November 9, 2004

Video Game Legacy Lives On

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In our approximately two decades of life, what would you say has been the single defining trend that we”ve all grown up with and has affected us all on some level? If you said Middle Eastern conflict, you”re wrong. The incorporation of America? Wrong again, fool. The answer, without a doubt, is video games.

Frankly, video games are a part of every person”s life at this school, whether you play them or have a nerd friend named Mike who plays them. Despite the average Cornellian”s astounding aptitude at sports, we”re all much more likely to live our dreams of becoming a professional athlete with a crib like Shaq”s through ESPN NBA 2K5, Madden 2005, or my personal all-time favorites, which I”ll tell you about in a moment.

On that note, this week we look back at five of the greatest sports video games ever made.

5. Madden NFL “94

Madden NFL “94 was revolutionary. In an era where NFL licenses and in-game voice commentary were non-existent, this game had both. Besides that, Madden”s gameplay was hilariously ridiculous, something that we see lacking nowadays. You could dive on guys well after the play was over with no repercussions, which was awesome after a long, hard day in 6th grade. Plus, the spin move was so overpowering that often you”d find yourself spinning 100+ times to the end zone.

Another major bonus was that Madden, your lone sportscaster, would often blabber on about a play up to two downs later — clearly not a game flaw — but rather just a projection about how Madden spends so much time talking about Thanksgiving turkey that he often forgets that there”s a game going on. Just plain awesome.

4. NHL “96

Up until 1996, every hockey game ever created looked exactly the same. You had only that one stupid overhead view, and at the very best you had fat guys who were strong and skinny guys who were fast if you had any player differentiation at all. Then, in 1996, God said let there be light. That light was EA Sports” NHL “96.

NHL “96 rectified pretty much every major problem with every previous hockey game ever made. It improved controls, making the way you passed and handled the puck more realistic, and it finally gave you the chance to see hockey from different angles, including the crowd-pleasing TV side view. I personally got my parents to buy me a new computer just to be able to play this game, although I passed it off as a need to ‘do my school work better’ and ‘improve my efficiency.’ I sure showed them when I failed middle school!

3. NFL Blitz

If you thought that Madden “94 was a solid game, NFL Blitz took all the ridiculous aspects of Madden and brought them together in a frenzy of 50 yard bomb passes and repeated spin-o-ramas that usually ended with a fumble — which would usually help you because the ball would fly forward 15 yards and out of bounds. The game also encouraged smashing on your controller, like the ape that you are, to force your entire team to safety blitz lone running backs and then continue to pile on afterwards. Between this, Mortal Kombat, and our next featured best sports game ever, Midway owned the mid-1990s.

2. NBA Jam

There is not one person who didn”t play this game in the arcade when it came out. With catch phrases like, ‘He”s on fire!’ and some other preposterous crap I can”t remember, NBA Jam made basketball entertaining for people who didn”t have the playmaking skills or basic thinking ability to pass in real basketball video games. Sure, there was no Michael Jordan, but there was some kind of code to get a guy named something like Jichael Mordan in the game to make up for that.

This game paved the way for future nonsense basketball games like NBA Street and disappointing follow-ups to the original NBA Jam, like NBA Jam 2001, 2002, and NBA Ballers, a travesty which features on its cover a picture of Stephon Marbury (who appears to be suffering from either Down”s Syndrome or acromegaly).

1. Baseball Stars

I was shocked to hear how many people had never even heard of this game. Baseball Stars is arguably the single most revolutionary game of our lifetimes. With features that just beat the hell out of crap like RBI Baseball, Baseball Stars essentially defined my life in the late 1980s and is solely responsible for the horrible myopia I have today.

In Baseball Stars, you finally had the opportunity to create a team or a player and sign people. Your team started out really crappy, but you earned money by beating hilarious squads like ‘The Lovely Ladies,’ a team that wore pink jerseys and cried when you beaned them with the ball. You could even trade for players on other teams. If I wanted say, Robo from the Green Monsters, I could put up a guy that I had created and trained. It took other games about 10 years to catch up to the bar set by Baseball Stars. To be honest, I still play it from time to time.

So, go ahead. Dust of your Sega Genesis, dig up your Nintendo, and toss that X-Box aside. Despite what other ‘normal people’ who have ‘lives’ might say, video games have become a major part of our sports history.

Archived article by Mike Pandolfini