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  NES, master of sport?    
       
 

It's not just Tecmo Super Bowl...

May 5, 2005
By Andy 'AndrewM' Evans (AndrewM@neshq.com)

Is the NES the best sports game console ever? I've seen this topic tossed around in chatrooms, on message boards, and perhaps even in a bar or two, so I thought I'd throw in my own two cents.

I'm sorry good sir, what did you call my mother? Well, if it has to come to fisticuffs...

In summarization, yes. Now you have my opinion and don't have to read through my ranting and raving (I just gave you ten minutes of your life back - you're welcome!). I honestly believe that the NES is still the best sports console for a number of reasons, chiefly among them: simplicity, replayability, multiplayability (I think I just invented a word), and diversity.

Simplicity is an easy one. I mean really, how complex can you make a game when the controller only has two buttons and a directional pad. Analog who? Although simplicity plays a large part in multplayability (I really like that word, fake or not) the big contribution here is that you're going to be able to play a game you haven't touched in years easily. Take Tecmo Super Bowl for example: once you remember how to pass, throw, and tackle you're pretty much golden. No spin moves, no jukes, no multi-button receiver selection (thank God). Contrast that with Madden 2005 where you've got approximately 237,412 buttons. No, believe it or not I don't care that pressing Left+X+YY will get the water boy to towel off my forehead and improve my field vision. A and B for me baby, all the way.

How could you not love Pretty Amy?

I must admit that many modern day sports titles have great replayability. Modern day sports game however have a much different replayability than NES games. I admit that franchise mode is a huge step forward in the evolution of sports titles. What I'm referring to here is the primitive addictiveness found in so many NES games. Again, in Tecmo Super Bowl... I know that my 49ers will crush the lowly Cardinals again, but can I win by triple digits this time. How about scoring 50 points only kicking field goals? Oh, how I yearn to beat Pro Wrestling only using the pile driver (to my girlfriend, if you're reading this I'm joking... I'd much rather do it using King Slender's famous backbreaker). The other item at play here is the often times blatent cheating programmed to assist an intellectually outgunned AI. I may have 150 IQ points on my old friend Nintendo but I'll be damned if his offensive linemen aren't running at an olympic sprinter's pace.

Probably the most enjoyable feature of most NES sports games is the multiplayer aspect. I don't think I could play much more than an hour's worth of WInter Games by myself, but with my buddy Chris (now traumatized for life) we put down a four hour marathon session, each trying to outdo each other in the vaulted ski jump competition. As mentioned earlier, simplicity plays a large part here. NES sports games wouldn't be nearly as popular as they are if there were a steep learning curve. I tried playing a friend in a PS2 rugby game recently and for the life of me I couldn't get the controls down. On the other hand one can master the intricacies of RBI Baseball in roughly twelve seconds. What this means is that I can have a room full of friends master (or think they've mastered) Baseball Stars in no time, and a league is born.

Kid's got a heck of an arm. Now, if we could only get out of these mint green uniforms...

Lastly, diversity. The NES has a wide variety of solid sports games from which to choose. Since I apparently have incredibly too much free time I'll now dispense my own thoughts on some of the best NES sports games.

Baseball
RBI Baseball - Pure, unadultered baseball. It may be simple but trying to beat all the teams without stopping is an endurance challenge rivaling the eco-challenge.
Basewars - Baseball plus fighting robots equals BaseWars. Maybe an odd premise for a game but what ensues is terribly fun.
Baseball Simulator 1.000 - Baseball players with super powers (mega hit, 170 mph fast balls and such).
Baseball Stars - A baseball game that was years ahead of its time. Winning gets money, money allows you to improve players (or buy already improved vets).

Football
Tecmo Super Bowl - The best football game ever. Period.
John Elway's Quarterback - I'm not sure why John Elway's Quarterback is fun, but it is. The routes are terrible, the passing is clunky, and it has the trick players that annhilate the AI. Despite these flaws this game is classic.

Hockey
Blades of Steel - C'mon, a classic. I have to hand it to whoever designed this game and ushered in 8-bit sports brawling. The hockey is decent but fighting a friend for bragging rights is absolutely classic.

Wrestling
Pro Wrestling - If names like King Slender and Starman don't mean anything to you then you're, well, probably a well adjusted human being. For the rest of us King Slender's backbreaker is the stuff of legend. The only thing this game is missing is the fabled wrestling chair bash.

Golf
Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf - Sure the title can be a bit misleading as there's no physical fighting, but you're in for a war against either the inegenuiously named American or Japan course. 18 holes of heart-stopping, club-breaking, adrenaline-inducing golf. OK, maybe an overstatement. But hell, if nothing else a co-worker of mine once pointed noted "hit a good shot and you can see Pretty Amy's panties!"

Racing
Formula 1: Built to Win - A fantastic racing game which was way ahead of its time by letting the player customize and upgrade their car with race winnings.

Last but not least, a million apologies to my old high school English teacher, should she ever read this, for what I'm sure are boatloads of grammatical mistakes.

- Andy 'AndrewM' Evans