Baseball Video Games: Good, Bad, and Ugly
The game of baseball has been around since the 1800s but in the 1980s, a new way to play America’s favorite game was invented. 1985 saw the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, an 8-bit way for kids to have fun. Many games were released for the gaming console, the most famous probably being Super Mario Brothers.
After the NES there was the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo, the Playstation, the Nintendo 64, Playstation 2, Game Cube, and Xbox…and the list goes on and on and on.
With these new gaming systems came a broad variety of baseball games. There were some that were just so fun to play, others that were not as good, and some that were completely out of whack.
I have played quite a few of these baseball games as a kid growing up and I’d like to retell my experience as a gamer. Without any further ado, here are some the most memorable baseball video games:
Triple Play ’99
This was the first baseball game I ever had for a gaming console and it was the first game I ever had for the Playstation.
Alex Rodriguez was the cover boy (of course as a member of the Seattle Mariners) and I have to say, the game wasn’t bad. I enjoyed playing it as my first baseball game and it met the expectations for a Playstation game: decent graphics, easy controls, and good sound.
Triple Play ’99 was made by EA Sports, who are synonymous with good sports games. After all, EA Sports are the makers of Madden, probably the best football game ever invented for a gaming system, so it’s no surprise that their baseball games are also very good.
Buck Martinez and Jim Hughson call the action and they weren’t a bad choice for this game. The game designers did a nice job of having them include a good amount of baseball jargon. For example, they mention a “can of corn” when a batter flies out.
They go on to tell you how the term originated–how it supposedly comes from a General Store clerk reaching up and dropping a can from a high shelf before catching it.
I don’t get it either, but nonetheless it is a baseball term I learned from the game.
Along with the lingo used by the announcers, Triple Play ’99 offers you the chance to play as all 30 teams, adding the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the baseball video gaming world. Both teams had never been in a video game before, so it was neat to see them make their gaming debut.
In addition to the new teams, you can use every Major League stadium aside from the Kingdome, which at the time was ready to be demolished. If you activate cheat codes, you can also play in Anytown U.S.A. (a ballpark designed to look like a regular old sandlot) Neo Vancouver (a stadium on the moon) and Ancient Rome (what could be better than playing baseball at the Coliseum?)
The Home Run Derby feature was also fun to use, especially with those secret stadiums. Can you imagine playing Home Derby on the moon? Doesn’t get more epic than that!
Overall Triple Play ’99 was a great way to begin a journey into baseball video games. If you have a Playstation, I highly recommend you check it out if you can get your hands on it.
My first game may have been Triple Play ’99, but MLB ’99 was the first baseball game I remember getting addicted to. My friends Joey and Tim lived across the street and (it seemed like) every day after school I would be over their house playing this game.
Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles was featured on the cover and 989 Sports developed the game. In fact, MLB ’99 was the second game in a series of baseball games. The year before Bernie Williams graced the cover of MLB ’98 and the line of games continued all the way up to MLB 2006.
I collected the entire series except for ’98 and it had to be (in my opinion) the best line of baseball games ever, at least for its time. There was nothing like going over Joey and Tim’s house to play this game and just mashing up the competition playing as the Yankees.
The controls were extremely basic and the game play was nearly perfect. If you were playing the field and the batter hit a high fly ball to the outfield, a shadow would appear so you would know where to be positioned to catch the ball and make the put-out.
It doesn’t get simpler than that. On the other side when you are batting, you tap the X button to bat for average and the square to bat for power. It was easy enough for even the most inexperienced gamer.
As for announcing it is Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Dave Campbell, who played for the Detroit Tigers, the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Houston Astros.
Both announcers were so much fun to listen to. They included fun facts about each team and sometimes made me laugh with what they said. For example, one time my friends and I traded all the best players to the Yankees. We took Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr. and lined them up 1-5.
Each player proceeded to hit a solo home run. After the fourth homer, Campbell blurts out “This is starting to feel like a video game now.”
“…Correct me if I’m wrong, but THIS IS a video game!” That was all I could say as I was laughing at that comment. We are playing a video game and the announcer in the video game is comparing a video game to a video game.
I could only muster one cheat code in the game and that was to create a player by the name of Scott Murray. If you created this player, no matter how big or how small you made him, he would always hit a home run measured at exactly 506 feet. I don’t know where the developer came up with that name or number, but it worked every time.
This one time, I created a whole team of all Scott Murrays and eventually had to restart the game. I played as the away team and before the end of the first half-inning the score was 50-0. I had to bunt to make the three outs.
At any rate, the game is a classic in my view. It was great for its time and the rest of the games in the series were basically the same up until MLB 2004 (the only difference being roster moves). After 2003, the series was only released on Playstation 2 and after MLB 2006, 989 Sports turned the line of games over to Sony, who renamed it “MLB The Show.”
If you ever see MLB ’99 or any of the other classic MLB games for PS1, do yourself a favor and play them. I guarantee you will have a fun time.
MLB Slugfest 20-03
“Why did I buy this? Why?” – the words I uttered after the first few days I played this game. I thought this was going to be one of the best baseball games ever. Boy was I wrong! What a waste of time, money, and effort.
Midway developed Slugfest 20-03 for the Playstation 2 and I wish they hadn’t. I wish they had just not done anything and never came up with the idea to make a baseball game. The Slugfest game line should just not exist.
A-Rod once again made the cover, this time as a member of the Texas Rangers. If I were him, I would have asked Midway to have my image removed from the cover because it was the most horrible baseball game in the history of the existence of this universe.
When I mention MLB Slugfest, I will gladly admit that I was suckered. The commercials and TV spots made this game look like the most unbelievable baseball game ever–good graphics, outstanding game play, and simplistic controls. But none of that was true. The graphics were terrible, the game play was abominable, and the controls were ridiculous.
I’ll admit the Stadiums looked OK, but the players themselves were not even close. Derek Jeter looked like a raccoon run over by an 18-wheeler. It was pathetic! What a joke!
Speaking of jokes, the announcers for this game were just awful. They weren’t even real people–Tim Kitrew and his partner Jim Shorts. I am not lying, his name was Jim Shorts. If the name wasn’t bad enough, his comments were absolutely ridiculous and borderline offensive. Here is an excerpt from a conversation between the two announcers taken from the game:
Jim: “Hey Tim, there’s a woman behind home plate lifting up her shirt. It’s distracting the pitcher!”
Tim: “Yes! I see that, Jim. Except for one thing–it’s a guy.”
Are you serious? What would possess someone to say something like that in a video game or just in general? Tim also says things like, “Dive for that you sissy,” after making a routine catch. It’s like, why would I dive for a routine catch? Another one of my personal favorites: if you strike out looking Tim says,
“He is standing there like he’s waiting for a pizza delivery guy. He’s going to BE the pizza delivery guy if he doesn’t swing the bat!”
If you didn’t think it could get any worse than that, it does. You cannot trade players, you can’t use more than three pitchers per team, and you can’t create new players.
You can however punch and kick the other team’s players. Yes, you heard right, you can literally stand there and punch and kick the other team’s players. I guess trades, pitchers, and the create-a-player function were not important enough. Fighting was more logical.
It’s so unrealistic it makes it laughable.
In terms of cheat codes, there are a wide variety of them. You can put in codes to make your players’ heads look like horses or eagles, make the baseball bigger, maximize your speed and power, use a mace or a log as a bat, and unlock some secret stadiums.
I honestly haven’t tried out all of the cheats because I didn’t play this game enough times to utilize them. It has to be the worst baseball game ever. Stay away from it all costs!
Being a huge fan of the MLB series, I was very excited when the ’06 game came out. This was the last MLB game 989 produced before handing the series over to Sony, so in my view ’06 was historic.
It was only the third MLB game on Playstation 2 and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels was our cover boy.
Unfortunately the game was not as good as I thought it would be. Sure the graphics were great on Playstation 2, the controls were once again easy to manage, and you could play as every team in the league. But there were so many things wrong with the game.
I can remember one night I was playing against the Pirates (of course as the Yankees) and I was on fire. I was winning 5-0 and tossing a perfect game with Shawn Chacon (remember him?!) I was on my way to the pitcher’s dream, nothing was stopping me. I was going to do it. I had no doubt in my mind I was going to make video game history and be among the elite gamers who can say, “I pitched a perfect game in MLB ’06.”
Right as I was about to do it–I’m talking two outs in the ninth–the game froze. The game FROZE. You had never seen a person go from being on top of the world to the bottom of the underbelly of the universe so fast. I was outraged, I was really mad, and I almost cried.
In one deft move the game stole my livelihood away from me. What a selfish game.
It wasn’t the first time it happened, either. In fact, it always happened. You could be halfway through a game and the whole thing would just stop working. It was one of the most annoying and frustrating things to ever happen to a gamer. 989 should have maybe, you know, tested the game before they released it.
Along with the freezing glitch, I hated the fact that you could not edit your players. For example, Johnny Damon was on the Red Sox at the time and I eventually had to trade him to the Yankees. In the game he had a huge beard and long hair and he had to stay that way; there was nothing I could do to change it.
Everybody knows the Yankees do not allow facial hair and long hair, so I was stuck playing with Damon as a caveman Yankee. It just didn’t look right. They should have come up with better ways to edit the players and shouldn’t have had the freezing problem–especially when you are about to accomplish something amazing.
Overall I think it was sad to see 989 screw up the last MLB game they compiled.
Awhile back I had wanted to play some of the classic Nintendo games. I downloaded a fascinating application to my computer known as Console Classix. This allowed me to play virtually every Nintendo game for the original system.
I checked out some baseball games and came across Baseball Stars. I wish I hadn’t.
From what I read, the game garnered great critical success and some people have even gone as far as saying it was the best baseball game on Nintendo. My only question is, “What game were they playing?!”
The cover features some guy who today would probably be suspected of steroid usage wearing a red “Crushers” uniform wearing the number 7. No clue where they got that idea from.
Although it was not licensed by Major League Baseball, the players are so obviously named after actual major leaguers. There’s Pete (after Pete Rose), Babe (do I even have to get into this one?) and Hank (of course after Hank Aaron).
When I first played it, I noticed that the teams’ initials were abbreviated. I saw one team’s initials were “L.L.” and got curious so I picked them to play against my team, thinking it might be a team of “Little Leaguers” or something.
I was shocked to see that “L.L.” stood for “Lovely Ladies” and the all-women team was dressed like the players from “A League of Their Own.” I had to laugh but not soon after that I almost cried.
Playing as the “American Dreams” (with Pete, Babe, and Hank) I started to play the Lovely Ladies. Unable to figure out the controls on my computer, I proceeded to get massacred by a team of girls. They hit home run after home run and beat me 10-0 to the Mercy Rule.
No offense to any girls out there, but Pete Rose, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron lost to Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell. Now that’s just sad.
I will say, the game at least provided me with a little comic relief, much like MLB Slugfest 20-03 did. And the controls were probably easier to manage playing from a regular Nintendo controller rather than a laptop. Feel free to check this game out, but if you’re playing on the computer, good luck!
MLB ’07 The Show
Believe it or not, this was the last baseball game I bought and it was the second game in the MLB series that was not produced by 989 sports. Sony handled everything with this game and they did not disappoint.
David Wright of the New York Mets made the cover of this game and let’s just say they did this game the right way (pun intended).
You can choose to use classic controls or the new controls for base running, pitching, and hitting. You can easily trade players during a season mode without having to have the other team approve of it and best of all you can edit your players!
They finally decided to put the edit feature in. If a player gets traded you can edit their uniform number and position, a feature that was not included on any past edition of MLB. It was one thing that annoyed me for years and years.
For example, I had to trade David Justice to the Yankees from the Braves in MLB 2001. I couldn’t edit his number so he wore 23 on the Yanks, the same number he wore on the Braves.
23 is Don Mattingly’s number! Justice wore 28! So thankfully they put that option into the game because it was something that simply needed to be done.
Along with the editing feature, MLB ’07 The Show offered a new “road to the show” mini-game. You can play as a minor leaguer and work your way up to the majors in what was an innovative and brilliant concept. I’m not sure if it was also offered in the 2006 version of The Show, but if it was, then it was a good idea to continue it.
In terms of cheats, there are only two that come to mind. First, you can unlock the Golden and Silver Era teams, consisting of classic legendary players from the past. The Golden Era team owns players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, Ty Cobb, and Rogers Hornsby.
The Silver Era team is made of more contemporary players like Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Joe Morgan, and Don Drysdale. To have these teams available in the game was a great idea. There’s nothing like playing with your favorite team and going up against a group of legends.
To go along with the renowned players are classic stadiums, the second cheat. Type in the code and you can play at the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field, and a number of other old-time ballparks. It really is a great code to include in the game; if you want to take a break from your season, wind down and play an exhibition or Home Run Derby at one of the old-time Stadiums.
Really the only gripe I have against the game is the create-a-player mode. You can create a player using the eye-toy, which is a neat feature if you want to create yourself, but you are only allowed a certain number of players to create.
I tried to create some of the players left out of the game and after awhile a message popped up telling me “You cannot create anymore players.”
You’d think the amount of players you can create would be unlimited. Well, think again.
All in all, this is a great game and my favorite of the newer versions. Of course the ’08 and ’09 versions are out and maybe when I get the time I will pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show, which obviously is ’10. But keep in mind, MLB The Show is basically the same game re-released every year, just with updated rosters.
However, I am curious to see how they made the new Yankee Stadium, so I will eventually buy ’10 and see if it lives up to my expectations.