My Top 5 Arcade Sports Games ranking lists go on with baseball stepping into the batter’s box. That’s right, arcade baseball games are on my agenda, today. So sit back and have someone buy you some peanuts and cracker jacks. “You can root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame. Cause’ it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game!” Okay, the seventh-inning stretch is over lol, time to get this list started:
(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. For more info, please check my affiliate disclosure page.)
5. Champion Baseball (developed by Alpha Denshi, published by Sega in 1983)
Some arcade enthusiasts you will talk to do not have a favorable opinion of this game. It gained a reputation for having a high level of difficulty and caused many casual gamers to retreat in frustration. The loud digitized voice was also off-putting for some people, but it was hysterical and contributed to the game’s folklore.
To this day though, the retro spirit of Champion Baseball lives on and the graphics were adorable. The players all had a shape and size similar to South Park characters. There is a sequel to this game, but since the only significant difference to speak of is the versus mode against a human opponent, the two titles shall be treated as one here.
You could choose one of the 10 teams representing different cities that had major league baseball franchises at the time. Those clubs included: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Boston, New York, and Chicago.
You sat down at an upright cabinet and selected either a 1 or 2-player game. In the original Champion Baseball, If you chose a 2-player game, you and your friend played independently versus the computer an inning at a time. If the computer takes the lead during any time of a game, then the game abruptly ends.
Players earned points for achievements such as reaching base, getting a steal, or pitching a strike. To be immortalized on the high-score list with your initials meant you had to have at least the sixth-highest score. Given how hard it was to break into the ranking, when that happened, gamers would brag for weeks… Sweet nostalgia!
4. World Series: The Season (developed and published by Cinematronics in 1985)
With spring-loaded joysticks used for pitching and hitting, the controls for this game were masterfully done. You had a cursor when on the mound used for painting the corners of the plate. You cocked back the joystick and released it to hurl fastballs and off-speed pitches towards the batter. The hitting controls functioned the same way. For some reason though, World Series: The Season only had right-handed batters.
Another cool thing was after you entered your initials and birthday, it tracked and recorded all of your stats. You were either the Red or Blue team and had to enter a quarter for every inning played. Not cheap, but the stats thing made it addictive.
Unfortunately, many aspects of a baseball game are inexplicably absent from this title. Things like stealing bases, picking off runners leading off the bag, wild pitches or hitting batters are not possible. Anyway, after a decent amount of practice, it is not out of the ordinary to hit a few home runs in a row. Last but not least, the graphics and sound effects in this game are stellar, but for the previously mentioned reasons, the podium is out of the question.
3. World Series 99 (developed and published by Sega in 1999)
Also known as Super Major League 99, this title is easy on the eyes with brilliant graphics. It is a 1 or 2-player game featuring all 30 MLB teams to choose from. The intense battles occur in 1 of the following 3 stadiums; Rocket Ballpark, Elwood Field, or Big K Stadium.
World Series 99 brings the official rosters of the MLB’s 98 season onto the diamond for this classic game. You can play with some of the all-time great sluggers such as Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Sammy Sosa. The sprites are truly phenomenal, as you can see virtually every blade of grass. To hit, what you have to do is draw the bat-switch and aim at the ball with your joystick.
On the mound, you select a pitch with the joystick, choose between the 9 pitching courses, and let it rip. This is one of the most realistic baseball games I have ever seen. Dirt goes flying when you slide into a base or dive to make a spectacular catch. Oh, and the sound effects are also just as good as the gameplay.
2. Clutch Hitter (developed and published by Sega in 1991)
Another baseball title released by Sega, Clutch Hitter made its debut to the arcade in 1991. You can play one of 3 styles of games. There is the Regular Season Final, the All-Star Game, or a Tournament. Before choosing your team, you have to select either the American or National League and select its division. This game has all the Major League teams, although their logos are replicated.
The crowd in Clutch Hitter is inordinately enthusiastic, shouting indiscernible chants throughout a game. Regardless of what they are shouting, it makes the game feel more intense and sends energy through the stadium.
The pitcher has a power meter to consider when throwing. For a fastball, you want to time the pitch so the meter is full. An off-speed pitch, in contrast, is the opposite. Wild pitches from a fatigued pitcher will often happen. If your pitcher gets tired, you can and should bring a fresh arm into the game from the bullpen.
You can bunt and steal bases in this game. What I like about it, is the base path diagram in the bottom corner of the screen. Most baseball titles have them, but the red dot for the baserunners in this one is iconic. Ultimately, Clutch Hitter is an awesome game with real MLB players.
Capcom Baseball (developed and published by Capcom in 1989)
Capcom Baseball could have easily made this list because it was a cool, fun game, but it is basically unknown in the West. It was only released in Japan and arrived in the arcade in 1989. I was fortunate enough to visit Japan back in 2005 and came across it at the local arcade. A few (the ones I can remember, lol) of the 10 teams to choose from in CB are The Tigyres, The Lionettes, The Whiters, and The Srellows. The groovy music featured in the game was one of its glaring qualities.
Ready to find out who sits at the top? Yeah, It’s that “Stellar” game…
1. Baseball Stars 2 (developed and published by SNK in 1992)
Neo-Geo’s Baseball Stars 2 tops this list as a historically great game that came out in 1992. You can play the 1-player mode where you try to win 15 games to go for the championship, or you can challenge a friend. There are 6 teams to choose from; the New York Monsters, Seoul Ivory’s, Sydney Griffons, Taipei Hawks, Tokyo Ninjas, and the Napoli Angels. Each team either has a Fielding, Hitting, Pitching, Chance, or Balance style of play
On offense, the game controls are as follows; press A to swing the bat or return to base, press B to lead off and steal, press C to bunt, or D to call a time out. Defensively, you will press A to pitch or jump, B to touch base or feint ball, and D to call time out. Gameplay flows smoothly as well as the animations. The sound effects are wonderful and the game has a few excellent cut scenes.
The players are fictional cartoon-like characters that have closeup views in the top corners of the screen. They all must have been addicted to chewing tobacco, or Big League Chew, in addition to juicing something serious. Most hitters have the appearance of World-Class Bodybuilders. Based on this, it is not surprising that Baseball Stars 2 refers to the games as fights, lol.
You can play 9 innings but there is a timer, and the amount of time you are allotted is dependent on the number of credits you have. I like the music and how emphatically the umpires call the game. “Steeerike!”, “Foul!”, and “You’re Outta Here!” are classic. There was no better feeling in the world than hitting a home run in Baseball Stars 2. The team mascot even meets you at home plate… Very atmospheric, very “Japanese”. In a word, a truly deserving number one!
America’s pastime has been represented well in the arcade. If you are lucky to find one of these the next time you go or have a cabinet or a classic console at home plant yourself there because you will have a blast. All of these titles were deserving of their status, as none of them had many flaws.
I hope you enjoyed this post and stay tuned for the next top-5 list featuring arcade sports games. Do not forget to subscribe to receive notifications of when I come out with articles like this one. How do you feel about these games, retro folks? Did I leave your favorite off the list? Please let me know in the comments section below.
Oh, another list is already in the works, so stay tuned!