Sports are dumb. Video games are also dumb. But dumb sports video games are the best. We’re on a quest to find the best video games for every sport that are also WEIRD and dumb. We did this because you all liked WEIRD Sports Games so much. So, you’re welcome?
Today, we’re going to talk about basketball, which has more than its fair share of weird video games.
So, here’s the thing about weird basketball games: most of them are bad. There is nothing pleasant about Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball, a game I called the weirdest for a number of reasons explained in the post above. It’s just not fun. At all.
Michael Jordan’s Chaos in the Windy City is an abysmal platformer where you shoot basketballs at basketball zombies(???) that is certainly novel, but not good. Slam City with Scottie Pippen, that FMV monstrosity on the Sega CD, is as weird as any, but remarkably bad.
All fit the “weird” description, but none of them are good. Instead, we need to get closer to actual basketball to find something we can call “good.” Below, we’re going to talk about the two games vying for the spot of best weird basketball game, and then you can vote!
NBA Jam vs. NBA Street
And this is the category I expect to cause the most fistfights. NBA Jam is a legendary franchise that defined multiple generations of basketball video games. NBA Street was a series with extremely low expectations that turned out to be pretty damn great.
NBA Jam’s weirdness has many forms, starting with the action on court not actually resembling real basketball and more like a shoving match with occasional triple-backflip dunks. But also you can play as an alien. Or a cow. Or a pumpkin. Or Bill Clinton. Or Sarah Palin. Or random developers.
Or … well, you get it. NBA Jam’s utter weirdness can at times be overlooked, but it’s certainly weirder than any basketball game out today (honorable mention to the recently-released-on-Steam, Regular Human Basketball, which is quite weird and quite fun).
NBA Jam pushed 2-on-2 basketball and some of the slickest, smoothest gameplay of any video games of its era. NBA Hangtime, a spiritual successor widely included in the NBA Jam discussion, feels so good to control, sprinting up and down the court with little regard for defensive formations. Just shove the guy in front of you and do a windmill alley-oop dunk to secure team fire! NBA Jam was nothing short of fun 100 percent of the time.
In an era defined by The Brands trying to connect with The Youth, NBA Street actually hit all the right notes. NBA Street was cool. I would argue that it’s the circumstances around NBA Street — that it worked and wasn’t corny — makes it weird. I have zero faith in these companies to create side games to cater to a specific audience. But NBA Street did it, and did it well. Plus, of course it was weird.
NBA Street placed an emphasis on beating your man 1-on-1 (the actual games are 3-on-3), and not just beating him, but embarrassing him.
Cross him up, put him on skates, break his ankles. Doing creative moves to fake people out on the way to building your super meter to unleash devastating and impossible moves felt great. Backed by a solid hip-hop soundtrack, the three games in the series each improved on the last and introduced new mechanics that made ball skills even more important. Goaltending is allowed, as are over-the-top dunks. It’s at least as joyous as NBA Jam.
For the purpose of this poll, we can consider any NBA Jam or NBA Street game to count. Certainly the former has a greater legacy, but crossing up chumps in NBA Street feels at least as good as a hearty “BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA”, so this one could be close. We will consider NBA Hangtime and NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC to be within the NBA Jam series, as they were made by the original developers in the same vein after Acclaim Sports acquired the rights to the NBA Jam name.
What’s the best WEIRD basketball game/series?
0 votes total
[Hey, btw: you made it to the bottom of a post about video games! ESPN Plus has stuff about that, too!]