The ULTIMATE Internet Site of Games-Related Speech

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Best Video Games of March Madness

March Madness fever has, like some sort of awful epidemic, spread through the United States of America within the past week, taking over the minds and voices of everyone within an office pool or with nothing else to do. If you’re an awful impulse player like me, who only plays some sports games when they’re in season, you’re scrambling for any College Basketball games you can get your hands on by this point. I’m here to help you out. Here are some of my favorite games that exemplify the sport and excitement of this month that we in the States call “March.” (and those in Quebec call “mars”)

6. NCAA Basketball (SNES)
I made a video about this a little while ago. The gameplay doesn’t look like fun, because players move very slowly. However, after a few minutes, you’ll realize that NCAA Basketball plays much better than it looks. You won’t get much more than a few games out before boredom takes over, but NCAA Basketball provides a pretty good time sink for a quick College Basketball fix.

5. NCAA March Madness 2003 (PS2)
This game makes great use of the NBA Live 2003 engine. In fact, you could get away with referring to this as a carbon copy. By no means is this a negative fact: NBA Live 2003 is an excellent basketball game as well. Unfortunately for those looking for an authentic simulation, NBA style gameplay does lead to NBA style scoring, so most games end up with unrealistically high scores. Still, the expanded Season and Dynasty modes add a lot of depth to an already enjoyable game. Does it lack a few things? Absolutely. There's a notable absence of most mid-major programs, but that's a common factor in many College Basketball games of that era.
4. College Slam (SNES):
I made a video about this game roughly two years ago in a hotel room in Wichita, Kansas at like 9:30 in the morning with a cheap Philips microphone headset from a Target. It’s a little out of date, but the points I brought up are still relevant today. College Slam basically stands as an NBA Jam clone made by the same people who made NBA Jam. While there are no real player names or likenesses, using the facsimile of your school of choice to jump like 80 feet in the air over a player from your rival team is amazingly satisfying. While College Slam lacks in the realism department, I don't think that fact matters to anyone playing, as players are sure to get a quick and enjoyable experience from this title.
3. Final Four 1999 (PSX):
The first in 989's Final Four series is undoubtedly the best. Unfortunately, it isn't terribly realistic, and the A.I. can be amazingly stupid at points, just giving up free possessions through penalties that any real team of level-minded athletes wouldn’t be caught dead committing multiple times per game (You’ll end up with 3-in-the-key calls multiple times per game). One thing that sets this game apart from others of the era is the number of teams. With most games of the era, you were lucky to have the entire power six. In Final Four, nearly every D1 squad is available. That's a tremendous technical feat for 1998. To show this at work, this year I simulated the entire tournament in this game, and I only had to replace 1 or 2 teams. (Granted, it had Oklahoma State making a championship run so you may not want to follow my example.) Along with the great selection of schools, there is still a fun interior basketball game, along with fairly deep season and tournament modes.
2. College Hoops 2K7/2K8 (XB360/PS3/PS2)

2K sports in the aughts kicked ass. ESPN NFL 2K5, NHL 2K5, and even recently the NBA 2K games have been simply awesome. These games defined how to make excellent sports sims. The level of realism found in most of 2K's outputs was so astoundingly high that they became the standard of sports games, until they all died out 1 by 1 due either to the greed of a certain rival company, or the apathy of a certain U.S. PUBLIC. College Hoops 2K8 was the final entry in the College Hoops series, and it contained just about everything that could be wished for in a College Basketball game and more. Full legacy mode, classic teams, alternate uniforms, in season tournaments, and even a weird chant creator! This had it all! By this time, full mid-major conference inclusion was standard, but it’s still nice to see how detailed it gets. It's the attention to detail, along with solid gameplay that makes this game great. Even the tacked-on mini-games, found in the student lounge, are fun somehow! College Hoops has it all. The only real downside is the amazing difficulty in making shots on default settings. The gameplay sliders help alleviate this problem. Even the addition of gameplay sliders add to the simulation aspect of this game. That's really the major point of College Hoops 2K8: Attention to detail. Nobody put as much work into their game as 2K did here.

1. March Madness 2002 (PS2)
Choosing to put games from the same franchise on this list may seem like a bizarre choice, but March Madness 2002 and NCAA March Madness 2003 from EA Sports could not be further apart from each other in terms of gameplay. March Madness 2002 employs a much slower, but still incredibly fun, style of basketball action. It lacks a season mode and almost all of the teams from the mid-major conferences, but they are made up for in the simple and enjoyable action on the court. A.I. flaws are present in some aspects, especially on the defensive side where blocks and steals rarely occur. March Madness 2002 applies momentum, alley-oops, and fast breaks nearly perfectly. Like most others on this list, the most fun in this game comes from playing a few quick games to satisfy your march madness craving.

No comments:

Post a Comment