The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The 10 Best Baseball Games That Aren't Baseball

10. Baseball Stars by SNK, for the Nintendo Entertainment System

The Grandaddy of building up a team through with experience points. You only make money if you win games, you only win games if you have good players, and you only have good players if you make money. Baseball Stars didn't shell out for an MLB license, and instead went the crafty lefty route of making their best team "The American Dreams" which featured "Babe," "Hank," and "Dizzy." Aside from that you could face the "Ninja Blacksox," the "Japan Robins," and of course the "Lovely Ladies." Crowds would really turn out for the ladies too, and playing them helps your bank account immensely.

You get to name and design your own players and team, including picking a team concept. (One of the options is "Veterans." Do not select this option.) Besides the cool role-playing aspects, the on-field play is also top-notch. Short stops get to balls in the hole about as frequently as they do in real baseball, pitchers tire, and you can even, very rarely, reach over the fence to rob someone of a HR.

Baseball stars was the first real videogame baseball simulator that was worth anything. It's still fun to play to this day, and it's always a challenge to beat the dreams even if you're good. If you can find a working NES, or if they make it available on the Wii virtual console, pick up a copy.

9. Strikeout

Strikeout requires some minor graffiti, but no one will mind if you use chalk. Find a building, preferably a school, and draw a box on the wall to represent the strike zone. Draw and X through it to make it look cool. Now you're ready to go.

Strikeout is how you play baseball when you don't have enough people to play baseball. You designate certain areas for certain types of hits. (Over the tennis courts might be a double. Over both might be a HR, etc.) One player pitches, one player hits, everyone else plays defense. Pitches that smack the wall in the strike zone are strikes. Everything else is a ball. That's all there is to it.

Just make sure you steer clear of windows.

8. Baseball Pinball

They had this game at my local Fudruckers and I played a few games every time I set foot in the place for two reasons:

a. If you did well it spit out baseball cards. And not just crap either. Greg Jeffries, Kevin Seitzer, Walt Weiss. Hmm. Actually, maybe it did spit out crap, but was psychic.

b. When it spit out baseball cards it made an extremely loud and very annoying "popping" sound.

A lot of fun for 90 seconds.

7. Rotisserie Baseball

What more is there to write about fantasy sports. You know them, you love them, you know that you're a better GM than Doug Melvin.

6. Pickle

Pickle is a game that you can only play until everyone becomes fundamentally sound, because you should never get out of a pickle. But for most of childhood it's great fun. Really, it's sort of like the opposite of keep away. Two people (at least) guard their bases while playing catch while a third person tries to steal bases. It's much better exercise than is baseball itself, and there is something very satisfying about faking out another player, or pulling off a perfect slide. A ruiner of many thousands of pairs of jeans and kneecaps.

5. RBI Baseball

While Baseball Stars had a monopoly on realistic play, for pop-arcade style action you couldn't beat RBI, where Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire crushed cyber-steroid aided HRs, where Paul Molitor graces the All-Star team, where Al Pedrique graces the All-Star team for some unknown reason, and where Davey Lopes and Phil Garner are on the same team, both as bench players.

RBI also made roughly half of the pitchers side-armers for no good reason. This game was all about fun, ad mashing HRs, but there's nothing wrong with that. While the much more realistic-looking "Bases Loaded" series looked like it would dominate early Nintendo baseball, it was no match for RBI Baseball, the Tecmo Super Bowl of baseball video games.

4. World Series

Back in the days before "Golden Tee" almost every bar contained "World Series," which was ahead of its time with the Golden Tee model of making you pay for every 3 holes/innings.

World Series also featured a gadgety, spring loaded controller. To hit you would cock it back and then let it go at the appropriate time. You pitched in the same fashion. For some reason, at the time this felt very realistic, even though this action has nothing whatsoever to do with baseball. Not on the list for entertainment value so much as it is for pioneering the genre of "gadgety sports games in bars," World Series was by no means a great game, but it was pretty fun and it made it OK for companies to take risks with novel control schemes, as well as targeting intoxicated adults.

3. Wiffleball/Kickball/Softball

Where would we be without the various offshoots of baseball which allow all ages/blood alcohol levels to compete? Whether serving up taters with an oversized softball, or whipping in unhittable knucklers with the wiffleball, these games allow us to keep playing a reasonable facsimile of the real game long after our primes. Kickball even contributes the ability to drill opposing players with the ball, something you can only think about in real baseball (unless your name is Dibble).

2. Speed Pitch

A few years ago I broke the speed gun at my local batting cage. Not because I throw fast, but because I'm very, very inaccurate. The speed pitch is always fun because almost everyone thinks that they have a much better arm than they do, and you can be assured that the guy in line right before you actually does have a much better arm than you.

While participating in the speed pitch is fun, watching people laugh at their friends in the speed pitch is way more fun. It's like that "Strong Man" carnival game with the big hammer where you try to hit the pad as hard as you can, except updated for modern times.

For the record, I top out at about 54. That's alls I gots.

1. Strat-O-Matic

Behind every SABR-nerd you'll usually find Strat-O-Matic baseball. You get a nice little set of cards which correspond to every player in baseball, and then you roll dice to establish what they do in your little Strat-O-Matic games. And then, if you play enough you marvel at just how accurate your cards and dice are.

Strat-O-Matic is not for the faint of heart. You can't lose cards and it helps to be organized, but if you have a stat-head kid, it's pretty darn fun. It's also educational, if you like that sort of thing.

Honorable Mention that I have never played, but would like to try: Scoresheet.

I have a few friends who play in a Scoresheet league, and, well, I'll let Scoresheet explain:

Are you a fan who's looking for a way to have more fun this baseball season? Would you like your fantasy baseball team to play real head to head, inning by inning baseball, instead of just accumulating 'points'? Then welcome to Scoresheet Baseball, the ultimate fantasy baseball game.

Like other fantasy games, in Scoresheet Baseball you draft players before the season starts, and then your team wins or loses based on how your players do throughout the major league season. But, rather than just adding up stats, Scoresheet Baseball teams play real ballgames. Each week of the upcoming 2007 major league season, using a lineup card you fill out, your Scoresheet team will play six or seven full simulated games on our computer, based on your players' actual performances from that week's major league games. Your team will play a complete 162 game schedule, going head to head against the other teams in your league. Scoresheet Baseball is *not* like other simulations that use statistics from past seasons, or that will play their 2007 season after the 2007 major league season is over. Instead, Scoresheet Baseball games are played each week of the upcoming major league season, using each player's stats from that current week.

Each weekly report will include complete scoresheets for every game your team plays. League standings, trade reports, player and team stats, league leaders, top undrafted players, team vs. team records - they are all included. Each league also has its own web pages full of information. You can even use our online graphical interface to watch each game being played through from beginning to end.

Maybe next year.


  • One thing about Baseball stars. If you played the Lovely Ladies in league mode you got paid, but if you played the American Dreams in versus mode you got paid even more. I had been playing the game seemingly for years (an advantage of no MLB license) before I discovered that.

    There was also a hitch(?) I found where where you could always get a rookie with a 90(maximum) capacity. After a little LL barnstorming I had a pretty good team and eventually the American Dreams could rarely make it out of the first inning against me.

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 6:16 PM  

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