We continue our popular series Top 25 Greatest Sports Games in History with part 2 which covers games (20-16). Make sure you checkout part one here.
20. SSX Tricky
Published by the now defunct EA Sports BIG and developed by EA Canada, SSX Tricky was the second – and most popular – title in a longstanding series of arcade-style snowboarding games. Although the game shared much of the DNA with its predecessor, SSX Tricky distinguished itself through an abundance of extra features and improvements. Such improvements included better graphics, new characters, boards, and outfits, more expansive environments, a rivalry system with other snowboarders, and more prominently, the addition of Uber moves. Once the user filled their “boost bar” to its maximum capacity, their character would be able to perform an “Uber” move, a gravity-defying feat, which upon completion, granted the player a limited boost. Likewise, in the World Circuit Mode, AI characters would respond favorably or unfavorably to the user, all dependent on your actions towards them. While attacking fellow racers would increase your adrenaline bar, it came with a price; retaliation would become imminent in future races. Additionally, the game’s sound design received critical acclaim; voice actors, including Lucy Liu and David Arquette, adapted to their eccentric roles well, while the music constantly adapted to the player’s surroundings. To little surprise, SSX Tricky is widely hailed as the best in the series, and one of the best arcade sports titles of all time.
19. NHL 10
EA Canada continued its long running trend of supplying hockey fans with innovative gameplay features and mechanics; the technologies behind which were often incorporated in EA’s other sports titles. NHL 10 claimed to have delivered over 200 gameplay refinements, highlighted by an all-new board-play physics engine, a first-person fighting engine, and a precision passing mechanic that allowed for greater control over the speed and direction of passes. In particular, the board-play improvements enabled users to employ their body to shield the puck on the boards and kick-pass it to teammates. The engine was dictated primarily by physics, and was one of the first steps towards integrating physics within all facets of gameplay. Likewise, the implementation of a 360 degree passing mechanic necessitated a loose puck; an untethered puck not bound by a pre-determined path, but instead bound by its own, independent set of physics. A free puck granted users the ability to bank passes off the boards or play the puck into space, ultimately crafting a more organic, and thus more realistic, experience. Such realistic mechanics aptly complemented an unrealistic fighting system that thrust the user onto the ice and into the fire of an NHL fight. The controls were deep and the hits were brutal; one never felt so alive when taking a beating on the virtual rink. Ultimately, the fusion of mechanics both simulation and arcade helped elevate NHL 10 beyond the ice and into the realm of critical acclaim.
18. Mario Tennis
Have you ever wanted to play tennis with your favorite Nintendo mascots? Apparently Nintendo felt the same way and produced what would be known as one of the greatest arcade sports games of all time. Mario Tennis was accessible through its simplicity, yet simultaneously deep via a control scheme that offered great variety in shot types. And of course, the game was fun. Mario Tennis possessed 16 playable characters, including the introduction of fan-favorite Waluigi. Each character felt unique; various ratings helped ensure broad player differentiation. Larger characters were generally slower but more powerful, while smaller characters were generally quicker but weaker. The cast’s diversity prompted difficult decisions when selecting characters; a task that was amplified when playing multiplayer. Up to four players could compete in either singles or doubles matches, fueling fierce rivalries amongst friends. The gameplay stills holds up well today; while this title yielded sequels, including Mario Power Tennis for the Gamecube and Mario Tennis Open for the Nintendo 3DS, Mario Tennis remains the most popular option. It just goes to show that smooth gameplay in conjunction with fun multiplayer options can serve up an ace of a game.
17. College Hoops 2K8
Developed by Visual Concepts in 2007, College Hoops 2k8 emerged as a brilliant coup de grace for the franchise. While 2K’s previous college basketball titles served as appendages to its NBA franchise, College Hoops 2k8 was the first to truly detach itself from the strictures of its big brother counterpart and establish itself as a unique entry in virtual hoops. While this game fed off of the NBA 2k engine, it still felt like college basketball. From the suffocating zone defenses to the variety of offenses, along with the pageantry and tradition well represented within the game’s presentation, College Hoops 2k8 epitomized college basketball. Furthermore, the game’s Legacy Mode exceeded the level of authenticity and depth found in other sports dynasty modes, with a fully fledged coaching carousel and in-depth recruiting options. No other sports game could match the thrill of taking a lesser team to national spotlight. And with a 2k share feature that allowed users to share modified rosters online, one could control their favorite athletes in spite of licensing issues that prevented 2k from featuring real players. Unfortunately, as 2k8 reached its peak, EA Sports bought the exclusive college license, and the College Hoops Series was no more.
16. MLB 11 The Show
Developer SCEA has released consistently high quality, hyper-realistic baseball titles for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, many argue that such consistency comes at the expense of true innovation. While MLB 11 certainly did not reinvent the franchise, customization became the name of this ballgame. Leading off was the addition of the highly touted Pure Analog Control System, which included analog controls for hitting, pitching, and throwing, adding more precision and accuracy to all three disciplines. Pure Hitting allowed users to stride and swing using the Right Analog Stick, Pure Pitching incorporated a new Pitch Meter when setting strength and location, and Pure Throwing could be used to make defensive throws by simply pointing the Right Analog Stick in the direction of the base. The introduction of analogue controls were tight and well designed; so well designed that the competitive advantage that MLB 2k once held over The Show via its “right stick pitching mechanic” was promptly extinguished. The game also featured stadium specific camera angles, the addition of Eric Karros to the broadcast team, and multiple improvements to the game’s popular single player mode, Road to the Show. MLB 11 signaled Sony’s complete dominance over the virtual baseball market; with vast customization options complementing deep, realistic gameplay, no one else could compete.
Stay tuned next week for Part 3 in the Top 25 Greatest Sports Games in History countdown. Until then, I’m out.