The Nintendo Entertainment System released hundreds of 8-bit video games, many of them being timeless classics while others were outright stinkers, and the entire collection represented a broad swath of genres and gameplay experiences. Among the categories available was sports, a popular spectrum of simulation that persists in modern-day gaming as well.
On the NES, there were many baseball gamavailable, from the stat-bases Baseball Simulator 1.000 to the Legends of the Diamond game that allowed players to use Hall of Fame characters. But above all else stood the classic, simple RBI Baseball game, with its intuitive controls, fun physics, crude graphics, endearing music, and flat-out competitive basepath trickery.
Tecmo Super Bowl
Although other football games were accessible for the 8-bit NES system, including John Elways’s Quarterback and the release title cartridge 10 Yard Fight, the clear winner for best football game on the Nintendo Entertainment System goes to Tecmo Super Bowl, which TSB veterans know boils down to a Rock Paper Scissors match-up between the 49ers, the Giants, and the Raiders, who had perhaps the most dominant character in all of sports video game history with the incredible theatrics of Bo Jackson.
Tecmo NBA Basketball
Some of the basketball games available for the NES, like Hoops or Harlem Globetrotters, were gimmicky and relied on gameplay that did not really reflect the professional NBA style that fans would have been familiar with. While that can work to an extent, Tecmo NBA Basketball brought genuine NBA teams and players into the mix with a deep-seasoned playthrough and tightly honed controls.
Super Dodge Ball
Some consider Super Dodge Ball to not only be a great sports game, but one of the all-time best NES games in general, brought to Nintendo players by the same team that made River City Ransom. With a similar flair for style, slick animation, humor, and downright brutality, Super Dodge Ball brought the playground game of dodge ball to a worldwide stage with special moves and killer strategies.
One of the longest-lasting debates in NES history would be player preference between Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel, two classic ice hockey simulations that are worth hours upon hours of replays. Ice Hockey was a cartoony, simplified, pure-fun cartridge that pit two international hockey teams against the other, yet what made it unique and enduring was the capacity to customize the physical make-up of your team. Whether you wanted to hit the ice with three skinny speedsters and one big slap-shot specialist, or have a squad comprised of four all-around guys, you were free to choose, and many can still recall their favorite combinations.
Blades of Steel
This is a hockey game that may actually be more infamous for its in-game fights (done in a cutaway, one-on-one, fighting-game style) for its actual hockey-related gameplay, though that was not bad either. With early voice synthesis sound, an excellent developer behind the code, and a distinctive feel, Blades of Steel remains firmly entrenched in the discussion of best NES sports games ever.
With dozens of titles to choose from, the best sports games on the NES were sometimes tough to find amid the pile of garbage. Some stand-out titles like Super Spike V’Ball, NES Open Golf, and Track & Field deserve an honorable mention, but for sports fans everywhere, they knew they could rely on the above cartridges for a sports video game good time.