My first experience playing sports video games came from the black box NES titles such as Baseball, Volleyball, and Soccer. The simplicity of these games is a far cry from the complex sports games we have today, like MLB: The Show. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing sports video games came in my middle-school days playing NBA Jam with friends. While that game was more advanced than those early NES games, it was also more arcade-like than the FIFA and Madden NFL games that started arriving around that same time.
Sports and racing games can be broken down into two categories: arcade and simulation (sim). An arcade game often has simpler controls. It may have less realistic graphics or physics, and a more over-the-top tone. Sim games are meant to simulate reality, and tend to have more true to life graphics. Their gameplay is more akin to the sport being played, and the games sometimes feature actual players, teams or car models. Simulation games are more technical than arcade games and usually require more precision and time spent with the game to master the systems. If you’ve ever played both Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon, you understand the difference.
Sports titles that take the arcade gameplay approach are usually more accessible; they’re easier to pick up and play for new and casual gamers. This allows for a more light-hearted multiplayer experience. In addition, this approach often involves sillier, hyper-stylized action which can be quite enjoyable. Such games, not beholden to the rules of the sport and the laws of physics, can innovate and create unique gameplay.
Games that take the simulation approach are much more realistic and provide a more authentic experience, much more true to the real-life equivalent. Many of the bigger franchises utilize real team rosters and actual team names, providing fans with the ability to play as their favorite club or players. Because simulation games have more advanced and complex gameplay mechanics, the multiplayer aspect can have more depth and room for skill and competition. For people who take a sport seriously, these offerings are usually preferred.
Perhaps because I’m not a big sports fan, my preference for sports and racing video games is that they take an arcade approach. I can appreciate the subtleties and realistic elements in a sim style game, but in general I have more fun mashing buttons and seeing wild things happen.
How about you? Do you like a more accurate, simulation game? Or do you prefer things be simplified and amped up in an arcade style? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion on the Boss Rush Discord.