It's that time of year again! No, I'm not talking about Halloween (this time). I'm talking about the World Series! After some particularly fiercely fought and exciting playoff battles, we've finally come to the main event. The AL vs NL matchup that will determine who is the best team in all of baseball. This year, I am particularly excited to watch because my Atlanta Braves have made it for the first time in 22 years! Here's hoping they show Houston what's up.
I will say that I'm a little sad my other team, the San Francisco Giants got knocked out early. I would have loved seeing how they stacked up against the Braves in the postseason. That's right, I have two baseball teams too. I didn't always live in Atlanta, you know. At any rate, I've been a fan of both baseball organizations for years and I've loved playing the sport probably longer than that, even digitally. There have been a great number of baseball video games over the years and in honor of (one of) my team(s) making it to the final round this year, I thought I would share 6 of my favorites.
Though I had played other games before, on the Atari VCS/2600 and the NES, it was 1989's World Class Baseball for the TurboGrafx-16 that got me playing the sport virtually with any regularity. That being said, I really had a love/hate relationship with this game. Not because it wasn't good, it definitely was, but because of the fact that my older brother played it a lot more than I did. To the point that the beatdowns (score-wise) that he would administer were so severe and demoralizing that it was the source of quite a bit of frustration for me. In fact, I hesitated to even include the game on this list for that very reason, but I did tend to enjoy my time with it whenever my cold, unforgiving elder sibling wasn't around.
The game didn't include any licensing, so the teams were made up of fictional organizations from around the world. But it was actually kind of fun to be able to prove the superiority of your country of choice on a virtual baseball diamond, rather than a battlefield.
Clutch Hitter (Game Gear) (SEGA, 1991)
Over its 5-year run, Sega's Game Gear saw several decent little baseball titles make their way to the color portable. One of the first, and quite possibly best, of the these was Sega's own 1991 release, Clutch Hitter. Based on the arcade game of the same name, Clutch Hitter was a fantastic translation of the sport that fans could take with them on the go. It was fun, it was engaging, it was deep, and it even included the names of actual players from their respective real-world city teams. This wasn't always the case with similar games of the day (regrettably, it didn't include the team names, though). As far as portable sports games went in the early '90s, Clutch Hitter was definitely at the top of its game.
Baseball Stars 2 (Arcade/Neo-Geo) (SNK, 1992)
The Neo-Geo had a few big baseball hits to speak of, but 1992's Baseball Stars 2 was probably the best. As one of the premier arcade titles of the early '90s, the game featured excellent use of colors, hilarious animations, enjoyable gameplay, and plenty of challenge to boot. For these reasons, Baseball Stars 2, and its predecessor, easily ranked among the greatest series the Neo-Geo had, and that's including the likes of Samurai Shodown, The King of Fighters, and Metal Slug. The game still holds up incredibly well today and has actually been ported to a wide variety of modern platforms.
Triple Play 96/Gold Edition (Genesis) (EA, 1995/1996)
As with their Game Gear system, there were several great baseball titles that graced Sega's Genesis, during its time on the market. The best, however, would probably have to be EA's 1995 title, Triple Play 96, along with its 1996 update, Triple Play - Gold Edition. Both titles were everything a baseball video game should be, they were detailed, they looked and sounded great, and most importantly, they were fun to play. While Sega's own World Series Baseball games were also very good (and would eventually lead to perhaps the greatest baseball game of all time), Triple Play just offered a more exciting experience on the Genesis.
World Series Baseball 98 (Saturn) (SEGA, 1997)
As you may recall from my 2019 console retrospective article, although the Sega Saturn may have suffered a brief and doomed existence, that doesn't mean it didn't see its fair share of excellent games. That's especially true of sports titles. There were great releases featuring soccer, football, hockey, and yes, even baseball. In particular, 1997's World Series Baseball 98. Not only is it one of my personal all time favorite Saturn games, it might just be one of the greatest baseball games ever made. The attention to detail, the realism, the player stats, everything is dialed in. It's just an unbelievable experience. I played the heck out of this game back in the day and even now, nearly 25 years since its release, I still go back to dust it off from time to time. There just has never been any other game, either before or since that captures the magic of baseball quite so well.
Mario Superstar Baseball (GameCube) (Nintendo, 2005)
Like the Genesis and Game Gear, the GameCube also boasted a wealth of good baseball titles to choose from. For my money though, I would have to give the MVP award to 2005's Mario Superstar Baseball. Like the many Mario Golf titles that preceded it, Mario Superstar Baseball worked because it was able to successfully take the fun of the sport and lovingly blend it together with the incredibly popular Mario universe. The result was another charming title that could walk the line and easily appeal to fans of both.
Sadly, unlike the aforementioned Mario Golf series, the baseball titles appaprently didn't quite catch on in the same manner. Following the single (though admittedly pretty lackluster) 2008 follow-up entry for the Wii, there hasn't been another proper installment released since. Hopefully, Nintendo will eventually come around and see fit to give the series one more at bat.
Well, that does it for my 6 favorite baseball games list. Please feel free to share your own in the comments below. Here's hoping that the World Series is every bit as exciting as the playoff games that led up to it. Go Braves!
(This is a repost of an article that also appeared on 12/12 Games.)
[Images: SNK, NEC, SEGA, EA, Nintendo]