A blast from video’s past
I am a dinosaur when it comes to playing video games. The act of me popping a cartridge into a game console is basically extinct (Don’t they use CDs these days?). But during my childhood, I ran up thousands of hours in front of the TV controlling little people and things on the screen through a few buttons on a controller. And, surprise, the games were typically sports games.The majority of my game-playing occurred on the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis entertainment systems, with a scarce amount of my college days spent living through a Sony PlayStation. So the following will be a blast from the past to contemporary video game heads, but I will rank my top 10 favorite sports games, with a few bonus games thrown in for fun. (Remember, this is my personal list, so don’t get offended if you’re favorite game is not included):10. “College Football’s National Championship” (Sega Genesis): This game has its deficiencies, but it spent many days in my Sega. It’s actually one of the more difficult games to play and win on my list, and a challenging game was somewhat hard to find when I was a kid. There are many offensive and defensive plays to choose from, and the graphics are pretty good for its time. It includes all types of weather and keeps stats thoroughly. This game is a solid sports football game from its generation, but the drawback is that it only allows the user to pick from 32 Division I teams. In actuality, over 100 exist. I can still hear the annoying narrator saying “Alabama.”9. “T&C Surf Designs: Wood and Water Rage” (Nintendo): Whether you are skateboarding on the street or surfing a wave, this early Nintendo classic makes you feel cool. Two characters have that 80s wave hairstyle that the ladies adored, but the other two have their peculiarities: a gorilla surfer and a skateboarder who wears a scary-looking tribal mask. The skateboarding action is much cooler than the surfing, but both get pretty tedious after a short time. The music is a bonus in this game because it makes the gamer nervous the whole time, like it’s a matter of life and death that you “rage” with the best of them.”Skate or Die” (Nintendo) and its sequel get an added plug here. The sequel is especially cool because of the halfpipe option that allows skaters to woo the girl next door if you put on an impressive run of tricks.8. “NBA Live ’95 or ’96” (Sega Genesis): Of course these games are probably still being made, but these are the versions that I fell in love with. This game is clever because it is technical for its time, including graphics, play control, realism, and my favorite, stat-keeping. It’s a game that doesn’t need a lot of explanation.7. “Baseball Simulator 1.000” (Nintendo): This game offers the neat feature of allowing the user to create his own team(s), even down to their uniform colors, and pit those teams against each other in league play. Although I personally look down on the option, you can give players unhuman-like abilities like throwing ridiculously fast pitches, or batters that can hit the ball so it zig-zags across the screen. I’m a traditionalist, so I turn that option off. This game lacks in graphics, but it does have a decent variety of stadiums that offer a unique spin to each game.Without the create player/team option, this game may have not made my list. You can only create four teams, but a 165-game option make the stats seem realistic if you don’t give certain players unrealistic rankings.6. “Bulls vs. Lakers and the NBA Playoffs” (Sega Genesis): This game is fun to play against another human, but it also features the unique option of playing on the same team. With a friend, you can design your own plays against the competition. The downside of this game is that it only contains 16 NBA teams – the number of teams that make it to the NBA Playoffs each year. But for 1991, this game is a winner by all definitions.5. “The Black Bass” (Nintendo) – Maybe the “cheesiest” game on my list, but tons of fun, especially if you’re a fishing fan. It’s not the graphics or even the gameplay that’s exciting, it’s the concept.I remember my friend and I spent an entire night trying to beat this game. My mom was so mad that I didn’t sleep at all that night because of a video game. There were a few different lakes that you had to catch a certain weight of bass in a certain amount of time to move on to the next lake, or level. It took us forever, and I can’t even remember if we succeeded in beating it. If you like virtual fishing, this is the game that started it all.4. “Blades of Steel” (Nintendo): This game doesn’t have the greatest graphics, but in the 80s it had something that hardly any conventional sports games had: fighting. Konami was one of the first companies to tap into our love for violence and sports. If two players grapple on the ice, the screen jumps to a fight sequence in which each player is given a full power bar. The first player to knock the stuffing out of his opponent is the winner. It is a cool feature that throws some excitement into an otherwise boring game. For an early Nintendo game, however, it is top-notch.3. “Bases Loaded” (Nintendo): Jaleco did a great job of creating drama in this early Nintendo baseball game. Although the players weren’t authentic, the feeling of leading your team to the playoffs was. Over the course of a long season, you could battle your way through the playoffs and into the World Series. My dad and I bonded through this game by picking a team and completing a season together. I remember we were pretty disappointed by the World Series celebration at the end.But this game has a hidden feature that propels it to third on my list. If you hit the opposing team’s best hitter, he charges the pitcher’s mound in a cool sequence that leads to his ejection. As far as strategy, it is a good way to get rid of the other team’s best hitter. To my knowledge, this was the original baseball game to feature a player charging the opposing pitcher. The fact that it was hidden made it even better.2. “Tecmo Bowl” or “Tecmo Super Bowl” (Nintendo): Even though the user had to literally discover ways to make it challenging versus the computer, this game will forever hold a place in my sports heart. It may be the most fun game to play against another human because there are so many ways to frustrate the opponent. Examples are the dive move from the nose tackle position on defense and the zig-zagging method on offense. You could make your opponent steaming mad employing some of these “cheat” methods.The 1991 Nintendo version was one of the first games to keep season stats for players around the league, and the 1993 Super NES version was one of the first to allow player creation, although I was personally disappointed with this version because it didn’t improve on some of the elements that made the previous versions weak. But through its simplicity and quick games, it is the only game that allows college dorm rats to play an entire season in a few hours.1. “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!” (Nintendo): Although he’s one of the sleaziest sports figures to ever live, he does have my all-time favorite sports game attached to his name. The creators did put out a later version that featured a different final boxer, but it was basically the same game. I never did beat the game. I always managed to lose to either Mr. Sandman or Super Macho Man, but this is a timeless classic that will never die. There is nothing more gratifying than using a star punch on Soda Popinsky’s bald head.For modern day sports gamers, “Madden NFL” and “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” definitely deserve consideration.But for some reason modern video game technology has passed me by. Perhaps they’ve got too complicated. I don’t know. I did have a stint when I was into computer games because the graphics were so much better. “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis” is probably my favorite, with “Hardball 5” getting an Honorable Mention.I’m not sure what I do to waste time these days, but I would much rather play the game in real life than live vicariously through a video game. But, after writing this column, I do have the sudden urge to play a season on Tecmo Super Bowl in one weekend. After all, March it is the most boring month in real sports.Matt Brown is sports editor for the Sierra Sun.