Game point. You’re one shot away from winning the tournament and a shiny gold trophy. You swing with all your might, but then your opponent takes out a giant hammer and smashes the ball into your court, costing you the game. This is just one crazy example of many from the world of sports game spin-offs.
While sports have been part of human history for thousands of years, videogames have only been with us for a few decades. But when it comes to characters, both on the field and in the TV, everyone has their own personal preferences. Some may enjoy playing their true-to-life fantasy football or soccer team, but there are those who would rather see their favorite videogame characters go head-to-head in their favorite sport. And for that, we have spin-offs.
Sure, controlling famous sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Wayne Gretzky onscreen is fun and all, but there’s something as equally gratifying when we dink around in a sport with Mario or Yoshi instead. Even Mega Man had his own soccer game at one point.
So don your jerseys and show off your team spirit: we’ve got a list of our personal favorite sports game spin-offs, some of which may or may not feature an overweight plumber or high-pitched dinosaur running around on a field.
Greatest Sports Spin-off: NFL Street
I’m going to skip over the obvious answers that usually involve Mario and instead choose NFL Street for one specific occasion in my life.
Several years ago, we were having a family party at my house and my cousin and I were playing NFL Street for Gamecube when he introduced me to one of the funniest things you can do in a videogame. The game has a system entitled the “Gamebreaker,” which is basically a bar that fills up as you play and then allows you to power up a single player that results in that team member to become incredibly hard to tackle. Normally, this is used on a running back, quarterback or wide receiver to allow them to get more yardage or score when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Well, my cousin came up with the genius idea of filling the Gamebreaker bar up and then switching the running back with an offensive lineman on the depth chart. The result is a 300+ lb giant that cannot be tackled running straight through the entire opposing team. Bodies flew and points were scored.
- Ken Smith
Greatest Sports Spin-off: Mario Tennis
Being that it’s one of my favorite sports, I enjoy hitting the court and playing a friendly game of tennis once in awhile with my friends. And that love transitions very well into gaming with Mario Tennis.
I spent many hours of my childhood playing through exhibitions and tournaments, winning trophies mostly as Yoshi. Seeing your favorite Nintendo characters face off in fierce tennis matches is both very fun and amusing.
While most of the game plays like a traditional tennis game with power shots added into the mix, the Bowser Stage (a personal favorite) blends the game’s core rules with Mario Kart power-ups for added depth to a relatively simple sport.
There’s also plenty of minigames that blew my young mind. What’s that, floating rings that start small and grow bigger over time while quickly depreciating in score? Simply amazing.
And hey, while he was very annoying with his long arms, Mario Tennis marked the first ever appearance of Waluigi.
- Allain Richard
Greatest Sports Spin-off: Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed
Who needs NASCAR when you have Sonic?
I love me some kart games, but so many character-driven racers are limited to basic vehicles like go-karts. This was not Sonic’s first jump into the racing genre; that honor goes to the gem Sonic R and its catchy 90s tunes.
Throw in some Sega favorites and add some challenging courses, however, and you have the formula for a great racer.
Transformed took the Sega nostalgia to a more streamlined and challenging level, allowing vehicles to turn into boats and planes, giving this racing game more depth than even a Mario Kart title.
Where else can you blast through the world of NiGHTS into Dreams, soar through the Moebius-inspired landscapes of Panzer Dragoon, the Skies of Arcadia and the colorful courses of Sambe De Amigo? Transformed’s only few drawbacks are its brutal learning curve as well as its method of unlocking new content.