Yesterday was “National Video Game Day”, so this week’s Top Ten Tuesday goes over the best sports video game characters in history.
10. Champ Bailey in NFL Street
The NFL Street games haven’t been around in over a decade, and the first and best installment was released in January 2004—so even if you’re a big video game fan, many of you may have no idea about the game. However, they, along with the original NBA Street series (which also could have had characters on this list including ’85 Michael Jordan from NBA Street Vol. 2) that led to the NFL games being made, were legit classics. In NFL Street, it was a 7-on-7 game with no subs, so players played on both sides of the ball, and it was important to have athletic, two-way players. Champ Bailey was probably the best two-way player in the game, with lockdown ability on defense and the speed, athleticism, and hands to be the best receiver among defensive backs.
9. Jon Dowd in MVP Baseball 2005
In 2005, Barry Bonds was coming off his fourth consecutive National League Most Valuable Player in a season in which he hit .362 with 45 homers while no one wanted to pitch to him—he was walked 232 times, a record that will likely never be broken. Basically, Bonds was unstoppable at the plate. However, the popular MVP Baseball series from EA didn’t live up to the “it’s in the game” mantra, as baseball’s best player was not actually in the game because he was not a part of the MLBPA’s licensing. To replace Bonds, MVP Baseball 2005 had “Jon Dowd”, who was basically the opposite of Bonds in terms of appearance—white, right-handed, no elbow guard—but was nearly as unstoppable in the video game as Bonds was in real life.
8. Donkey Kong in Mario games
While he might not be quite as dominant in Mario Kart because he’s a big character fitting into a smaller kart that can keep his speed down, Donkey Kong is a force in other Mario sports games. In Mario Tennis, Donkey Kong has an ultra-powerful serve that’s tough to handle, and he can flick his wrist for major velocity. And in Mario baseball games, Donkey Kong uses a boxing glove to hit moonshots.
7. Barry Sanders in NCAA Football
Barry Sanders had arguably the greatest college football season of all-time during his 1988 Heisman Trophy year, rushing for 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns (both still records), and you had the chance to use 1988 Sanders in NCAA Football 13. As was the case in real life, you could dominate with Sanders from between the tackles to outside on pitches, as he would use unmatched acceleration and agility to evade defenders in tight areas or open space. Tim Tebow (AKA Gators QB #15, as real collegiate athlete names could not be used while they were in school) was also among the best players in the NCAA Football series.
6. Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!!
The boss in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (now known as just Punch-Out!!) was none other than “Iron Mike” himself. Tyson was built like a true video-game boss, as he was much bigger than your character, Little Mac. Later, the final boss would be known as Mr. Dream (again because of a licensing situation), but everyone still associated the character with Tyson. Both Tyson and Muhammad Ali were also awesome to use in the more-realistic Fight Night.
5. Michael Jordan in NBA 2K
It took a while because Michael Jordan has his own licensing—many of you probably know that he was not in NBA Jam because he was not a part of the NBAPA—but the greatest basketball player in history was finally put into NBA 2K11, which he was on the cover of. MJ was then on the cover of NBA 2K12 and NBA 2K16 (arguably the best installment of the series), and the 2K team has gotten him right every time. Jordan wouldn’t have handed his likeness over if he didn’t think it would be authentic, and he’s probably the closest player in the game to his real playing style. The 1996 Jordan in NBA 2K has the all-around game—from the post game to the dunks to the knock-down jumpers—that makes him impossible to stop if he gets going, which is true to life.
4. Michael Vick in Madden
Back when Michael Vick was a sensation in the mid-2000s, his popularity was heightened by the Madden video game, which he was on the cover of for Madden 04. In that game, Vick was a 95 overall with attributes of 95 speed, 95 agility, 94 acceleration, and 97 throw power—it’s not likely another quarterback hits those marks any time soon. And Vick seemed to play better than his ratings, probably because Madden never had a player like him in the game.
3. Jeremy Roenick in NHL ’94
Hockey doesn’t get as much fanfare as football and basketball, but Jeremy Roenick in NHL ’94 is the stuff of legends. As you’d expect from a game from nearly three decades ago, the graphics weren’t great and the gameplay wasn’t great compared to today’s standards. But Roenick would still score nearly at will with a laser-accurate shot, and he would light people up with devastating checks. As of a few years ago, Roenick says he still has people coming up to him talking about NHL ’94—that says it all.
2. Pablo Sanchez in Backyard games
Likely the most iconic fictional video game character of all-time, Pablo Sanchez doesn’t speak any English, but he has no trouble making friends because of his athletic ability. A beast at every sport, Sanchez is not only an exceptional athlete, but he’s seen as a model teammate with ideal sportsmanship. “The Secret Weapon” is probably best at baseball, but he’s worthy of the top pick among the Backyard crew no matter the sport.
1. Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl
Bo Jackson is one of the greatest natural athletes in history, but his character’s ability in Tecmo Bowl somehow surpasses his ability on the real gridiron and diamond. It’s like the Tecmo team didn’t know how to put Bo’s athletic prowess into an NES game, so they maxed him out and literally allowed him to run circles around defenses. Jackson in Tecmo Bowl was so good, that he could run backwards to the one-yard line and then evade everyone and score anyway.