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If there’s one thing working from home has taught me, it’s that kids love playing video games.

Even the 8-bit ones we all grew up with. I had both the Nintendo Classic and the original Sega Master System as a child and, to be honest, I much preferred Nintendo. Sega had the better games but in terms of choice, it was all about Nintendo.

Here’s the cover to RBI Baseball from the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. It was one of my favourite games when I was a kid and I suspect one of yours as well. Wikimedia Commons photo

Both of my daughters discovered that daddy dearest has a NES Classic Edition in the house and that means some extra time to play. Of course, their first reaction to it was one of shock when my wife and I told them that this is what we grew up with as kids. But then the five-year-old began playing Punch-Out feat. Mr. Dream.

(Yes, I know it should be Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out but the licence to use his name ran out in 1990.)
She’s now quite the player and is on her way to beating the first version of Piston Honda.

So with that in mind, I figured now is a good time to go back in the vault and take a look at the three best sports games I think Nintendo came out with during the classic days. Let’s start with what we’ve already talked about:

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out

The quintessential cartridge almost every boy wanted when it was released in 1987, it is the one boxing game which is still loved today by so many, myself included.

The whole game is like a great underdog story: a young kid comes up from the Bronx in New York City, rises through the ranks of the World Video Boxing Association’s minor, major and world circuits in the hopes of getting a dream fight with Mike Tyson (Mr. Dream in later versions). I had this game beat so many times when I was a young boy and it became second nature. I didn’t bother entering the codes that came with advancing past the minor and major circuits simply because that made it boring.

My favourite character in the entire game is King Hippo, who had the best reaction to being hit. First, you had to wait until his mouth opened in order to stun him and once you did, you proceeded to pound him in the bandage on his gut as he tries to keep his shorts from falling down to his feet. Once you knocked him down, he never got up but it was worth watching him try to stay clothed.

I now have to remember everything in order to show my kids I still have what it takes. I’m old so that won’t happen.

Blades Of Steel

This was the only hockey game that mattered to me. I had Wayne Gretzky Hockey but that was such a bad knock-off and a crime to have The Great One’s name attached to it.

Eight teams made the final cut and while the mascots weren’t a part of it, you knew what team they were by their colours and how good they were back then. Naturally, Edmonton was the best team while Vancouver was the worst. Life still imitates art.

What made this game great was the complete lack of regard for the basic rules: no offsides, no icing, no penalties of any kind … unless you lost a fight. That’s when you were penalized two minutes. The fights themselves were the best. Remember how the two guys would bump into each other and if it happened three times in a row, the two would start duking it out?

Even better was if the fight happened in front of the net, there would be a penalty shot, which consisted of a player taking a slap shot from the blue line and watching the goaltender either sliding across to make the save or throw his hands up to protect his face. Again, those who designed the game obviously had the worst consultants ever.

The climax of it all was the music in the closing credits if you won a tournament. I still listen to it to this day.

RBI Baseball

If you listen closely, you’ll hear similarities to what a Japanese baseball game sounds like minus the whistle sound the umpire makes when you’re called out or the whooping sound that happens when there’s a high fly ball.

In any event, RBI Baseball was another game I wore out as a kid because I always wanted to be the American League all-star team.

The roster was stacked as any from the time: Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, George Bell, George Brett etc. One thing I liked to do was substitute in McGwire for Willie Randolph, the lead-off hitter, just to make sure I had power in the one through four spots.

In short, it was a performance-enhancing drug popper’s dream line-up.

Just like Blades of Steel, it didn’t exactly stick to the rules 100 per cent: no infield fly rule, 10-run mercy rule and no team names. Just the cities. But, unlike Blades of Steel, there were actual players’ names used as it was licenced by the Major League Baseball Players Association but not Major League Baseball itself.

Anyone else pull off the bunt home run? I did … several times.

For anyone thinking about asking, no, there is no Duck Hunt because Duck Hunt isn’t a sports game much like Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie.
I thought about adding Excitebike but I didn’t enjoy it as much as these other three nor did I like Tecmo Bowl. Unless you were either Chicago or Denver, you sucked.

Care to challenge me on these choices? Be my guest. You know where I am.

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James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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