Ten Sports Games for People Who Hate Sports
I have never been much of an athlete. As a child, I performed very well in school, but every free minute or second of free time that I had was immediately funneled into playing video games, drawing, or playing alone in my room. I resisted every attempt made by my aunt to involved me in the world of sports. My career in hockey lasted roughly two weeks, casting a shadow over my two-day stint with baseball. In high school, I lamented that physical education was mandatory for all students, reasoning that a majority of our country's youth would be better served by remedial math and science classes. But I'm digressing now.
In any case, my distaste for sports continues to this day; I cannot even watch a sports broadcast in entirely. It's to my understanding that every year, EA sells millions of titles aimed exclusively at the same audience that makes up the viewer base of these sports. If you can believe it, I'm not included in that audience.
However, that's not to say I've never enjoyed a sports video game. On the contrary, some of them have been very, very good games. And that's the purpose of this article: to share those games. What follows is a list of ten games that I feel anybody can enjoy, whether or not they like sports. It's not an ordered list this time. Instead, ten different sports are present on this list, with a single game chosen to represent its category.
Here we go.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (Skateboarding)
In 1999, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was released, and it breathed new life into the extreme sports genre. Since then, the games have gotten crazier and crazier, and the gameplay has been expanded significantly. However, the crux of the game is the same: complete goals, while busting out insane tricks and combos. The series has never been grounded in reality, and the loose relationship that the Tony games have had with the laws of physics have allowed it to become an immensely enjoyable action-arcade franchise.
Boxing doesn't actually lend itself all that well to a balanced, nuanced fighting game. The reason for this, is that boxing matches are prone to ending abruptly based on a sudden shift in momentum -- or a lucky punch. Nintendo's Punch-Out!! series eschews this style of match in favor of something more exciting. Instead, Punch-Out!! tests your reflexive skills, your pattern recognition, and your ability to think quickly. Each fighter can be approached like a puzzle waiting to be learned, read, and punished. What makes it exciting is that even once you know what to expect, the issues of timing and the light elements of randomness can make some of the fights quite challenging. It's a thinking man's boxing game for sure.
Mario Tennis (Tennis)
It's not a series that really flips it's genre around all that much, but there's something about Mario Tennis makes it pleasantly enjoyable to play. Perhaps it's the familiar cast of characters, or the unique abilities each ones bring to the game, but the French-vanilla twist on the game of Tennis is an improvement for the better. Outside of the core gameplay, the variety of mini-games on tap helps to keep things interesting. I've wisely decided not to embarrass myself by attempting to describe hitting a tennis ball against targeted portions a brick wall in a way that would make it sound exciting. You're going to have to take my word on this one: it's a lot of fun.
Mario Kart (Racing)
When he's not found on the tennis courts, Mario likes to spend his time doing some laps on the go-kart course. Now, go-karting is one of the few activities I feel should be universally enjoyable. Who could possibly ride a go-kart and not have any fun? That being said, it's definitely something of a sport, and that makes it fair game for inclusion. In Mario Kart, races are spiced up via the inclusion of power-up items that can help to swing the race in your favor. From the inoccuous mushroom that gives you a boost of speed, to the (disgustingly evil) blue shell that seeks out and nukes the player in first place, there are lots of elements in place for keeping these races interesting.
WWE Day of Reckoning (Professional Wrestling)
The professional wrestling category could easily have been represented one of the titles in the SmackDown! series, or WWF No Mercy, but I've gone with Day of Reckoning because I think it combines the best elements of each. Day of Reckoning has a fun story mode, where you take your wrestler from the beginning of his career, to the top of the industry, as a world champion. It also has the exciting fast-paced, and hard-hitting gameplay that made No Mercy such a hit. If you're a fan of wrestling, this is sure to be a game that scratches that itch. If you are not, the game can simply be appreciated at face-value as a fighting game -- a fighting game that rewards you for using psychology and gradually building momentum, instead of spamming the best combinations you are capable of.
Blitz: The League (Football)
I don't like sports, but I dislike football the least. There is an element of strategy that goes on with picking the right plays, and I can appreciate that. Due to the nature of the sport, Football is perhaps the closest representation of a strategical skirmish. When you combine that element of strategy with the absurd level of violence and style found in Blitz: The League, things can become crazily enjoyable in a very short amount of time.This is a game that rewards you with inflicting brutal injuries on the players of the opposing team. Emphasis on the word brutal -- you are going to see bones shattering through limbs in this series. And while my friends like to laugh at me for doing little aside from throwing Hail Mary passes when on offense, I am reasonably proficient at injuring their players, on defense, in order to make up the distance.
Tony Hawk takes a lot of crazy liberties with skateboarding in order to make it an enjoyable video game experience. SSX takes some with its snowboarding franchise, but here things are a little bit closer to earth. Sure you'll be able to perform an absurd number of rotations with some of your maneuvers, but at the end of the day you're still just a dude snowboarding down a mountain, having some races, and performing some trick attacks. What makes it fun is that you're snowboarding down a mountain, having some races, and performing trick attacks. It's cool that there are typically different paths down the mountain as well, each one containing different challenges for you.
Aggressive Inline (Inline Skating)
And speaking of games that were inspired by the Tony Hawk franchise, Aggressive Inline is a carbon copy. They've taken everything that was good about the premiere skateboard franchise, and copied and pasted an inline skating package on top of it. That being said, the game is absolutely massive, and is a hell of a lot of fun. If you're ever in a mood where you want some more Tony, and you're bothered by the fact that the most recent releases aren't any good, then Aggressive Inline is definitely worth checking out.
Ribbit King (Golf)
Strap in, everyone, we're off to obscure land with this one. In this little-known PS2/Gamecube title, you'll be in control of one out of a handful of different weirdo, ready to enjoy an exciting round of golf. Er, make that frolf. In this game, you'll be whacking a frog around rather than a golf ball. This results in a number of unique interactions occurring, as the frog is capable of swimming, hopping, and interacting with the environment in peculiar ways. As for what those environments contain: fields of magma, wooly-mammoths, giant spider webs, and a field of what might only be described as male genitalia. If you haven't played it yet, you think I'm joking. This game is weird. But it's also a lot of fun, and it's worth checking out. To maximize enjoyment, consider playing with friends, and converting it into a drinking game. Thank me later.
Backyard Baseball (Baseball)
I really enjoyed playing Backyard Baseball as a kid. Most people I know did. I had female cousins who wanted nothing to do with playing video games, but they still enjoyed playing out nine innings of backyard baseball. Perhaps it's nostalgia talking, but this game was a lot of fun back in the day. There were different power-up pitches and swings you could use, with a container of juice acting as your de facto source of mana. This helped to spice up the game, but I was always really bad at it anyway. To me the best part of the game was drafting and naming my team. Pro tip: Always pick Pablo.