as long as they don't call it Punch U Out!! Which they definitely will.
I don't even like golf, but I'm completely enthralled by the Hot Shots Golf series. I've owned every single one of them and they're always one of my most played games on whichever Sony console they appear on. The latest installment, World Invitational, was the sole reason I wanted a Vita, and to this day is the only game I've spent money on for the system. When I decided to get one of the current-gen systems, even though I know I'll own both eventually, I decided on the PS4 first because I like Sony exclusives more, and that's due in large part to Hot Shots.
Hot Shots Golf Fore! (which is one of the best puns in videogame title history) kept the cartoony look and comedic feel from all the previous games and added more golfers, more caddies, more courses, more unlockables, and even threw in Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, and Clank as unlockable characters. And the actual golf is still top notch. As we've already established, give me an over-the-top representation of a sport rather than a straight simulation any day of the week, and the same goes for golf.
I've frothed over KGJPMLB (which is what I'm going to forever refer to it as now) in several past blogs. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, and Ken Griffey Jr. is my second favorite player of all-time, trailing slightly behind Pete Rose. There's no denying who the best baseball player of the 90s was, Junior is the unanimous winner. Then he came home to Cincinnati, and all the Reds fans like myself rejoiced because we finally had the player that was going to lead us to the Promised Land...then he spent the next 8 years injured 75% of the time. Nevertheless, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a legend in the sport.
Seriously, though, the game is 20 years old and I still play the game semi regularly. I'm in the middle of a season on the game right now, and as soon as I finish one season, I start up another one. The game doesn't get old to me. One of the things I really like is that you can finish a game in under 10 minutes, but it's still an accurate portrayal of the sport. It's a simulation of the on-field play only, and cuts out all the boring stuff like warming up for relief pitchers, mid-inning transitions, and the twenty seconds it takes between pitches.
KGJPMLB is easily my favorite sports game ever made, definitely worth picking up if you enjoy the sport at all.
Thanks for reading everybody, I promise not to make you read about sports games again.
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Error Machine Podcast (which OpiumHerz says doesn't suck)