Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Best Video Game Athletes Ever

No dude, you can't use Ken Griffey Jr. in Ken Griffey Jr's game!

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

With the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in the books, ESPN is set to unveil the Final Four of its annual Madden NFL Cover Vote tomorrow. It's the 25th Anniversary of EA Sports' fantastic football franchise, so this year's cover voting features not only the brightest stars of today, but 32 "old-school" players fans can vote for as well (One from each team).

As of now, Joe Montana faces Barry Sanders in one Elite 8 matchup, while Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders go head-to-head in the other. If you're wondering, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is taking on Arian Foster in a "new school" semifinal, and Robert Griffin III is battling Adrian Peterson in the other.

Obviously, all deserving players, and each of them (Except for Wilson, who wasn't even a starter in last year's game) have been a dominant force in Madden. But who are the greatest video game athletes of all time? Not just in Madden, and not just in football games, but in the history of virtual sports? Well, I am here to tell you my favorites. And no, there is no Bo Jackson or any other Tecmo Bowl players. That game came out when I was 10 months old.

So heck, let's start with the best-selling sports game franchise of all time, branded by a man that also did ads for (BOOM!) tough actin' Tinactin


Michael Vick: Madden 2004

Oh, the days when he was still called Michael, had never been convicted of fighting dogs and was revolutionizing the game in Atlanta. If you played Madden in 2003-2004, you know that it was flat-out cheating to use Vick. His insane speed made him impossible to keep in the pocket, and the EA team made him a solid enough passer that a good Madden player could exploit you that way too.

How to deal: Whenever my butthead friend David would use the Falcons back in the day, I would choose the Eagles so I could unleash a little quarterback running of my own with Donovan McNabb. I also moved Brian Dawkins from strong safety to middle linebacker and put him in a permanent QB spy. Sure, it took a guy out of coverage, but it stopped you from giving up 15 yard scrambles every play.

Mike Alstott: Madden 2000

First of all, this was a fullback that was rated 100, so there's that. Second of all, you literally could not stop Alstott from gaining at least four yards every play, unless you played goal line defense. For those of you that can multiply, 3x4= 12, so handing the ball to Big Mike every play meant you would probably not face a fourth down all game.

How to deal: One strategy is to play the "cheap card."

"Oh come on dude, that's so cheap if you're just gonna keep runnin' it up the middle like that!"

If your friend had any honor, he would then adjust his strategy to make the game more fun. But, if he was a little butthead, as most boys of video game age are, you were simply forced to play the entire game in the goal line defense and hope for the best.

Football Honorable Mention: Marshall Faulk, NFL 2K1- The juke move was just unfair in that game, and Marshall was the best at it.


Chicago Bulls Guard #99: Various NBA Titles in the Late 90s

Who was this unnamed white guy playing shooting guard for Chicago, and why were all his attributes maxed out? It's as if he was a substitute for somebody…

Either way, when you laced up White Guy #99's generic sneakers and hit the floor with Pippen and Rodzilla, you were darn near unstoppable. It's pretty funny how, in his prime, we had to use White Guy #99, but as soon as Jordan joined the Wizards, he appeared in NBA Live 2003. Hmm...

The only solace anyone can take in Jordan pulling himself from the NBA's licensing deal, and thus, being removed from video games, is that he would have been the least fair player to use in video game history. At least White Guy #99 missed a shot every now and then, and the current NBA2K series has done a magnificent job a recreating "His Airness" for all to play as.

How to deal: First of all, why are you allowing your friend to use the '97 Bulls?

Yeah, if you're dumb enough to permit that, you and the stupid Chris Webber led Bullets deserve to lose this game by 35.

Vince Carter: NBA 2K1

On the heels of one of the most memorable Slam Dunk Contest performances ever, "Vince-Sanity" was in full swing during the 2000-2001 season, and Virtual Vince was even better than the real thing. Not only was Carter given a 99 offensive rating (Complete with all the slashing ability you could ever want), he was a lockdown defender as well, and one of the quickest players in the game.

Oh, and just to make matters worse, he was also given a 50 3pt. shot rating, making him one of the top-10 outside shooters in the game.

How to deal: Clearly, the 2K franchise was banking on Carter becoming the next Jordan, because they made him the third best offense player in the game (Behind Kobe and Shaq), and the only slasher with a semblance of an outside shot (His 3 pt. shot was rated 10 points better than Kobe's).

Still, you're best bet was to put one of the fastest guys in the game in front of him and just force him to shoot jumpers. If you weren't using Shaq, the game made it pretty hard to post people up (Something they have, thankfully, improved upon), so a lack of height on defense didn't really hurt.

Of course, you could always just use the Lakers and spot him with Kobe and have Shaq cover the paint, but if you didn't want to be the guy that always used the best team in the game, grab the 76ers and put 99 speed Allen Iverson in front of him and hope Theo Ratliff comes with the help side defense in time.

Basketball Honorable Mention: Shaquille O'Neal, NBA 2K2- Improved post up game made Shaq unstoppable.


Wayne Gretzky: Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey

The Great One himself put his name on this arcade-style hockey brawl, and I dare say it is the most entertaining hockey game ever made. With fire-slap shots that set the net ablaze, goalies that occasionally turn into walls, a button-mashing fight mode and checks that flip your opponents into the air, this game was freakin' awesome!

Of course, Gretzky himself had to be the star attraction. While this game came out 16 years after The Great One's 92-goal season, he was still portrayed as the greatest ever in his prime.

How to deal: This is the easiest one to deal with, because there were so many great players in this game. You could grab the Penguins and use Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr to counteract Gretzky's scoring punch. Or, grab the Avalanche, a team that featured scorers Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, along with the game's best goalie, Patrick Roy.

Mario Lemieux: NHL '94

The real Super Mario was going through the hardest times of his career and life in 1993-1994, battling Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple back issues, but the virtual Lemieux was still Le Magnifique.

As the only player with a 100 rating, and with speedy Jaromir Jagr at his side, Lemieux could race up the left side of the ice and be assured of either scoring a goal cutting back to the center, or hitting Jagr for a high percentage one-timer.

How to deal:
You simply had to use the Chicago Blackhawks, the game's top rated defensive team with the game's top rated goaltender, Ed Belfour. Yes, that's right, Ed Belfour. Not Patrick Roy and not Martin Brodeur… I digress on the rating system, but still, the Blackhawks were the only team in the game with a puncher's chance of slowing down Pittsburgh's dynamic duo.

Hockey Honorable Mention: Pavel Bure, NHL Open Ice 2 on 2 Challenge- SOO FAST AND SOO MUCH ICE TO USE!


Ken Griffey Jr.: Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

Another one of those games that is named for a great player, so obviously, said great player will be unstoppable. The rest of the game was comprised of made up players, and Griffey hit a home run pretty much every time he made contact. Oh, and he covered virtually the entire outfield on defense.

How to deal: Walk him. Walk him every time he's up.

Sammy Sosa: Triple Play Baseball 2000

Sosa was coming off a home run race with Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire two years earlier, but Slammin' Sammy was still knocking them out of the park at an astonishing rate. This was actually a really fun baseball game because it blended realistic gameplay with absurd occurrences like Sosa's 900 foot home runs.

I mean, those guys were all roided up back then, but 900 feet? Come on man!

How to deal:
Walk him, duh! This is why baseball is no fun.

Baseball Honorable Mention: Nolan Ryan, Nolan Ryan's Baseball- Try to hit his fastball, I dare you.

Other Sports and College Athletes that Deserve Mention

Tim Tebow, NCAA 2009:
Well, technically, he was QB#15 on Florida, but the guy was unstoppable as a runner and passer.

Mark Philippoussis, Virtua Tennis: His big serve moved opponents off the court, setting up an easy shot down the line to take points.

Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson Punch-Out:
He was virtually unbeatable, and for some reason they made him tall.

Thierry Henry, FIFA 2004: Speed to burn, and since I suck at this game, I value that more than anything.

Goldberg, WCW/nWo Revenge:
Fear the spear! His hits packed plenty of punch, and his recovery from damage was unbelievable.