My XBOX 360 decided to break down on me recently.
I was home alone with nothing to do but stare angrily at the TV when I remembered that I packed a little nugget of goodness away that I assumed I would never use again.
There I was, a 38-year old man, setting up my old school Nintendo Entertainment System.
As soon as I turned it on, the ringing bell of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! was beckoning through the sound system. I was amazed that the game turned on properly (without the use of the cartridge-era mainstay 'blow the dust out of it' technique), but as all Nintendo experts know, it's best to always secure a game in the Nintendo with another game on top, wedged in for safe keeping.
I zipped through the rankings, only to get my butt kicked by the second Don Flamenco (he's so hard to knock out). I decided that I needed a Nintendo/80s fix instantly. I went through my suitcase full of games and I haven't been the same since.
I feel I can now present, with confidence, the best sports games the Nintendo Entertainment System had to offer.
Track and Field was my first experience with simulated exercise. The only pains received were Nintendo Thumb, and I could do everything from hurdles to skeet shoot.
The challenges included: 100 Meter Dash, Long Jump, 110 Meter Hurdles, Javelin Throw, Skeet Shooting, Triple Jump, Archery and High Jump.
The first action sports game, if you will, on the NES console.
You could both surf and skateboard in this game, and do so as some interesting characters, including a Gorilla and a Tiki Man.
RBI Baseball used real players on real teams.
Being a Mets fan in my glory at the time this game came out in 1987, being able to pitch with Dwight Gooden was an experience.
It was interesting that the developers made him white, but such errors contribute now to the charm of NES graphics.
Excitebike was one of the early NES games, but it presented a feature of gaming that would be replicated countless times afterward—the ability to design your own course.
The feature has been replicated in all genres of gaming—it wasn't a feature of the Tony Hawk franchise until Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, even though the series premiered in the Playstation and Nintendo 64 era.
Games of other genres, even Halo, have copied the custom environment scheme, introducing such things as forge mode.
Excitebike truly was ahead of its time.
Double Dribble didn't have real players and only featured four teams.
What it lacked in amenities, it made up for in a few of the coolest additions to a game ever.
First, it talked...well kind of. It only said, "DOUBLE DRIBBLE." Up until then, understandable words were, pardon the pun, unheard of.
Second, it featured cut away scenes of various dunks that at the time seemed amazingly realistic.
Third, there was the three-point sweet spot. A spot on the court you couldn't miss from, which made for extremely heated games if you knew where it was.
Like its basketball brother Double Dribble, Blades of Steel also had words you could understand.
An announcer voiced the words"blades of steel" at the intro screen, and during game play you could hear the yelling of a phrase "Get the puck."
NES audio quality makes it unclear whether this is what was really said, but its a good bet.
This game also featured fighting and cool mini-games between periods. Blades of Steel is still one of the best hockey games ever.
Ring King was awesome for a few reasons (not counting the awkward between-round interaction in the corner. Watch the video if you don't know about it.)
1. You could fight your friends.
2. The fighting was very realistic for the time.
3. You could knock your opponent out of the ring.
This game had a cameo by Mario, a variety of fighters with awesome, albeit stereotypical, personalities, and players ultimately had to fight Mike Tyson who, cast as Kid Dynamite, was still undefeated.
Of all the games I've ever played, I never felt more satisfied than when I beat Tyson for the first time. It still gives me chills.
Note: If you have this game on your pc or you still have your NES, the code to go right to Tyson is:
007 373 5963
With a variety of moves and colorful characters that were both challenging and fun to play, this wrestling game is still the best wrestling game to be released on any game system...ever.
Nothing was better than pulling off a back brain kick when the chance arose, and nothing was worse than your annoying friend who would always be Star Man because of his flying moves and Star Kick.
The sequel to Tecmo Bowl had everything a gamer could have wanted. It featured real teams, real players, an expanded playbook, full rosters, injury reports and awesome cutaway scenes.
It also kept track of the statistics for all players and teams and it was possible to use every team simultaneously so you could actually play a season with your friends.
My friends and I had a rule that no one was allowed to play with the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants or Buffalo Bills, as each was unfairly good.
(Try to imagine the Bills or 49ers as the best teams in Madden 2012.)
Anyone who played against the jerk whose best and only play was to throw deep to Jerry Rice knows what I'm talking about.