These days, baseball video games are as real as they come, between the pure authenticity of Sony's MLB 13: The Show and 2K Sports' recently released Major League Baseball 2K13. But back in the old days, not every baseball sim needed MLB licensing or even a realistic approach. They just needed to be entertaining, plain and simple. And over the years, we've certainly gotten our fair share of these.
So, for this week's The Games of Summer, I'm looking back at some of the best classic baseball games out there, from an interesting futuristic endeavor to the glory days of Sega's World Series Baseball dominance. There's something for everyone here, and these gems are worth finding again if you're in need of a game to round the bases with.
RBI Baseball (Tengen/NES)
"Hummmm, baby!" One of the best 8-bit baseball games out there, RBI Baseball managed to do quite well at the plate, despite competition from the likes of Nintendo (Baseball), SNK (Baseball Stars) and Jaleco (Bases Loaded). The game was easy to play and simply designed, yet managed to overcome the odds with plenty of home runs and stellar plays at the plate. Sure, the music repeated way too often, and the fact every outfielder moved in the same direction as you went for the ball was mildly annoying, but this game still has an old school charm to it. It's just a shame we never saw that planned Xbox Live Arcade reboot…
Base Wars (Ultra/NES)
Someone was probably sitting around Ultra's offices and going, "Hey, what if we took the sport of baseball and had robots playing it? And what if it was crazy violent?" Well, that idea became a reality in 1991 with the release of Base Wars, a fun futuristic take on the sport. Featuring plenty of high-speed players, cool pitching and batting techniques, and great visuals, the game was a delight to play. On top of that, you actually fought against another robot if you wanted to steal a base, rather than just being tagged out. And I'll tell you, nothing beats laying out a runner with a tank of a third basemen. "I SAID YOU'RE OUT, PUNK!"
Super Baseball 2020 (SNK/Neo-Geo)
Anyone who owned a Neo-Geo – or had access to one at their local 7-11 – probably played one of SNK's Baseball Stars games to death, enjoying its gameplay and loving every bit of the (at the time) revolutionary graphics. But, me, personally, I was more wowed by Super Baseball 2020, another fun futuristic affair featuring robots, metal bats, and, most importantly, female players who weren't afraid to show off a little cleavage while making a grab at the fence. The ability to power up in this game was a real plus, enabling you to pound the ball at the plate when the situation called for it the most. Playing against a friend was undeniably fun as well. If you can, track down a copy of this game and play ball!
World Series Baseball (Sega/Genesis)
Sega did quite well with Sports Talk Baseball on the Genesis a couple of years prior, but it truly hit its stride with the release of World Series Baseball. Featuring exquisite behind-the-plate animation, solid fielding controls, and a play-by-play presentation that, at the time, was truly stunning, no game could match up to its superiority. Even with the PlayStation slowly moving into the market, the original World Series Baseball still managed to entertain the 16-bit crowd at the time. It's well worth rediscovering if you can find a copy at your local game store – and chances are it'll be cheap, too.
MVP Baseball 2005 (EA Sports/various systems)
Last but definitely not least…the last time EA Sports bothered with a Major League Baseball-licensed game, it was MVP Baseball, a quality effort that showed just how concentrated the company was on the sport. The pitching felt like second nature, the batting felt just about right, and the franchise mode had plenty to offer in terms of dynasty and management. Plus, the graphics were really good at the time, just when the PS2 and Xbox were hitting their prime. It leaves you wondering just what EA Sports could've done with the franchise if it stuck with it…
See you next week on The Games of Summer!