Retro Respawn – Five Fun Sports Games That Were Different from the Norm

Sports games can generally be more about realism as they will usually be played by aficionados of the sport in question who are looking for a game that accurately represents the sport they enjoy. For instance, people play the likes of FIFA and PES because they are presented and play as games that are trying to simulate the real sport of football. However, not every sports game has to be slavishly devoted to being super realistic, with some being more zany so as to achieve the goal of being enjoyable games that anyone can play, regardless of whether they like the sport in question or not.

This week I’ll be looking at five different sports (football, golf, motor sports, basketball and pro wrestling) and picking out a video game that takes a less than full on serious approach to the sport in question whilst still presenting a really enjoyable experience that fans and non-fans alike could have fun with. I’ve compiled a list with the eye of trying to cover more than just one gaming company or console (mainly because there seemingly hasn’t been a sport out there that Nintendo hasn’t inserted one of its litany of characters into).


1. Football
Nintendo World Cup (Nintendo Entertainment System)

I’ll start out with a game that came out way back in 1990. Though Nintendo World Cup might be a little light on depth, it’s still a lot of fun and has an immediate pick up and play quality to it. Playing as one player in a 6 v 6 game of togger, you have to captain your side to victory. During the match you can give orders to your teammates to pass to you, as well as take shots at the goal when they find themselves in good positions. Despite only having two face buttons and a D-pad to work with, Technos have done an excellent job making the most of the NES’s setup to provide a decent kick about. Overall, the game has an all action arcade feel to it, capped off with wacky “Super Shots” that you can pull off at the touch of a button that can even send the goalkeeper careening into the net. If you have an NES and fancy a less than serious take on the footy genre, then this would be a good game to pick up.


2. Golf
Mario Golf (Nintendo 64)

Mario Golf on the N64 is a game that I played a lot back in my youth, and many a rainy Sunday afternoon was spent playing 18 holes with Mario, Princess Peach and Bowser. Resplendent with all the charm you would expect from a Nintendo release featuring the pugnacious plumber, Mario Golf is actually a pretty darn good golfing game when all is said and done. The game has a nice, varied set of courses and a mixture of different golfers to choose from that give you reasons to keep coming back to it. If you have three friends who are willing to traverse the links with you, then you have license to waste away an entire day, should you choose to. If you don’t happen to have an N64 but do own a PlayStation, then you could do no worse than taking a look at Everybody’s Golf, which is essentially a PS1 equivalent. I’d ultimately say that the N64 release is overall a bit better, but you can’t really lose with either if you’re looking for a more lighthearted approach to the sport.


3. Motor Sport
Burnout (PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube)

I think I’ve stated on here more than once that I’ve never been someone who has particularly understood the mental workings of a “car nut”. To me, cars are a means to an end. They are loud, dangerous things that we all pollute the Earth with because without them we’d have to get up an hour earlier than we normally do in order to get to work on time. Games that try to authentically recreate the driving experience like Gran Turismo are duller than putting the peel back on an orange, as far as I’m concerned. Thank goodness for games like Burnout then, which prioritise high speeds, crazy crashes and just good old fashioned fun over dry, realistic racing. Burnout is not only a game that doesn’t mind you smashing into other vehicles, but it takes great glee in showing you your handiwork from all kinds of different camera angles, almost as if it’s daring you to go even faster next time. Of course, you wouldn’t want to drive like this in real life, but games are supposed to be a form of escapism, and motoring down courses at eye-bleeding speeds is certainly a departure from reality for most of us.


4. Basketball
NBA Jam (Arcades and then a litany of home consoles)

I still have quite vivid memories of playing NBA Jam actually. My family and I were on holiday in Cahersiveen (a town in Ireland), and a local takeaway had a couple of cabinets set up, one of which was NBA Jam. Don’t ask me why, but I remember picking the Milwaukee Bucks for whatever reason. Maybe I liked the name? Anyway, that affinity didn’t last as I aged, but they were my team that summer, and I loved playing the game. NBA Jam is all about fun and frantic action as two teams of two players got at it. What Jam has become known for over the years are the wacky special moves that the players can perform. When you were able to pull these off, it was always super fun as players would leap high in the air and drive the ball through the hoop with a vicious looking dunk. NBA Jam was a huge hit, and when you play it, you will be able to see why as it is all about having as much fun as possible. Physics be dammed!


5. Wrestling
Def Jam Vendetta (PlayStation 2)

Published by the short-lived EA Sports BIG, Def Jam Vendetta takes popular music acts from the Def Jam record label and sends them into the wrestling ring to do battle with one another. Using the AKI wrestling engine that was popularised in the likes of WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64, it’s not just the rappers that differentiate this from other wrestling games out there, it’s also the exciting and crazy finishing moves that see the competitors fling their opponents into the atmosphere with reckless abandon before bringing them crashing down to the mat. The game really is the perfect combination of wild characters, crazy moves and solid wrestling-based gameplay. Even if you’re not much of a wrestling fan, there’s still a good chance you’ll enjoy playing this one as it’s bags of fun and doesn’t take itself that seriously.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list. If any of these games sound like something you’d like to play, then I thoroughly encourage you to pick them up. They are all bags of fun and something a bit different from the norm.

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