?The 50 Most Feared Video Game Athletes of All Time?

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIMay 14, 2012

‪The 50 Most Feared Video Game Athletes of All Time‬

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    During our youthful years of punching buttons on controllers, we can all remember making agreements with our friends to not play with that athlete or that team.

    Rarely were there written promises to remain honorable, though, because these agreements were common knowledge.

    When these known rules were broken, the winner was called a cheater. Who would even approach them? That guy.

    Oh yes, that utterly annoying friend who can't seem to resist the temptation to scramble for hours with Michael Vick or shoot only threes with can't-miss Kobe Bryant. That guy.

    Let's take a trip down memory lane and check out the guys who we all agreed to avoid.

    The 50 most feared video game athletes of all time.

    Gravity ceased to exist with these dudes on the field.

50. Deion Sanders: Madden '95

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    The good old 16-bit era. There was nothing quite like quirky, box-like aesthetics to keep us salivating for that next game-changing play.

    And who better than Prime Time himself?

    Considering we were often forced to use pass rushers because of limited screen views, Deion Sanders had the opportunity to peruse the defensive backfield by himself, using his actual skills.

    And few balls went beyond his sticky hands. Once in his hands, they might as well have tacked six points on the board.

49. Charles Barkley: Barkley Shut Up and Jam

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    With the overly-opinionated chatterbox finally shutting his mouth and playing basketball, we could appropriately appreciate his true talents.

    Sir Charles was a legend in his Super Nintendo hit (albeit the only real player). He could steal, block, score, assist and intimidate.

    The former MVP was on an island of his own in this '94 masterpiece.

48. David Ortiz: MLB 06 the Show

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    As arguably the greatest clutch hitter in Sox history, Big Papi was always ready to explode for a monstrous home run.

    High, low, way outside or in the dirt...didn't matter. The hefty slugger could look silly one pitch and take it 500 feet into the right field bullpen the following one.

47. Kurt Warner: Madden 2001

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    We can thank multi-dimensional tailback Marshall Faulk for helping Kurt Warner develop into one of the most prolific backup-turned starter in history.

    With Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim also at his disposal, the undrafted legend was nearly impossible to contain.

    And with his accuracy, he never had to leave the pocket.

46. Devin Hester: Madden 08

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    With the first 100 speed rating in history, cornerback/receiver Devin Hester was essentially the same lights-out phenom in fantasy land that he was on the real gridiron.

    The kick-returning extraordinaire transformed the role of a returner for good. And opponents were far from pleased.

45. Bo Kimble: Lance Haffner's Courtside College Hoops

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    During the 1990 NCAA tournament, shooting guard Bo Kimble led his Loyola Marymount team past the defending champion Michigan Wolverines by a score of 149-115 in the second round, before losing to UNLV in the regional finals.

    But Kimble and his inspirational run (following the death of childhood friend and teammate Hank Gathers) certainly earned him high ratings in Lance Haffner's Courtside College Hoops.

    With the ability to drop 40-50 with ease, Kimble became the most memorable part of this 1985 text-based sim.

44. Craig "Ironhead" Heyward: Tecmo Super Bowl

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    For a long time, players of Super Tecmo Bowl were baffled as to why legends like Bo Jackson and Jerry Rice weren't stout return men. But then it was uncovered that returners were only as fast as the Right Tackle.

    The new tactic? Put a guy in there who could bulldoze the competition, truck the opposition.

    The greatest returner ever instantly became Craig Heyward. The Ironhead himself had the ability to take it to the house every kickoff.

    Perhaps it was the Zest body wash.

43. Sammy Sosa: Triple Play Baseball 2000

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    It was the peak of the homerun battle between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, both juiced and fully ready for an impressive encore.

    In the end, the real ballplayers may have spiraled towards notoriety, but their characters were far from finished.

    Cheats gave Sosa the ability to crush the baseball 962 feet, but even a routine 500-footer set the tone.

42. Barry Sanders: Madden 98

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    With the perfect combination of every attribute necessary for the ideal video game athlete, Barry Sanders had a short-lived, yet thrilling run in the simulation world.

    It didn't last long, but the Lions star used his ridiculous feet, gnarly shiftiness and short stature to squeak by the entire defense.

    We miss his every-down potential.

41. Shaquille O'Neal: NBA 2K9

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    Few players physically dominated the competition with as much ease as Shaq Daddy himself.

    But in 2009, his rim-shattering abilities rose to another level and that frustrating baby hook became even more flawless. Not only could he slam the ball over any vulnerable defender, but he required double and triple teams that opened up wide-open shots for Steve Nash and company.

    Ironically, his real-life career was dwindling.

40. Steve Young: Madden 96

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    Perhaps the best quarterback during the 16-bit days, Steve Young was essentially the '90s version of Michael Vick. He even looked like him.

    Without visible ratings, we were left to play with teams based on assumed ratings. But with Young, he'd scramble for hours, and then chuck a Hail Mary pass for an easy touchdown.

    On the other hand, we're pretty sure he's not black.

39. Allen Iverson: NBA 2K3

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    Few athletes were better built for a video game than Artificial Intelligence himself.

    A.I. was quick, smooth, fearless and elusive. Picture a more agile Derrick Rose (if that's even possible).

    After earning a spot on the cover of NBA 2K3, Iverson gave fans exactly what they expected. Dominance.

38. Tim Tebow: NCAA Football 2010

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    With speed, power, agility and a stellar arm, Gator legend Tim Tebow became perhaps the most multi-dimensional player in NCAA Football video game history.

    While his quarterback ratings may have been a bit fluffed, his running brilliance certainly wasn't.

    But for the Florida faithful, they were probably expecting Zeus on the cover.

37. Wayne Gretzky: Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey

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    With the ability to turn your goalie into a brick wall, ignite the opposing team's goal on fire and power check your opponent into oblivion, this arcade-style game offered more than just another routine simulation.

    But it was naturally dominated by the best ever, Mr. Gretzky himself. With the hardest shot, fastest legs and a killer instinct, The Great One was deadly from all angles.

36. Dell Curry: NBA Jam

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    Before passing his sweet-shooting genes onto sniping son Stephen Curry, Dell Curry found himself performing solidly on the court, but becoming a video game legend.

    In the NBA Jam series, where defense seemed absent, Curry's single skill (three-point shooting) turned him into an unstoppable force.

    It often took getting on fire to make shots from downtown with other players, but with Curry he'd hit the long ball with regularity and then drain easy shots from half court once he was steaming.

    A role player turned animal, truly inspirational.

35. Tom Brady: Madden 08

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    Sure the dink-and-dunk method worked for Tom Brady and his tightly-knit receiving corps, but it was the addition of Randy Moss and his elite speed in Madden 08 that made the Ugg-wearing signal caller unstoppable.

    Roll out, chuck it over the middle for 20 yards or sit in the pocket and toss it to Moss 50 yards down the right sideline for six. The word frustration doesn't quite suffice.

34. Christian Okoye: Tecmo Super Bowl

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    With journeyman Steve DeBerg at quarterback, you're only chance for success with the Kansas City Chiefs was to hand the pigskin off to The Nigerian Nightmare.

    But success would come often with that method.

    And the physical tailback certainly lived up to his name, as it took only a slight push on the direction pad for Christian Okoye to derail numerous lineman and elude lingering linebackers. 

33. Marshall Faulk: Madden 2003

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    The greatest show on turf featured one particular stud whose skills could never be questioned.

    But his talent in Madden 2003 was far superior to those of his peers, and as a smart and elusive tailback, Faulk was perhaps most potent on screen or swing passes.

    Once in the open field, he was sure for six points.

32. Ichiro Suzuki: MLB 09 the Show

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    Perhaps the greatest contact hitter of the past decade, some feel as if Ichiro hasn't quite gotten the respect he deserves. Cogent point indeed.

    But after playing 2009's version of The Show, you'll see that the Japanese superstar's virtual clone is getting plenty of props.

    With the ability to steal any base with ease, gun runners out at any base and hit any pitch to all fields, Ichiro has finally become the flashy phenom we all knew he was.

    But thankfully still humble as ever.

31. Reggie Bush: Madden 07

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    Single-skill athletes have always gained an edge in video games. It's as if their other limits are ignored and their lone talent is extrapolated.

    As if Reggie Bush in Madden 07 needs an introduction, the former USC star lit up the scene like no running back before him.

    Earning an upper-80s rating as a rookie, Bush was seen exploding for touchdowns with but a slight window of room every single down.

    And in rushing attack, he was literally unstoppable.

    Perhaps overrated in retrospect (duh).

30. Dominik Hasek: NHL 2K4

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    Hockey video game developers have seemingly opened up windows for more scoring over the years for added entertainment and involvement.

    But in NHL 2K4, Dominik Hasek (also known as The Dominator) was a cement blockade in goal. Few shots worked against him, and by few we mean zero.

    No scoring against this Wings team.

29. LeBron James: Every Game After NBA 2K8

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    2008 was seemingly a coming out year for LeBron James' video game clone, as the promising superhuman had finally rounded his game out a bit.

    All potential early on, James became a force to be reckoned with...in real life.

    In the 2k series, however, he was simply unstoppable. Once in the lane, big men may as well have cleared out. An explosion every time.

28. Nolan Ryan: Nolan Ryan's Baseball

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    A high-'90s fastball was all it took to mow down hitters in Nolan Ryan's Baseball.

    With perhaps the most talented pitcher in history on the mound, the computer never had a chance.

    A plethora of mistimed swings in hopes of a hit was the gameplan for hitters. Real effective.

27. Vince Young: NCAA Football 2006

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    Considering the dual-threat quarterback is now essentially unstoppable in any NCAA game he is featured in, let's take a look back at the pioneer, the man who dominated both the ground and the passing game and set a tone for future signal callers.

    Vince Young could juke past vulnerable defenders and scamper for 60 yards or chuck it to a target with laser-like precision.

    A true beast.

26. Terrell Owens: NFL 2K5

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    McNabb to Owens was virtually the most potent combination in 2005, on paper at least.

    But in the video game realm, developers were seemingly ready to make these two the best pair since Montana and Rice.

    All the game lacked was arrogant, yet colorful press conferences with Drew Rosenhaus lingering in the background.

25. Mario Lemieux: NHL '94

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    As you blur your eyes in an attempt to gain some visual clarity, just realize that 6'4" sniper Mario Lemieux was perhaps more unstoppable than Wayne Gretzky during his video game days.

    Gliding down the ice past defenders led to multiple hat tricks for the Hall of Famer. He made it look easy.

24. Didier Drogba: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

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    He may be the all-time top scorer of the Cote d'Ivoire national football team, but Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba somehow dominated this soccer simulation like few characters before him.

    With perhaps the fastest feet in video game history, Drogba was seen racing past oblivious or exhausted defenders and popping soccer balls from 70 feet away with preciseness.

    The commentators would begin with a subtle Drogba. Then a more thrilling DROGBA. And finally DROGBAAAA!

    It was over before he even secured the ball.

23. Jon Dowd: MVP Baseball 2005

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    Seemingly searching for more lucrative independent marketing deals, the notorious Barry Bonds naturally withdrew from the MLBPA licensing agreement in 2003 (the first union member in history not to sign).

    As if we expected anything less from the talented disgrace.

    Jon Dowd was the brilliant replacement for Bonds in MVP Baseball 2005, and boy was he special. Interestingly, he was Caucasian, right-handed and without the arm padding that Bonds often sported.

    But as a slugger, he was a carbon copy...if not better. You'd be pleased with only giving up a home run (huh?). Yeah, he was that good.

22. Jerry Rice: Tecmo Super Bowl

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    It's to be expected that the greatest receiver in the history of the NFL dominates arguably the most epic gridiron video game ever.

    But those expectations pale in comparison to how lethal Jerry Rice truly was in this virtual world.

    Double, triple, even quadruple-covered? Didn't matter, sticky hands himself hauled every Joe Montana pass in. Warrior-esque domination.

21. Kobe Bryant: NBA 2K10

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    Perhaps the most dominant closer on the hardwood, it's no surprise the 2K developers transformed the Black Mamba into exactly what he is in real life. Unstoppable.

    While this should read "any NBA 2K game," 2K10 seemed like the pinnacle of Kobe's dominance.

    Once in the lane, there was no stopping his explosive athleticism. Posterization every time.

20. Pavel Bure: NHL 95

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    Sure the Russian Rocket was known for being a six-time All-Star, scoring five goals in one game against Finland at the 1998 Winter Olympics and retiring with a 0.623 goals-per-game average, but his ability in NHL 95 was still somehow unreal.

    With speed essentially the key ingredient to a dominant video game star, it's clear why Pavel Bure was perhaps the greatest video game skater ever.

    He flew across the ice like a shark under water, and decked opponents with the ferociousness of an enraged Ray Lewis. Deadly is an understatement.

19. Adrian Peterson: NCAA Football 2007

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    Not only did he look like a rebel with his smoked visor and swaggerous tendencies, but Adrian Peterson dominated the gridiron with such ease that Jim Brown was undoubtedly scraping his jaw off the floor after each fictional touchdown.

    The former Sooner was too much talent for one college football team to handle.

18. Michael Jordan: NBA 2K11

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    When 2K Sports decided to resurrect MJ's career on the virtual hardwood and bring him back for another run, fans understood that domination was imminent.

    And naturally Air Jordan didn't disappoint.

17. Peyton Manning: Every Single Madden

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    While his most prosperous video game year may have come in 2006, we need to point out how dominant Peyton Manning has been every year since the updates made in '05.

    We understand the need to make the game as realistic as possible, but Peyton Manning's painful pre-snap routine frustrates the audience more significantly than his pinpoint precision and deep heaves.

    Two cups of coffee in between snaps is very plausible.

16. Ricky Henderson: RBI Baseball 4

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    As the final game in the RBI Baseball series, the fourth version was determined to leave a lasting legacy. And it sure did.

    Considering the game was originally released on Sega Genesis the year following Rickey Henderson's MVP season (1991), the Hall of Famer was given top notch speed and somehow elite power.

    A .500 average and 150-plus steals weren't difficult for the talented outfielder.

15. Brett Favre: NFL Quarterback Club '98

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    The Iron Man himself, eloquently referred to as Mr. Interception by most skeptics.

    In gracing the cover for five straight years (1998-2002), it was clear Brett Favre was quite the respected superstar by those hungry N64 developers. But they might have stretched his abilities a bit.

    Naturally the crafty legend possessed a laser-rocket arm in the pocket. Not so routine was his awkward, yet dominant scrambling ability, which made Usain Bolt look like Chris Farley.

14. Allejo: International Superstar Soccer

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    The man, the legend. Allejo was seen as a fictional character to some, but it's quite clear that the Brazil demigod was meant to be Ronaldo himself.

    Speedy descents down the field through numerous defenders were complimented by thunderous motorcycle kicks. The best defense was praying he missed.

13. Reggie Jackson: RBI Baseball

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    Walk him or be killed. That was the tactic to defeating Reggie slugging Jackson.

    If Mr. October even made contact with the ball, it wouldn't be seen for another decade or two.

    Jackson set quite the tone for future sluggers in this old-school masterpiece.

12. Tom Chambers: Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs

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    As the first game endorsed by the NBA, we were naturally thrilled for the release of Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs. But shocked doesn't quite suffice in detailing our feelings toward the game's signature stunt.

    A high-flying, jet-packing double-pump dunk from beyond the free-throw line by white-man-can-certainly-jump Tom Chambers was one of the touted moves. A popular four-time All-Star during his career, Chambers found himself the most dominant player in this 1989 game.

    Arguably the most vicious dunker in video game history. Epic.

11. Randy Moss: NFL 2K2

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    Explosive one-handed grabs and lazy trots past defenders headlined Randy Moss' NFL 2K cover.

    But we'd never say he was overrated, considering he hauled in triple-covered passes on the regular in real life as well.

    But man, could he fly down that sideline with grace.

10. QB Eagles: Tecmo Super Bowl

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    And oh yes, that was Mr. Randall Cunningham himself.

    A talented clone of the real Philly signal caller, QB Eagles will forever be remembered as a dual-threat legend who couldn't stay on the field.

    But if on the same team, Michael Vick would be carrying Cunningham's spit container back to the locker room on a regular basis. He was that prolific.

9. Jeremy Roenick: NHL '94

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    His action figure may seem cookie-cutter-esque, but Jeremy Roenick was no average Joe in NHL '94.

    The all-around animal featured a lethal shot, deadly checking ability and an unmatched awareness. Like his Tecmo Super Bowl peers, Roenick could circle the ice around his competition for hours, while scoring at will.

    And he clearly possessed stellar pixels.

8. Sunday Tiger Woods: Tiger Woods PGA Tour

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    Perfection was essentially the only way to beat Tiger Woods on a Sunday, if you were even talented enough to make the cut.

    Considering the legendary golfer could walk on water, it's easy to see why you rarely had a chance in this stimulating round of golf.

7. Pablo Sanchez: Backyard Sports Series

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    While certainly the most athletic, gifted and sentimental player in any backyard, Pablo "Secret Weapon" Sanchez was known best for his inspirational pep talks.

    A real legend in the making.

6. Ken Griffey Jr.: Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

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    You're probably wondering why it looks like he is swinging three bats. Ken Griffey Jr. was just that talented, statistically three bats better than any peer.

    Of course he'd dominate the game named after him, or rather presented by him. But dominate doesn't quite detail the true advantage he had over the competition.

    A .900 average wasn't unheard of for Junior.

5. Lawrence Taylor: Tecmo Bowl

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    A beast linebacker in real life, a god-like force in Tecmo Bowl. The original LT couldn't be stopped.

    Perhaps the most dominant defensive force in video game history (yes, as a whole), Taylor would bull rush petrified lineman and get to the quarterback faster than a starving Cheetah gets to a stationary hippo.

    If that pigskin isn't thrown in under two Nanoseconds, you're done.

4. Larry Bird: NBA 2K3

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    After introducing old-school legends to the newest 2K addition, it was clear history was going to be rewritten. And it sure was.

    Ferocious dunks and sweet shots from downtown headlined Larry Bird's "blossoming" game. But let's be serious, the crafty developers were just making up for lost time, considering Bird rarely played as ferociously above the rim during his heyday.

    Nice try though.

3. Michael Vick: Madden 2004

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    Michael Vick in '04 was like Achilles during the Trojan War, a man amongst boys.

    The quick, fast, agile, immortal quarterback took over any game he was present in. It got to the point where you were called a cheater if you used the Atlanta Falcons.

    But while certainly fast, video-game Vick could chuck a laser down the field with ease. Not so much in real life.

    Naturally the Madden curse lived on.

2. Mike Tyson: Punch-Out!!

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    It was like David vs. Goliath every time you fought Mike Tyson in his punch out video game.

    After battling for numerous levels, you finally met Iron ear-biting Mike himself, eagerly ready to trample you with ease.

    With Little Mac pumped for "The Dream Fight" (the final battle), he is never quite prepared for the violent first 90 seconds, in which Tyson pounds and pounds.

    Patience and focus leads to rare victory.

1. Bo Jackson: Tecmo Super Bowl

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    We've reached the mecca of video game craziness, the pinnacle of virtual domination. Hate and love smashed into one feeling of utter bewilderment.

    Never before had an athlete succeeded with such ferocity as Bo Jackson did on the fantasy gridiron.

    His mix of speed and quickness gave the multi-sport legend a taste of greatness.

    If only he could replicate such vicious immortality on the real field.