You’re 7 years old. “Recess” and “Kim Possible” are both on TV. You break out in a nervous tantrum because you can’t decide which one to watch, and it seems like they’re both on commercial at the same time. You decide to cope by pouring Hershey’s chocolate syrup directly into your mouth. Ah, the good old days.
As for nostalgia, it didn’t stop with us ’90s kids’ favorite cartoons. The late ’90s and 2000s were filled with some of the best sports video games to date.
In the spirit of reminiscing, let’s take a look at my top throwback video games.
Starting off, we have “NASCAR Thunder 2002.” Featuring NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon’s flaming number 24 car on the cover, “NASCAR Thunder 2002” was a real efficient time-waster. The game featured a “create-a-car” mode in which you could customize your car’s paintjob a million different ways, or so it seemed. Once on the track, you could compete in NASCAR’s craziest tracks or you could do my favorite in-game activity: drive backwards and cause destruction. Play with a friend to see who can leave their car in flames.
Next up, we have “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004.” This game featured various popular golfers of the ’90s, not to mention some extra characters like Cedric the Entertainer, “Big Mo,” and my personal favorite, 90+ year-old Pops Masterson. The game also allowed you to play on fantasy courses like Penguin Falls. Nothing like watching an old man smash a 300-yard drive over a waterfall of rainbows.
Up next, we have “NBA Street Vol. 2.” This game had funk oozing out of it, featuring clothes and styles from the ’70s. This game was filled with insane combo moves that the Harlem Globetrotters could only dream of. Choosing between NBA teams and players from the day, mixed with legends of the game, allowed you to represent the upcoming Detroit Pistons championship team, or throwback to any Jordan era. Racking up style points on the streets of Philly or Oakland gave the game a true street ball feel.
Moving to the gridiron, we have “NFL Fever 2002.” Madden’s cousin, this was Microsoft’s first football game. Perhaps the best part of this game was experimenting with the 2001 St. Louis Rams, filled with superstars like Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk. The flea-flicker play was madly popular in the game, along with deep passing, making the game exciting on both ends of the ball. Fever’s well-organized dynasty mode also provided a great gameplay mode for building and managing a team, something that would prove to be center pieces for football games to come.
The bronze medal goes to one of my all-time favorites, “Need for Speed: Carbon.” The best racing game ever created, in my opinion, this 2006 release has so many different dynamics that make it so easy to play over and over again. The tiered class system offers tons of really cool cars to drive, buy and customize. Hop in a tricked-out Corvette, find a highway and do 224 miles per hour or get the cops to chase you and see what kind of devastation you can cause to the game’s Five-O.
The runner-up spot goes to a game that induces more pure fun than just about any other video game I’ve encountered: “Mario Super Strikers.” This Nintendo-based soccer game is one saucy title. An indoor, no out-of-bounds soccer game, Super Strikers is very fast-paced. Choose a classic Mario character, get on the pitch and rough up your opponents with moves to battle them mid-game, and don’t forget to throw some power-ups or special attacks their way, too. If you’re looking for a game that allows you to be an animated turtle that can do a rainbow trick over the goalie, then this is game for you.
I don’t think the champion of our list is going to surprise anyone, as the number one throwback sports video game is the entire “Backyard Sports” series. Nothing will ever beat drafting the latest roster for the Humongous Melonheads and bringing some hardware back to the treehouse. Whether you’re hitting dingers with Pablo Sanchez while Pete Wheeler is taunting you, or if you’re winning the Indoor-Off-The-Wall Soccer Tournament with midfielder Kenny Kawaguchi, the Backyard Sports series will always hold a special place in many childhood memories.