Most of the time, sports video games attempt to stay as true to the nature of the real sport as possible. One look at fare from EA Sports like Madden NFL 16, NHL 16 and FIFA 16, easily shows that. But there are also sports games that go off the beaten path, offering inventive twists on the genre that keep players coming back for more, whether it’s a certain rule change or a revamping of the activity altogether.
Here are five sports games that take the unconventional route, and score much better as a result.
Rocket League (PlayStation 4, PC)
We’ve talked about Rocket League before on G&S, and for good reason, it’s a far better soccer game than most of the traditional sims. Instead of just relying on trying to kick a ball into a goal, you instead have to race around in a car, hoping to get your shot off with the right amount of turbo. Of course, defense plays a part as well, and the game has plenty of options when it comes to keeping the ball out of the goal, including destroying your opponent entirely by ramming into them. With abundant multiplayer options and appeal for both casual and hardcore soccer players alike, Rocket League shoots and scores.
Mutant League Hockey (Sega Genesis)
While EA Sports’ NHL games for the Sega Genesis established a great audience (some of which just played to make Gretzky bleed, as hinted at in Swingers), the second game in the company’s Mutant League series, Hockey, carved out a niche all its own. In the game, you pass and shoot the puck just as you would in the traditional sport… only a lot more violently. Yes, with the right amount of checks, you can send a player’s corpse slithering under the ice, or better yet, make them explode outright into a bloody mess which remains on the ice until the monstrous Zamboni comes along to clean it up. With tight gameplay and a rousing presentation, Mutant League Hockey is monstrous entertainment.
Blood Bowl II (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Take the much-loved Warhammer universe and mesh it with the classic sport of football, then throw in a tinge of strategy, and what do you get? Blood Bowl II, a game that throws the traditional rulebook out the window in favor of deep, blood-spilling tactics. The game features a wide variety of ogres, monsters, and, yes, even poor humans to choose from, along with some diabolical plays that could help you get into the end zone or carried off the field in a bodybag. Though the gameplay is different than most pigskin-based sports, it’s deep and thoroughly enjoyable, and the commentators provide enough rousing feedback to keep things lively. This one’s worth hitting the field with.
Baseball is pretty much a routine sport. However, sometimes it helps to go off the beaten path, something Basewars clearly did back in the NES era. Instead of controlling players, you’re in charge of robots trying to score as many home runs as possible while valiantly defending the base. That’s because when you come close to a baseman with ball in hand, you actually engage in a combat-based battle, where the last robot standing wins. With these kind of encounters mixed in with cannon-based pitching and the ability to hit the ball out of the frickin’ galaxy, Basewars is a retro treat that deserves a revisit. “Yeah!”
Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball (SNES)
Finally, for you “ballers” that believe NBA Jam just isn’t extreme enough for your tastes, there’s this 1991 top-view basketball game, where all rules are off as you attempt to score as many points as possible. Don’t worry so much about fouls and breaking rules; your job is to knock out as many players as possible then drive the ball to the basket in the allotted time frame. There are also weapons thrown in for good measure, including ninja stars and bombs, in case you want to blast the opposing team off the court. Let’s see Barkley Shut Up and Jam! do that.
Cover image source: Blood Bowl