On October 5th, the new releases of NBA Jam and NBA 2K11 will be released in stores. NBA Elite 11 (Formerly NBA Live) has been postponed at this current point to March 31, 2011. I have high hopes on Jam and 2K11. Most importantly NBA 2K11, with the Michael Jordan modes being put into the mix.
We can go back to Basketball on the Atari 2600 in 1979 to find the roots of video game basketball. Basketball in video games has made great strides over the past thirty years and I expect 2K11 to be the next leap in progress. There have been other memorable titles such as Double Dribble, Arch Rivals, NCAA Basketball and Coach K basketball in the past. Here though, I am focusing on NBA games.
This is a list that is hard to put into a solid top ten. If we wanted, we could just take the last ten games that were put out over the past four years and say those are the best ten. That wouldn't be reasonable though; this list is for groundbreaking or truly influential games over the years.
I have high hopes on this game and believe it can give the top basketball games a run for their money. Why not expect that from the greatest player of all-time? Here are the ten games I have chosen to stand strong as the ten best against the incoming NBA 2K11 and the new NBA Jam.
If you haven't yet seen the trailer for NBA 2K11 here it is for your viewing pleasure.
Platforms: Arcade, Sega Genesis, Sega 32X, Playstation, Sega Saturn, Jaguar
Release Date: 2/24/1995
For a moment I was thinking about going with Barkley Shut Up-N-Jam for the tenth slot then I remembered the thrill of beating this game. Once you go through the full 27 team list you are rewarded with the expanded rosters. This would mean you would get the rookies on their actual team and get other players withheld. I enjoyed playing with Grant Hill and Joe Dumars on the Pistons and with extra players along, I could finally play with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton alongside each other.
It was the original put on turbo. There was the hot spots that were now included, as I stated you have expanded rosters and Tournament Mode which added an extra layer of difficulty to this popular game. Fun, addictive and efficient might be the best way to describe this game.
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date: April 1, 1998
This was the first game to feature Kobe Bryant on the cover as he was just beginning his career. Usually I wasn't a fan of the Nintendo 64 controller, but the stick was able to utilize the moves of players. This was most prominent in guards such as Kobe Bryant.
Basketball games were still in their infancy of realism, so there was only so much one could get from them. Understanding this, Courtside put in codes to give you a different feel like an NBA Jam game would. The retro court which looked like a disco and the Alien Heads codes were little things to liven up the game.
The graphics weren't amazing, but the game play was still fun. This would be the one that got it started for the solid follow up, NBA Courtside 2.
Platform: MS-DOS, Sega Genesis
Release: 1989 (DOS), 1990 (Genesis)
Licenses hadn't been around in the NBA yeat to make their play in video games. The NFL had made their mark with Tecmo Bowl in getting real life plauers from 1988 rosters in their game. RBI Baseball by Tengen got 1987 baseball players into their game. Lakers vs. Celtics would do the same for the game of basketball.
The Dos version has ten '88-'89 NBA teams, including the East and West All-Stars. The Genesis version, which was released one year later, also has ten NBA teams from the '89-'90 season including the All-Star teams again. Later releases such as the Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs and NBA Showdown would have the full team rosters available over these limited ones.
The teams that made it into the game were all teams that were top in their conferences and had a signature player. Tom Chambers dunk was almost unstoppable in the game. There was also Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler's dunks and of course, Larry Bird's three pointer.
It put into play different home and away jerseys for the first time and had player portraits for the starting five. Voice overs for the referee and counting the number of personal fouls a players has committed were also included for the first time. Laying the building blocks for future basketball EA games began here.
Platform: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo
Release Date: 1994
The first game to go by the title 'Live', it replaced former names NBA Showdown and the Lakers versus Celtics and Bulls vs. Lakers before them. NBA Live '95 implemented fluidity to a genre that had been stuck in neutral. The simulation game had been a slightly rougher, slowed down pace in prior editions and Live picked it up. I always enjoyed the announcer yelling Threeee when you would nail a trey.
There were small instances of humor such as the game making Chucky Brown white and the ridiculous three point abilities of Joe Wolf. Their was an actual fast break in this game which is what truly changed the flow of basketball simulators. The passing was quick and sharp allowing for smooth jumpers instead of having a hand in your face every time you shot like in prior EA games.
The tacky background music actually grew on me over time, and being able to trade players was a needed extra feature they came through on. The following year they would add the Create-a-Player function and had the expansion Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies.
This though, was the game that made progress with tomahawk flush.
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Release Date: October 24, 2000
This was the next step into graphics and presentation in basketball games. The first step was made by the original NBA 2K, this just took it up a notch. The first factor that has to be put into play is the ability to play online that is featured here. It was the first online basketball game via SegaNet.
The graphics were cleaned up from the 2K predecessor and even on the less powerful Dreamcast, 2K1 looked better than Live 2001 on the Playstation 2. This game had a lot of the base features we are use to today in it. There were the historic players from the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's that were put in the game as you could finally play with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain.
Street courts were added as another element outside the box. Franchise mode was also revamped into its own. Things like Kevin Garnett actually being a stud 99 Overall in the future made sense as he would win the MVP three years down the road in my game as in real life.
What didn't make sense was when Shammond Williams (Former Point Guard at North Carolina) ended up being a 95 rated player three years later in my Franchise mode and Kobe Bryant was only a 89. The game had added enough features that besides a great playing game it had replay value out the ying yang. It was a fun game and started a great setup for future Franchises in basketball games to follow.
Release Date: January 22, 2002
This was the first game to use the power of the Xbox. Many did not play this game due to the small amount of people at the time that only were playing the Xbox for the original Halo or because they liked how the paint would chip on their helmets in Madden 2002. The power of the Xbox was used on this game as the graphics looked crisp and the play ran at a smooth rate.
The play-by-play in this game was done by Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson who did play-by-play for the Sonics in the 90's. Well, they came back for this one and had maybe the best commentary I've heard in a round ball game. Phrases such as Johnson's: "What a Jimmy!" to describe a jump shot were hysterical. Calabro had his one liners as well. Their commentary made it feel more like a real game.
There were downfalls with this game, in that it didn't have a Create Player function and you could only play one full season without a Franchise mode available. Even with those two problems, the game was fun and enticing.
The key of all things was to play against a friend and things could become highly heated. If one had John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Gary Payton or the Rookie Tony Parker in this game, you would just hope he had an off game. If he didn't those four were incredibly frustrating to stop. It's a game that gets overlooked because of its Xbox exclusive play. It would not shine today as it did then, but it still offered a great product, especially head-to-head.
Platform: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube
Release Date: April 24, 2003
I had to get an NBA Street game into the fold. The original was pretty nice; but the second one became a beast. Adding in 25 street legends and creating more dunks and street tricks didn't hurt. The addition of the Trick Point Challenge didn't hurt either. A favorite feature of this game had to be taking three of the greatest players of all time and trying to roll with them.
I would always go with a lineup of Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Having Wilt and Shaq together or Bill Russell in with one of those two, also was the creative answer I was asking for. Putting together the multiple move combos and the commentary from Bobbito Garcia in the background added a pulsating rhythm to the game.
It is easy to pick up and play in a very short time as can be the games. The gameplay progresses quickly to those who can be impatient. This is a game to check out if you haven't had a chance in the past.
Platform: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, Playstation, PC
Release Date: October 7, 2002
The opening of the freestyle control in basketball video games was started here. If you played NBA Live 2002, you could remember that it was still a base game at the time with basic functions and movements. NBA Shootout, NBA Inside Drive and NBA 2K2 all were looking for that next step as well. Live hit that movement element first in gaming.
This was the first game to truly get use out of the analog sticks over the traditional joypad. It ushered in a mix of simulation, but had a flow of arcade feel which it pulled off. Having a player like a Jason Kidd, Baron Davis or Allen Iverson could be pure fun in this game. Pulling off a crossover, then a spin move and finishing with a swift layup past a defender was money.
Even with the dry commentary, the game still had things going its way. Turn off the game commentary, put on some music and there was the answer to the problem. Throw in the Classic Uniforms and play calls on the fly and it was a great revival for a struggling franchise at Electronic Arts.
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 2, PC
Release Date: October 7, 2008
This is the best simulation game to date and before others get on about why it should be NBA 2K10, let's explore 2K9.
First off, the graphics are as great as any bball game that has been made. If you have this on the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 with high definition, the picture looks amazing. This game makes great use of truly establishing the differences of players through their ratings. If you have Kobe Bryant he will take over the game just as Dwayne Wade or LeBron James would. Don't expect the same 30 point outbursts from the likes of Chris Kaman, Brian Skinner or Brian Scalabrine.
If you have a great defensive team like the Celtics, they will play great defense, just as the Grizzlies will play poor defense. Chauncey Billups will accurately hit the three and make your team play better as a unit than Allen Iverson would as was shown through the past trade for each other in real life. As will Allen Iverson's declining skills show up when you play with him as was established through 2K's Living Rosters. A way that updates the skills of players daily that Electronic Arts put into their NBA Live game as well.
The game play is just outstanding overall and the only place you can truly fault the game is in the passing lanes. There are errant passes aplenty in this game, but unfortunately every simulation game is still struggling to make passing truly realistic. These are overall very minute towards the whole of the game. The interior post moves are smooth and the use of the glass when you play with a big man like Tim Duncan is refreshing to see.
The Slam Dunk Contest was brought up to speed by having Vince Carter challenge you to a dunk off if you win the dunk contest with a high enough score. To have this action happen is surprising to say the least. The three point challenge is tough, but gives you a better idea on how the individual player, say Steve Nash, shoots the ball comparatively to Ray Allen. The slight nuances of play in previous titles is upped in many facets of this game.
The 2K Reel maker and viewer is great along with the ability to create and download rosters and videos online. It was cool downloading the 1997-98 roster which one person had created and watching countless amounts of videos that had been created by different users through the reel maker.
It overshadows 2K10 in competitive balance in the Association Mode (Franchise Mode) and reaffirms its position even for being a year older game. The home team and road team are given the correct chances to win and lose based on your play; not on whether or not you are the home team or road team and that is another factor in why this is the best simulation game that has been made up to now.
We'll see if this years title can bump it off.
Platform: Arcade, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, GameBoy
Release Date: 1993
"Boom-shaka-laka!" "He's On Fire!" "Uh Oh!" "Rejected!" If you've played this game, you can surely recall these quotes by Tim Kitzrow, who is returning for commentary on the new NBA Jam that comes out on Tuesday for the Wii. It will be downloadable on the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 soon.
This is my personal favorite game of all-time and why not? Even if you didn't like sports, you liked NBA Jam. That's at least the feeling I got from people who didn't know the difference between Kevin Johnson and Detlef Schrempf. You could put this game in front of them and they would get hooked. I mean, it actually gave reason for people to remember Brad Lohaus. I think Brad owes Midway a big thank you.
The shattering of the backboards on a nasty dunk, the 30 feet in the air rises for dunks and turbo coloring of their shoes all made the players seem like they came from a fantasy land. Plenty of people were putting quarters in these machines back in the day and who could blame them. It was a fun game to play against a buddy, and as much fun to play against the computer.
There was always that one game you should have won, but your friend or the A.I. hits a full court shot to beat you. It pissed you off, but it was part of what made the game memorable. It also still is playable today, making its replay value great after all these years.
This is all from a game that was missing His Airness and then Shaq and Charles Barkley in the home versions (Barkley was in early copies of the Sega version). The fact that its getting so much fanfare as a new version of a game comes out that is very similar to the original is a testament to its greatness. It's been seventeen years, but this is still the best basketball game made.