The ULTIMATE Internet Site of Games-Related Speech

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Count's Top Ten Favorite Sports Games

Sports games always get a bad rap for being unoriginal, uninspired, and uninterested in attempting to innovate. While I understand that some of those points are correct, (A perfect case would be how Madden '07, '08, and '09 are almost the exact same game) I still think that a good sports game is just as good as any other game. This list should hopefully introduce some skeptics to some truly excellent games.

10. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX: Maximum Remix

After the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in 1999, many game companies were very quick to jump on the "Extreme Sports" video game bandwagon. While some (actually, make that most) of these extreme sports games were awful, some were very good. Acclaim decided to jump on this bandwagon as well, and while their other extereme game was pretty forgettable, this one was not. Acclaim chose Dave Mirra, the most dominant competitive BMXer during the late 1990s, to be their game's namesake, and it proved to be a good decision, as their game Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX became popular enough to get a sequel and an updated re-release. The updated re-release, Maximum Remix, had everything that one could want from the game. The original had excellent controls, a number of great stages, good music given the atmosphere of the game, and a simple single player mode that worked well with the style of play. The Maximum Remix version was only released on the PlayStation, though the original version of the game was released in higher quality graphics on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000. Either version is excellent, though Maximum Remix has more content, as well as a free soundtrack. (Though admittedly, it's not a great soundtrack)

9. NHL '94 (Sega Genesis)
                                                          GameFAQs user noidentity
In some cases, simplicity is the key to a great game. NHL '94 captures the speed and excitement of professional hockey while still being easy to pick up and fun to play. Hockey is a sport that translates very easily to Video Games, because it's fast paced and easy to understand, with constant momentum swings, which translates well into the fast paced world of video games. NHL '94 displays this perfectly, with fast and fun matches that very rarely ever contain a dull moment. As previously stated, NHL '94's real greatness lies within its simplicity. The simplistic controls well to the three button Sega Genesis controller, leading to a play experience that is enjoyable even from the first play. NHL '94 sits almost perfectly on the balance between simulation and fun, making it an excellent game.

8. Pro Evolution Soccer '12 (XBOX 360)
Pro Evolution Soccer '12, while lacking a number of club and league licenses, is an excellent game due to its attention to detail and excellent control system. The control system manages to be accurate while not using the analog stick heavy control systems that many other recent sports titles have started using more and more frequently. Konami's button based control scheme worked very well in earlier PES titles, but PES 2012 truly does it the best. PES 2012 also works because of its lifelike graphics, strategic gameplay system, and its multitude of different modes. This may be the most realistic (and also most enjoyable soccer) game to date.

7. MLB Pennant Race (PlayStation)
I originally bought this game, made in house by Sony for the PlayStation in 1996, for the video above. I almost immediately fell in love with it. There's something almost perfect about MLB Pennant Race that doesn't exist in many other baseball games. Hell, even later games in the Sony MLB series haven't been able to top the original. MLB Pennant Race displays the principle of "less is more" almost perfectly. Pitching is clear and understandable, fielding is based in fairly common sense, and hitting is as simple as it needs to be. There's no pointless bullshit like trying to guess where the pitch is going to land, or having to correctly judge the airspeed velocity of a throw from the outfield to second base. It's all simple and fun, and that's what really makes this great. There's also a season mode and a home run derby, for those who care.

6. ESPN NFL 2K5 (PlayStation 2 and XBOX)
For a brief, and I mean very brief moment in 2004, it seemed as if Sega Sports was about to take over the sports game market. Their usage of the ESPN license allowed them to put a big name on their product, and unlike previous companies whose usage of the ESPN license ended up without much success, Sega planned to make enormous strides in catching up to EA Sports' mighty empire. They actually made good usage of the ESPN license, giving menus an NFL Primetime feel to them, including actual Sunday Night Football announcers, and even giving a mock Sportscenter broadcast after each week. The game's extra features were topped off by the fact that it was released at only 20 dollars per copy, 30 dollars less than the EA Sports games. On top of what ESPN NFL 2K5 already had, Sega Sports and Digital Concepts were able to put together one of the best football simulations of all time. The simulation aspect of ESPN NFL 2K5 meshes perfectly with the enjoyable gameplay, which leads to one of the most enjoyable experiences ever in a football game. Along with extra features such as First Person Football, the ability to play classic NFL moments in the ESPN25 mode, and "The Crib," a full house that one can put their accomplishments and trophies in, ESPN NFL 2K5 is the best football simulation to date. Unfortunately, EA Sports bought out the NFL license in 2005, taking away the ability for any competition from Sega.

5. NFL Blitz 2001 (Dreamcast, PlayStation, N64)
On the complete other end of the spectrum from ESPN NFL 2K5 is NFL Blitz, an arcade game from Midway. Midway was well known for their success in creating fun sports games such as Super High Impact and NBA JAM, and NFL Blitz follows the example set by those two very well. NFL Blitz chooses to focus on hard hits and big plays rather than statistics and realism. The professional wrestling style hits didn't stop after the play was dead, however, as players could make late hits on downed ball carriers for a brief period of time after the play. The trash talking players, over the top gameplay, and the crazed announcer make this game incredibly enjoyable, especially with one or more friends.

4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (GameCube, PlayStation 2, XBOX)
Though it's not the most realistic skateboarding game, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is pure fun. The THPS series had progressed more and more from the first game to the fourth, adding in the manual in THPS2 and the revert in THPS3. THPS4 added in a number of new features, including the spine transfer and the car skitch. THPS4 also added in an updated single player mode, which infused free skate mode with the career mode of the previous games. Goals now had their own defined time limit, which allowed for more freedom for the player. THPS4 retained the fast paced gameplay and easily understandable controls from previous games, and simply added on. The levels from THPS4 are some of the most memorable in the series, with the new career mode allowing for a whole range of new elements, such as the drunken bum at the college, the rampaging elephant in the zoo, and the roller coasters at the carnival. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 is the best in the series, and also one of the most enjoyable sports games ever.

3. Tecmo Super Bowl (NES, SNES, Genesis)
                                            Gamefaqs user Tropicon
Tecmo Super Bowl is known for being one of the few classic games still commonly being played competitively. The reason that people still play it to this day lies in the fact that it is one of the most enjoyable football games of all time. It's one of the few games whose multitude of flaws help to make it actually more fun to play, such as the zig-zag run glitch and the absurdly high ability levels of some of the players, such as Jerry Rice, Christian Okoye, and rather famously Bo Jackson, who has become famous for the number of YouTube videos featuring 400 plus yard, 5 minute long runs performed by him. Mixed in with the memorable athletes is the excellent gameplay, which is simple to learn and makes the game enjoyable for all, even for a person who has never played before. While the sometimes absurd rubber band A.I. can lead single players into fits of rage, it's hard to find a game that can be more fun when around friends. It's a nearly perfect version of football, and it's fun for all.

2. Skate 3 (XBOX 360, PlayStation 3)
                                                                My own Skate 3 content
Many of the games on this list are most enjoyable with friends. Skate 3 may be one of the few sports games that is actually at its best with just one player. As one of the only sandbox based skateboard games in existence, Skate 3 is truly an innovator in the market of skateboarding games. It takes place in a living, breathing city named Port Carverton. Skate 3 is able not only to have an enjoyable single player mode, but it also is able to still be enjoyable after the game is finished. It's similar to Grand Theft Auto, except instead of murder, you do kickflips over people. It's seriously one of the most enjoyable experiences ever. It uses a more realistic control scheme than the rival Tony Hawk series, but it still manages to be fun. EA's ragdoll physics even make it fun after you fall off your skateboard, with a full mode dedicated to creating the most painful crashes. While the sandbox portion is great, it doesn't take anything away from an excellent single player mode, which involves starting up a skateboard company, and eventually working up to the top of the skateboard selling world. The goals are spaced out similarly to the goals in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, and the free skating mode built around the goals allows for a lot of freedom for the player. The key to what makes Skate 3 great is the freedom that is felt by simply skating around a giant city. I can't tell you how much time I've wasted away while trying to complete a difficult line or make some impossible trick. Skate 3 is basically the perfect skateboard simulation, and I still hold out hope for a sequel someday, though I realize it's likely never going to happen.

1. NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (Arcade, Dreamcast, N64, PlayStation)

A common complaint about basketball video games is the fact that many are bogged down with too many complications. In some simulation games, defenses are nigh-on impenetrable, shooting is unreasonably difficult, and the player is forced to choose between a multitude of complex plays, many of which end up failing anyway. These problems plague basketball games, turning a sport based upon fast paced and exciting action into a boring chess match. NBA Showtime is not one of those games.

NBA Showtime's basis is its fast and fun gameplay. It's similar to Tecmo Super Bowl and NHL '94 because it's so easy for everyone, even those who despise the idea of sports, to pick up, play, and have a good time with. This is helped by a simple control scheme, using only three buttons, one for shooting, one for passing, and one for a turbo boost. Advanced maneuvers can be learned, including alley-oops and crossover dribbles as the game goes on. The rubber band A.I. exists in this game just as much as it does in NFL Blitz, (another Midway arcade sports game) but it's more forgiving than in others. NBA Showtime came out in 1999, one of the best periods in NBA history, a transition period between the 1990s style of fast paced and rough basketball and the early 2000's style of precision basketball. There's a mix of great veterans, such as Scottie Pippen, Vlade Divac, Charles Barkley, and Gary Payton, along with a number of (at the time) young talent, such as Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. The number of great players and great teams in the game make for games that rarely ever have dull moments. A game of NBA Showtime is always full of suspense and action, which is intensified when playing against a friend. NBA Showtime captures all of the good aspects of basketball and ignores all of the bad parts, making for one great game. I can not recommend this any higher.

No comments:

Post a Comment