Unsung Video Games MLB.com Forgot

There have been a lot of good baseball video games over the years, but Bases Loaded is one of the most underrated. (via YouTube)

Earlier this month, MLB.com put together a list of what it believes to be the top 10 baseball video games of all time. This list had the usual suspects like MVP Baseball 2005, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, R.B.I. Baseball (NES version) and Baseball Stars.

However, some other video games on MLB.com’s list raised some eyebrows — meaning mine. Base Wars wasn’t really mentioned over the years in terms of best baseball video games, but it made the list. Triple Play Baseball, a game I absolutely love, was deemed inferior to PS1’s MLB series (before it became The Show). Out of the Park Baseball is great for aspiring general managers, or at least those who want to be in their shoes, but putting that on the list is the equivalent of putting EA Sports’ NFL Head Coach game on the list of greatest football video games of all time.

So while this list is okay for its designed purpose of sparking discussion, I decided to contribute a list of my own. These aren’t necessarily the best baseball video games, but they’re unsung ones that deserve some recognition. Some are more fun than the ones on MLB.com’s list. Some are more detailed. However, all of them should be acknowledged.

Bases Loaded (1988)

While it’s not necessarily the best game in the series (Bases Loaded 2 is better), it deserves to be recognized for introducing America to one of the greatest virtual athletes ever. That’s right, I’m talking about Paste. Paste had the power, the batting average and OPS to match up with any of today’s players. He would have fit in perfectly in the steroid era and quite possibly would have been caught with PEDs himself. But other elements of the game make it worthy of recognition. It was one of the first video games to feature a camera angle behind the pitcher, it included brawls, and the umpire occasionally insulted your batting approach

Super Baseball 2020 (1991)

If you’re going to mention Base Wars, you have to mention Super Baseball 2020. A take on what many in the 20th century thought the 21st century would be like, the game played like a normal baseball game with a few caveats. Robots. Lots and lots of robots. The game also had human players, but they were dressed up in so much armor they might as well have been robots. You could make money via strikeouts, defensive plays, and grand slams. The game also included landmines in the outfield that would send a fielder flying up in the air, leaving him shaken for a bit once he came down. All hail Cyber Egg Stadium.

Sports Talk Baseball (1991)

You have to include the first baseball game to have “live play-by-play” right? While the broadcast might have its faults, the game was easy for casuals to pick up and play ,and since it had the MLB Players Association license, you could play as your favorite team (unless your favorite team includes Bobby Bonilla and a past-his-prime Willie Randolph…#LGM). The game had three stadiums you could play in and could easily draw you into a marathon day of play. Even the nine-inning games played quickly so you could get in as many games a possible. For all of that, it deserves inclusion on this list. 

World Series Baseball (1993)

This Sega Genesis exclusive had the players union license, the league license, real stadiums, and one of the greatest video game commercials of all time. As for the game itself, it chose to have a catcher’s-eye view of the action in lieu of the traditional behind-the-pitcher/above-the-catcher approach. The game also included the same play-by-play that could be found in Sports Talk Baseball. And while you wouldn’t be able to make trades until the next version of the game, you were able to play full seasons and have a pennant race. The downside to the game is that it’s really slow and sometimes boring (in that instance, it might be the perfect baseball video game), but for its attention to detail, it should be acknowledged.

All-Star Baseball 2004-’05

I’ve written about All-Star Baseball 2004 & 2005 for THT before, and I’m writing about it again. The attention to detail in these two games rivals — and sometimes supersedes — the much-lauded and more popular MVP franchise. 

The game had a mode in which you could pick players and play in a sandlot or a city park. It had expansion teams with pre-designed new stadiums. It had classic stadiums that even MLB The Show doesn’t have (shout out to Ebbets Field, Riverfront Stadium and Olympic Stadium). It had a mode that allowed you to alter moments in major league history. The stadiums were better detailed than MVP’s designs, and the fake Barry Bonds (Wes Mailman) was a worthy rival for MVP’s Jon Dowd. The game (and the franchise overall) was ahead of its time and MLB The Show is still playing catch-up to some of its ideas.

Quick mentions:

Two arcade baseball video games that need to be noted are Bottom of the Ninth and Relief Pitcher. Bottom of the Ninth was simply a fun game to pump quarters into, and good baseball arcade games are hard to find. It also had split-screen action where you could see the action of the field along with closeups of the actual play happening simultaneously.

As for the latter, it needs to be mentioned specifically because of its innovative game play. Long before the days when you could just make yourself a relief pitcher/closer in MLB The Show’s Road to the Show mode, Relief Pitcher presented scenarios in which your pitcher had to get out of jams. Yes, you could be a starting pitcher in the game, but you could also play a 12-game season in which the relief pitcher would come into a situation with two runners on base with one out, or bases loaded and no outs, and be expected to give up as few runs as possible. The concept was perfect for arcade play and kept up the excitement as you waited to play Punch Out! or something.

All of these video games contributed to the timeline of baseball video game history and left their marks on us in one way or another. Other “popular” games might get all of the shine, but let’s shed a little light over here as well.

References & Resources

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Stephon Johnson is a staff writer at the New York Amsterdam News. His work has appeared in The Classical, The Sports Fan Journal, Polygon and The Cauldron at Sports Illustrated. He would like hitters to emphasize making contact again. Doubles and triples are OK. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @StephonJohnson8.
newest oldest most voted
Joe Joe
Member
Member
Joe Joe

The greatest accomplishment by Bases Loaded is that Matt Olson uses a batting stance from that game (may have been Bases Loaded II).

DerekBain
Member

I’ll contribute my list, primarily pre-2000 as I’m in the process of reviewing Classic Retro Baseball games. Earl Weaver Baseball – available for several platforms but the Amiga version is an absolute gem!! Split-screen view, excellent sound/graphics, a multitude of strategic and league play options, build your own ballpark and the icing on the cake – taking advantage of the Amiga’s built-in speech synthesis to announce the ballplayer names! SSI Computer Baseball – the grandfather of text-based computer baseball games. MicroLeague Baseball – added the visuals, play-by-play, add-on disks for team editing and box score / stat compilation. Tony LaRussa… Read more »

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

Yeah, I’ve still got Earl Weaver Baseball for DOS, and I agree it’s a great game for its time.

Unfortunately, I lost the copy protection paper wheel after a few years, which kept me from doing anything beyond batting and fielding practice, but then years later I found a copy protection crack for it online. At that point, I found new appreciation for its depth as an adult and finally tried out the ballpark builder by replacing Sportsman’s Park with a decent replica of Busch Memorial Stadium.

DerekBain
Member

for arcade-style games, I would add World Series: The Season (Cinematronics arcade game, 1985) … the ability to time and adjust your swing or pitch location with unique spring-loaded controls, and it offered the option to track your statistics (display your batting prowess to fellow players!)

Baseball Simulator 1.000 for NES – the Space stadium and trick pitches…

Loved the commentary in Sports Talk Baseball as well 🙂

TJ
Member
Member
TJ

+1 for Baseball Simulator 1.000

Eminor3rd
Member
Member
Eminor3rd

I was going to suggest Baseball Simulator 1.000 as well.

Brad Harris
Member

IIRC, All-Star Baseball was also the first to have an ATG Negro Leagues team and it had all those cool videos with Buck O’Neill that you could unlock!

Pirates Hurdles
Member
Member
Pirates Hurdles

Played so many Bases Loaded games with Hawaii led by Debro, Brutus and Moon. Really takes me back!

hombremomento
Member
hombremomento

I had a baseball game on the DS back in maybe 2006, and I remember playing it for hours but I lost it long ago 🙁

crocheleau
Member
Member
crocheleau

I was playing some Mario Superstar Baseball on the Wii last week. It has a lot of great mechanics baked in to emphasize your team building. Massively overlooked imo.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

“Mario Superstar Baseball” was on GameCube. The Wii game is “Mario Super Sluggers.” Personally, I prefer the GameCube game, as the motion controls in the Wii game aren’t very good. I agree that they have some excellent game mechanics and wish that Nintendo would finally bring back the series for the Switch.

kevinthecomic
Member
Member
kevinthecomic

I’m gonna go old school and drop Game Star Baseball (1983) on you. I played it on my Commodore 64. My brother and I used a notebook for keeping the scores of our games against each other. There’s three things I remember the most about it. One, you only had the option to bring in a reliever after the 7th inning. If you didn’t bring one in then, you had to ride out the rest of the game with your starter (and you couldn’t bring one in any earlier if your starter was eating it!). Two, there were only two… Read more »

rgarofalo80
Member
Member
rgarofalo80

Baseball Simulator 1000 was easily my favorite baseball game of all time. It was a japanese make. For a 1990 game, it was so much better (and customizable) over peers of that era. While I enjoyed bases loaded (and hated RBI), they just were far more arcade like. And if did want arcade style, simulator had a specific mode for that

admarshall2
Member
Member
admarshall2

As a child of the NES generation and a future fantasy owner, Baseball Stars was a revelation. It was the first video game (I think) with a sort of “franchise” mode – winning games to earn money to buy better players over the course of a full season. That coupled with the old-school, dead-ball-era graphics was all my ten-year-old self needed (well, plus Doritos).

Paul G.
Member
Member
Paul G.

In one game of Bases Loaded, Paste his a ball so hard that it pinged off the right center field wall before he was halfway to first base. He had to settle for a single. Paste was not the fastest of runners. One of the editions of Based Loaded also let you intentionally bean hitters in the head. This was a great way to get Paste out of the lineup as he would typically rush the mound and get ejected. Hardball! was another game I had on the Commodore 64. It was a fun game. It only had two teams… Read more »

gillum
Member
Member
gillum

Jersey pitcher Hall had a screwball that was unhittable, and the umpire would call it a strike every time. Against the computer, if you could get through 6 innings with a lead, Hall would strike out 9 batters on 27 pitches. Went through a entire season undefeated.

jcave0299
Member
jcave0299

Once created an all star team on Sports Talk with a lineup of 9 Jose Canseco’s. I set a personal record for home runs that day.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

Raphael to Casey Jones: A Jose Canseco bat? I hope you didn’t pay money for this.

…and that was way back in 1990!

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

My favorite part of the All-Star Baseball series is that they’re the most user-friendly games I’ve seen for telling balls from strikes while batting. In most baseball games, I wind up just swinging at everything or only drawing a rare ball when it’s a really bad pitch (and even then often with a check swing, depending on the game). With All-Star Baseball, I can actually hit with deep counts on a regular basis and even draw some walks.

kcshankland
Member
Member
kcshankland

1989 Micro League Baseball, purchased from a mall game store.

Kept stats and allowed me to feel the GM bug for the first time – swapping Tom Gordon and Luis Aquino into the rotation, and ensuring prime Jim Eisenreich is in the lineup everyday usually got me and the Royals to 90 wins.

Sittch
Member
Sittch

MLB Power Pros, hands down.

redcodefsu
Member
redcodefsu

I grew up with RBI Baseball (original/3/93), Base Wars, Bases Loaded 2, World Series Baseball (original and 95), Ken Griffey Jr Baseball, and Extra Bases on Gameboy… All great.

djagger
Member
djagger

Can anyone know – which game have the best pitcher simulation with all the features – different pitches, pitch grips, arm slots, pitching delivery etc.?

bigSingle
Member
bigSingle

dont forget about Bay
he had the true power
paste hit the ball too hard, too many wall ball singles