As part of an all-week celebration of various triumphs on and off the digital playing field, ESPN concludes their compiling of the top 25 sports video games ever. Featuring favorites from a variety of gaming consoles that will surely evoke memories of sleepless nights fueled by that perfect combination of sugary soda, pizza crusts and neon candy, the top 5 can be viewed below, while you can head over to ESPN to check out the top 25 list in its entirety.
5. WWF No Mercy
Year Released: 2000
Superstar Status: If jumping off ladders and smashing opponents through the announcers table wasn’t enough, No Mercy introduced backstage brawls that let The Rock smash jabronis with pool sticks. Oh, you didn’t know? It still hails as the greatest multi-player wrestling game ever created.
“The game obviously came out back when WWE was at one of its most popular times, and I think that really helps this game grow in legendary status, because when you look at the roster, it’s stacked,” said WWE Games creative director, Cory Ledesma. “It’s one of those games that had a lot of depth to it, so you can spend a lot of time learning to master, but it catered really to the casual audience. I knew a lot of people who played the game back then, and they weren’t even wrestling fans, but they had an N64 and ‘No Mercy’ was one of the most fun games available for the system. Whether you liked wrestling or not, this game bridged the gap.
“The game did a lot of new things that other wrestling games just didn’t do at the time. It had a lot more match types. You were able to grab weapons from the ringside barricade. It had a create-a-superstar mode that featured just a phenomenal amount of moves. AKI at the time was really great about having, not just the moves from the WWE roster, but some really cool moves from Japan and other federations that really added a lot to your created characters.”
4. MVP Baseball 2005
Systems: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube
Year Released: 2005
Superstar Status: MVP’s groundbreaking gameplay featured everything from polygonal hitters reading pitches to baserunners sliding to specific spots of the bag. Add to that an Owner mode that let you build your own ballpark and a full minor-league system, and you have a game that remains revolutionary and influential to this day.
“‘MVP Baseball 2005’ was the culmination of many years of striving to create the best, and most authentic baseball experience ever,” says the game’s producer, Brent Nielsen. “Going back to the old ‘Triple Play’ days, and realizing the game engine needed a complete overhaul to achieve that goal, the ‘MVP Baseball’ series was born. And after three years of blood, sweat and tears (2005 was the third installment of the ‘MVP Baseball’ franchise), I felt we had finally achieved that goal.
“I think what made the game so great was an incredible mix and balance of strong graphics, a ton of content, and fantastic gameplay. Building on the all-new batter-pitcher interface that we introduced in the series that fundamentally changed the way you played baseball video games, 2005 saw the addition of the “Hitter’s Eye” suite of features, led by the ability to read the pitch. I think it ultimately produced the most authentic recreation of that classic batter-pitcher confrontation. And from hitting, to pitching, to base running, to fielding, ‘MVP Baseball 2005’ was the benefactor of 3 years of gameplay balancing and tuning. The game just played a perfect game of baseball. While 2004 first introduced licensed, playable minor league teams, 2005 was the first to include all teams at every level — AAA, AA and Class-A — which made an already deep Franchise Mode that much deeper. 2005 saw the addition of Owner Mode and the ability to build your own ballpark and manage every aspect of your baseball experience. And perhaps a somewhat overlooked content aspect was all of the pitching and hitting mini-games, which were personal favorites that added to the overall depth of the game. ‘MVP Baseball 2005’ was just that perfect mix of great, innovative, balanced gameplay, incredibly deep content, and strong graphics.”
3. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
Year Released: 1987
Superstar Status: From Bald Bull and Glass Joe to Soda Polinski and the Great Hippo to the baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson, “Punch Out” is every bit famous for its legendary characters and your ability to learn their tendencies, as it is for its incredibly fast-paced, frenetic gameplay. Punch King Hippo in the face, and then when he covers up, blast him in the belly. Jab Bald Bull in the stomach during his “Bull Charge.” Skip straight to Mike Tyson by entering the code: 007-373-5963. If you grew up addicted to this NES classic, these were all things you had memorized, and if you ever did beat Mike Tyson, it was something you seriously ran around the block screaming out to all of your friends.
“Former (Nintendo) president Minoru Arakawa attended a boxing match featuring Mike Tyson and was so amazed by his skill, he was inspired to use him for ‘Punch-Out!!'” says Bill Trinen of Nintendo. “The game was already a popular arcade game when it made its way over to the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES port added a plot to the game, which helped players stay engaged throughout their journey to success. The game had a way of keeping players engaged and on their toes throughout each match.
“The image of Little Mac fighting Mike Tyson is now iconic. Every fighter has a different style, and players liked trying to figure out how to take them down, one by one.”
2. NHL 94
Systems: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo
Year Released: 1993
Superstar Status: The introduction of one-timers has forever changed hockey video games, not to mention classic moments old-school gamers can’t wipe from their memories like that random dude in the stands who would pound on the glass. The demand to play this game is still so great, EA Sports even included it as an extra in “NHL 06.”
And don’t forget, for the time, “NHL ’94’s” graphics were amazing, right down to the shimmering ice. Players celebrated after goals, off-target slap shots shattered the glass, and you could even play four players at once, making this one of the best party games of its generation.
“This was the first hockey game ever that had both the NHL and the NHLPA license, resulting in the first time that hockey fans could truly replicate the sport that they love using both the team uniforms and the players,” says “NHL 13” producer, Sean Ramjagsingh. “The great thing about this game was that you truly felt like you were in control of the action on the ice. As many fans over the years have said, this was the first time in a hockey game that you could do what you want, when you wanted to do it.”
1. Tecmo Super Bowl
Systems: NES, SNES
Year Released: 1991
Superstar Status: There are days when I still feel like playing “Tecmo Super Bowl” over “Madden 13.” It’s more than nostalgia, as the simplistic gameplay teamed with characters like Bo Jackson, Christian Okoye, Derrick Thomas, Lawrence Taylor, and even the great QB Eagles (aka Randall Cunningham), make for what’s still a brilliant sports gaming experience.
“Tecmo Super Bowl is not a football simulator, but a football game,” Tecmo’s Keisuke Kikuchi said. “The key feature is that it takes the strategy of offensive and defensive formations and play calling, and stylizes it so that the complex system of football can be experienced with rules that are simpler and easier to understand.
“In a lot of football games, users can feel like they’re players in the game by providing a sense of realism and intensity by showing them running down the field. In contrast, Tecmo Super Bowl shows the field from an overhead view just like in TV broadcasts. Through this sense of security (comfort) and stability, you can clearly see the formations and players movement while you play, so you can really enjoy the strategic and tactical elements of the game.”
Also, by limiting the gamers’ involvement, the strengths and weaknesses of the football players have a greater impact.
“This is key because if the user has too much influence over the game, the differences in abilities, formations and calls between the players and teams disappear,” Kikuchi said. “Being able to maintain this balance makes this a great game.
“Tecmo,” released over 20 years ago, is timeless because of its simplicity.
“Since it doesn’t require as many moves as an action game, casual gamers can play against seasoned pros,” Kikuchi said. “The game design allows for all these various ways of playing, so each user will have their own unique emotional attachment and come up with their own way of playing. I believe there are some users that are still enjoying the game to this day.”