I'll never forget the day my family got its first video game console.
It was a party for my dad when I was five, and as a gift, one of our family friends gave him an old school Nintendo.
Naturally, I was drawn to it, playing 'Super Mario Bros' and 'Duck Hunt' on that 8-bit wonder of glory.
As technology has improved—going through that Nintendo and moving on to a Sega Genesis, Playstation 2, Xbox and PS3—so too have the options of sports games to choose from.
Although I don't play much video games these days—unless it's FIFA—I'd like to think I've wasted my fair share of hours on the couch with a controller in my hand.
That's why I'm giving you the 12 best sports video game characters ever, so hopefully you had a chance to play as them, and not against them.
You might be asking yourself, 'Why in the hell did I include a former NFL punter on the list of the greatest video game athletes, right?'
It's fair enough—considering there's nothing great about ever punting in a football video game.
That's actually why Mitch Berger makes my list though, because in a game set on All-Madden back when I was a junior in high school, Berger had one of the most epic performances ever— playing quarterback, not punter!
While on the Rams, I saw him throw for over 400 yards, six touchdowns and lead his then digital Rams team to a blowout victory—those are Peyton Manning-type numbers.
The greatest thing about his performance though? A single punt inside the 20 that was highlighted during his 'Player of the Game,' award.
Gamers these days might rave about how realistic and fun the new FIFA video games are, but back in my day, there was one soccer games that stood head and shoulders above the rest—Nintendo's 'World Cup.'
And just as good as the game was with its crazy bicycle kicks that each team had, there was one player who showed to be better than anyone else, and his name was Aldo from Italy.
Typically designated as the left back, Aldo was both menacing on tackles and crisp in his passes.
When you add in the sunglasses and his bullish frame, the Italian defender was the soccer equivalent of Jean-Claude Van Damme out there.
This might be a cop-out of an addition since John Wasdin's ability on 'Triple Play 2000' was more of a glitch than his actual ability, but nevertheless, the guy was unhittable in this game, so I just had to add him.
As a career .500 pitcher with an ERA at 5.28, who would have ever thought that he'd be on the positive side of such a menacing, 108 mile per hour fastball?
Since he was a reliever, he could only max out at about three innings before he lost control, but when he was on the bump, the catcher only had to drop one finger each time for Wasdin to smoke a pitch by the helpless batter.
Go ahead and let the people debate whether or not former MLB player Rafael Palmeiro should be in the Hall of Fame or not. If it was me—and the voting was based on his likeness as Rafaeiro in 'Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball'—he'd be a first-ballot guy every single time.
It's a shame I don't have video to show you of the sweet, smooth swing of this lefty from the 1991 game. But take my word that any time he came to the plate, the dude was a menace, blasting the long ball pretty much every time.
Seeing how the game couldn't even get MLB to license the thing to actually use the real players' names just makes this one even better.
Speed. Power. Agility. Allusiveness.
The 2007 version of Reggie Bush in 'Madden, 2007' had all of them—and then some—as he routinely embarrassed opposing defenders with his video game domination.
It kind of made sense, since Bush was coined as the "can't-miss prospect" coming into the league as a rookie out of Southern Cal, with ability that few people had ever seen before.
All you have to know is that Bush typically averaged 2,000 rushing yards, close to 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns every season in franchise mode.
With an 87 rating as a rookie, it's safe to say that the EA developers bought into the hype of this guy.
Though this shot from about 20 yards out shows how deadly Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba was in the 2010 FIFA World Cup video game, it's just a small sample size of his pure strength, speed and ability.
I remember playing against this guy and actually getting pissed off with the way he helplessly shoved off defenders, holding the ball into the box before ripping a shot passed by goalkeeper.
If Drogba got within shooting distance of the goal, the player controlling him would have been smart to release that rocket shot of his, because it was unstoppable no matter where he booted it from.
As fun as it is to be sitting there, embarrassing friends or strangers online holding a controller, it paled in comparison to actually breaking a sweat from running and jumping around yourself.
Thanks to the Power Pad that the original Nintendo gave its users, gamers were able to lose their shoes and compete in one of the best games ever, 'World Class Track Meet,' choosing to go against some of the fastest men on the digital planet, or try and win gold at the Olympics.
Assuming you knew all the tricks of successful power pad usage—like using your toes to run ultra fast or jump to the side of the pad during the long jump—you probably racked up the gold medals like I did.
How good was Tiger Woods in his own video game from a few years ago?
So good that he actually had the ability to walk on water—as you can see from the video—and still stick his shot within a few feet of the cup.
Though it was labeled to be just a glitch, Woods actually had some fun with it and gave his response in his own video soon after.
Whether it was walking on water or crushing a drive down the middle of the fairway in 50 mile per hour winds, Sunday Tiger—and his red, power shirt—gave him abilities that no other golfer could ever imagine having.
Many might think that Mitch Richmond would earn a spot here, but it's actually the game's developer, Mark Turmell, who finds himself high on my list.
Not only does he earn props for the creativity—and balls—to toss himself in a game that he created, albeit with a special code. But one has to admire the straight ballin' skills he actually gave himself, being quicker than a cheetah, deadly as hell when shooting and stripping opposing players if he was within arms length of the ball.
The game may have been missing Michael Jordan, but, if you knew how to unlock him, Turmell more than made up for it.
The 'Madden, 2004' version of Michael Vick is basically the player everyone had hoped—and secretly, kind of thought—the real Vick could be.
Given an insane 95 speed rating—making him faster than most star receivers in the game—along with a 97 throw power, the dual-threat quarterback was absolutely unstoppable.
Just send all your receivers deep and let Vick handle the rest, blowing by defenders and picking up the first down with ease.
It was literally unfair to play against him because he couldn't be stopped. Not by the computer. Not by a human. Not by a defensive coordinator who knew how to stop him in real-life.
With a skill-set like that, it's no wonder Vick was named the quarterback for the All-Madden team to celebrate the video game.
When people think about the best video game characters from sports' games, they often talk about Mike Tyson from the game with his name in the title, 'Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.'
I'm going a different angle though because, as you can see from the video, Tyson could be had.
While getting to the final fight was always an accomplishment, the former heavyweight champ couldn't even defeat the pint-sized Mac—assuming you paid attention to Tyson's tendencies before swinging at him.
Going through guys like Bald Bull and Soda Popinski, Little Mac was the real star of this game.
If you don't remember how incredibly frustrating it was to play against Jeremy Roenick in 'NHL, '94,' there's a great scene from the movie Swingers that should show you how anyone who tried to typically felt. (Editor's Note: NSFW)
Lucky enough to be the fastest and strongest player with the hardest shot, he earned a 95 overall rating, meaning he was about as perfect a hockey player as one could ever dream up.
And when you weren't just tallying goals with the dude, Roenick was putting fools through the glass as developers gave him the checking power of a wrecking ball, meaning he had the puck just about anytime he wanted to.
Most of us are familiar with the term, "Bo Knows," and when it came to former athlete Bo Jackson, he definitely knew a hell of a lot in the game 'Techmo Bowl.'
Like, how to run passed, over or around defenders who tried to actually take him down.
Jackson was so unstoppable that even as his actual career ended to an unfortunate hip injury, his legacy is carried on through his insanely talented, 8-bit video game character who is the most unmatched in the history of sports games.