We're fully in sports sim season. Madden NFL 21 released last week. This week we have NBA 2K21 and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. NHL 21 and FIFA 21 are just around the corner. In other words, it's time for our Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey to truly shine.
Luckily, the addition of Tony Hawk in the usual sports line-up shakes up this year's sports games considerably. Though not a sim and more arcade-y, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series is undoubtedly a favorite amongst our staff. Its latest, a remake of the first two games in the series, just might be the best game in the series yet—a true 180 considering other recent attempts to revive the series last decade.
So, for this week's Community Question, we figured it'd be fun to have a healthy debate. What's the best sports game of all-time? Tell us what you think in the comments!
The Tony Hawk remaster certainly has me excited, but one of my favorite things to see in sports games of any stripe is special attention paid to the way we can fail at sports. I mean bailing off of boards, crumpling under a tackle, whiffing a golf swing so badly your club flies out of your hands. With skateboarding on the brain, the thought of entertaining failures brings me right back to Skate 2, where I spent lord knows how many hours watching my skaters roll down vert ramps, ragdoll into fire hydrants, and tumble over the San Vanelona Dam. That might just put it at the top of my all-time list.
Sports games have never been my #1 genre, though I can certainly say growing up in Toronto meant the rental stores were forever out of Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel. Myself, I preferred Punch-Out!! on the NES. Does that count? If the answer is "no," I choose to overule. Nintendo sports games generally have a simple, fun premise that makes me feel like it's OK to play, even if I don't understand the rules of the game. Punch-Out!! was probably the first sports video game that made me feel like I was welcome, no matter how little I cared about sports. Everything in Punch-Out!! is so cartoony, so exaggerated, all it's interested in is letting you have a good time punching out enormous Goliaths to the best of your ability. Also, the game's difficulty ascends on a perfect plane. I think developers can still take a lesson from Punch-Out!!'s masterfully-orchestrated difficulty creep.
The easy answer to this is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. The secret answer is SSX Tricky. The only-Caty-thinks-this answer to this is Super Dodge Ball Advance. But I'm going to throw a curveball: The best sports game of all time is Nidhogg. (Or at least, it's one of them.) Hear me out.
Nidhogg is a fencing game. Fencing is a sport. Hence, it qualifies, even if its swordplay ends with certain death upon victory. In Nidhogg, you simply have a long sword, and the option to point it at your foe from up high, torso-height, or from below. You can jab it or throw it. It wields the tension of fencing, made even more competitive. I've had matches of Nidhogg last upward of 45 minutes with tons of back and forth, as me and a foe inched each other toward the opposite ends of the map. Nidhogg is not just one of my favorite multiplayer games ever, but it is, in my eyes, one of the best sports games ever.