Sports games were an important part of Nintendo’s launch and for the first year or so that the system was on shelves in North America. There were 4 sports titles ready to go out of the gate with 4 more to be released in the next year and a half making 8 out of the 30 black box titles dedicated to sports. Many of these early sports games haven’t aged well but thankfully, Nintendo along with 3rd party developers released numerous other enticing and exciting sports titles in the forthcoming years. This post is meant to showcase most of the remaining sports games that I haven’t already discussed in earlier posts.
All Pro Basketball (game only) – Not a great game by any stretch and I believe it was another rental store purchase for extremely cheap. Maybe played a handful of times and never again. Too many other good basketball games for the NES to waste anymore time on this one. F
Blades of Steel (game only) – One of the top 2 hockey games available for the NES and a popular Konami title. Realistic graphics compared to the cartoony look of Ice Hockey plus close up fighting sequences made Blades of Steel the hockey connoisseur’s choice back in the day and is a stand out game. A-
Ice Hockey (game & manual) – I played this game more than Blades of Steel growing up but liked both equally. I think because I wasn’t a huge hockey fan in real life at the time, the easy controls and childlike appearance of the players made it seem like the most fun hockey option. Ice Hockey will hold a special place in my memory due to all the one on one battles with my friends even if I know deep down that Blades of Steel is the better game. B+
John Elway’s Quarterback (game only) – I don’t remember playing this game much as a kid especially with the Tecmo Bowl franchise available. I do know it’s a definite step up from 10 Yard Fight. C+
Kings of the Beach (game only) – A recent acquisition, it’s received generally favorable reviews from respected NES reviewers so I picked up a cheap loose copy not too long ago. Basically an upgrade to Nintendo’s Volleyball in a beach setting. I need to spend a little more time with it before I can fully assess/grade.
Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf (game only) – I didn’t really start getting into golf games until the Tiger Woods franchise for the PS2 so this is another game that hasn’t gotten a lot of play since adding it to my library. It’s a serviceable golf title and a slight step up from Nintendo’s Golf where you can control one of four players, including Lee Trevino himself. The odd misnomer of a title is baffling since there is no actual fighting in this game. I would have preferred something like Ninja Golf for the Atari 7800 where you fight your opponent beat ’em up style in between holes and the more damage you take, the worse you golf. This is not that game, however. C+
NES Play Action Football (game only) – This was a very common Nintendo football game in 1990 and the logical successor to 10 Yard Fight with improved graphics, play calling, controls, cut scenes, you name it. Nintendo took a gamble and presented the field in an angled direction which felt odd at the time. NES Play Action Football was a SIM heavy title and the precursor to the Madden franchise which was just getting started on the Genesis when this game was released. Overall an ok game but definitely lacking the fun factor of it’s chief rival, Tecmo Bowl. C
Nintendo World Cup (game only) – A typical soccer game where you can play in one of two modes, VS. or tournament style. The players look odd, similar to characters from Super Dodge Ball. I never played this game as a kid as I had (still) little interest in soccer as a video game so this wasn’t on my radar. I believe I picked this up in a Nintendo game bundle purchased many years ago and haven’t played it enough to offer a grade.
Racket Attack (game only) – Another advancement to an already existing Nintendo title, Tennis. Maybe because Tennis was the second Nintendo game I ever owned, I have always enjoyed video game tennis from Pong to the Tennis 2K series. Racket Attack is a serviceable (pun intended) tennis title from Jaleco and much deeper than the original black box title including a password feature that allowed you to save your statistics which I recalled enjoying. This game had its moments but has been far surpassed since the late 80’s. B-
R.B.I. Baseball (game only) – Tengen’s RBI franchise for the NES are 3 of the most fun baseball games you can find but clearly this original title is the weakest. Love them or hate them, the short, chubby and slow players are an instant nostalgia spark for anyone familiar with the game in its heyday. I played this game a ton with my friends as it was far superior to Nintendo’s Baseball. There were other baseball games competing for attention at the time (Baseball Stars, Bases Loaded) but we still played this game thanks to its simple controls combined with actual MLB players. The game seems like a kiddie baseball game compared to the others. B
R.B.I. Baseball 3 (game, manual, box) – The third and final installment in this franchise was a big leap compared to the first game. I never owned RBI 2 but once I checked out the back of the box for RBI 3 and saw that ALL MLB teams were represented instead of a small portion like in the first game, I was instantly interested. My favorite team growing up was the Milwaukee Brewers so I was excited to take control of the team I followed and control up and comers like Gary Sheffield & Greg Vaughn while still playing with perennial all-stars like Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. I would go on to play this game over and over again, completing seasons thanks to the password feature. RBI Baseball 3 was to RBI Baseball what Tecmo Super Bowl was to Tecmo Bowl. A-
Tecmo NBA Basketball (game, manual, box) – I loved realistic SIM style sports games and this was my basketball answer. Tecmo NBA Basketball had the Tecmo name which was already a winner in my book thanks to their premier football titles. This game wouldn’t be a disappointment either when I got it as a high schooler in 1992. Each NBA team and player from the 1991-92 season (including Magic Johnson who retired right before the season started) is included and the game allows you to save your season and stats as you chase down the NBA title. Great game that I can pick up and play today and still enjoy. A
Tecmo Super Bowl (game, manual, box) – What’s there to say about this iconic sports title that already hasn’t been said? An upgrade to an already amazing first entry in the series, Tecmo Super Bowl is just what the title says it is, super. It now has all NFL franchises, a battery save feature to keep track of your stats and a deep regular season mode to keep track of your progress towards a Super Bowl Championship. It also has great 2 player action just like the original Tecmo Bowl . Also included are cut scenes showing injuries, spectacular plays and penalties. The only bad thing I can say about this game is the wonky battery. I remember numerous times that I would be half way or more through a season, turn on my Nintendo to get another game under my belt only to find out that my entire season had been erased. This didn’t just happen once or twice either. I recall either reading somewhere or hearing from someone that you were supposed to press restart & power simultaneously when turning off your Nintendo after saving your progress but I never noticed that it made a difference. A+
Track and Field (game only) – Another Konami sports classic, Track and Field was a stellar arcade port for the NES that required you to participate in numerous events in an attempt to bring home the gold. Many of these events required you to hit the A & B buttons as hard and fast as humanly possible in order to gain enough speed to qualify. I played this game a lot growing up and one secret I used to ensure I was going fast enough was to use an AA battery and rub it back and forth across the A & B buttons until I maxed out my speed. It never failed to make me go super fast and I could set world records in a way that my weak childlike fingers could not. I believe I killed a controller or two using this method though. I also enjoyed throwing the javelin straight up into the sky where it would knock down either a light from the indoor stadium or a UFO….I never was quite sure which one it was. A-
WWF Wrestlemania (game only) – One of the first, if not the first WWF sponsored video game that allowed you to play as one of a handful of popular WWF wrestlers from the 80’s. This game was rented a few times to play and I recall enjoying but never was blown away. I was used to Pro Wrestling which I found to be a superior game in every way. Hulk Hogan or Macho Man Savage were the guys I remember using the most. I vaguely recall character specific icons that would show up on screen that you could grab to give your wrestler additional moves. This was a pretty cool feature and made the game interesting but overall nothing special. C+