Sports video games, perhaps the closest any of us will come to athletic greatness. We all grew up with them, and now we here at KSK are going to draft the best of the best, regardless of their goddamned score on Metacritic.
Pick your own from what’s left in the comments. The only rule is that once one game from a franchise is taken, the rest of the series is off limits. So when you pick Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, then Mario Golf: Advance Tour is a no go.
1. RobotsFightingDinosaurs — NBA Jam
Boom-shakalaka. Obvious choice, but it’s obvious for a reason. Many old sports games get worse with time, but NBA Jam is still as good as it ever was, as evidenced by how popular it is in that one Chicago bar I go to all the time that has expensive drinks and free arcade games. Between its frenetic pace, the over-the-top dunks, and the fact that you could play as the Clintons, it’s not only the best sports game of all time, but it’s one of the best games of its age. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure NBA Jam is one of the first ever sports games to get away from the sport in question somewhat in the interest of making the actual video game more fun and playable. Anyone could play NBA Jam. You didn’t even have to know how to play basketball or know that you’d be fucked if you didn’t pick Pippen/Rodman. It launched a shitload of arcade style sports games, and really created its own genre. And this was all without the likeness of Michael Jordan. It’s still unbelievable to me that this game was a hit in the mid 90’s without him.
Plus, its updates and sequels are all awesome too. My brother and I used to play NBA Hangtime all the fucking time, and I still remember the entire theme song. A couple years ago, they released a few remakes of the game, most recently the “On Fire Edition”, and it’s definitely worth your time. Shit, now I’m in the mood to play some fucking Jam. Leave your Xbox gamertag in the comments if you want to join me.
2. Big Sandy — RBI Baseball
I know this is a FOOTBAWL site but RBI Baseball is the gold standard of all classic baseball video games (though I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Hardball series — now with Al Michaels voiceover!). The little pudgy dudes, the actual teams and players (if only a few), the ability to throw 110 mph fastballs with Nolan Ryan and screwballs with Fernando Valenzuela, the fact pitchers got tired and you had to sub… it was ahead of its time. And the fact you could swerve a pitch far away from the plate WHILE IT WAS IN THE AIR was amazing. The one downside: the mercy rule being implemented. Let me run up the score! Otherwise? Terrific game I never get tired of.
3. Eric Sollenberger — Madden
Got to take Madden. NHL 94 is a great game but I don’t think it has the versatility of Madden. Mini-games, online, Breaking Madden, etc.
I had one friend who would bet me beers in high school (pretty much worth their weight in gold) on games of Madden. He would always be the Steelers and he would usually kick my ass because he’d put in “Kordell Stewart” who was really Mike Vick with a changed name that he had saved. I found out years later and I still harbor a huge grudge.
4. Trevor Risk — Tecmo Super Bowl
Oh God, I’m so happy this slipped to number four. If someone had taken it, I would have Ditka-ed my entire draft to try and trade for it. When I was a kid, my older brother and I were either too poor or lived in too remote a place to find a copy of the game to buy, so we’d pool our allowances and rent it almost every weekend. One weekend it was out, so we got John Elway’s Quarterback instead and after about five minutes of playing it, I started crying. I think I cried through the entire weekend actually. Last time my older brother and I met, we played the game and I actually was able to beat him a few times, and he started a new game as MAN VS COM and when I said he clicked the wrong game, he yelled at me “I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF I’M STILL ABLE TO PLAY THIS FUCKING GAME” and we were immediately children again, reminding of that time I was grounded for pistol whipping him with the NES Zapper. There was a bar a few years ago that I went to on Sundays before I started buying Sunday Ticket that had Tecmo Super Bowl set up to play with a sign reading, “No Being Bo Jackson” and after one week there was an additional sign reading “No Being Trevor Risk” because I’m that good at it. I brought an NES to Nashville to beat some friends at it in October and that guy and I aren’t as close as we used to be. Also, if anyone tries to talk about Tecmo Super Bowl’s retarded precursor, Tecmo Bowl being any good, I will punch that person.
5. PFT Commenter — NHL ’94
NHL 94 classic game when there was player who didnt even wear a helmet and you could bleed on the ice before we were all scared of concussons. Concussons are part of the game of hockey IMO.
6. Tim Schavitz — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
No other video game franchise has taken up as much of my life. It’s as much fun to accomplish challenges as it is to throw your player off a building. Sports sims are boring.
7. Old James — WCW vs. NWO World Tour
Pulling a garbage can out of the crowd and pummeling Buff Bagwell over the head with it’s a real sport to me, dammit.
/Throws up NWO Wolfpack sign
8. Christmas Ape — Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
The sequels on SNES and Wii were both really good (not to mention the original arcade game) and deserve more recognition than they tend to get, but it’s hard not to go with the best-known NES classic. Damn near every character in this game is iconic (even if Great Tiger was kind of racist). Soda Popinski’s laugh might be the best example of a game trolling a player outside of the Duck Hunt dog.
BTW, the commercial for the Wii version had one of the best video game ads ever.
9. StuScottBooyahs — ESPN NFL 2K5
I’ll go with ESPN NFL 2K5, the franchise that was quickly buried by Madden snatching up the NFL exclusivity rights. I played the shit out of that game. One major flaw though: an ubiquitous Chris Berman.
10. Sarah Sprague — Wii Sports
We never used our Wii for much, but Wii Tennis, Wii Bowling and Wii Baseball were always fun if you were stuck inside. There was a time both Bryan and myself had Wii tennis elbow from drinking and playing Wii Tennis for too long.
11. Sarah Sprague — Pole Position
I am the driver I am today because of my love of Pole Position. I’d spend every last one of my game tokens to get my name in the top five scores, hiding away in the Pole Position sit-down cabinet console. (Also a good place for kissing boys where adults couldn’t see you.)
12. StuScottBooyahs — Front Page Sports Football ’92
No NFL license, no problem. Just pure low-res football goodness.
13. Christmas Ape — Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball
Speaking of no license, having players named Can of Corn is always fun. This game was tremendously addictive even if it only had two music tracks that played on loop during entire games. And I’ve probably spent more time playing this game than watching actual baseball.
Also, the stories behind the fake names are pretty fun.
14. Old James — FIFA 2006 (kinda?)
This seems like a good pick on paper, but am I allowed to draft a game I’ve never actually played before? Because I’m going to.
Since I’m really not much of a video game guy anymore (haven’t been since the N64 days), and Ape just took my pick, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to take you inside the mind of college-aged males circa 2006: there wasn’t much that wouldn’t entertain us. Turns out if you pop this game into an Xbox and just let it play out, you’re treated to a compilation of the ten best goals in soccer history.
Anyway, I went on a road trip that year to visit a friend of a friend who went to the school my alma mater was playing in football that weekend, and we watched this video no less than ten times while “tailgating” at their house — though I never actually saw anyone play the game. #4 still blows my mind.
Related: I was not a good student.
15. Tim Schavitz — NFL Blitz: The League
Blitz was the less-exciting football equivalent to NBA Jam until Madden grabbed NFL exclusivity. Developers were left in the cold, but Midway decided to forge ahead with what can only be considered a big middle finger. Blitz: The League is everything the NFL is ashamed of: feeding your team steroids, demanding new contracts every game, and picking up bonuses for cheap shots on the field. And when those injuries happen, which is on average two per quarter, it’s some truly disturbing visuals. It’s a wrestling game on a football field, and I’d take that over any version of Madden since EA struck the NFL deal.
(Ed. note: Apparently one of the writers for Playmakers was behind the script for this game. Go figure.)
16. PFT Commenter: NCAA Football
Has no1 picked NCAA football yet? Love the amateurs out there giving up there likenesses just 2 be a part of the EA sports franchise god bless
17. Trevor Risk — NBA Action ’95
For a few fleeting years I was into basketball, and then later realized I was just into this game. There was actually an extra line of code or whatever written into it so Dennis Rodman’s hair would change color every game, and you could create players so it was easy to just make Michael Jordan, which gave it some advantage over every other game he opted out of having his name used on. Again, most of my video game memories are related to my older brother, and I remember him just toasting me with Shawn Kemp, pressing his face against mine and screaming “THE RAAAAAAAIN MAAAAAAAAN!” until i cold cocked him with the remote control, and again, I was grounded.
18. Eric Sollenberger — BIG BUCK HUNTER MOTHERFUCKERS
I will never tire of this game because you can always increase the difficulty level by drinking more.
19. Big Sandy — Jordan vs. Bird 1-on-1
Torn between old and new but I gotta go with Jordan Vs Bird, 1-on-1. One of my favorite computer games as a kid. Wanna dunk like MJ? DONE. Wanna swish threes like Larry Legend? ALL OVER IT.
20. RobotsFightingDinosaurs — SSX Tricky
If you come at Tony Hawk, you better come hard, and SSX went for it harder and better than any other franchise did. While 1080 Snowboarding and Coolboarders and Snowboard Kids 2 all tried to reach the level of popularity and acceptance that the Tony Hawk games had, SSX went above and beyond, even landing Lucy Liu to do the voice of one of the characters. Oh, and did I mention that the game is fucking insane? The tricks are ridiculous to the point of being hilarious. The characters are all stereotyped to Punch-Out!! levels of inanity. And the soundtrack was goddamned amazing. I remember having conversations during rec league basketball practice about how hard it was to complete the trick book and unlock the special silver surfer skin, or complete a full run while maintaining your combo. Plus, Tokyo Megaplex is one of the best levels in any video game ever.
21. RobotsFightingDinosaurs — NBA Street Vol. 3
If it wasn’t clear enough by now, I’m of the philosophy that it’s time wasted if you make a video game out of a sport and then just leave it at that. No. It’s a video game. You need dunks that are worth 6 points. You need a freeform dunk creator. You need to be able to press a button to bounce the ball off of the opponent’s head. You need Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach in it. After my brother and I were done playing NBA Hangtime and moved on to the Gamecube, NBA Street ruled our house. He beat me nine times out of ten, but I was never mad because of all the cool shit that was happening. Plus, you can play as Nelly and some of the St. Lunatics in volume 2, and the Beastie Boys in 3. As silly as it all is, it’s a game that’s acutely aware that people play video games to have fun, to experience spectacle, and to get fucking HYPE. And while yeah, I enjoy Madden, NBA Live, and more legit sports sims, these were always more fun. It’s sad that they largely seem to be on the way out.
22. Big Sandy — Tiger Woods PGA Tour
I can’t believe no one’s picked a golf game yet.
Well, actually, I can.
The Tiger Woods franchise has always been pretty fun and it’s only more fun since his sex scandal (though leaving that part out of the video game is a bummer). I once spent 3 weeks smoking bad grass, listening to Queens of the Stone Age, and playing this game. It was a great time.
SIDENOTE: Right about here in the draft, everything got confusing due to the existence of a little-known racing game known as Mario Kart 64. We had a long, protracted argument, but came to the conclusion that if Sarah could draft Pole Position, Mario Kart 64 is fair game as well, and furthermore, that we’re all idiots for not drafting it earlier.
23. Eric Sollenberger — Mario Kart 64, obviously
If racing games count I’m picking Mario Kart for 64 all day.
24. Trevor Risk — Joe Montana Football ’94
I was a Chiefs fan in a household full of Niners fans, and when i came home from grade five telling my dad and brother that Montana was traded to the Chiefs they just laughed at me and then got angry with me for lying. Just having anything branded with the Chiefs was a treat, and the painful play by play saying “Montana’s in the shotgun” whereas every other team said “The quarterback’s in the shotgun” was a small win for me. Once, I was finally going to beat my older brother and as i was running into the endzone with no time left to win in a tie game, Eric Davis or someone dove at me, stripped the ball, and returned it 99 1/2 yards to the other endzone, so I threw the controller at the television and i got grounded again. NFL ’95 had a better commercial, but that gameplay sucked, and spending all afternoon to update the rosters to the real life ones was frustrating and often involved the game getting reset.
25. PFT Commenter — Road Rash
U get to race bikes plus its all irish cops pulling u over funny how al sharpton and Jessie Jackson couldnt be bothered 2 sue for this crimination when it was a white race being this criminated
26. Tim Schavitz — Wipeout XL
I imagine the creation of this game involved a rave, a ton of drugs and Mario Kart. Everything about this game is intense. Futuristic hover car racing. Techno soundtrack featuring The Prodigy and Future Sound of London. Bold graphics by The Designers Republic. Red Bull product placement on the seizure-inducing loading screens. Wipeout XL is a racing game where blinking is a luxury, with a random autopilot powerup being your only saving grace. The game didn’t have a ton of tracks and depth, but what you were given was more than enough to make it addicting. Muscle memory of hitting a turn the right way addicting. Most games do some things right, but the artistic choices of the right visuals, sound, play mechanics and difficulty made it absolutely solid.
27. Old James — Candystand Bowling
I’m gonna take Candystand Bowling. Remember Shockwave? Apparently it still exists, as does Candystand.com — though the site now looks like MySpace threw up FarmVille. I didn’t have the balls to install any add-ons to see if I’ve still got it, but no need. I once rolled a 300 back in the day and you’re goddamn right I’m living in the fucking past.
28. Christmas Ape — Super Dodge Ball
Simple in concept yet incredibly deep for a game that relies on two buttons to play. It may not be as graphic as Blitz The League (kind of hard for an NES game to begin with) but you can still kill opponents by bombing them in the face. Responsible for a disproportionate amount of the video game feuds I’ve had with friends over the years.
29. StuScottBooyahs — Excitebike
It got close to the point that we were going to autodraft this pick for him but then he took it anyway. Nice when things work out that way. Good value this late in the draft, especially in terms of slightly obnoxious but hummable theme music.
30. Sarah Sprague — Dance Dance Revolution
Yes it’s a sports game because it’s one of the few games that ever made you sweat.