It’s Opening Day! Baseball fans everywhere are enjoying the start of another long season, as the Boys of Summer are taking their cuts at the plate in games that now count (not including the couple of games last week in Japan). Rather than focus on just one video game today, I’m gonna do a few quick pitches across a number of baseball video games from seasons past.
Baseball Stars Professional (SNK, 1990)
In the early 1990’s Japanese game company SNK put out an arcade machine that allowed you to play a number of games in one cabinet. The Neo Geo was a popular gaming system that was later released for the home. One of the first games on Neo Geo was Baseball Stars Professional, which was THE MOST FUN you could ever have playing a baseball video game. You could play it either solo or with two players versus one another. In the arcade, each quarter gave you a certain number of minutes to play the game.
With what were high-quality graphics, top notch sound and gameplay for it’s day, BSP still holds up surprisingly well when played today (trust me, I still do). All the teams are fictional but have themes, from The Wild Flowers to The Heavenly Bodies, The Lovely Ladies, Samurai Knights, Celestial Planets and, my personal favorite, The Ninja Blacksox (because ninjas are cool!).
Yes, there was a previous version of Baseball Stars on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System that was also quite fun to play, and yes there was a sequel to BSP in 1992 that improved on gameplay and graphics, but this was the game that blew me away and saw a lot of my quarters.
Hardball (Accolade, 1985)
Available on most home computer systems like the Commodore 64/128, the Apple II series and the Atari 8-bit systems, Hardball certainly has the feel of America’s pastime. Sure, the graphics aren’t even close to today’s standards, but for its day the game was very engaging. The variety of pitches available from the mound made players have to employ strategy rather than just taking random whacks at the plate. Hardball was one of my first experiences with video game baseball, and darn it, that soundtrack will never leave my brain!
R.B.I. Baseball (Tengen/Namco, 1986)
Officially licensed by the MLB Player’s Association, RBI Baseball on the Nintendo Entertainment System was one of the most widely played video baseball games in the 80’s. The chance to play video game baseball with actual players like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter from the 1986 World Series Champion New York Mets was a thrill for most kids back then. I’ll admit, however, I never had this game, at least until years later. And yeah, the character sprites all look rotund and simplistic, but the FUN!!! It is, however, cited by our good friend Eclectik as one of his Top 5 Sports Video Games of All-Time, so there’s that.
Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (Software Creations, 1994)
In the early 90’s, Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. was the top player in the sport. A complete 5-tool player with great stats, a winning smile and a heap of endorsement deals and the legacy of his father Griffey Senior to follow, Junior came into the league with pretty much the hype that LeBron James entered with in the NBA, if not more so. The game bearing his name was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and had a Major League Baseball license, but not an MLB Players Association license. This meant that the game featured real ballparks, stadiums, and teams, however it did not have real player names nor likenesses with the exception of Griffey, Jr. of course.
Despite not having the real players, the fact that you could play games in Wrigley Field, Candlestick Park, Shea and Yankee Stadiums and the Big Green Monster made this a fun game to play. And gameplay was rather fluid on the SNES. I played this game a lot in college– my roommate had it for the SNES and challenged me often to face off.
Base Wars (Ultra Games/Konami 1991)
Konami-owned Ultra Games, makers of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, also put out a unique kind of baseball game… one where you played using robots! Cyber Stadium Series Base Wars is set in the 24th century, where baseball owners had grown tired of paying outrageous player salaries and chose to replace them with robots. Each team had a variety of robot classes , the flybots that levitated with the aid of a rocket-powered lower body, tankbots that had tank treads for lower bodies motobots had a single motorcycle wheel as their lower bodies and traditional cyborgs that had two legs.
Teams of robots faced off against one another in a game where the pitchers had rocket-powered arms, plays at the plate get decided by robot death matches and a team can forfeit a game with three fight losses. Base Wars paved the way for Neo Geo’s Super Baseball 2020 years later.
Bases Loaded (Jaleco, 1988)
Other than RBI Baseball, Bases Loaded was THE baseball game that was in damn near every home that had a Nintendo Entertainment System. The continuous music throughout makes playing Bases Loaded seem therapeutic. You could spend hours just going inning after inning with these melodies playing, and the game had vocal calls from the umpire such as “Out!” “Safe!” “Strike!” “Foul!” and “Ball!” which was a cool feature for 8-bit Nintendo.
But do you know what the best part of Bases Loaded was? The pitcher change!!!
hehe, that car looks funny!
Star League Baseball (Gamestar, 1983)
This game was available for the Commodore 64 and the Atari XE/XL computers. It’s not exactly the greatest baseball game out there– in fact I’ll come right out and tell you that this game use to blow! But the tunes were so fun! From the Star League Baseball theme to the playing of the national anthem (rare in video games) to the slow buildup to “Charge!” during innings, the game was the best experience out there for 1983. We were some poor bastards back then, now I think about it.
Micro League Baseball (Micro League Multimedia Inc., 1984)
More for strategic/tactical team management than action, Micro League Baseball was an early game for the Amiga, Apple, Atari, Commodore & PC Loader systems. It carried an MLB license and allowed you to choose from various all-time great teams like the 1945 Chicago Cubs.
Microleague eschews action in favor of strategy for this licensed baseball game. The real-life teams and players are included, as well as classic teams from the past – lots of data disks where released featuring additional lineups. Each play is graphically shown, with a running commentary detailing how it unfolds.
A wide range of strategies are available. You can bring the stand-in players in, and instruct players as to how aggressively to play when opportunities arise, with 7 distinct batting strategies. When fielding you have options on field placement and bowling style – use the fastball and curveball wisely. Players will sometimes pick up injuries (the correct level of warming up can reduce this risk), or argue with the umpire over controversial decisions.
Didn’t play it much, but I remember a friend or two in school had this game.
Great Baseball (Sega, 1987)
Not sure how I forgot this game, but many thanks to friend of the podcast Shareef Jackson a.k.a. Agent Jackson for the reminder! He hosts the Operation Cubicle podcast, which we highly recommend you listen to for great discussions about maintaining sanity in and out of the workplace.
Great Baseball is one of a series of the Sega Master System’s sports games under the “Great…” title. Colorful graphics and use of shading give you a relative feel of depth, especially when pitching from the mound. This game was highly addictive and helped SMS owners not have to feel as if they were missing out on the games on Nintendo.
In Shareef’s words, from the comments below:
First of all, it had VOICES. On an 8bit system! And they were better and clearer than those crappy California Games voices! To be fair though, the ref sounded like he was saying FART instead of FOUL, but hey, them’s the breaks! My brother and I would play this game all the time.
I don’t know, all baseball umps sound like they’re saying FART instead of FOUL, even the real life ones.
Classick Material enjoys baseball video games, especially when he can play as his beloved Mets team while they were still good. When he’s not writing retrospectives of celebrities singing for restaurant food on TV, he co-hosts the Cold Slither Podcast show.