2017 draft: Picking the best sports video games of all time over five rounds – CBS sports.com (blog)

It’s NFL Draft season, so in the sports world that means it’s time to draft everything. While John Ross, Myles Garrett and the rest of the physical anomalies are preparing for their big night, we decided to focus on the great athletic skill of hand-eye coordination, specifically as it pertains to playing video games. 

Drafting video games is a fool’s errand with decades of potential picks spread across multiple gaming systems, but limiting our pool of available selections to sports video games made this task more manageable. We’ve assembled the brightest minds from the CBS Sports writer bullpen, with Will Brinson and Sean Wagner-McGough (NBA), Kyle Porter (Golf) and Matt Moore (NBA) taking time out of their busy schedules to join Tom Fornelli, Ben Kercheval, Brandon Wise and myself for the exercise. 

The draft was held Monday, and it was a little intense. It’s not the first time that sports video games have ever been drafted, but it’s the first time that it’s been done with this group of experts in this space. 

Below I’ve included comments from the owners after their first two selections and a recap of all five rounds. It’s important to note that we are picking video game series and not simply individual games. For example, one would pick NBA 2K and not NBA 2K17.

Round 1

1. Brandon Wise — Madden NFL: It just doesn’t get much better. The first game to ever realistically put you in the field of play, Madden gets my vote for its longevity and dominance in the field. Easily a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

2. Matt Moore — Base WarsIt’s a game of robot baseball that you can upgrade with weaponry. You can actually play baseball with a robot designed like Gizmoduck. This game is the Russell Westbrook of sports video games.

3. Chip Patterson — NCAA FootballReleased in July, this game would kick off the hype for the upcoming season every year. You’d pick it up by mid-August, at the latest, and usually have at least one or two seasons done by the time the actual season started. At it’s peak — just before the series was discontinued in wake of the image and likeness lawsuits — the playbooks and gameplay were realistic enough to raise some eyebrows from coaches and players. 

But more than a preview for college football junkies, NCAA Football had something even better for obsessives with addictive personalities: the simulation of building a program. Every fan has stories of staying up into the early morning hours recruiting between seasons of conference and national title contention before jumping to a new job and eventually losing interest. I understand why it had to go, but damn I miss NCAA Football. 

4. Ben Kercheval — NBA JamWith NCAA Football off the board, Jam is the only game that I literally stayed up until sunrise playing as a child. What the original lacked in Michael Jordan, it more than made up for in absurdity and play-by-play commentary. “Boom Shakalaka!” is still in the vocabulary. With shattering glass and flaming Spaldings, Jam stood for entertainment as much as any sports game at the time.

5. Will Brinson — Mario KartDon’t even think about telling me it’s not a sports game.

6. Kyle Porter — Tiger Woods PGA TourI feel contractually and socially obligated to snap up Tiger Woods PGA Tour. There were a number of iterations of this game, but the best version was on XBox around 2002-2003 when you could shoot 57s and 56s at courses like Black Rock Cove and The Predator. Those were good times. Also, video game Tiger has as good a chance of reaching 18 majors as real Tiger does these days.

7. Tom Fornelli — FIFAI honestly cannot believe this fell to me at No. 7. Maybe it’s just because I’m more cultured than the rest of you, and am a man of the world, but I am taking not only the greatest soccer franchise of all times, but one of the best video games period.

8. Sean Wagner-McGough — Mario TennisSince Brinson took Mario Kart and Tom took FIFA, I’ll take Mario Tennis. It’s perfect for all ages. I grew up with it on N64, but after my freshman year of college, my friends and I sorta rediscovered it. We’d do best of seven, five-set double series on an old Gamecube my friend had. More fun with a drink, but fun without one.

Round 2

1 (9). Wagner-McGough — MLB The ShowIt’s animations are funky, it’s glitchy as hell, and something dumb always happens in every game, but that’s part of the charm. Example: Yesterday, I managed to score a run on my roommate by tagging up at third base on a foul out behind home plate. Plus, it’s really the only baseball game that exists.

2 (10). Fornelli — NHL 94Which means I’m going to have to go to the next game. Another fantastic game. Technically we are drafting entire franchises, but in truth, I am drafting nothing but NHL 94 on the Sega Genesis. I get them all, but 94 is the only one I’ll play.

3 (11). Porter — HardballI’ll take Hardball. I was homeschooled as a kid (shout to Timmy Tebow) and not allowed to have video game consoles so my workaround was playing Oregon Trail, Hardball and a variety of other 8-bit games on our old family computer. 

Al Michaels and building the Florida Marlins into a dynasty ushered me into puberty and a world in which Jeff Conine was a bigger deal to me than the POTUS. I still remember the thrill of going to Best Buy and dropping my birthday money on Hardball 5. It’s not as iconic as Griffey’s game or RBI Baseball, but man, I loved it.

4 (12). Brinson — MVP BaseballThis game is crazy because, if you look at it now, it shouldn’t look as old as it is. Think about this: the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. Do you know how long ago that was?! It feels like forever, like it maybe didn’t even happen. And yet, MVP Baseball 2005 manages to feel like a modern video game. You can develop pitchers and there is a SLURVE. I love playing baseball video games, and with The Show gone, this was an easy choice. (I like it better than the Show anyway).

5 (13). Kercheval — NFL BlitzPure, unabashed, grotesque violence. Body slamming opponents after you tackled them was not only allowed, but encouraged. 

6 (14). Patterson — WCW vs. nWo RevengeNo NFL Blitz smash can match the N64 disrespect that comes with getting worked over by Goldberg in this game. Some adhered to “No Goldberg” rules — like “no Bama” in Saban-era NCAA Football games — and everyone’s friendship is on the line in the battle royal modes. A staple of the Nintendo 64 era like Mario Kart and NFL Blitz, this game rides on the strength of it being a shared language for community gaming.

7 (15). Moore — Golden TeeThe. Ultimate. Bar. Video. Game. I don’t even like golf and this is an all-timer. The mechanics with the roller ball, the ability to hustle folks, just an incredible game. 

16. Wise — Ken Griffey BaseballWhen it comes to baseball video games, you guys missed one of the best ones out there. Not only is it a classic, but those hitting circles were game changers, especially when Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez had circles as big as the strike zones.

Round 3

1 (17). Wise — NBA Street 
2 (18). Moore — NBA 2K
3 (19). Patterson — Tony Hawk Pro Skater 
4 (20). Kercheval — Tecmo Bowl 
5 (21). Brinson — Mario Golf 
6 (22). Porter — NBA Hangtime
7 (23). Fornelli — Baseball Stars 
8 (24). Wagner-McGough — NFL Fever 

Notes: After NBA Street and NBA 2K came off the board, Porter was in a tough spot looking for a basketball game to add to his team, so he settled for NBA Hangtime. Mario Golf was drafted by Brinson and quickly put on the trading block (packaged with Mario Kart) in an effort to get Golden Tee from Moore, but the deal was never finalized. 

Kercheval grabbing Tecmo Bowl here in the third ended a shocking slide for one of the most legendary football games of all time. It also pushed us further into the exploration of alternate gaming systems after we essentially emptied the sports section of the Nintendo 64 aisle. 

“[NFL Fever] is a franchise that didn’t survive for long, but — and here comes my hottest take ever — it was better than Madden at that point in time,” Wagner-McGough argued after his third-round selection. “Back in the early 2000s, the difference in gameplay between Fever and Madden was slim, so the extra arcade-like features made the difference. 

“Consider this: You could play a game at the Roman Coliseum or on an aircraft carrier or next to the pyramids in Egypt. You could choose fictitious teams that, if I recall correctly, were better than the actual NFL teams. Those teams had names like … the Samurai, the King Cobras, the Winged Gorillas, etc. My pick was always the War Elephants. I rest my case.”

Round 4

1 (25). Wagner-McGough — Top Spin 
2 (26). Fornelli — Mutant League Football 
3 (27). Porter — 1080 Snowboarding
4 (28). Brinson — NBA Live 
5 (29). Kercheval: Wii Sports 
6 (30). Patterson — Mike Tyson Punch-Out!!
7 (31). Moore — SSX Tricky
8 (32). Wise — Flat-Out Racing 

Notes: No War Room camera showed celebration like Porter’s after the 1080 pick came in, with equally frustrated reactions elsewhere and a general sense of respect for an overlooked option here in the sports video game draft. With Top Spin off the board, Patterson had to treat the draft like Glass Joe and deliver the knockout with Mike Tyson Punch-Out!! five picks earlier than I had planned. Most of us had no idea what Flat-Out Racing is exactly, but Brandon liked it. 

“It’s similar to your typical racing game, but comes with a twist,” Wise said. “There were mini game features including one where you could turn a driver into a human dart. It’s also somehow still being made. Video game hall of fame.”

Round 5

1 (33). Wise — SlugFest 
2 (34). Moore — Arch Rivals 
3 (35). Patterson — Microsoft Golf 
4 (36). Kercheval — NASCAR Thunder 
5 (37). Brinson — Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey
6 (38). Porter — Pong 
7 (39). Fornelli — Gran Turismo 
8 (40). Wagner-McGough — NHL Hitz  

Undrafted shockers

Blades of Steel, RBI Baseball, Backyard Baseball, Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball, Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam, F-Zero, Track & Field

Draft teams

Draft grades, analysis

Now that the draft is over, our editor, Adam Silverstein, takes a look at how each of us performed.

Best value pick: Patterson (Mike Tyson Punch Out!!, Round 4)

Worst value pick: Moore (Base Wars, Round 1)

Wise: Started strong with arguably the best NFL and MLB games but faded, particularly late in the draft with better options readily available. Grade: B-

Moore: Golden Tee was an inspired choice, and he got fantastic value with NBA 2K, but the worst first-round pick coupled with some “meh” late selections all hurt. Grade: C-

Patterson: For a college football writer, NCAA Football was a must at No. 3, and he worked these fools with Mike Tyson Punch Out!! in the fourth round. Plus he got WCW vs. nWo, too?! Grade: A

Kercheval: Ben is here for the fun, not the competition. NBA Jam is obviously the best hoops game and NFL Blitz is outstanding. Tecmo Bowl in the third round is robbery, and Wii Sports gets you off your butt with multiple games. Sneaky-good draft. Grade: B+

Brinson: Is Mario Kart a sports game? We’ll let it slide. All good picks but did he actually get the most value per round? I’m not so sure. Grade: C+

Porter: Tiger Woods is a great game, but Porter likely could’ve had it later. 1080 was truly inspired, as was Pong … if it was a 10-round draft. Too many good games left undrafted. Grade: C

Fornelli: Stopping the FIFA slide was key as Fornelli got at least three spots of value with that pick. It’s hard to argue with the greatness of NHL (94), and Gran Turismo is the best fifth-round pick. Grade: B-

Wagner-McGough: Every pick except MLB The Show — by far his best — came too early. For the youngest member of the draft crew, I expected some more contemporary selections. Grade: D+

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