For as long as there have been video game systems, there have been sports video games, and through the years, some of the best games ever made have been baseball games.
From the first baseball game for the Atari 2600 system back in 1978 to MLB 2K11 this season for the Xbox 360 and PS3, there have been some great games, as well as some not so great games. It should be noted that PC games were not included for the sake of the list, so no Backyard Baseball (and no, the PS2 version doesn't make the cut).
Here are my power rankings for the top 50 baseball video games through the years. I took into account how the game compared to its counterparts when it was released, if the game brought any groundbreaking innovations to the table and how playable the game still is today.
Developer: VR Sports
This game goes down as the biggest flop in baseball gaming history, as the gaming community anticipated its arrival for roughly two years as it remained in production, only to be thoroughly disappointed by the end result.
For as long as it took to make, the game has a surprising number of glitches and overall shoddy play. Everything about it is choppy, from the way fielders move to the way batters swing to the overall pace of the game itself.
Furthermore, the little things that you would think the game had time to shore up in two years, like the menu screens and even something as simple as the fact that the ball never actually makes contact with the bat but instead comes very close and then appears to be magically hit, fall well short of satisfying. Just the very definition of a disappointment.
Platform: Atari 2600, Atari 5200
In its second foray into baseball games, Atari made a few improvement, adding an actual discernible diamond and a full nine players on defense who could move independently.
However, with a bevy of glitches, including just a handful of different places a ball could be hit and balls thrown over the first baseman's head at a hilariously high rate, the gameplay improvement was minimal.
So while the graphics were better and it looked more like a baseball game, it still left a lot to be desired, to say the least.
Major League Baseball was the first game to be licensed by MLB and therefore was the first to contain actual team names. However, it was not licensed by the MLBPA, so the players were referred to only by number rather than name.
The game itself is incredibly flawed, as the ball seems to disregard the laws of physics on a regular basis. The runners move far faster than the fielders, making it increasingly difficult to get an out. The pitcher is unable to move freely on the rubber, a feature nearly every other game of the time had. The camera system follows the ball but does not take into account including the fielder on the screen. On and on the list goes.
It does have some redeeming qualities, as there are far more managerial decisions to be made than in other games of the era, but overall MLB's first officially licensed game falls flat.
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Tony La Russa Baseball was a poor effort at best by Sega Genesis, as it fell well short of unseating another game endorsed by a manager, Tommy Lasorda Baseball, that was made a full four years earlier.
Really, there is no excuse to not be able to top a game made four years prior when it comes to sports games, but the choppy game play of this one drags it towards the bottom of the list.
For the statistically minded, this game was heavy on the stats, which was nice, but it offered very little in the gameplay department and regularly froze up for random intervals throughout the game.
It does, however, come with a ringing endorsement from a true gaming expert in Tony La Russa, who says it puts you in the majors like no other game does—and who am I to say Tony La Russa has never played video games in his life?
Platform: NES, SNES, Game Boy
While Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball ranks as one of the best baseball games for the Nintendo Game Boy, it is simply for lack of better options, as the game was among the worst on the Nintendo system and not much better on Super Nintendo.
The biggest issue with the game is its overall unresponsiveness, as the game just does not react as it should and makes for an overall unenjoyable playing experience.
There are significantly better games for the Nintendo, which is even more unimpressive since this was one of the last made for that system, and Game Boy is really the only system worth owning this game on.
Developer: Date East
Publisher: Data East
Bo Jackson was among sports' biggest names back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it was inevitable that he would be someone that got his own video game, but if there was one thing that Bo didn't know, it was how to endorse a good game.
With the options of exhibition or tournament, the game offers slim pickings when it comes to game modes, and the gameplay itself is average at best.
In the ultimate example of self-admiration, there is a cheat code that allows you to play with an all-Bo Jackson team. Still, that ridiculous addition is not enough to save this one.
Platform: NES, SNES
Without licensing from MLB or the MLBPA, this game from Tecmo falls far short of its football counterpart and one of the most legendary video games out there, Tecmo Bowl.
The game contains real player stats from the 1998 season, but the names are changed and the teams are generically named. The gameplay itself is average at best, as hitting is far more difficult than pitching and gets frustrating after a while.
The fielding is poor, and while the graphics are solid, the camera angles are less than ideal in certain cases as well. Overall, just a miss by Tecmo, especially considering it came out the same year as Tecmo Bowl.
The game was rereleased in 1994 for the Super Nintendo, and the gameplay was improved significantly, but it was still a middle of the road game at best against other SNES baseball games.
Super Batter Up is a good game overall, as it had an MLBPA license and contained real players. However, Namco pulled a bit of a fast one here and used largely the same format it did in its ultra-successful RBI Baseball series, and this is more or less a copy of that.
The fact that Namco released a nearly identical game for the SNES system under a different name knocks this one down, but it is a relatively good game as far as gameplay.
In this particular case, RBI Baseball came first, and it will get the glory it deserves, while this copycat version finds itself much further down the list.
Developer: Devil's Thumb Entertainment
Publisher: GT Interactive
Simply put, this game could not compete with All-Star Baseball and Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., among others available on the market when it hit the shelves.
The graphics were not on par with the rest of the games of that year, the audio was much maligned for its repetitive nature and the home run frequency made it a bit ridiculous on top of everything else.
It is little wonder why the game lasted only a year, and while it had potential with a number of features that made it competitive with the other games on paper, it fell well short in the presentation department, and that could not be overcome.
Developer: Burst Studios
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Had it been the days of Sega Genesis and 16-bit games, Grand Slam 97 would have been a terrific game, but the fact of the matter is it came several years and a generation of systems too late.
The graphics are terrible, and the game play itself has far too many glitches and poor physics to be on par with the other games of the time.
However, it was innovative in its pitching and hitting style, incorporating a pitching meter similar to what is used in games today, although an overly complex version, as well as a batter power meter that was something that had never been done. These sort of things made future games better but did nothing to save Grand Slam 97 as a game.
Developer: Left Field Productions
Relief Pitcher is an interesting case in that rather than being another standard baseball game for the SNES, which God knows there were more than enough of, especially in 1994, it focuses more on what its title suggests: relief pitchers.
There are two game modes, and while the standard game mode is nothing special, there is also a scenario mode with 12 unique scenarios that take place in the late innings of games, when relief pitchers make their money.
While it is incredibly original, once you beat the 12 scenarios, you are left with a baseball game that has no season mode and is poor at best when it comes to its standard game mode. Still, an interesting game well worth buying for a buck now.
Platform: NES, SNES, Sega Saturn
Developer: Jaleco Entertainment
Publisher: Jaleco Entertainment
The Bases Loaded series spanned eight total installments and started off on the NES before including titles on the SNES and finally Sega Saturn, as it spanned three generations of systems.
The game itself improved significantly from its first installment to its second, as the designers improved perhaps the biggest flaw and changed the batting view from behind home plate to angled from the side, making it easier to hit. However, from there on, only graphics improved, as gameplay was largely unchanged.
It had neither MLB nor MLBPA licensing rights. The fictional players changed from year to year and were actually rather cleverly named. Bases Loaded 3 managed to reach an endorsement deal with Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg for the cover, but other than that, it had no tie to MLB.
The final SNES version had a fun glitch in which a split-finger fastball was impossible to hit if thrown up in the strike zone, but that was far from making it a great game.
Platform: SNES, Sega Genesis
Developer: Park Place
Publisher: Sony Imagesoft
ESPN Baseball Tonight is an interesting game in that it has an MLB license and contains real teams, as well as strong involvement from ESPN personalities Chris Berman and Dan Patrick, but it does not have an MLBPA license and is left with rosters of made-up players.
The game also had a marketing agreement with Little Caesars in what was the first real example of product placement in a video game with Little Caesars billboards on the outfield walls. This would be the first steps towards the barrage of marketing found in video games today.
Aside from all of the promotional bells and whistles, however, it was an average game at best with a number of gameplay issues. The game was made largely for the PC but was released with a scaled-down version on console, and the result was not a good one.
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
With ESPN jumping on the baseball video game train, one of the nation's top baseball magazines followed suit with a game of its own for the Super Nintendo.
With an MLBPA license, it had the advantage of accurate big league rosters, and it was an enjoyable game as long as you were at the plate. It took a sharp downturn when it came to pitching and fielding, however.
Player routinely legged out infield singles on routine ground balls, the outfielders got terrible jumps and the overall pitching was basic to a point of fault.
All in all, this is an enjoyable game with good graphics, but there were far better options on the market, and this was really nothing special.
Developer: Sony Interactive
When MLB Pennant Race came out in 1997, it had Triple Play '97 and World Series Baseball to compete with for top honors on the year, and while it was a close race between the three, it took third to the other two.
It had the nice feature of choosing between an arcade mode where essentially the laws of physics did not apply and the standard mode that is more what one would expect from a baseball title, which made it appeal to a greater audience.
While it did not fall short in terms of features and graphics, the gameplay itself was very slow and loaded between each inning. This put it a step behind the other two games and kept this from taking off into a series like Triple Play would, but SCEA would return later with MLB: The Show and get the last laugh.
Platform: Sega Genesis, SNES
Another in a rather long list of player-endorsed games with no MLB licensing, Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball is the definition of average across the board.
The graphics are solid, clearly showing the improvement from NES to SNES, and while the stadiums and fields themselves are very generic-looking, the players are actually quite detailed.
Perhaps the funniest thing about the game is that Cal Ripken Jr. is the only real player in the game, and his stats are shown as a .348 batting average and 51 home runs. Can't say I remember Ripken ever putting up those kind of numbers, but props to him for jacking up his video game persona.
Nolan Ryan's Baseball is equally average compared to Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball, with a few solid additions that push it over the top.
Most notably would be a better season mode that saves your statistics and is a bigger reason to keep playing the game.
As far as gameplay itself, everything is average at best with the nice added feature of zoom-ins during close plays, which is a nice addition that other games at the time did not yet have.
All in all, much like the Ripken game, there are much worse options, but it's really nothing special, although word is it did come with a sweet Nolan Ryan poster as well.
One of the original 18 games that were made available when the Nintendo system first hit stores, Baseball played a major role in helping legitimize what was an otherwise unknown entity in the newborn gaming system.
It featured just eight teams, and without MLB licensing they are not named after real teams but instead use letters, but the effort was put in so that the C's are clearly identified as the Cardinals and so on.
The game marked a significant improvement over Atari and was surprisingly realistic in that where you hit the ball was based off timing and where you positioned your batter in the box. Pitching allowed for a number of different pitches to be thrown using the D-pad. Fielding, however, was all computer controlled, which was a drawback.
Still, this was a big step forward, both for baseball video games and for the Nintendo gaming system.
Platform: Atari 2600
In the first baseball game not developed by Atari, huge strides were made, as the gaming world had its first legitimately playable baseball game.
Like most Mattel games of the time, it was two-player only, so there was no computer to play when it was just you, but other than that, it was a step in the right direction across the board.
The gameplay was much smoother, and while the graphics were little more than a men's bathroom sign and the fielders were lacking a shortstop, this was as good as it got until after the original Nintendo was released.
Developer: Sony Imagesoft
Publisher: Sony Imagesoft
In an era when licensing was becoming more prevalent and the games that did not receive MLB licensing did their best to make the game as close to MLB accurate as possible, Extra Innings took it in the other direction.
In what was one of the first baseball games released for the Super Nintendo, developers embraced the fact that it was not an MLB representation and instead sought to make the game as fun as possible.
With the players drawn in anime-esque style, the gameplay was perhaps the smoothest and most easily picked up of all baseball games at the time. It is by no means an MLB game, but it is a solid baseball game in general. Just look at that title screen.
As far as realistic baseball games go, Bad News Baseball falls a bit short, as you need look no further than the fact that the umpires are rabbits. It goes beyond that, however, as it is incredibly easy to hit a home run and the vast majority of runs come that way.
However, it is extremely playable with its fast pace and enjoyable graphics, from Mr. T being lined up at the end of the team to congratulate a player after a home run to the many zoom-in situations.
While this game is not for the baseball purist, it is one that can be as easily picked up as any video game out there and appeals to even the most casual of fans in that respect.
Platform: Atari 2600
The first baseball video game made for the first legitimate gaming system, Home Run was as basic as you could get.
It didn't resemble any baseball game I've ever watched, as it consisted of a batter and either one fielder or three fielders who moved in unison based on the difficulty setting you chose.
As the pitcher, you could control the ball with the joystick once the pitch was released, making for impossible breaking pitches, which was fun if not overly easy. All in all, it was a valiant first attempt at a baseball game and still has some playability against a friend.
Developer: Nintendo EAD
On the other end of the spectrum from the first baseball game in Home Run, the Wii franchise and its standard sports pack Wii Sports represent the present and future of gaming, as we have gone from a single button and joystick to using a small controller and our bodies to control what's going on on the screen in a matter of 33 years.
Wii Sports baseball is basic but a lot of fun to play and a good benchmark of how far we have come technologically.
Platform: Sega Master System
Licensed by MLB but not the MLBPA, Reggie Jackson Baseball contains real teams but made-up players.
The game offers a number of innovative features for its time, including bench-clearing brawls whenever a player is beaned, animated umpires, pitchers warming up on the sidelines, third-base coaches and just lots of little things that make it more realistic.
The gameplay itself is also impressive, as the fielding was far and away the best of its kind at the time, and the pitching and hitting are right on par with other games of the time.
In a strange decision, the game has three field colors—red, yellow and green—that are chosen at random, which is odd to say the least.
All in all, this was a solid game with few arguments to be made for the time.
Hardball had a number of previous titles made for the PC, and that translated into a cornucopia of features that no other game at the time had, as it was hands down the best game from a statistical and simulation standpoint.
However, the graphics were miles away from its competitors Triple Play '99 and MLB 99, and that meant a third-rate game in the eyes of most consumers.
A solid game done in by inferior graphics, but surely one of the best PC baseball games on the market for years with its bevy of features.
Platform: Sega Genesis
Tommy Lasorda Baseball was the first baseball game made exclusively for Sega Genesis, and while it was merely endorsed by Lasorda and had no licensing with MLB or the MLBPA, it was a solid game nonetheless.
The graphics were above average, and the gameplay was without the many glitches that plagued other early baseball games. It was more of an arcade-style game and was rather fast-paced.
It was basic but effective, with the added bonus of an announcer that announces balls, strikes and outs as well as announcing the position that each ball is hit at to aid in fielding. The pitching and hitting are bare bones, but some home run balls leave the stadium into a parking lot, which is neat. All in all, a solid game for its time and an interesting endorsement.
Platform: PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Publisher: 2K Sports
The Bigs offers an arcade-style alternative from the ultra realistic titles like MLB: The Show and MLB 2K that are on the market today.
The game is all about style and less about realism and offers standard arcade-style features like player power-ups, as well as an impressive pinball mini game that is very addicting.
It does not go quite as overboard as the SlugFest series but instead finds a happy medium between real baseball and arcade-style fun.
Platform: PlayStation, PS2
High Heat was a relatively successful series, and much like HardBall, it featured an incredibly deep simulation mode and several features that the competitors did not have.
However, also similar to HardBall, it could not compete graphically with the front runners, and because of that it fell into the second tier of baseball games during its time on the market.
It was able to successfully make the jump to the next generation of consoles with a PS2 version in 2003, but the 3DO company went bankrupt later that year, and the game was shut down before it could progress any further.
While many baseball games are hailed for their realism and having true-to-life rosters and teams, Mario Superstar Baseball is little more than a fun game for even the most casual of baseball fans.
That said, it delivers that incredibly well, with a vast array of Mario characters to choose from and an impressive number of mini games to keep the gamer entertained beyond just the standard game.
This is not for everyone but offers a different take on baseball games and is very easy to just pick up and play even if you are not a baseball fan.
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: EA Sports
In the first baseball game produced by EA Sports, and one of the first full roster MLBPA-licensed games, MLBPA Baseball was a big step towards the great baseball games of today in its connection to MLB.
Aside from including the players' names and stats, there was also a photo of each player in the game, which was neat, and the gameplay itself is solid with good graphics and smooth play across the board.
There were drawbacks, however, as it lacked an MLB license and therefore did not have real teams, and it also required you to enter a lengthy password to return to your season, which was annoying.
All in all, a good first step for EA Sports in the baseball world.
Developer: Angel Studios
After knocking it out of the park with the first two titles featuring Ken Griffey Jr. on the Super Nintendo, the N64 version fell a bit short of the legendary status those two games have attained, but it still ranks as one of the best baseball titles on the system.
Sticking with an arcade-style presentation like the other games, it also took on a far more realistic approach when it came to the actual gameplay.
With great graphics, a number of features and the ever valuable Ken Griffey Jr. endorsement, this is among the best games out there if you are planning on dusting off the old N64.
Platform: PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher; Crystal Dynamics
Another game like MLB Pennant Race that sort of got lost in the shuffle when it first hit the market in 1997, it could not compete with the big boys when it came to features, and without an MLB and MLBPA license it was a game of old with made-up players and teams.
So why so high on this list?
3D Baseball was the first baseball game to full integrate motion capture camera work into its presentation, something that would become standard issue in baseball games in the years to come.
It was a technology that was ahead of its time and gave the game a lifelike feel that no other game at the time could boast. So while the game itself is far from great, it was a big step in baseball gaming.
Platform: SNES, Game Boy, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis, PlayStation
This was the first baseball game for PlayStation and bridged the gap between Super Nintendo and the newer generation of systems.
Thanks to that fact, it was the most realistic game to come out for the Super Nintendo, with complete MLBPA and MLB licensing. Its graphics were terrific, and it offered extremely smooth gameplay with only a few glitches.
The pitching in the game is a bit ridiculous, as every pitcher has his choice of roughly a dozen different pitches to throw with perfect control, and fielding in the outfield leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it was a good game top to bottom.
The best part of the game may have been its scenario mode, which offers a number of situations to complete that are actually challenging and offer a time-consuming addition to the regular game.
Developer: Ultra Games
Calling Base Wars a true baseball game is a stretch, but calling it an awful lot of fun would be absolutely accurate.
The game sticks to the basic format of a baseball game to begin with, with a few exceptions. First off, the players have been replaced with robots. The biggest change, however, would be the battling that ensues through the course of a game.
Anytime there is a close play, the fielder and runner engage in a battle, which determines whether the runner is safe or out. Each robot has a health bar, and if he is involved in enough battles throughout the course of the game, he can be blown up, leaving that team with one less player, with three such explosions resulting in a forfeit.
This game is half baseball, half robot-fighting game, but it is 100 percent awesome and is impressive in its vast appeal, as it is geared towards nearly everyone who ever owned a Nintendo.
Platform: Sega Saturn, N64, PS2, GameCube, Xbox, PS2
Developer: Iguana Entertainment
Following the success of Frank Thomas' Big Hurt Baseball, Acclaim got back in the game the following season with All-Star Baseball, although it was released solely on Sega Saturn in its first year.
When it first came out, it was widely recognized as the best baseball game on the market, with its N64 version particularly well received. It also had the added marketing benefit of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as the game's spokesperson.
However, in 2000, when the new wave of systems launched, the series failed to make the jump as successfully as some of other other titles, and while it hung around for several more years, it was never regarded as one of the top options again before finally falling by the wayside after the 2005 version.
Platform: SNES, Sega Genesis, Neo-Geo
Developer: Tradewest, NuFX, SNK
Publisher: SNK, Electronic Arts, SNK
Many times when a game is set in the future, like Super Baseball 2020 is, the developers get so caught up in adding new, futuristic rules to the game that it loses the feel of the original game. However, with this title that is not the case.
That is not to say it is not without original rules, most notably the player power-ups that reward your player (or robot, in the case of this game) for a successful at-bat by allowing him to use a special ability later in the game.
Another interesting change is the addition of the home run zone, wherein you can only hit a home run by hitting it to dead center field, as the rest of the outfield wall is in essence one giant Green Monster.
Overall, this is as good as it gets for a futuristic baseball game, and it holds up incredibly well considering it is over 20 years old.
Platform: Atari 2600, Atari 7800
Pete Rose Baseball was far and away the best baseball game to be made for the Atari system, but it was not released until 1989, which was a full four years after the Nintendo system was released, and Atari was already well on its way out.
The game itself, however, was a marked improvement over any of its counterparts. It offered a unique behind-the-pitcher view that no other game had, which made it much more player-friendly.
Further, there were two different fielding views on the infield and three in the outfield, making its camera work far more impressive than anything at the time. It would be much higher if it were released in Atari's heyday, but it is still a good game for its time and system.
Platform: PS2, Xbox, GameCube
Developer: Gratuitous Games, Midway, Blue Shift
The SlugFest series was the definition of an arcade baseball game, and you need look no further than the fact that Midway was the publisher to realize that it was as good as it gets for an arcade title.
With 2003, 2004 and 2006 versions, as well as SlugFest Loaded, which also came out in 2004, it was a short-lived series, but it offered consumers something different.
The game was a street-style baseball game with a good deal of violence and an overall in-your-face presentation. In essence, it was a baseball game for the football fan. With the move recently towards realism, the game was pushed out of the market, but for non-baseball purists, it was the perfect baseball game.
Platform: Sega Genesis
Sports Talk Baseball was the second sports game and first baseball game to have running commentary throughout the game in what was a big step for the sports gaming community.
The game had an MLBPA license, so it featured real players and stats for over 500 players, but they were put on made up teams, as it did not have an MLB licensing agreement.
It took having real players in the game to another level, adding in unique batting stances, and while the gameplay itself was still just as basic as the other games of the era, it made for a much more enjoyable playing experience.
This gets its high ranking more for the fact that it had an announcer who said over 200 different phrases than anything else, but it was a solid game regardless and the best baseball title for the Sega Genesis.
Platform: PlayStation, N64, Game Boy, Xbox, PS2
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
After experiencing some success with MLBPA Baseball, EA Sports got back in the game in 1997 with the first installment of its Triple Play Baseball series.
While it was a solid series, it seemed to always play second fiddle to whatever baseball game Sega came out with that season, be it the World Series game or the MLB 98-06 series, and the sales reflected the fact that it was a step behind.
Regardless, this was a serviceable game and was hands down the best option for PlayStation in 2000. It was also the building block to the MVP Baseball series, which would begin in 2003, but more on that later.
Platform: NES, SNES
Developer: Culture Brain
Publisher: Culture Brain
On the surface, Baseball Simulator 1.000 is similar to most other games of its era, with adequate graphics and standard batter-pitcher interface from the angle behind home plate. The game plays smoothly and has few glitches, if any, which makes it one of the better choices of its time.
However, the Ultra League takes it to another level, as it features players with ridiculous special abilities that must be used on a budget of points. Pitchers have things like the ninja pitch and stopper ball in their arsenal, while the batter has the choice of meteor hit or bomb hit.
The Ultra League mode makes this game one of the best titles for the NES and allows it to still be quite playable today.
In what would be the last baseball game released for Super Nintendo, the Nintendo company teamed up with Ken Griffey Jr. once again in an attempt to follow up the success of their first SNES game together for one last hurrah, and it went really well.
The gameplay was very smooth, although the fielding view was a bit primitive, and the graphics were very good.
However, the best part of the game was the season mode. Players on your team were assigned a point value on a scale from 1-100, and after each game, their value was changed based on their performance. This made trading incredibly fun, as an average player on a hot streak could land you a star player in a slump.
While it does not top Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball from back in 1994 in my mind, this still ranks right near the top of the list as far as SNES baseball titles go.
Platform: Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Xbox, PS2
Developer: Blue Sky Software, Hip Games
Publisher: Sega, Hip Games
While its gameplay was not the best at the time, World Series Baseball was by far the most realistic baseball game on the market when it first hit shelves in 1994.
It was the first game with both an MLB and MLBPA license, which alone made it more realistic, but beyond that, it took into account the finer points, from audible vendors in the stands to realistic stadiums and everything in between.
The game went on to be one of the longest-running baseball series of all time, as it spanned several generations of the Sega system before the developing rights changed hands. In 2001, it was released as World Series Baseball 2K1 and was the best game available on the market through 2003. After more changing hands, it would eventually become the MLB 2K series of today, but more on that later.
Platform: PlayStation, PS2
Developer: 989 Sports
Back on the horse after the flop that was MLB Pennant Race, SCEA came back with the simply named MLB series and enjoyed the success it was seeking.
For this series, Sony teamed up with 989 Sports, and the combination became the baseball gaming world's best baseball game available on the PlayStation for a number of years.
Because it was Sony-published, it did not have a chance to compete for purchase on Xbox and Sega consoles, but it did just fine with its system and improved on a consistent basis to keep up with its competitors and then some. More importantly, it led up to the creation of MLB: The Show, which is one of just two games on the market today.
Platform: PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Wii
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
When the World Series Baseball series was taken over by 2K Sports, it helped usher the series into the next generation of consoles, starting by getting MLB to agree to an official licensing agreement and pushing MVP Baseball out of the market.
Since that time, the 2K baseball franchise has continued to grow, as it is now one of just two baseball games on the market that compete for the top spot.
However, starting in 2006 and every year since, the top spot has belonged to MLB: The Show, and until the 2K series comes out with something innovative to pass it—although the $1 million giveaway for a perfect game was terrific marketing—it will stay just behind The Show as far as overall gameplay.
Publisher: Nintendo, Romstar
The Baseball Stars game was on par with the rest of the baseball gaming world when it was first released as far as gameplay and graphics are concerned, but one feature above all others places it in the upper echelon: the ability to save thanks to a built-in memory chip. This meant that a season could be started and returned to, while cumulative statistics were kept.
Not only that, but it was also the first NES sports game to include a create-a-player feature. Even better still, when you won a game you earned money, which could be used to improve your players' abilities throughout the course of the season.
One odd addition to this game was a mercy rule, as the game ended after any inning in which a team held a 10-run lead, or the game stopped immediately if a 100-run lead was ever attained. This did nothing to take away from the game but was an interesting twist.
All in all, just a fantastic early era baseball game that had all the features you could ask for in a game that would be played regularly.
Developer: Software Creations
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball marked the first time Nintendo itself had published a baseball game since the original version of Baseball Stars back in 1989, and it managed to top itself despite making a fantastic game back then.
The game had an MLB license, so it contained real teams and stadiums, and while the MLBPA did not license it, the rosters were deep, and all of the statistics reflected the 1993 season, so the dedicated player could edit the rosters to reflect the actual rosters.
The gameplay was the smoothest of any SNES baseball title, and while it is not the most realistic as far as appearance, the graphics are terrific, and the final result of games is generally realistic scores, as the computer is a worthy opponent.
In my opinion, this was the best baseball title for SNES and is a game I play to this day. Some will argue that Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run was better, but in my eyes, it was no contest what the top SNES baseball game was.
Platform: NES, SNES, Sega Genesis
RBI Baseball was the first game that was licensed by the MLBPA, meaning that the game could include real players. On the other hand, it was not licensed by MLB itself, so no team names could be included.
Instead, the game was made up of eight teams, the eight playoff teams from the previous season, who were referred to by just their city names. There were also two All-Star teams with the top players not on the other eight teams.
Players were given different skill sets: Vince Coleman was the fastest player in the game, Nolan Ryan threw the hardest and so on. The pitchers also lose stamina as the game goes on, and bullpen use is necessary.
The original was well received, and seven sequels were made, spanning the NES, SNES and Sega Genesis systems, as RBI Baseball marked the first real baseball video game franchise and still stands as one of the best games ever. This is the Tecmo Bowl of baseball games.
Platform: PS2, PS3
While the MLB series from SCEA enjoyed a great amount of success during its eight-year run, Sony took it to another level altogether when it released MLB: The Show for the first time in 2006.
Not only was it a fantastic game on the standard gameplay level and increasingly realistic, but its career mode was also a huge step forward in baseball gaming.
The new mode allowed you to create a player and advance your way through the minor leagues and into the majors, playing just the part of games that directly affected your created player. The 2K series would adopt this game mode in following years, but it was The Show that introduced it to the baseball gaming world.
Platform: PS2, Xbox, GameCube
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
After experiencing success with both its Triple Play series, EA Sports finally put out the baseball game everyone knew it was capable of and a game on par with Madden Football in MVP Baseball.
EA took something as simple as adding a pitching meter and changed the entire baseball gaming experience. After its surprise success in 2003, EA took it to the next level in 2004 and 2005, producing two of the greatest sports games ever made with a franchise mode that rivaled Madden.
However, following the 2005 season, MLB reached an exclusive licensing agreement that prohibited third-party publishers like EA Sports from using player and team names and likenesses, and just like that, MVP Baseball became the Arrested Development of sports video games.
While the games of the Xbox 360 and PS3 are ridiculously realistic and fantastic games, for me, the best baseball video games ever made will always be MVP Baseball 2004 and 2005.