Sports games have always been some of the best-selling video games, from the 8-bit “Tecmo Bowl,” to the modern, hyper-realistic titles such as “NHL 17” and “Madden NFL 17.” As a result, sports-related franchises undoubtedly made lasting impressions in many people’s minds while they were growing up.
Lots of gamers, casual or otherwise, have owned some of these games throughout their lives, and many times there was one that stood out above the rest. Interestingly, even if two people had the same favorite, they could like it for different reasons.
Some might’ve grown attached to a game because it allowed them to play their favorite sport from their own homes, others could’ve simply thought it was a fun game and others might just have been attracted to it because their friends played it. Whatever the reason, the game still is forever a part of their childhood memories.
Our staff gave their input on this topic by explaining what their favorite sports video game was, and why they liked it.
Pat McAssey: “MLB Slugfest 20-03”
I have “Slugfest” for Gamecube, and it perfectly encapsulates almost everything about the early 2000s. In fact, Midway Games, like most of us at the time, wasn’t yet sure how to refer to years in the new millennium, so 2003 was denoted as 20-03, which is read as “20-oh-three.” Midway also used motion-capture technology, which was fairly advanced at the time, to recreate players’ likenesses. Well, advanced in the sense that it showed players interacting in the dugout and chewing gum.
While some people might dislike “Slugfest’s” lack of realism, I think it adds to the game’s charm. There’s something oddly amusing about players with giant forearms and calfs hitting home runs that make the baseball catch fire, and drop kicking catchers at home plate.
Ben Watanabe: “MVP Baseball 2005”
When you fired up the game on Xbox, you were treated to a montage inspired by the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series run, and it only got better from there. “MVP Baseball 2005” was among the last sports video games in what I consider the “just right” era: Just easy enough to pick up and play without a lot of tutorials, but just deep enough that it was worth investing time in its gameplay and game modes. Jorge Cantu and Jesus Colome might have been middling major leaguers in real life, but they can take comfort in knowing they became bedrocks of my multiple World Series-winning Tampa Bay Devils Rays dynasty.
Zack Cox: “NFL Blitz”
“Madden” is great and all, but in my mind, nothing beats the pure, unfiltered, “arcade-y” fun of “Blitz,” which consumed far too many hours of my childhood. Every player was built like Mark McGwire in his prime, and the whistle served only as an invitation to body slam whichever opponent happened to be standing close by. Add in wrinkles like the pregame cheat codes, a control scheme that basically utilized just three buttons, and “Da Bomb,” and you have a timeless classic.
Dakota Randall: “Madden NFL 2004”
Obviously, there’s a new “Madden” game every year, but the game that came out in 2004 unquestionably is the best. The graphics were better than ever before, and there was more depth, in terms of game modes, than in any previous “Madden” installment.
But the reason this game reigns supreme is because of the player on the cover: Michael Vick. Widely considered the greatest Madden character of all time, Vick was obnoxiously good in this game, as his speed from the quarterback position was just stupid. If you really wanted to, which I did, you could drop back, hold left trigger, and run for about 500 yards a game.
Nicholas Goss: “ESPN NFL 2K5”
“Madden” is a fantastic NFL video game franchise, but 2K Sports’ last NFL installment in 2005 could be the finest in football video game history. The graphics, abundance of modes (including first-person mode) and slick ESPN presentation made it so life-like and authentic. You even got to create your own crib with tons of NFL and ESPN-themed items. EA Sports’ exclusive license kicked in the following season, so we never got a sequel to ESPN NFL 2K5. Hopefully it comes sooner rather than later.