March 28, 2016

My Favorite Baseball Video Games


Schwarber by CubFan_23, on Flickr

Then and Now

Throughout the years video game baseball has produced some of the best sports games of all-time. I've been a fan for years and with MLB 16: The Show only a few days away I wanted to take a look at my favorites.

Here are my top three:
  1. Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball
  2. MVP Baseball 2005. Here's a great Grantland article on how MVP Baseball still lives on today.
  3. MLB The Show Series

Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball




In 1994, the year Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball released, I was a 13 year old boy who was in his heyday of fandom. Back in those days I was all about the Atlanta Braves. It was the first game I played that offered the full MLB experience with a little work. They didn't have the real names for any of the players except Ken Griffey Jr. Thank goodness for sports almanacs! Ken Griffey Jr Baseball allowed you to edit the names of all the players, so that's exactly what I did. I wasn't old enough to work or drive so instead I spent the early part of my summer break using a Nintendo controller to edit names. Little did I know that there was a bug which would randomly delete those names. I don't remember how I reacted the first time I noticed all my names were deleted, but thinking about my 13 year old self, I probably cried. 

My best memories were throwing not one, but two no-hitters. Both were with Greg Maddux on opening day. I don't remember the team they were against, but I do remember having a pitching system. Maddux had such great control of his pitches, that I was able to bend the ball around the batters bat. They would swing and miss most of the time. Every so often I would throw a fastball on the inside corner to mix things up. The moment I struck out the last batter I jumped up in victory and ran through the house yelling. There wasn't a way to take a screenshot so I had to find my mom's 32 mm camera. You had to wind it up to snap a picture. I had to wait weeks to find out if the picture was any good. I remember looking at it once it was developed being so proud. It was a box score filled with zeros. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Even now it brings a tear to my eye.

MVP Baseball 2005



When MVP Baseball came into my life in 2004 I was taken to the next level of sports gaming. It had all the rules, teams, names, stats and the ability to play a franchise mode for up to 120 seasons. It was in MVP Baseball 2005 that I threw my 3rd no-hitter with some pitcher on the Mets. Don't ask me why I was playing with the Mets or who the pitcher was because I have no idea. All I remember is having sweaty palms and being very nervous from the 7th inning on. I was standing up after every out, not sitting until I was ready to make a pitch. Talk about excitement and relief. It was an exhausting experience.

I played MVP Baseball 2005 for years with the same franchise save. I made the playoffs with the Cubs twice but never made it to the World Series. When EA stopped making the MVP series, because of losing  the licence, I wasn't that disappointed because I could play my franchise mode for decades and the gameplay was top-notch. Thanks to the release of the PS3 and the MLB The Show Series that never happened.

MLB The Show



Sony has exclusive console rights to the MLB license and there was early concerns that the game would become stagnant like Madden Football.Well not to worry because Sony has not done us wrong with The Show. Sure we get the yearly roster updates and new uniforms, but The Show has much more going for it. It's the little things like fan animations, runner styles, batter walk-ups, player interactions and atmosphere. Every year they give you a little more detail and depth. The addition of cross-year saves allows you to take your created player or franchise across game releases. This was a breakthrough in sports gaming. Very often the sports gamer plays their franchise and when the next year releases they have to leave the time and effort and start all over. Well this is a thing of the past and more sports games need to implement this feature as soon as possible. It's a great way to keep using your save to get more out of the game and keep your stats intact. With stats being a big part of baseball, this just makes sense.

MLB The Show has proven itself as not just a great sports game (it might be the best ever) but a great video game. Every year Sony puts out a game that keeps getting better and better and giving the baseball video gamer refinements that create a level of immersion that has yet to be topped. If you love baseball this is a must own.