We rank 'em. You react. That's how the Daily List rolls.
8/13/2007 09:31:00 AM
Five greatest sports video games
Madden 05 introduced the "hit stick."
Photo by EA Sports
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com
For many of us, tomorrow is a day of spectacular importance. Not because it's a Tuesday, not because it will mean August is nearly halfway past, but rather because it's National Madden Day. It's the one day each year when pretty much everyone into gaming, from the casual to the hardcore, descend upon their local electronics store to buy the latest iteration of Madden. (I can't WAIT to play a Falcons season with Joey Harrington at QB! I know it's unethical to play a season with Michael Vick at the helm, but you better believe there is no such thing as dog-fighting in my virtual world.) To honor Madden's release, here's my list of the five greatest sports video games of all time.
5. MVP 06: NCAA Baseball: Little-known, but my favorite sports game of the last few years. Using largely unknown college teams and stadiums, EA forgot about superstar players and just made the game fun, introducing the revolutionary right-stick swinging and throwing systems.
4. FIFA 07: This game is nearly a year old now, but I still play it 3-4 hours each week. Many soccer gamers prefer Konami's Winning 11 series, but I don't find much difference in the gameplay, and FIFA wins out for having more licenses from teams and leagues, which adds to the realism. The Manager Mode is simple but completely engrossing.
3. NHL 94: The first video game that ever made me go out an buy an entire game system, in this case the Sega Genesis. I didn't even like hockey, but I wasted way too many hours of my freshman year playing this game in the dorm room of some kid whose name I can't remember. Still an iconic game -- there's actually an entire website still dedicated to the game.
2. Mike Tyson's Punch Out: The first game I remember truly addicting me, back on the original NES. This one started as an arcade game but was translated into an imminently playable home version, with Mike Tyson added as the final, impossible opponent. Doc Louis, you taught all I would ever need to know about the fight game.
1. Madden: I know some people probably prefer Tecmo Bowl, but that was always more of an arcade game to me. For home gamers, forgetting the disastrous "vision cone" from Madden 06, this series has been remarkably innovative and consistent throughout the years. My favorite version is probably Madden 05, which introduced the "hit stick," or any of the versions with Red Cashen as the referee.
What is your favorite sports video game of all-time? Let us know below...
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
I have to disagree with Madden being the best sports video game because in my opinion it isn't even the best football game. The 2K football games from the last decade or so are much better in almost every aspect of the game and when they started to get popular the people at EA instead of trying to make their games better to compete, they just gave the NFL an undisclosed amount of money so that Madden would be the only NFL football game.
How could you leave off Bill Walsh College Football 95' for the Sega Genesis. This was one of the best games ever period. Running the half back option with Colorado is probably one of the funnest sports plays you can run.
Baseball Stars for the NES was an early classic; at least for a budding stat nerd such as myself. The NCAA Football series has actually overtaken the Madden series for me. The recruiting feature rules.
My favorite has always been NBA Jam for the Super NES. I used to play as the Orlando Magic and with Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Horace Grant, I destroyed everybody I played with a barrage of threes. Good times.
heres may top 5! 5. Fifa- never played soccer in my life but its great 4.NCAA Football- even though this years version sucks 3.Fight Night-incredible graphics 2.MLB the Show-nothing like making it to the show 1.MADDEN- duh...i agree, 2005 was the best
Tecmo Super Bowl (NES) baby -- it has to be included on this list. Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen running for 300 yards and five touchdowns a game. Charles Mann running roughshod through offensive lines. The pioneering detailed individual and team stats to keep track of your prolonged dominance. Great game.
Sega 1994 NHL is the greatest. I wasted many a college day glued to that game. My grades will certainly atest to that. The teams were great, the greatest players, and you could do anything. Gretzy backhand shot from the opposite blue line would always go in. C'mon, that's classic.
There's no way to leave either Nintendo's Baseball Stars or Tecmo Bowl off this list. The former allowed you to not only name individual players, but also improve your players' abilities with money from winning. Not to mention it's the first baseball game I remember which gave outfielders the ability to climb the fence and take away home runs. The latter needs no explanation.
How could you forget Techmo Bowl for the NES. Now that was an awesome sports game. Fading back 20 30 yards for the deep deep bomb. Awesome Half Time show. It had everything including the Nigerian Nightmare and an unstoppable Bo Jackson.
I've always loved NBA Jam since it came out some 20 years ago! It was and still is one of the most fun arcade style basketball games to play. From the insane alley oop dunks to the players catching fire, this game had it all and it'll never get old.
Madden is the best but for soccer games Pro Evolution Soccer (Winning Eleven) is definitively better, better gameplay, better graphics and less arcade. And if I have to choose a FIFA game it would be Fifa 98. It was awesome with every country of the world. I won the World Cup with Vanuatu !!! Try Fifa 98 it's the best.
Baseball Stars has to be ranked up there. The first baseball game where you could create your own team. Madden will always be on the list but I seem to enjoy NCAA football more so I would have to rank taht one up there to.
Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for SNES is the best baseball game ever. The newer baseball games are really boring. Ice Hockey for NES is amazing, we used it as a drinking game in college, my hands/finger still hurt from the square controller. The Tiger Woods golf series is also really awesome.
Maybe you should expand your list to the top 10 sports games of all time? I think people here have spoken, Tecmo Super Bowl should definitely be included somewhere. I also think the Tiger Woods games, the Tony Hawk games, Double Dribble, and Blades of Steel should be included in there.
You guys seem to forget the game that started it all as far as sports games go. Tecmo Super Bowl for Nintendo set the precedent for Madden and NCAA College Football. It was the first game to keep stats, include real NFL players, include the real schedule, and have a playbook to choose from!
5. NHL 94 - Introduced a whole generation of kids to hockey. Too bad the league dropped the ball.
4. Madden Series - The best were Madden '97 and '05. Series has stagnated lately and is living off its name.
3. Super Tecmo Bowl - Football games keep stats?! Great game.
2. NCAA Football Series - Best was '06 but all have been great games that captured the college atmosphere. Recruiting is what puts it over the top.
1. Baseball Stars - Hands down the best sports game ever. Why haven't we gotten an updated version? No one wants to play 50 minute baseball games. 22 minutes and you're done and the player power up feature was unrivaled.
Without a doubt, Baseball Stars should be on any list of Top Sports Video Games. As far as team building and individual customizing of your leagues were concerned, Baseball Stars was far far ahead of any other rivals from the late 80s & early 90s. Plus, it was humiliating to lose to the "Lovely Ladies" in their pink uniforms, and that made the game all the more fun.
I'll round out my Top Five with Madden AND Techmo Bowl (why can't they both be on the list?), Mike Tyson's Punchout, and Jordan vs. Bird.
I think Tecmo Super Bowl has gotten enough well-deserved love, so I will talk about some of my other favorites.
Greatest Heavyweights for Genesis was awesome. It let you build a fighter and you would get to train him to increase his speed, strenth, and stamina. Plus, fighters could taunt and would get busted open.
PGA Golf III for Genesis was also tremendous - with real courses and challenging gameplay that still holds up.
Coach K College Basketball had real players' numbers (although not names) and would track your progress and do weekly AP ratings.
The WCW and WWF games for N64 were revolutionary with the 4 player Royal Rumble mode, entrance music, and gameplay that was off the charts.
As for some older NES classics, Excitebike, Pro Wrestling, and RBI Baseball killed hours of my childhood.
Rightly said, by more than half the responses: Tecmo Super Bowl HAS to be on this list. IMO, it is the greatest sports game ever, Madden has never come close to the fun factor or how endlessly playable TSB was.
5. Blades of Steel 4. Double Dribble 3. Mike Tysons Punch Out 2. Super Mario Cart (SNES) 1. Tecmo Super Bowl
Bejeesus, guys, how did no one include Mutant League Football for the Genesis?! Bo Jackson on Tecmo Bowl couldn't hold a candle to Bones Jackson on MLF!
Furthermore, before the NFL screwed us all by giving pro football to one game publisher, Gameday beat the hell out of Madden, if only for the simple fact that John Madden is one of the most obnoxious announcers in real life, but in the game franchise you get the thrill of hearing him repeat the same dim observations over and over and over again.
Madden 2003 on PS2 was great, even though it didn't have the Hit Stick or the Cone;
Baseball Star, the original, come on!!
Tecmo Super Bowl with Steve Young in instead of Montana; classic!! I'd always kick the butts of Parcells and LT's Giants. And when Ronnie Lot was "Excellent", he'd walk over RBs!!
NHL 2002 on PS2; downhill from there.
And, sadly, the best baseball franchise ever ended with a classic simulation game; High Heat 2004 with the feel of a game; your cleanup guy getting 100 walks; minor leagues players that COULD help, unlike EA's MVP. Those guys got what baseball should be like.
NFL 2k5 was rated higher and sold better than Madden 05. A truly innovative company wouldn't have had to worry about the competition, but instead they reached into their deep pockets and bought NFL exclusivity. Now everyone's treated to the rehashed game with roster updates on a yearly basis. Yay...
replace Mike Tyson with Fight Night and Madden with 2k5!
1. NHL 94 2. Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball (The Jay Buhner look-alike who was after Griffey in the Mariners line-up was a home run machine) 3. Ice Hockey 4. California Games 5. Super Sprint Racing (the white car still haunts me) 6. NBA Jam 7. Great Golf (Sega Master System) 8. Lakers vs. Celtics 9. NHL 93 10.Little League Baseball
Change the name of this list to: "My Five Favorite Sports Video Games" and you'd be fine.
5. MVP 06: NCAA Baseball This is not even regarded as the best baseball game of all time, but here you put it.
4. FIFA 07 Winning Eleven is widely regarded as being head and shoulders better than FIFA.
3. NHL 94 I can agree with NHL 94, even though 98 was my favorite.
2. Mike Tyson's Punch Out I can agree here, but not this high. Ring King in my opinion was a better game. My opinion, see. I'm not trying to pass it off as fact.
1. Madden That's pretty general. I will say you mean Madden 95, in which case I could make a case for ESPN NFL 2k5. Never before has a game forced another company to scramble so quickly and make such a drastic move. This would be the equivalent of Halo 3 causing Sony to buy the rights to making First Person Shooters. I think Tecmo Super Bowl beats them all out because of it's longevity. People still play it to this day.
Whoa!! Did somebody actually forget about the first NBA Live 95! This first real basketball game because it had a "real" fastbreak option and play calling. Set the standard for every bastketball game after.
I never understood why NHL94 gets this crazy cult following...to me NHL95 was way superior. That's when they started introducing full season modes with trades and cutting players and the whole deal. Besides all you had to do on NHL94 to score was go down the ice with your C on the right side and your RW down the middle, the C passes to the RW who one-times it, works just about everytime.
In no particular order, these games are at least worth remembering:
a) Super Dodge Ball (NES) b) Front Page Sports Football (PC) c) Fight Night series (best 1 on 1 fighting game ever?) d) Pro Wrestling (NES) e) NHL 98 (come on, with 4 other buddies & a multi-tap, going for gold?)
Baseball Stars for the old NES was a game ahead of it's time. It was the first game I ever played where you had control over where you hit the ball. Add in the ability to create custom teams, cumulative stats, custom seasons with multiple custom teams, player upgrades and easy game play and you end up with a classic game. Best of all, Baseball Stars led to the phrase, "I will play you in a non-league, drinking game." Does it get any better than that? I would buy it today if it was released for a modern system and I would buy the system to play it on, too.
This is tough...I could make all of them pretty close to equal...
5. NCAA Football 2006 (PS2) 4. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 (PS2) 3. Mike Tyson's Punchout (NES) 2. Super Mario Kart (SNES) 1. NBA Live 95 (SNES)
NCAA 06 was the best football game in the series. This is also a better series than Madden (believe it or not).
THPS 2 got me started, but THPS 3 still has me hooked!
Mike Tyson's Punchout still pisses me off to this day. I finally saw someone beat Tyson - I'll still stuck on Soda P after all these years...
Super Mario Kart is still the best in the series. When we got bored, we would kill shoot green turtle shells and kill all other weapons to see who could last the longest! That was great!
NBA Live 95 - We used to create teams (I was the Jammers) and have tournaments every weekend. Del Negro/Stockton combo were unstoppable. Instant replay, critical shots, Jordan! Please drop this on the Wii. Instant purchase!
For me NHL 95 was the greatest. I believe it was the first game eveer where you could trade players, sign and release players and create players. It was revolutionary! With the season and the awards show at the end, it was the first stepping stone to what we know as dynasty or franchise mode in other sports games.
Ok, enough Tecmo Super Bowl, Madden, NHL, Punch-Out arguments. Clearly these games are all awesome and play too large a part in our lives.
Time for the 5 Worst Sports Games of All-Time
5. Super-High Impact Football (SNES) - Awesomely bad. Pretty much unplayable, except for the great computer trash talk. "SOMEBODY GET A BODY BAG!" At least this sort of format eventually gave us NFL Blitz.
4. 10-Yard Fight (NES) - Nearly no options in this one - except High-School, College, Pro. Same song every game, same play, every time. Same boredom. No wonder I didn't like football very much when I was six.
3. Bulls vs. Blazers (SNES) - Played this again recently and wondered how I had the patience to play a full game, never mind an entire playoff. I also don't know how people include this on their best lists.
2. Golf (NES) - Just impossible. No fun.
1. Shaq-Fu (SNES) - Not a sports game, but with an athlete. Probably the worst video game I've ever played.
I know I wasted many an afternoon trying to perfect my tricks on the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater, possibly the most addicting game EVER! I also spent countless hours on Tiger Woods '05. But I've always been and always will be a Madden Man.
I tend to agree with someone earlier, change this to your favorite sports games of all time and you've got something. I tend to like the old school games. That said, here's mine:
5. The old arcade football game with the X's and O's and the huge roller ball. Never knew the name for it other than, "Football". Would always take an absolute beating.
4. Odyssey Baseball and/or Intellivision Baseball. Both were highly addictive for their time.
3. Track and Field in the arcade. How many quarters did you go through before you realized a comb between your fingers would make you run faster?
2. I haven't played any of the 2k football games, but my first real big stats monster was Frontpage Sports Football pro 97 on the PC. I met a handful of folks online who had created their own little cult following for this game. We would do a season in 2 weeks, a draft, salaries, players would get older. There was a lot of manual activity, but it was a blast. When I finally got ahold of a Madden game (02 or 03), it was almost as good as the setup we used to have.
1. Super Tecmo Bowl. Bar none. Seasons worth of stats. The ability to just absolutely crush another team with the "nose guard dive". Running out of bounds at your own 1 just so you could have that 99 yard play. Having a playbook based on formations so your opponent wouldn't know when you had called the "flicker". I knew guys who dropped out of college because they couldn't tear themselves away from this game (ok, this and street fighter).
Honorable mention has to go to any of those little handheld blip games. I think they had hockey, baseball, soccer, football and basketball.
This is the worst list ever. Madden??? Please. The Game Day games of the mid 90s were way better. In the 2000s, the 2k series has reigned supreme. Nothing's come close, however, to Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES. Who doesn't still play that game?
5. NBA Jam T.E. 4. NHLPA Hockey '93 (Sega Genesis) 3. NFL 2k5 2. Bases Loaded 1. Tecmo Super Bowl
the 2k series for Football, far exceeded madden in any year that both were released, dont beleive play them one after the other, madden is slow, less realistic and harder to control, 2k is faster paced, reactions are more realistic and the only reason madden gets all the hype is a six letter word MADDEN but six letters does not a game make better mkay
i dont know how many people actually played this one but run and gun 2. no nba licenses but was the first basketball game to allow you to press the shoot button during a dunk to do a layup and also "freestyle" capabilities. instead of using the analog stick you could rotate the joystick to spin and do crossovers. HANDS DOWN FAVE. ncaa football close though
Funny how in 10-15 years kids today will talk about how Madden 06 or 07 is the best all-time. Why you ask? Because it was their first memory of a football video game. Of course tecmo bowl will be the best to us geezers!
They do not clarify some points. In the arcade, NBA Jams. If we are picking the 'Greatest' console games it all depends on if you are looking for arcade like play like being able to run over the whole other team with Bo Jackson in Tecmo bowl or drop back 20 yards and throw a 60 yard pass with Randall Cunningham, or some other super real simulation.
Nobody has mentioned Ultimate Challenge Golf. I loved that one for the PC from the mid-90's. It was totally different than Tiger Woods Golf, etc. in that you did NOT do anything to swing the club. Instead you set up your shot by picking the club, stance (how many degrees open, square, closed), club face (open, square, closed), trajectory (high, normal, low) and so on. Then you just hit enter to execute. You were playing strategic golf trying to think through what the best shot for the situation was in terms of positional golf, shaping your shot, etc. It had nothing to do with how co-ordinated you were clicking your mouse.
I also second the guy who said Dr. J vs. Larry Bird One-on-One. That was a giant step forward when that came out compared to the generic stick-figure graphics most sports games of the time used.
I spent so much of my youth dedicated to these games, and I have ranked them according to how much time in my life has been dedicated to playing them:
8) Jordan vs. Bird - NES: A one-on-one style basketball game with a 3-point contest and a dunk contest, it was a great game, and was one of the first to have many different features (and still one of the only, maybe the only, to have a dunk contest)
7) Mike Tyson's Punchout - NES: I spent a ton of hours playing this one and loved that it never became really easy to beat it...and you game genie users don't count!
6) Triple Play Baseball - Sega Genesis: This was the game that EA Sports used to take over the baseball fans that used to play Baseball Stars. It had one of the first really detailed "Season Modes" and you could trade players and sign free agents. Awesome game, and the precursor to MVP Baseball.
5) Madden NFL Football Series - Many different systems: This game would be higher, but it had a lull in it's dominance when the two or three year run by 989 Sports' Football game overtook it for a few years during the Playstation One years. This game probably should be ranked higher, but since I am a college football fan first, this game always suffered in the "number of hours played" category with me. It wins major points having a draft and the ability to draft your NCAA players into the league, but still NCAA always won out. You can't lose a game, the Heisman is a big deal, the recruiting is always more interesting, and having new players every 3-4 years makes you want to keep coming back and winning National Championships. But Madden would rule if NCAA Football didn't exist.
4) NBA Jam - Sega Genesis: This game was flat out awesome. With the computer assistance feature, no matter how hot your opponent's team got, the computer would help you back into the game. It isn't a game for people who like to dominate, it is a game for people who like to have heartbreaker/chest pounding finishes, which was ALWAYS a certain last second finish that had the winning jumping off the couch screaming "OOOHHHHHH!!!" and the loser yelling "That's BULLS**T!!!"
3) Baseball Stars - NES: First game to allow created players and power-ups, had a challenging team to play against and allowed you to save your created team and come back day after day to make it better. And it would get erased just often enough to make you feel like you had to start all over and pick a different team. My Chicago White Sox were still the best ever, closely followed by my St. Louis Cardinals.
2) NCAA Football Series - Many different systems: From playing this on the Sega Genesis all the way to PS3, this game has been a staple in my collection for about 15 years (maybe 14). I love how the game has developed and has the fantastic Dynasty mode that allows you to recruit through the whole season and attend heisman ceremonies, As well as try to convince your players to stay in school, or have them enter the draft into the Madden game. It's awesome, and every year gets even better. As a Buckeye fan, I must get this game every year when it comes out, and I have ever since 1994's version on Sega Genesis. There is just something about college football, I even talked about some of the features above in my Madden discussion. It's just the best, except for one game in history...
1) Tecmo Super Bowl - NES: This game was even better than the original Tecmo Bowl, because it allowed you to play a season with real NFL players and keep stats. You can't beat that, because at the time it came out, there was nothing like it in any sport or on any gaming console. The game play was exciting, and the stress of hoping your thumb didn't slide off of the directional pad before your receiver or running back made it all the way to the endzone was priceless and endless entertainment. The greatest sports game of all time, and you can tell because it remains today one of the most difficult games to come by when you try and pick it up at used game exchange stores. In fact, most have a waiting list about 50 people long, and this is about 16 years after it's original release. Amazing.
It's not even close. Tecmo Superbowl is by far the best sports game ever, and debatably the best game ever period. The NHL games for Genesis were very good, and NBA Jam was also up there, and in terms of modern games, the madden series was pretty good too. But yea, Tecmo Superbowl, with Barry, Bo, QB Eagles (Randal), and the gang...no contest
I must add to my top 8 with my honorable mentions...my other post should be just before this is close to it (it may be the only one that mentions Jordan vs. Bird)...
California Games - NES: One of the best non-traditional sports games. It was the X-Games before they existed, and doing back-flips on a BMX nike was awesome. I was a stud in footbag too.
Excitebike - NES: You could create your own course, this was very innovative for its time.
Tecmo NBA Basketball - NES: One of the most underrated games of all time. It was basically the same game as Tecmo Super Bowl, a full season, kept stats, and it came out too close to the release of the next generation of gaming systems (ie Sega Genesis), to be remembered. But it took many hours of my time as well.
American Gladiators - NES: This game was almost as great as the show, and it was very fun to actually get to pretend you were competing against Ice, Storm, and Viper...
Caveman Games - NES: I loved this game, and I am not sure it was even all that good, but I seriously remember laughing at the games and graphics over and over...I still play it when I need a laugh...