It’s the time of the year when gaming sites recap and announce their favorite games of the past year. Here in the retro gaming universe we’re afforded numerous yearly milestones to look back at and determine the best games. Ten years ago the PlayStation 2 was hitting its groove with excellent releases from EA and 2K. Fifteen years ago saw 32-bit sports games expanding on our wildest dreams of the 16-bit era with jumps in TV-style presentation and 3D graphics. Finally, 25 years ago was the booming NES-dominated 8-bit era and 1987 saw a number of now-famous sports games released. In the spirit of popular year-end lists, here are the top sports games of 1987.
5. One-on-One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird – Atari 7800
One-on-One didn’t debut in 1987, it actually was first released in 1983 and thanks to Electronic Arts saw a port on every computer system you could imagine throughout the ’80s. In fact, my cousin showed my Dad and I the Commodore 64 version of this game and it was famously the first sports video game I had ever seen. The 7800 was short-lived and this port is the last in the lineage of Dr. J vs. Larry Bird releases but it did leave a legacy. It was a solid one-on-one hoops game which was expounded on with future games like Jordan vs. Bird.
4. Track & Field – NES
Konami’s button-smasher first taught us about the importance of performance-enhancing controllers. With eight different events to beat your thumbs up over, a turbo option was a welcome relief to the general soreness of doing battle with your friends on the track. Konami was a great sports game producer in the 8-bit era with Track & Field getting a sequel as well.
3. Pro Wrestling – NES
Forget any WWF or WCW licensed 8-bit game, Pro Wrestling and its Virtual Wrestling Association on the NES is widely remembered by fans to this day. The cast of Star Man, Giant Panther, King Slender and The Amazon were memorable and “A WINNER IS YOU” has spawned into one of the great video game memes.
2. Double Dribble – NES
It’s a testament to Konami that Double Dribble would only be topped by Tecmo’s NBA Basketball on the NES basketball front, and Tecmo’s game was released FIVE years later. While you only had four teams to battle with, the game play was solid and the cut-screen dunks (and blown dunks) were a TV-style sports game first.
1. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! – NES
We retro sports gamers love claiming this one as our own. More puzzle and pattern recognition than sports game, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! had you relying more on memory and timing than boxing strategy. The colorful opponents of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! are memorable and still a part of pop culture today. No NES game had a better license than getting Mike Tyson’s likeness to appear as the final boss.