The Best Sports Video Games of Your Childhood

Zack PumerantzAnalyst III

The Best Sports Video Games of Your Childhood

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    Childhood was a better time.

    Nap time was encouraged, kisses relieved pain and furniture was understandably destroyed while attempting to avoid liquid hot magma.

    And through it all, there were video games.

    Seemingly created when it became clear that reality just wasn't satisfying the masses anymore, they molded childhoods.

    At first pixelated disasters, video games began to develop into three-dimensional works of art able to stimulate even the skeptics. 

    As we attempt to relive a snot-covered childhood, only our favorite video games can give us that warm, fuzzy feeling that we now yearn for as working adults with no hope in sight.

    Presenting the best entertainment of your childhood...

20. R.B.I. Baseball (1987)

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    For only 15 minutes of your time, R.B.I. Baseball offered a nine-inning combination of eight-bit style graphics, challenging, yet smooth gameplay and the typical glitches of a game made in the 1980s. Pure, unfiltered fun.

    Like a fine wine, it has passed the test of time.

19. Fight Night Round 3 (2006)

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    The fourth version may have offered better graphics, more characters and online capabilities, but Fight Night Round 3 used to be the only choice for true boxing gamers.

    The third edition featured ESPN Classic fights and a new career mode, in which fighters had to gain popularity in order to reach sponsored fights. Overall, the gameplay was light-years above the competition.

18. WWF No Mercy (2000)

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    Only during this turn-of-the-millennium presentation were hours of screaming "Am I not merciful!?" socially accepted, and perhaps the norm.

    But the game also had a commercial feel to it.

    While patrolling the SmackDown mall, players could buy new costumes, weapons and even secret characters if they so pleased.

    The chance to enter the first-ever ladder match or be a special guest referee paled in comparison to naturally improved graphics and a new ability to fight backstage.

    Beware of airborne chairs.

17. Snowboard Supercross 3 (2003)

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    All you needed was one mountain, three peaks and some free time for a riveting snow-covered experience. With 262 mountain cams and a boatload of creative new tricks, gnarliness was only moments away in EA Sports' third SSX installment.

    Hitting those virtual slopes is the only way to truly relive a colorful childhood.

16. NBA Live 2005 (2004)

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    While I split hairs between the '05 and '06 versions, 2005 was the final year that Live truly dominated its field of play.

    With superior graphics and rhythmic gameplay, as well as ankle-breaking capabilities on offense with the soft rotation of the joystick, NBA Live 2005 set the tone for hardwood simulation.

    At the time, we were clinging to Shaq's final years as an unstoppable force.

15. Mario Tennis 64 (2000)

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    Re-popularized by Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64, jolly Mario proved his otherworldly capabilities when he hit the court in Mario Tennis 64. 

    Giving up reality for pure enjoyment was essentially the gist of Nintendo gameplay, and we were once again engaged in its fantasy with this button-smashing masterpiece.

    Some might call it the Grand Slam of all tennis games.

    We're satisfied with calling it an ace.

14. NBA Jam (1993)

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    This catchy title essentially paved the way for action-filled basketball simulations. Exclamations like "He's on fire," "He's heating up" and "Boomshakalaka" kept users craving gravity-defying basketball every moment they were away from their Sega Genesis. 

    Scorching nets and earth-shattering dunks were icing on an already stimulating cake.

13. NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)

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    The only way to make high-flying '90s basketball more exciting was to make it more ridiculous.

    EA Sports did that in 2003, when they released the sequel to the extremely popular NBA Street.

    Soaring dunks, nifty crossovers and well-coiffed Afros were the only added ingredients to a healthy dose of thrilling basketball.

    Or a ruthless addiction.

12. Triple Play 2002 (2002)

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    The ideal transition from arcade to simulation, Triple Play 2002 offered revolutionary stadium views, nifty fielding adjustments and an engaging draft, the latter a feature unappreciated in most baseball games.

    While fatigue and injuries were essentially ignored, thorough gameplay more than made up for a lack of realistic management.

    The Triple Play series remains a baseball dream.

11. Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (1988)

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    Despite a less-is-more approach, Jordan vs. Bird: One on One was raw stimulation that kept carpal-tunnel syndrome a prevalent threat.

    Released in 1988 and featuring Larry Bird and MJ as the only two players, this game offered two choices.

    Whether you decided on a dunk contest with Air Jordan or a three-point contest with Bird, you were sure to embark on several weeks of hardwood madness.

10. Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (1994)

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    With the sweetest swing of all time set to grace its cover, Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball was considered legendary long before its release.

    The players may have awkwardly jogged the field as if they were fighting nature's calls, and the graphics may have lacked the flash prevalent in today's titles, but it was a simulation far beyond its years.

    The commentary was enjoyable, and the crowd looked like performance-enhanced pixels.

    Classic old-school success.

9. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (2000)

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    Only in the second edition of Tony Hawk's video game could users carelessly shred the streets of Manhattan to Rage Against The Machine's "Guerrilla Radio."

    Following the revolutionary first installation, Neversoft took their boarding game to the next level. In Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, users could, for the first time, engage in a career mode that offered create-a-skater and create-a-park.

    Tricks dubbed "impossible" were suddenly possible.

8. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (2001)

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    Eventually among the best-selling video games of all time, Gran Turismo's first game released for Playstation 2 was an instant hit with hungry racing fans looking for something new.

    Realistic engine and tire noises, and life-like racetracks made for an eye-watering presentation. Literally, you couldn't look away.

    And the need for speed remains strong.

7. Madden NFL 2004 (2003)

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    At the height of its popularity, the NFL's beloved video game offered a new ability to control a franchise and a new mini-camp to improve player statistics.

    Raising hot dog prices, relocating your team and building a coaching staff were only several of the many additions that kept Madden's brand flourishing.

    Excluding the 2006-added Superstar Mode, this was the last of the Madden games to develop for the better.

    Since then, excluding improved graphics, the series has snowballed toward mediocrity. The newest version doesn't even have rushing attack, which to most of us was hours of competitive enjoyment.

    Note: The "no-Michael Vick rule" still exists.

6. Backyard Sports Series (1998)

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    With young versions of Albert Pujols, Paul Pierce, Barry Bonds, Tim Duncan, Tom Brady and Joe Thornton sprinkled throughout the selection of possible players, the Backyard Series offered a unique combination of professional talent and typical neighborhood charm.

    Led by Pablo "The Secret Weapon" Sanchez, the series was a fond trip down Memory Lane.

    Until, of course, the wacky power-ups took over.

5. NFL Blitz (1997)

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    With the exaggerated flavor of NBA Jam, this classic arcade game took no prisoners en route to creating perfect football. No rules, no sissies, no questions asked.

    And once it went to personal N64 systems, there was no turning back. It became football as we'd all love it to be.

4. Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

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    As the first game with licensing privileges to allow for the real names and attributes of NFL teams and players, Tecmo Super Bowl was newly relevant but still legendary.

    A still-prevalent cult following was no accident. 

    This revolutionary '91 release was the start of something special—just ask then-godly running back Bo Jackson. 

3. MVP Baseball 2005 (2005)

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    With in-depth swing- and pitch-analysis and a thorough minor league system, "Owner Mode" enjoyment was all but certain in MVP's '05 release.

    Manny Ramirez slugged 600-foot bombs, glitches were embraced and commentary was bizarre. But we loved it.

    Complete control over a franchise allowed users to change everything from the color of the new stadium's outfield walls to the starting rotation of a lower-A minors club.

    Kids playing MVP soon became more of a tradition than fathers chasing those same kids with power tools.

2. NHL '94 (1993)

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    With fighting banned, how could this possibly be considered entertaining?

    Well, with penalty shots and the introduction of the one-timer, NHL '94 paved the way for hockey-video-game greatness.

    This legendary title continues top stand the test of time. 

1. Punch-Out!! (1984)

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    From Mr. Sandman to Soda Popinski, this '84 treasure was prehistoric in presentation, yet we were euphoric in our enjoyment.

    True boxing form and decent graphics were tossed aside, as amazing characters were brought to life.

    As they should be.