Well, it’s a big weekend for sports. The Six Nations kicked off yesterday, Liverpool play Man City in the Premier League and the Super Bowl is tonight. To celebrate this sporting weekend (and to distract me from Ireland’s loss), here’s some sporting video games you should try. I’ve excluded any wrestling games as I’ll have a special post for them in the future.
FIFA 98: Road to World Cup
Let’s start with a PlayStation classic. Originally released in 1997, the game had several features including indoor football, National leagues and a World Cup Qualification mode. Here, you (and some friends) could pick a team and guide them to the 1998 Finals in France. There were tons of Nations to pick from, each with their own real life Qualification routes such as UEFA, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. You could even guide Oman to the World Cup Final if you wanted to. The game would see a sister release in 1998 called World Cup 98 but this only let you play as the teams that qualified (and some classic ones too). A solid soccer sim that has since been improved upon but it’s nice to try it just for the Road to World Cup mode.
Gaelic Games: Hurling
In the 2000s we got three games based off of Ireland’s National sports. The first Gaelic Games: Football was a basic footballing sim that didn’t have licensed players. Instead, they were referred to by their number. Two years later, the team behind the PlayStation 2’s AFL series of games would give us an improved Gaelic Games: Football 2 and Gaelic Games: Hurling. I’ve picked the Hurling title as its based on the fastest field sport in the world. Here, you can play through the National League and the All-Ireland tournament as you attempt to guide powerhouses such as Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford or Limerick to the Liam McCarthy Cup. Or you can be like me and pick Dublin, a not-so-great hurling team (at the time). The game is fast and fluid with “unique” commentary that won’t be found anywhere else. It’s not the best game on the list but it is one of the strangest.
Madden NFL 20
I don’t have a massive interest in NFL seeing as it’s behind a paywall here and on in the middle of the night but I did used to enjoy staying up for the Super Bowl. I’ve gone with Madden 20, the last game in the series I’ve played. I have played several others on the PlayStation 3 but this one feels the most refined. Gameplay is simple to pick up and play for a novice like me yet intuitive enough to encourage me to try out new plays. The game looks fantastic and the presentation is top notch. I did enjoy the Face of the Franchise mode, even if it fizzles out a little after the first season.
They’ve got golf, fishing, baseball… I know it’s not a sports game but the series is so good, I’ll try to bring it up every chance I get… oh, ok, we’ll move on…
I could choose any of the fantastic Codemaster games, including the superb F1 2020 or the PlayStation 2 games I’m currently playing but I’ve decided to go a little bit further back. Released in 1996, Bizarre Creations’ Formula 1 was their first entry in the series. Based on the 1995 series, you could take control of any 13 teams and 35 drivers as you attempted to take home the World Drivers Championship. What was great about this one is that it mirrored the 1995 season really well. Simtek would drop out halfway through the season (unless you picked them) and driver changes would occur at the time they did in real life. The game looked great for the time but, like most sports sims, has been greatly surpassed by later titles with more resources. Still, its great to have a look back at this and admire its music and menu screens, which seem to be frozen in time…
Originally an arcade game, NBA Jam would be ported to the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. Midway’s basketball game saw players compete in 2v2 matches. The game was easy to pick up and play for those unfamiliar with the rules of basketball (like me) and could be great fun in two player. It featured a whole host of teams and players to pick, including some secret, non-basketball cameos. The commentary, the fast-paced action, the slam-dunks, all a joy to behold. I haven’t played it in years and I don’t actually own a copy but it is on my wish list. Here’s hoping I get my hands on it one day.
International Track & Field
Like having skin on your thumbs? Well tough, because Konami’s International Track & Field doesn’t give a damn. Here, you’ll compete in numerous events, from sprints to the hammer throw, all while mashing the buttons frantically. The game could be played in four-player, if you wanted to break four controllers at once. I would rent this one occasionally but the button mashing was too much. It also didn’t help that when I rented a game, I never got the manual with it so I had no idea what I was doing. Still, it was fun with friends, even if we were all confused.
Blades of Steel
I know nothing of ice hockey. I would rent the NHL games just so I could punch players. Then I heard about the perfect hockey game for me. Blades of Steel was originally released on the NES in 1988. The game features several fictional teams (not that I could tell) based in Canadian and US cities. The game-play is frantic yet easy to grasp. For a novice like myself, its quick and fluid gameplay (and lack of rules) made it all the more enjoyable. Playing with a friend who had no idea about anything hockey related was fun, as we both got enjoyment from trying to outscore the other (just want every one to know I won).
I don’t really play a lot of PC games, which is a shame since there are so many good ones. There are two I’ve sunken time into over the years, though. Civilization and Championship / Football Manager. I would play for days on end, slowly guiding my team from the First Division (that’s how long ago it was) to the Champions League Final. The game is heavily stats based but you could always stick Michael Ricketts up front. The newer games come with better graphics (as in having actual graphics), more leagues and dozens of players to find. It’s very easy to fall down the Football Manager rabbit hole and not get back out…
These are some of my favourite sports titles. What were yours? Are you excited for the upcoming events?