Hello, and welcome back to Silver Linings where the maligned, forgotten, and ignored are not relegated to the other ESPN channels.
The last couple of months have not been good to sports fans due to the threat of COVID-19 (or, really, anyone). With seasons canceled or postponed until the threat is all over, ESPN has come down to just showing retrospectives, highlight reels, and locker room news rather than showing sporting events. WWE is still on schedule though the complete lack of audiences has made watching RAW quite boring.
I'm a sports fan; I've mentioned that before. However, I'm a gamer first and foremost. My solution to the lack of ESPN was to dive headfirst into my game catalog. Just about every kind of sport imaginable is in my library somewhere. However, while thumbing through, I've noticed that I have plenty of sports games that are quite unusual alongside the Madden and the PGA Tour games. I'm going to highlight ten sports games in my library that are far from the norm but are worth a look by the adventurous fan.
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
Okay, let's get the pervy option out of the way first. While some may see DOAX as just a way to ogle the buxom competitors from the Dead or Alive games in increasingly skimpy bikinis, there is actually one of the best volleyball video games present here, as well. The controls are simple to pick-up, and the choice of character and teammate has major effects on play strategy. Though the sequels include other events and skimpier swimsuits, the first on the original Xbox has the strongest gameplay and local multiplayer.
The Hunter: Call of the Wild
Most hunting games are arcade light-gun shooters like the Cabela's and Big Game Hunter series, games where, if you don't bag a buck within 30 seconds of starting, you truly suck. The Hunter: Call of the Wild on Xbox One and PS4 does the complete opposite by creating as realistic a hunting experience as possible. Tracking game may be slow, but successully nailing your quarry in the end is so much more satisfying. I wanted to try this when I first heard about it since it's made by the same guys who made the Just Cause games, and I'm very satisfied.
Mutant League Football
Football is one sport that is painfully rigid with its rules and set-up. The Blitz games loosen the reigns somewhat but not nearly as much as Mutant League Football on the Genesis. While feeling very much like a legit football game, the violence is cranked up to absurd levels. Players get absolutely splattered all over the field. Hell, when a ref makes a bad call, you could debate the call or just rip the ref apart. There is a new version of Mutant League on current consoles, but it sucks. Stick to the old one.
MVP 06 NCAA Baseball
In my sports game editorial, I mentioned all the issues that came up because of those blasted exclusivity deals. When EA lost the right to make pro baseball games, they did something no one expected. They switched to college baseball. This experiment wasn't successful financially, but the game itself is great. You can even build your own college team and field with impressive detail. EA tried one more time with an 07 edition, but that one was only on the PS2 where 06 showed up on the Xbox, as well.
I'm not a fan of NASCAR games as, while they are very in depth in replicating the experience on the track, they're just not as interesting as Formula 1 or GT games are. NASCAR Rumble on the PS1 completely threw away the typical NASCAR stuffiness by putting their biggest names in a kart racer. It's similar to the forgotten racing game Blur in that it has realistic cars with crazy weapons and crazy environments. When was the last time you saw the race at Talledega continue with tornadoes all over the track?
The "Outlaw" Sports Series
In my Dream 18 article, I mentioned that Outlaw Golf 2 is my favorite golf game of all time; it's even #7 on my list of my favorite games ever. However, before the developer Hypnotix was bought by EA and never seen again, they also put out two more games in the franchise, Outlaw Volleyball and Outlaw Tennis. Both take stuffy sports and inject them with political incorrectness and bad attitude. When was the last time you saw a brawl at Wimbledon?
Most pool games are either limited in options or go out of their way to replicate the typical dark pool halls. Pool Paradise on GameCube does neither. Instead of grungy pool halls, the game is set on a relaxing tropical island with quiet bossanova music playing. It's like if you were playing in Bora Bora. Not only are there plenty of rule sets beyond just 8-ball & 9-ball, but there are also plenty of additional weird tables to play on. It's actually a blast playing pool on an air hockey table!
I've already talked about Rocket League; so, I won't drone on about it. It's #40 on my favorite games list for a reason. What's cooler than playing soccer or basketball with RC cars?
Yuke's have been tied into doing WWF/WWE games for two decades until they finally quit, resulting in the disastrous WWE 2K20. However, in the midst of the Smackdown era, they let their hair down and made Rumble Roses. While it looks on the surface like a Dead or Alive rip-off, it has fun with its cheesiness. The characters are gloriously over-the-top, but the wrestling is as solid as any of the Smackdown games from the era. The sequel Rumble Roses XX on Xbox 360 looks better and has more characters, but the original on PS2 has mud wrestling. Winner!
While most extreme games like Matt Hoffman and Dave Mirra tried to replicate the X-Games experience, Toxic Grind on Xbox has a bit of dangerous fun. The locations are overloaded with hazards including building ready to fall apart and toxic waste spills. It's actually exciting trying to keep a combo going while dodging all manner of sludge. It's a shame this didn't take off as a series.
What do you think? Any more weird sports games worth mentioning? Let me know. These and more traditional sports games are set to be featured in my new show on Twitch "Saturday Night Sports". It's every other Saturday night at 7:00 PM Central Time. Check it out, and game on!