Retro sports games are a different beast from the modern ones. The Sega Mega Drive was home to some of the best, making it the perfect place to search for ancient gems.
Modern sports games have their advantages. The realism and graphical fidelity displayed allow you to really enjoy the sport you love in the moment. However, it can be argued that this dedication to realism has sucked a lot of the fun out of the genre. What used to be full of arcade battles between teams is now more of an ‘experience’ than a game.
So what about old sports games? Well, these were straight forward bursts of sporting action. The visual quality is certainly nothing to write home about, but these smaller games were a lot of fun to play with some friends on the couch. The Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis if you’re from the US) had tons of these games on offer, so picking the best one was a breeze.
When you think of boxing games, Punch-Out!! Probably the first game that comes to mind. It’s a great game, but it’s less of a boxing game and more of a rhythm game. You have to remember patterns and press the buttons at the right time. Greatest Heavyweights is more complex than that, giving you a little more strategic depth in your attacks. Plus, you can play us legendary boxers like Muhammad Ali.
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
We never said that these sports had to be real. Imagine a little handball, a little ice hockey and a lot more violence, and you have Speedball. You can score points by hitting targets with the ball, but why do that when you can instead injure your opponents to score points? It’s a weird game, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a lot of laughs among friends.
If you want a sports game that has been voted one of the best ever made around the world, then look no further than NHL ’94. It is one of the best summaries of hockey’s frenetic action and had a control scheme so good that it is still an option in modern NHL games. In fact, an emulated version of it is still available on modern systems.
Madden NFL ’95
The Genesis Madden games all had their charms, and which one is your favorite probably depends on your personal preference, but they’re all such brilliant simulations of NFL. They don’t have the high levels of crash simulation or animations that the modern games have, but the basic gameplay loop is still pretty much identical.
WWF Royal Rumble
The old 2D wrestling games are a bit of an oddity now, but if you’re just used to the 3D games, it’s worth giving this one a try. The controls may be incomprehensible when you first start playing, but you’ll soon be impressed by how well all these iconic moves were rendered in 2D. It could be argued that the art style of these late 2D games portrayed these colorful characters much better than the early 3D games ever could.
NBA Jam: Tournament Edition
This style of NBA games has always been much more enjoyable due to the lack of realism with which it treats the sport. These 2 on 2 slightly exaggerated matches offer far more fun than a realistically simulated modern match ever could. There is no tactical boxing of opponents in this as they just jump over your head and dunk it from half way down the field.
PGA tour 3
To many, the idea of a golf video game was laughable, so much so that a year later The Simpsons made fun of the fictional game Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. But if you were someone willing to shake the spotlight, you were in for an enjoyable golfing experience with PGA Tour 3 featuring great visuals for the era and all the golfing greats of the day.
FIFA Football ’95
With EA’s classic series losing the FIFA brand name next year, it’s worth going back to the first FIFA game to make a big impact. It was the first football game to use an isometric camera perspective, something that would last until the arrival of a 3D camera in the series. Plus, the physics felt closer to reality than ever before, with a heavy ball behaving as you’d expect.
Written by Ryan Woodrow on behalf of GLHF†
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