October 28, 2004

Masterful Madden Series Sets Bar for Video Sports

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I got a package in the mail last Thursday from my brother for my 20th birthday — inside was EA Sports’ NBA Live 2005 video game. Yes, I know I’m getting a bit too old for video games. Nevertheless, I opened it up and popped it in my Playstation 2, and was astounded at what this game offers.

The NBA All-Star Weekend mode alone includes a dunk contest, a three-point shootout, the all-star game, and yes, even a rookie versus sophomore game.

Video games really have come a long way. There are no more bad graphics and stupid jingles at the start of the game. In fact, NBA Live as well as the Madden 2005 come complete with their own soundtracks, featuring acts like Franz Ferdinand and Blink 182.

Anyway, all this got me to thinking — what have been the greatest video games of all time? The ones that can stand the test of time, or better yet, the ones you would dust the Nintendo off to play in the present day.

Here’s my top 10 (in order):

10. California Games for Nintendo. How cool was this game? Not only could you surf and skateboard on a half-pipe, but one of the events was a Foot Bag contest. This game single-handedly brought the hackeysack craze of in the mid-90’s.

9. Duck Hunt for Nintendo. Come on, admit it — how many times did you just get frustrated with this game, and stood right in front of the TV to take out every duck? Never happened? Okay, how many times did you want to punch that little dog that popped up every time you missed the duck? I thought so. Also, who remembers the skeet shooting round? It was a very underrated addition to the game.

8. Little League Baseball for Nintendo. Never heard of it? That’s because, as far as I know, it’s the only video game to ever replicate the Little League World Series (somebody correct me if I’m wrong). And what a great game, there were about 15 U.S. teams and about 10 teams from around the world. The game was complete with six-inning games (or shorter because of a 10-run mercy rule), 200-foot fences, and plenty of intense battles between Texas (the best U.S. team) and Taipei (the best world team).

7. Tecmo Super Bowl for Nintendo. This game was way ahead of its time. Not only did the game have everyone’s name in the NFL, but it also had a season mode — two things that weren’t in another football video game until Madden came out years later. Yes, there were only eight plays on offense, and eight on defense, but, come on: I’d break out the Nintendo just to run sweeps with Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye, a.k.a. the “Nigerian Nightmare,” any day.

6. Joe Montana Football ’94 for Sega. Three great things about this game — Joe Montana was on the Chiefs, players could actually move diagonally (first time I’d ever seen that), and with 2:05 left in each half, Pat Summerall would say, “Coming up on the two-minute warning,” and then right after say, “two-minute warning”. Classic.

5. NBA Jam for Game Boy. I’ll give you a sample game: you pick the Knicks and you play the Heat. It is John Starks and Patrick Ewing against Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning. You knock down eight three’s in the first half with Starks, he goes “on fire” twice, but Hardaway knocks down a half-court shot with you up by two in the last second of the game, and you lose by a point. Sound familiar? Of course it does — it happened every time you played. 4. NHL ’94 for Sega. Wayne Gretzky’s wraparound has never been stopped to this day, and it never will be. Enough said.

3. Jordan vs. Bird for Nintendo. Remember how I said I was amazed at the dunk and three-point contests in NBA Live? This game had both — in the late 80’s. Not to mention that these two players were arguably the two best players of all time going head-to-head.

2. Mike Tyson’s Punch-out for Nintendo. Okay, before I say how great of a game this is, I have to say that I have beaten Tyson on more than one occasion. That being said, Little Mac (the guy you control in the game) is about 5’6″ and about 125 pounds, going up against the likes of Soda Popinski (who’s pink), Bald Bull, and Mr. Sandman, all of whom are pushing 300 pounds. Not only that, Mario is the referee, each computer opponent has their own theme song and special punch, and every couple of fights Little Mac runs through New York City like Rocky ran through Philly. But to me, the best part of the game has to be the jarring between rounds — Piston Honda telling me that he’s going to give me a “TKO from Tokyo” still makes me crack up to this day.

1. Any Madden. That’s right, pick one. It’s the quintessential video game — always has been, always will be. From the early days where the only thing Madden said was “Boom!” and “Whap!” to today’s version complete with its own radio broadcasts and players getting e–mails from their general manager about their squad, Madden is second to none. The best thing about it is that Madden keeps getting better — how cool is Training Camp mode? I could spend an entire day (actually, I have) with my friends seeing who can get the highest score in the Running Back Challenge. There are just so many cool things about this game now: the classic teams, the realistic fans, the new stadiums, the sounds on the field. Bottom line, nothing tops Madden.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro