This month marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System here in the United States. The console has a lot of great games that cover several different genres, from platformers to action games to RPGs. In terms of sports video games, however, the Super NES isn’t held in as high regard as its 16-bit competitor– the SEGA Genesis. Many EA Sports games, for example, tended to run better on the Genesis.
Despite not being considered as strong a sports video game console as the Genesis, the Super NES does have some games that do narrow that gap. Let’s take a look at a few personally recommended titles which demonstrate that Nintendo’s 16-bit console can hold its own in the sports game genre:
Super Batter Up (Namco, 1992): The true successor to the RBI Baseball games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Batter Up will feel immediately familiar to fans and offers an MLBPA license so that real players (and their 1991 stats) are in the game. Unlike the 8-bit RBI games, though, the on-screen athletes here have a somewhat more realistic look to them. This isn’t a drawback, though, and is a nice step forward from the cutesy super-deformed players that the series sported for years. The game even outshines the Genesis port of RBI Baseball 3, giving the Super NES the best RBI Baseball (even if not by name) game of the 16-bit era. (Pricing note: A loose cart is valued at around $5 USD, while a complete in box version of the game is worth around $27.)
Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 (Culture Brain, 1991): This sequel fixes some of the problems of the 1990 NES game while adding a few more extras to make it one of the most versatile baseball games of the 16-bit era. Players can choose to play baseball with normal rules, or with special Ultra powers that lead to some amazing results on the mound, in the field, or in the batter’s box. When engaged in Season play, simulated games move a lot faster in this version than the 8-bit original. Best of all, this game has a battery backup, so stats and season progress are saved to the battery and no passwords are required. (Pricing note: A loose cart is valued at around $6, while a complete in box version of the game is worth around $25.)
Tecmo Super Bowl (Tecmo, 1993): It took a couple of years after its hit NES game for Tecmo to develop Tecmo Super Bowl for the Super NES, but it was worth the wait. Improvements from the 1991 NES game include new cinema screens, updated rosters, improved visuals and sound, and the ability to play multiple seasons. This game is so good that Tecmo used it as the “2D mode” for its 2010 digital release of Tecmo Bowl Throwback (minus the NFL and NFLPA licenses, which could not be renewed). Tecmo also developed and published a separate version of Tecmo Super Bowl for the Genesis in 1993, but the game suffers a bit in the visual and sound departments compared to its Super NES counterpart. (Pricing note: A loose cart is valued at around $10, while a complete in box version of the game is worth around $18.)
NBA Give ‘N Go (Konami, 1995): This game is based on Konami‘s 1993 Run and Gun coin-op, which I talked about in my recent First and 10 piece. It improves on the coin-op by offering full NBA and NBA Players’ licenses, which the arcade game did not have. Don’t expect a pure basketball simulation with Give ‘N Go; this game is all arcade action, with tons of dunks, alley-oops, and blocked shots. The only real drawbacks are the lack of a Season mode and relying on passwords to save progress instead of battery backup. If you’re a fan of arcade sports games, this title needs to be in your Super NES library. It’s that good. (Pricing note: A loose cart is valued at around $7, while a complete in box version is worth around $10— although I’ve seen it go for as much as $20.)
NBA JAM Tournament Edition (Acclaim, 1995): After 1994’s release of NBA JAM for the Super NES was missing lines of commentary and a battery backup like its SEGA Genesis counterpart, Tournament Edition fills in the missing pieces and is the definitive JAM experience for the Super NES. Using the shoulder buttons for Turbo makes for more comfortable play control, while the graphics and sound edge out the Genesis version this time around. Customizable options make the game as easy or as challenging as players want it to be, and the addition of optional scoring hotspots can make for higher-scoring affairs. My only complaint? The NBA forced Midway to remove the act of shattering backboards (which was a blast in the original JAM) from the sequel… so they’re not in the console versions, either. Still… it’s NBA JAM. If you don’t already own this game, don’t wait any longer. (Pricing note: A loose cart is worth a bit more than $10, while a complete in box version is worth $26.)
NHL ’96 (EA Sports, 1995): NHL parity was finally achieved between the SEGA Genesis and the Super NES with this 1995 release. No matter which version you play, the entire NHL ’96 package is excellent. Season play accompanies the Playoff and Exhibition modes, and a battery backup saves progress and accumulated stats (including user stats, which is a nice feature). When the on-ice action starts, the pace is fast and the players animate and move very smoothly. One-timers are still deadly, but goaltenders are a bit smarter this time around than in years past. This was the last of the 16-bit NHL games to get significant upgrades before EA Sports began turning its attention to the 32-bit generation of consoles, and it’s a really strong finish. (Pricing note: A loose cart is worth about $6, while a complete in box version is worth about $15.)
These titles are just a sample of what’s available for quality sports games for the Super NES. While this list doesn’t unseat the Genesis from its rightful position as the 16-bit sports game champ, it does show that the Super NES has games that make it a better competitor for the title than many people might otherwise be led to believe.