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Hate Sports Games? Play The Dumb Ones Instead – TheFantasyTimes

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By Nikita Gambhir

Hate Sports Games? Play The Dumb Ones Instead



During my childhood, I always felt like an anomaly. I considered myself a geek because I enjoyed playing Magic: The Gathering and reading comic books. However, I was also an athlete who played multiple sports, which formed my social circle. As typical kids, we enjoyed playing video games together, but my friends, being jocks, gravitated towards sports games such as FIFA and Madden. Personally, I could never understand the appeal of these games. Although they boasted realistic graphics and intricate controls that captured the complexity of these sports, I always viewed video games as a form of escapism that transported me to strange worlds with unique characters. Controlling realistic-looking replicas of real-world athletes just didn’t cut it for me.

Fortunately, video game creators have been fusing sports with fantasy in wonderful ways since time immemorial. Some of these games have fictional characters and mascots, with the most notable being Mario and his friends. Nintendo has created so many sports games with their iconic cast of characters that they can encompass an entire category all on their own. Games like Mario Golf and Mario Tennis combined the best elements of the Mario universe, such as power-ups and unique abilities, with traditional sports. In Mario Strikers (Mario Soccer, essentially), Boos can turn invisible, making them immune to getting hit, while Mario and Luigi have the ability to become gigantic and stomp on members of the opposing teams. The wildest feature of Mario Strikers has to be its “charged shot,” which allows players to take multiple shots at the goal at the same time.

There are also games that take place in the “real” world and might even use real players, but they don’t hold themselves accountable to the rules of reality. They may even bend the rules of the sport itself to make for more interesting gameplay. Perhaps the best example of this is the classic arcade game NBA Jam. This game has no problem featuring its players jumping over the basket and slam-dunking so hard it breaks the hoop. Its most famous feature is when the same player hits three shots in a row, they are “on fire.” Literally. The player bursts into flames and becomes nearly unstoppable. I look back on games like this and those crazy EA Sports BIG games like NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street, and SSX, and wonder what happened to that great era.

To keep things fresh, modern games like to put a spin on classic sports and games. A great example of this is Rocket League, though I also tip my hat to the recently-departed Knockout City, which sadly shut down this month. The game gave dodgeball the wacky treatment as players would run around rooftop maps trying to hit each other, with the ability to run and jump long distances while flipping seamlessly through the air and throwing heat-seeking balls. Rocket League took the unlikely combination of rocket-powered flying cars and soccer and turned it into not just a video game but an e-sports phenomenon. Being completely physics-based, those little things you take for granted in a realistic soccer game like dribbling and goalkeeping become a matter of incredible precision and skill. The challenge of weaving through the defending team or pulling off an acrobatic save is such that, in some ways, it feels like a purer manifestation of soccer than soccer itself! And all this happens while cars jump, spin, and twirl through the air like agile acrobats. No driving game has even come close to matching this level of bonkers gameplay.

For me, these unrealistic games are the perfect unity of the real world and fantasy gaming. Running around the Magic Kingdom and jumping on Koopas is a fantastical, escapist experience that Mario and other kinds of unrealistic sports games also embody. So don’t give up on sports games if you find them boring like me. You just need to grab a few power-ups to spice them up. If you’re a fan of Mario, you’d want to check out the best Mario sports games out there!

I was a little bit of an anomaly growing up. I considered myself a geek as I played Magic: The Gathering and read comic books weekly, but I was also a pretty big athlete. I played tons of sports, which pretty much formed my social circle. We all played video games together, as kids often do, and since they were jocks, they gravitated towards sports games. FIFA and Madden were the big two.



I never really understood the appeal of these games. As a video game aficionado, I applauded their realism. They certainly felt life-like with their realistic graphics and intricate controls that attempted to capture the full complexity and magic of these sports, but to me video games were always an escape from reality, whisking me off to strange worlds with unique characters. Controlling eerily accurate replicas of real-world athletes just didn’t do it for me.


Fortunately, video game creators have, since time immemorial, been fusing sports with fantasy in wonderful ways. Some of these games have fictional characters and mascots, the most notable of which feature Mario and his friends. Nintendo has made so many sports games with their iconic cast of characters that they can encompass an entire category all on their own.

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waluigi in super mario tennis

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Games like Mario Golf and Mario Tennis combined the best elements of the Mario universe such as power-ups and unique abilities with traditional sports. In Mario Strikers (Mario Soccer, essentially), Boos can turn invisible, making them immune to getting hit, while Mario and Luigi have the ability to become gigantic and stomp on members of the opposing teams. The wildest feature of Mario Strikers has to be its “charged shot,” which allows players to take multiple shots at the goal at the same time.

Then you have the games that take place in the “real” world and might even use real players, but they also don’t hold themselves accountable to the rules of reality. They may even bend the rules of the sport itself in order to make for more interesting gameplay. Perhaps the best example is the classic arcade game NBA Jam. This game has no problem featuring its players jumping over the basket and slam-dunking so hard it breaks the hoop. Its most famous feature is when the same player hits three shots in a row they are “on fire.” Literally. The player bursts into flames and becomes nearly unstoppable. I look back on games like this and those crazy EA Sports BIG games like NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street, and SSX, and wonder what happened to that great era…

In order to keep this idea fresh, modern games like to put a spin on classic sports and games. A great example of this is Rocket League, though I also tip my hat to the recently-departed Knockout City, which sadly shut down this month. The game gave dodgeball the wacky treatment as players would run around rooftop maps trying to hit each other, with the ability to run and jump long distances while flipping seamlessly through the air and throwing heat-seeking balls.

nba jam

Rocket League took the unlikely combination of rocket-powered flying cars and soccer, and turned it into not just a video game, but an e-sports phenomenon. Being completely physics-based, those little things you take for granted in a realistic soccer game like dribbling and goalkeeping become a matter of incredible precision and skill. The challenge of weaving through the defending team or pulling off an acrobatic save is such that in some ways, it feels like a purer manifestation of soccer than soccer itself! And all this happens while cars jump, spin, and twirl through the air like agile acrobats. No driving game has even come close to matching this level of bonkers gameplay.

For me, these unrealistic games are the perfect unity of the real world and fantasy gaming. Running around the Magic Kingdom and jumping on Koopas is a fantastical, escapist experience that Mario and other kinds of unrealistic sports games also embody. So don’t give up on sports games if you find them boring like me. You just need to grab a few power-ups to spice them up.

Next: Best Mario Sports Games

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