For ‘Video Game Week’ across SB Nation — and in keeping with other themed roundtables in recent weeks — writers from the Peachtree Hoops staff chimed in with answers on their favorite sports video game ever.
Zach Hood: NBA 2K9. This was the first game of the franchise that I religiously played, like every day. My most-used team other than the Hawks was easily the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler, those guys. I always prefer a team with a great point guard, and 2009 Chris Paul is about as good as it gets. I also remember winning a ranked online game with the Lakers in which Kobe scored all 81 points. Good times.
That Hawks team was really fun too, though. Josh Smith was one of the top dunkers on the planet, and Joe Johnson was in his prime as a volume scorer. Mike Bibby could spray in some threes, with Al Horford & Co. rounding out a solid squad.
The gameplay was crazy smooth for the time, and basically put the NBA Live series out of business. It’s disappointing how little the franchise has progressed in 11 years. Player ratings are still out of balance in many cases, and some wacky player animations leave the game feeling less realistic than it has in the past.
Rashad Milligan: NBA Street Vol. 2 is my pick. The elements of hip-hop, basketball and unlockable features were the coolest thing to me as a seven-year-old. I miss the early 2000s era of video games, because we were forced to sit with the game’s soundtrack. There weren’t unlimited podcast options or other forms of audio entertainment conveniently available to you, and the soundtrack set the scene of being in a “real hip-hop” era of New York, getting ready to take on the competition at the legendary Rucker Park.
The original NBA Street was cool, battling your way one-on-one until you met the greatest streetball legend ever who resembled Dr. J, but Vol. 2 was the perfect combination of improving from the last game and not doing too much in the sequel (Vol. 3).
The coolest feature I remember about this game was you could unlock Nelly and the St. Lunatics, but an honorable mention has to be having access to every Michael Jordan- young Jordan, bald Jordan and Wizards’ Jordan.
Graham Chapple: This is going to be fun. I grew up playing video games and still enjoy them now, so my experience with sports is fairly extensive. From football, Formula 1, basketball, I’ve played a lot of sports games. As a kid, I always found great appeal in playing games of sports I couldn’t experience myself, so sports like football (soccer as it’s known in the US) I’ll rule out (though, the original FIFA Street was excellent).
Skateboarding games were a massive thing growing up (not something I could do in real life, at least, not very well), so the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was one I enjoyed immensely, the best one being Tony Hawk’s Underground. But...I’m not sure how many would classify skateboarding as a sport, per se (plus, I have another I prefer) but I loved those games.
I’m going with SSX-3, a snowboarding game that was released for the Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2 in 2003. Snowboarding, as a sport and spectacle, is awesome, first of all — it’s one of the coolest (no pun intended) sports, between the glasses, awesome board designs etc. etc. Snowboarding is just cool, and I know that sounds awfully simple but that’s all the appeal I needed (and that statement holds true).
The premise of SSX-3 was that you selected a character (you could change if you wanted to) and competed in a number of events including races, trick events in order to challenge the peak leader of the three peaks in the game, the difficulty increasing as you climb the mountain, with conditions worsening as you climb the mountain, which is dynamic in th races further up the peak. There’s not a story, really, but it’s just fun. It’s a fun time playing it. The races are fun, the big trick events where you aim for a massive score is fun, the All-Peak Challenge is fun. It all just has a charm to it.
What helps enhance the experience is a fantastic soundtrack (one of my favorite in any video game, period), taking a good experience and turning it into a great one. Added to that are a million (exaggeration) customization options including clothes, boards, style of tricks and even secret characters (there’s a lot to unlock, which adds to the appeal).
SSX-3 is still one of my absolute favorite games to this day, one that has aged well and one I still immensely enjoy every single time I play it, 17 years later.
Andrew Kelly: FIFA 08. I’m not really a gamer but have fond memories of playing it in the dorms in college.
Daniel Comer: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. All the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were excellent, but I really dug into the franchise in 2002 as an 8-year-old hanging out at my brother’s college house near Georgia Tech. One of his roommates had an Xbox, and I loved to hop on my virtual board — because my mom thought actual skateboarding was dangerous — in THPS4 to escape into levels that introduced me to new music and cities around the world. The game also featured mini-modes like dodging monkey poo, baseball with a ghost and tennis against “Bjorn” that gave it added versatility not found in other games I’d played.
There were so many other things to love about THPS4 — from big-head mode to skating as Jango Fett — but what I loved most was its ubiquity. Everyone played the Tony Hawk series, and it was right up there with Pokémon in terms of lunch-time conversation-starters. Unfortunately, skating video games failed to evolve much after the original Pro Skater series (although Underground and American Wasteland were solid), but Activision is releasing a remastered version of THPS1 and THPS2 later this year for those of us itching for some early-2000s nostalgia.
Josh Lane: With as many games as I wanted to select for this subject — yes, this includes SSX Tricky, NHL Hitz, and finally Madden 2004 with the video game god Mike Vick — I elected to go with one of my favorites, Need for Speed Underground.
For those that are unfamiliar, Need for Speed Underground opens up with former race car driver Marc De Vellis giving warning that no one should ever attempt anything in real life that happens in the game. As a freshman year high school student, I read this warning as a seal of approval that this game would be amazing. In addition, this game was released months after 2 Fast 2 Furious, so yeah, street racing was at a high during this time.
This game was fantastic because it let me live that dream of being a street racer without actually having to spend the money and risk of death. Also, the soundtrack featured classic T.I. and Lil Jon from the early 2000’s. Plus, the game was just fun to play with my friends which on some occasions helped settle disputes. One of my favorite features of the game was the drag racing challenge and trash talking my friends as we virtually flew down a busy street in the middle of the fictional Olympic City.
Brad Rowland: There are some interesting choices and, candidly, I don’t play a lot of video games at this point in my life. In my “prime,” though, the choice would be the original NBA 2K. It arrived in late 1999 into 2000 and, in addition to that being a time in which I was (very) invested in basketball video games, it was also the best in the business upon release. The game play felt realistic — at least for the time — and I honestly spent more time playing this game than any other. Maybe it’s time to break out the Sega Dreamcast...