They’re the ones who give us those moments of glory, the kind that can take on Al Bundy-esque proportions reliving. They also cause us the most breaking-furniture-like frustration because we can’t stop or contain them. Of course, I’m talking about video games, unless anger management classes and bottles of Zoloft should be prescribed. Although sports are a team effort, these digitized Gods of extraordinary individual prowess deserve their deity as the pinnacle in the pantheon of sports gaming. Too much? So were the Herculean talents of the legends on this list.
#10—LITTLE MAC (MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH-OUT! 1987)
Wait, why not Mike Tyson????
Simmer down, now. While it would be easy to add “The Baddest Man on the Planet” on this list, you never played as the gap-toothed wonder. Your objective was to beat him…as Little Mac, the underdog protagonist with limited boxing skills—with only jabs and a powerful uppercut in his repertoire—and a serious height disadvantage. A mastery of the left or right button (“Dancin’ like a fly, bite like a mosquito” as your Carl Winslow-looking trainer would spout between rounds) to dodge the barrage of timed punches from the likes of Glass Joe, Piston Honda, King Hippo, Super Macho Man and Tyson, himself, was the only strategy needed as you rose up the ranks to champion status. Sidebar, was it just me or did Mac look eerily like Matthew Broderick? Oh, the 80’s.
#9—RANDY MOSS (NFL 2K, 1999)
When you’re the cover boy for a video game, more than likely you will dominate said game. And Randy Moss did just that. A certified lock to snag any deep pass, or ridiculous one-handed catches, thrown his way, regardless of the coverage; Moss was a game changer any time your Sega Dreamcast was turned on and the Minnesota Vikings were chosen.
#8—THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (WWF WRESTLEFEST, 1991)
This ‘91 title never saw a console, this was an arcade game only, but WWF Wrestlefest is still the top wrestling sim…in EVER. While Hulk Hogan was pro wrestling’s top superstar, and loved across the globe, pubescent teens pumped quarter after quarter in pizzerias and amusement parks all over playing as the energetic face-painted enigma that was The Ultimate Warrior. What didn’t the man from Parts Unknown do to quench the Kool-Aid like thirst for violence? Flying clotheslines? Check. Mat-rumbling Power Slams? Double-Check. Gorilla Press on his opponents, followed up with a Body Splash? Did you not watch WWF (eff the “E”) programming as a child?
#7—RANDALL CUNNINGHAM (TECMO SUPER BOWL, 1991)
Simply known as “QB Eagles” (damn you, NFLPA), Philadelphia’s signal caller was the 90’s version Michael Vick, in real life and in video game form. "The Ultimate Weapon" at the time, Cunningham can equally throw long bombs for six points and weave in, out and around awestruck defenses as if they were merely junior varsity scrubs in #12’s varsity universe.
#6—JEREMY ROENICK (NHL ‘94, 1993)
Probably the best hockey sim since Blades of Steel, NHL ’94 had an impressive list of future Hall-of-Famers that dominated the digitized ice. But while Lemieux, Bourque and Gretzky could easily fill this slot, the powerful Chicago Blackhawks Center gets a special place on this list and in mi corazón not only for his spectacular play, but how he was immortalized in the ’96 comedy Swingers. Hat tip to Vince Vaughn.
#5—LAWRENCE TAYLOR (TECMO BOWL, 1989)
Arguably the second best player in this 1989 classic—we’ll touch on the best one later on in this list. Scratch that, LT was the second best overall and the absolute best on defense, no argument. The fastest player on D, New York’s sack machine was disruptive to opposing offenses and on field goals and extra points, would break through the line of scrimmage with the ease of black man pulling a Kardashian…or a Jenner.
#4—LEBRON JAMES (NBA 2K14, 2013)
Of course the greatest basketball player today would have an equally great video game counterpart. So instead of stating the obvious, considering King James clocked in at a “perfect” 99 rating on 2K’s latest version, let’s take time out to note a LeBron James Fun Fact: Did you know that LBJ is a part owner of England’s legendary Liverpool FC soccer team? I know, right?????
#3—MICHAEL JORDAN (JORDAN VS. BIRD, 1988)
Of course the greatest basketball player in history would have an equally great video game counterpart. Even though now in 2014 you can really utilize His Airness’ skills in the next-gen world of gaming, fan boys can only look to ’88 when #23 was first introduced to consoles. Sure, his digitized rival, Larry Bird, had the silky sweet shooting stoke showcased by the Three-Point Contest feature in the game, and three championship rings to MJ’s none by this time, but Jordan had The Dunk Contest and signature slams “Kiss The Rim,” “Statue of Liberty” and “The Windmill.” Case closed.
#2—MICHAEL VICK (MADDEN ’04 2003)
Arguably, he is the greatest quarterback in the history of Madden. As dominant as any player there was in the franchise, the cover athlete of the ’04 installment—after finishing his second year with the Atlanta Falcons—defined what gamers look for in their signal callers over a decade later: speed…elusiveness…accurately throwing on the run…speed. A one man wrecking crew, who can outrun anybody on the field all while bombing the hell out of any secondary thrown at him. Hell, if you really wanted to end friendships by pissing off your opponent, you’d showboat by hiking the ball to Vick, have him scramble about 20 yards backwards and still toss an accurate strike for a touchdown. Simply put, it was illegal in the gaming world to play as the Falcons and #7—who wasn’t even the top rated player in Madden ‘04—in 49 states.
#1—BO JACKSON (TECMO BOWL, 1989)
Without question, Bo Jackson was the definition of unstoppable, not only on the gridiron and the baseball diamond but in virtual reality, as well. In the late 80s, Bo knew everything—baseball, football, basketball, tennis, running, some hockey, hell, he knew…or didn’t know (Bo) Diddley. You know what else Bo knew in Tecmo Bowl? Breaking tackles…a lot of them. That’s mainly because he was not only the fastest player in the game, but also the only offensive player who can never be tackled (that is of course if you actually accurately blitzed the Los Angeles offense). Defensive players would literally bounce off the digitized Bo if he just stood there. Get your timing down and you can zigzag up and down the field avoiding diving tacklers by merely jamming all directions of the NES’ D-Pad—early causes of carpal tunnel. Wanted to annoy the living crap out of your friends when playing head-to-head? Take a kickoff, go out of bounds on your one-yard line, then spend the rest of the quarter running all over the field with Jackson with one play. Observe. Yeah, that kind of dominance is unparalleled.
With the Madden ‘15 on the horizon, I give my expert opinion on what struggle teams you should take control of in Franchise Mode and guide to greatness.
Every man, woman and child—regardless of ethnicity—should watch the Maharishi University commencement speech by @JimCarrey. Truly inspiring.