I flipped on the TV looking for a sports fix. Neither the Winter Olympic opening ceremonies, the NBA All-Star Celebrity game nor the Sienna-Niagara college basketball team could keep my attention. So looking to alleviate boredom, I turned to video games.
I turned on my Wii and started playing Punch Out, and I thought to myself this is one of the greatest sports video games of all time. Whether you had the Mike Tyson version of the game growing up or the generic “Mr. Dream” version, after Tyson’s legal troubles, Punch Out offered hours of entertainment. It has always been a game I could go back to also, playing it over and over again.
As I was enjoying it and thinking the above paragraph to myself, I started making a list of the best sports video games of all time. So let’s take a look at my favorites by platform.
Nintendo – NES
Punch Out – Working your way up through the boxing ranks as Little Mac is a blast. Sparring with caricature fighters and spotting their weaknesses. My personal favorite is the fighter whose turban would blink before he’d throw a punch, giving you time to dodge and counter punch. Then he would spin around and your only defense is to duck and cover until he wears himself out, and then knock him to the canvas.
Techmo Bowl – I’ve gotten into a debate about which is better Techmo Bowl or Super Techmo Bowl. I stand by my choice of Techmo Bowl. I have a little bias because I’m a Bears fan and Chicago’s team features Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Kevin Butler. Though the game is simple, allowing just four plays to choose fun, I can play it over and over again.
Track and Field – The key to Nintendo Track and Field was how quickly you could alternate between the A button and the B button. Anyone who scratches the controller is bush-league. It’s OK if you’re a beginner, but you can’t claim any records if you put a sock over your hand and run it back and forth over the buttons. I on the other hand alternate fingers. However, I learned my left index and middle fingers are quicker than my right, so I have to hold the controller upside down, but I dominate. If you plug in the mat and we use our feet, you’re toast.
Excitebike – Again, like most NES games it was simple. Race your dirt bike and avoid obstacles. You could even build your track. Just awesome.
Honorable mention – RBI Baseball, Blades of Steel, Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf
NBA Jam – I never had a Gamegear, but my friend Andrew did and we both loved NBA Jam. It was terrific two-on-two basketball action with awesome dunks. My favorite combination was the Bulls’ Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.
FIFA ’96 – At the time, I was playing soccer a lot throughout the spring, summer and fall. When I wasn’t physically on a soccer field, I was fine tuning my Super Nintendo soccer skills. FIFA ’96 had world and USA play – my favorite team was Atlanta and I had a fierce rivalry with Seattle. I didn’t know anything about either team, but the made up competition made the video game more intense. Another great feature was shoot-out play – you didn’t have to wait for a tie game in tournament play. I would compete in shoot-outs over and over again.
Super Mario Kart – The original Mario Kart was so much fun, working your way through the Mushroom, Flower and Star cups. Once you did that in 50 cc mode you’d advance to 100 cc. When you beat the three cups you unlocked the Special Cup. I had a blast beating it; ending with the Rainbow Road track, only to find out it opened a 150 cc class. This was much tougher to beat, but my senior year of college I finally claimed the gold in the 150 cc Special Cup … I almost cried.
Honorable mention – Atlanta ’96 (Olympics)
Gran Turismo – A more realistic game than Mario Kart, Gran Turismo supplied me and my dad many hours of competition and entertainment. The game took a lot of work, but my Game Shark gave me the code to get unlimited money so I could by the fastest cars – then it didn’t take so much work.
NHL Faceoff ’97 – I had two hockey games NHL ’99 and NHL Faceoff ’97. Both were fun, but the fighting in NHL Faceoff was just a little more intriguing.
NFL Blitz 2000 – Just as violent has the NHL Faceoff fights; NFL Blitz encouraged late hits in a fast-paced seven-on-seven format. There was a lot of passing, big hits and taunting after the plays. It was a lot of fun.
Honorable mention – NBA Live 2000, NFL Gameday ’99, Triple Play ’99, Cool Boarders 2
Madden – It’s difficult to pick a specific year, because I played a lot of Madden while I was in college. I bought the game beginning in 2004 and every year after until 2009. The invention of the ‘hit stick’ was great, but I loved the ‘truck stick’ and ‘highlight stick’ – the Madden series really understood sticks. Superstar mode, where you played the game in a first person style sealed Madden as the best football game ever.
Athens 2004 – The Summer Olympic game for the 2004 event was my favorite Olympic game ever. Me and my friend James played this a lot. It was better than the Sydney game that came out four years before and was the first Olympic game I bought since Atlanta ’96 for the Super Nintendo. The rubber covering on my controller’s joysticks was ripped off because of the intense discus battles we had.
Honorable Mention – MLB the Show, NCAA Basketball, Strike Force Bowling
Wii Sports – Even though you can download classic games like Punch Out and Techmo Bowl onto the Wii, I’m only going to count games made for the system in this category. Having said that, the Wii Sports game that comes with the system is great. Bowling, boxing, tennis, golf and (the best) baseball offer players plenty of choices. The game is cool because it completely changed video games. People have to make the appropriate motions to play the game. Despite that it is still simple and nursing homes began using the bowling game as physical activity for their residents. I love the baseball and golf games on Wii Sports.
Honorable Mention – Wii Fit, Wii Play (these are listed as honorable mention because I’ve played them, but don’t know them well enough to expand on the games)