When one thinks of great Nintendo games, it’s hard not to be drawn to platformers, first and foremost.
One thing Nintendo always did brilliantly was platform games, not least through the character of Mario. When games began to go 3D, Nintendo was at the front of that technology with the wonderful Mario 64, whilst Goldeneye 64 defined third-person shooters to the extent that even NME said it changed gaming history. It’s fair to say without Nintendo, the gaming landscape would be very different now.
Fans of sports games might not say the same thing. Sure, some early sports games, such as FIFA International Soccer, appeared on the Nintendo systems of the day, but they weren’t exclusive, and much of the evolution took place elsewhere. The same can be said for many sports games, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo systems don’t have a few hidden gems.
Whilst the current Nintendo machine, the Switch, is breaking sales records, the company is still known for those groundbreaking machines from the last century: the SNES, NES, N64 and GameCube. If you’re into retro gaming, have an old system and want to experience some truly wonderful sports games, then we’ve got a handful here for you to try.
NHL Hitz 2003 (GameCube)
The GameCube isn’t the most beloved of the older Nintendo systems, but it did bring this brilliant NHL game to the masses in 2003. It wasn’t a Nintendo exclusive, but it did showcase the system as an equal to the Xbox and PlayStation, which few did. It also featured a full roster, which was doubtless brilliant for fans of the New Jersey Devils who won the Stanley Cup that year.
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
Most sports sims that are Nintendo exclusive feature arguably the greatest fictional all-rounder in history, Mario. If karting is classed as a sport, then this list could just be all of the Mario Kart games ranked, but in the interest of the article, we’ve only picked one. Mario Kart 64 probably grabbed the most attention, featuring four-way races and bumpier, more interesting terrain. Each title has improved on the format since, but this one is still beloved by gamers everywhere.
NFL Blitz (Nintendo 64)
NFL Blitz delivered the game of football in a fast and aggressive arcade-style game, and it’s still one to keep an eye on today. That’s especially the case for Denver Broncos fans; their team won the first of their three Super Bowl titles whilst this game was out. The Broncos are unlikely to be among the oddsmakers tips for the title in Coral’s NFL betting listings next season, so maybe retro gaming is the only way fans will see modern-day success! If they do it on this title, they’ll be treated to insane tackles more akin to wrestling moves, which the NFL forced developers to tone down in later releases.
NBA Street V3 (GameCube)
Basketball and Nintendo go well together; the fast-paced action lends itself perfectly to systems known for arcade-style games, such as the GameCube. Nintendo combines that strength with their trump card: Mario, in this release. The game succeeds by putting him, Luigi and Peaches on a street court with some NBA stars of the time. The outcome is an addictive, instantly playable title that has stood the test of time.