Back in 1961, desperate to play a game based on his favorite sport, college student Hal Richman invented Strat-o-Matic baseball. And when Nintendo released their first gaming system, creating baseball games was one of their first moves.
Since then, there have been many, many, more baseball titles released. And each one has hoped to improve on the gameplay of its predecessors. But gamers will always have a particular fondness for the games they grew up playing.
These baseball video games were chosen for their groundbreaking gameplay, industry-first graphics, and the sheer number of gamers who still look back on them fondly.
Below are the 10 greatest baseball video games of all time.
Baseball Stars, created by SNK and released in 1989, is one of the most important sports games ever released. While there wasn’t a licensing agreement that allowed users to play with MLB teams or players, there were other critical features.
The game was the first baseball title to feature battery backup. This allowed gamers to save their teams and play in franchise mode. Players could also create and name their own players allowing them to have their favorite stars to be a part of their teams.
Sports Talk Baseball
For many years, gamers wanted baseball games to include real teams and rosters so they could play with their favorite all-stars. Sports Talk Baseball, released in 1991 on Sega Genesis, delivered on that hope.
Not only did the game include complete rosters, but the players also had skills based on their real-life abilities. The best player in the game was New York Met Howard Johnson who was coming off a massive 1991 season. Sports Talk Baseball is considered to be ahead of its time and one of the all-time best baseball video games.
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball
By 1994, Ken Griffey Jr. was the unquestioned best player in baseball. And he was also charming and charismatic. Nintendo was happy to sign him be the face of their new baseball game.
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball did not have an MLBPA license so Griffey Jr. was the only named big leaguer in the game. And not being able to use real names almost made the title more fun as a huge amount of effort was put into cleverly letting players know which players were which. The game was also well known for an extra level of detail when designing team stadiums.
Many of the games on this list were meant for older players who wanted incredible graphics and detailed franchise modes. But Backyard Baseball, created by Humongous Entertainment back in 1997, was targeting a younger demographic.
The first incarnations of the game didn’t feature major league players. But players made just for the game, like Pablo Sanchez, became cult heroes. Many of today’s baseball fans credit Backyard Baseball to be their first interaction with the sport.
Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
It is hard to quantify just how popular Ken Griffey Jr. was in the 1990s. You could, however, look at the fact that he is the cover athlete on two of the titles on this list.
In 1998, Nintendo 64 released Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. The game had intricacies specific to it due to the Nintendo Controller. The analog stick allowed gamers to more easily control their players both while pitching and batting. There was also an expanded franchise mode where players could build teams, sign free agents, and play multiple seasons.
The simply titled, Baseball, was released by Nintendo in 1983. It was the first baseball game created for the NES. Nintendo executives in Japan wanted to make sure they had a baseball game due to the sport’s wild popularity in the country.
Of course, compared to today’s titles, the gameplay seems very crude. But the basics of the sport were there and someone had to be first. The creators of this game helped to lay out the platform on which all future baseball games would be based.
Wii Sports Baseball
Unlike the other games on this list, Wii Sports Baseball did not allow users to play with the biggest MLB stars or feature an in-depth franchise mode. In fact, the players in the game were randomly generated and only identified by their first names.
What the game did do, however, was allow players to really be involved in the action. The Wii controller actually allowed users to throw and manipulate their pitches. The controller also allowed the player to swing. There hasn’t really been another game like it since.
Electronic Arts created John Madden Football and the still-running series is considered to be the gold standard for football video games. And while it didn’t last long, EA also created MVP Baseball, which many gamers consider to be the best all-time baseball game.
The series, which ran from 2003-2007, was a game-changer in many ways. The pitching controls were considered to be way ahead of their time. And each version of the game included a soundtrack with the latest hit songs. While all the games were well received, 2005 is looked at as the high watermark in the series.
Earl Weaver Baseball
Most games are very focused on the players and how to make them work. Earl Weaver Baseball, released by Electronic Arts in 1987, was more focused on managerial strategy.
Today’s games incorporates all aspects of the game from on-field play to managerial decisions to front office management. But Earl Weaver, which EA developed in conjunction with the legendary manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was the first of its kind.
Triple Play Baseball
In terms of Playstation baseball games, MVP Baseball, developed by Electronic Arts, is considered to be the best of all time. But MVP Baseball would not have happened without Triple Play Baseball.
Triple Play, first released by EA, featured many of the aspects that made MVP so great. There was a robust create a player mode. And the last incarnation featured music by Vitamin C, setting the stage in the future for a wide variety of song choices.