We’re quickly approaching the one-year anniversaries of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One hitting the gaming world. After a pretty underwhelming first year on the market, these consoles are finally starting to tap into their potential as next-gen systems. In case you’ve been out of the loop, video games have come a long way since ‘Pong.’
But not even the greatest technological advancements can quell nostalgia, and revisiting those old video games you used to play constantly can be a trip. You’ll probably spot a lot of flaws you failed to recognize back in the day and/or wonder how you ever thought those terrible graphics were “amazing” at the time.
But despite those shortcomings, chances are you’re still going to love playing the same games you loved as a kid. And since there’s nothing that captivates sports fans more than a spectacular comeback, here are some classic sports games that deserve new life on next-gen platforms:
1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
It didn’t really matter if you were a skateboarding fan or not, the original THPS – released in 1999 - was one of those “must-own” games on Playstation, N64 and, yes, even Dreamcast. Whether you were trying to rack up high scores while going head-to-head with friends or attempting to collect all the tapes and S-K-A-T-E letters in career mode, the game was insanely fun for hours at a time.
THPS eventually spawned a series with countless titles over a handful of platforms, with the most recent release being mobile-exclusive. However, they’ve lost quite a bit of steam in recent years and the original release might arguably still be the most fun to play. They could breathe new life into the franchise on by revisiting their roots on the next-gen stage. Plus, think of all the cool stuff you could put on the soundtrack.
2. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2
Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX 2 was one of the first games I owned on PlayStation 2 back in the early 2000s, and to this day, I maintain that it’s one of the most fun video games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
The game, published by Acclaim, boasted an awesome variety of fun levels and game modes – including a bail competition that rewarded players for jumping off their bike at maximum altitude and sending their lifeless, ragdoll character plunging to the digital earth below. It also had one of the most perfect soundtracks of all-time and - most importantly - the Slim Jim guy was a playable character:
3. NHL Hitz
While EA Sports and 2K Sports were busy competing to see who could make the more realistic hockey simulation on consoles, Midway took a different route with their NHL releases in the early 2000s. Their Hitz games offered arcade-style 3-on-3 gameplay that was as silly as it was fun. Between the power-ups and crazy arenas – hockey on a cosmic spaceship?! Yes, please! – Hitz provided an experience that no other hockey game could match.
EA Sports took a shot at a Hitz-style arcade game a handful of years ago and, while very fun, it lacked the features and depth that made Midway’s cult classic so awesome. Instead of an imitation, we need a next-gen reboot and all the ridiculousness that would come with it.
4. ESPN NFL 2K
Back before EA Sports held the exclusive license for NFL video games, 2K Sports put some serious heat on Madden when it rebranded its football game as ESPN NFL 2K in 2004.
While the gameplay was pretty great, the ESPN affiliation also brought in-game presentation that was arguably more authentic than any other sports game offered at the time. And, maybe most importantly, its $20 price tag was less than half of Madden’s ($50).
It looked like 2K was primed to challenge Madden for years to come, that is until EA signed an exclusivity deal to make Madden the only officially-licensed NFL game on the market. With 2K out of the picture, Madden had no direct competition and, thus, felt no real pressure to put out the best game they could each year. It’s time we let 2K get back on the gridiron so that we can see what they’re truly capable of.
5. MVP Baseball
ESPN NFL 2K wasn’t the only unfortunate casualty of exclusivity battles between EA and 2K. After a few years of mediocre results with Triple Play Baseball, EA Sports rebranded their MLB games as MVP Baseball from 2003-2005 and quickly found success.
Then, immediately after producing their most impressive title with MVP Baseball 2005, EA’s momentum was abruptly halted when 2K was given exclusive rights to MLB video games. Much like Madden, the lack of competition hurt 2K’s product – so much so that the series was discontinued in 2014.
Although Sony’s MLB: The Show has been one of the most impressive sports games on the market in recent memory, the game is only offered on PlayStation platforms, meaning there’s still an untapped baseball market to be had. MVP has grabbed enough pine, meat…it’s time to bring it on back.
The first Skate. game, produced by EA, was released in 2007 and became the first real competition Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had seen since arriving on the skateboarding video game scene.
While THPS relied more on arcade-style gameplay in fantasy skating worlds, Skate. was designed as a more realistic skating experience in authentic, open-world urban environments modeled after real cities.
In addition to an impressive lineup of playable pros (many of which were courted away from THPS), players can fully customize their own character – including appearance, clothing, sneakers, accessories and equipment – and drop him or her into online worlds to compete in a wide variety of competitions.
Plus, even the glitches are great:
EA has put out two sequels since the original Skate., but the latest release (Skate. 3) came out nearly five years ago. Next-gen consoles would allow for better graphics and even more beautiful and expansive open-world environments for skaters to explore. Want it; need it.
7. NBA/NFL/FIFA Street
Much like Midway’s NHL Hitz and NFL Blitz games, EA Big’s NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street series offered a fun, arcade-style alternative to more realistic simulations on the market. Users could play as or challenge real professional athletes in urban environments such as parks, rooftops and abandoned alleyways. The gameplay was super fun – especially when playing with or against friends - and incorporated various “street moves” and trick plays into the action for fast-paced entertainment.
With improved graphics, game modes and online play on next-gen systems, I wouldn’t mind seeing this series make a comeback. I would also accept a next-gen version of any of those Backyard Sports computer games.
Do you think I missed a great candidate for a next-gen sports reboot? hit me up on Twitter and let me know.
Pete Blackburn is a writer for Next Impulse Sports