Is NHL ’94 the best retro sports video game ever? Watch as the Post joins Abacus on Twitch to find out
- NHL ’94 just turned 25 years old, but does it stand the test of time?
- The Post and Abacus team up on Twitch to play a few other retro offerings too
Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture website The Ringer recently posted a controversial article naming Nintendo 64’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the greatest video game ever, sending the online gaming community into fevered debate.
The story came out on the heels of the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game that has many diehards now declaring it the king.
But what about the best sports game of all time?
As a hockey-playing Canadian, I grew up with EA Sports’ Sega Genesis and Super NES classic NHL ’94, which has just turned 25 years old.
So that got me thinking – why not try to relive a bit of my lost childhood?
Luckily Abacus executive producer Ravi Hiranand came to the rescue and joined the South China Morning Post for some good old-fashioned finger smashing amazingness. Check out some of the clips below via Twitch, or watch the full live stream here.
But what makes NHL ’94 so great? And which other retro sports games are in the conversation for greatest of all time? Read on below for our choices.
EA Sports’ game hit the market with little fanfare when it came out, but gamers soon realised something was different, especially when it came to now-retired hockey player Jeremy Roenick.
“It’s my claim to fame,” he recently told NHL.com in an interview celebrating the game’s 25th anniversary. “It’s the number one thing people want to talk to me about everywhere I go.”
The fact Roenick is remembered more for NHL ’94 than for scoring 513 goals in the actual NHL across 20 seasons speaks to this game’s cultural weight.
Roenick, for whatever reason, could do no wrong when you played as him in the game, scoring at will and forcing players to blacklist the Chicago Blackhawks in competitions.
NHL ’94 also made a cameo in another cult entertainment offering, the 1996 film Swingers where Vince Vaughn’s character made Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed while his friend got money for delivery food.
Originally an arcade game from Midway, the franchise flooded various consoles which ultimately diluted its amazingness.
Regardless, much like NHL ’94, it was groundbreaking because you could play as NBA superstars such as “The Mailman” Karl Malone, Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing (Space Jam reunion anyone?), but no Michael Jordan (he opted out of the NBA’s players association licensing agreement for the game).
The best parts of NBA Jam were the catchphrases from the announcer including “Oh my, he’s on fire!” and “boom shakalaka” in some amazingly awful Dick Vitale knock-off voice.
The game was simple – two-on-two, dunk, shoot threes, steal and pass. But then cheat codes came in and the gaming world went crazy: juice mode, power-ups and name passwords for hidden players like Air Dog and Al Gore, I kid you not.
Rumours are circulating developers are looking at a remake, but how could you ever improve on perfection, or in NBA Jam lingo, something that is always on fire.
Super Mario Kart
OK, technically this one is stretching it … but go-karting is a sport right? And Super Mario Kart is so awesome it needs to be mentioned.
The courses were childlike and so were the characters but one can imagine there’s been some seriously epic battles that have taken place in basements across the world over the years.
Versus and battle mode upped the competitiveness in terms of the overall video game landscape, and there was nothing like a red shell to ruin your day or a mushroom to blow by fellow racers.
The courses required a deft touch on the controller, tapping the buttons to perfection to slide perfectly around each corner– you could spend days mastering each and finding the best routes to racing supremacy.
The series went on to produce Mario Kart 64, another timeless offering that upped the multiplayer landscape to four people. No matter which version you like the best, Mario Kart is as timeless as Nintendo itself.
Tecmo Super Bowl
I think I still have vision impairment from the flashing players in this game. But no matter, it was worth it.
As colourfully horrible as Tecmo Super Bowl was,it’s still a solid game. Much like NHL ’94, it was one of the first pro sports games where you could play as actual teams, given the National Football League finally caved in and signed a licensing agreement.
Tecmo Super Bowl’s greatness lives on to this day. Case in point: according to a recent Yahoo Sports article, the Buffalo Bills tried to run a play made famous in the game, and of course, it failed gloriously in the real world, proving there is no end to its cultural references.
What was the play? A blown reverse flea-flicker that seemed to do nothing more than to allow the defence a few more crucial seconds to cover more players.
However in Tecmo Super Bowl, if you could get the ball back to the quarterback in time, the game’s players would be caught with their pants down and your receiver would be as wide open as a barn door.
You have to give the Bills credit for giving it a try, but honestly, c’mon, when has anything in a video game ever worked in real life?