The sound of an Australian summer is often accompanied by the sound of willow on leather. But because this is 2018, the summer of cricket also tends to come with some truly awful, overly patriotic commentary. So while you're being barraged with KFC ads and smashing F5 on the banter threads, here's the best cricket games to tide you over this summer.
A shareware simulator with a DOS-like interface and a presentation that would appeal to fans of the Test Match board game, Sticky Wicket essentially models an 8-team league. Matches take place over 40 overs, so it's a little like matches of grade cricket (or county cricket back in the day).
Before Australian Cricket Captain became available locally - and well before you could get games of the like on your phone or tablets - this was a great little simulator with just enough visuals to spice it up over the pure-text based variants. You can find some shareware links through Google, if you're dedicated.
Still the best arcade-style cricket game you can get on mobile. There are plenty of offerings with a less cartoonish presentation, ranging from the official Big Bash cricket game last year, to the many Indian-developed "real" cricket games, but Smashtastic is by far and away the most fun I've had since Stick Cricket.
Every now and again, something cricket-related will come across my feed. And just as sure as night follows day, I'll pick up my phone and think, "Maybe someone has finally ported Cricket 97 to phones. Naturally, that still hasn't happened. So I go around looking for other cricket-esque entertainment, most of which is ad-riddled garbage. But the other day I came across a local cricket game, and it's dominated every toilet break ever since.
EA Cricket 97: Ashes Tour Edition
There was a time when EA Sports published more than one game a year that Australians used to care about. And there was a time when those games were, truly, bloody amazing. Aussie developers Beam Software overhauled the rudimentary 2D graphics used in Super International Cricket and EA Cricket 96, replacing all of the sprites with fully animated, polygonal models. The commentary was thrown out as well, replaced with the sultry tones of Richie Benaud.
Cricket 97 is still compatible with Windows 10. I've got it running just fine on my Surface Laptop; it's fun to knock out a 50-over innings on the couch every now and again, or while you're travelling.
Super International Cricket
What should have been an absolute inclusion on the SNES, Super International Cricket was another cracker from Beam Software that is still beloved today. Any attempts to actually play it in 2018 will probably be ruined by slow full tosses around the wicket - the cheat's way to rack up tons of wickets - but spamming the "Howzat" button repeatedly is still good for a laugh.
Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007
Sold as Brian Lara in most other cricketing territories, RPIC/BLIC 2007 introduced online play for the first time. Most cricket games only supported local multiplayer, and while online play was often wrought with full tosses and wide deliveries at the edge of the crease, it was nice to have.
The gameplay itself was pretty smooth, though. There was even a PSP version of the game, and as janky and cut-down as that version was, it was still a great continuation of Codemasters' contribution to the history of cricket games.
Shane Warne Cricket 99
A gun of a cricket game - although visually it doesn't stand up quite as much as it used to. It's still real playable, if you can get your hands on a copy, and the introduction of scenarios (like Sri Lanka recovering in the World Cup final against Australia) were fantastic for the time.
The best chance of playing this today is probably on the original PlayStation, or through a PSX emulator. The game was released for Windows, although a patch was required to get it going with Windows XP and a virtual machine is still the best bet for running it in 2018.
Australian Cricket Captain
A localised version of Empire's International Cricket Captain, Australian Cricket Captain was based around the Shield cricket system. I couldn't actually find any footage or screenshots of the Australian version, unfortunately, so the above is some footage of the series on the PS1.
For cricket fans, it was a fantastic reminder of just how much talent - batting especially - we had at state level. Players like Michael Di Venuto quietly knocking about with a 45+ average - I'm pretty sure it was closer to 50 when the game was released - for Tasmania. Stuart Law, who finished his first class career with 79 hundreds and a stirling 50.5 average.
The bloke played the one Test. England would have killed for anyone that good in the '90s or early 2000's. Martin Love, who only got five tests, and finished his career just shy of an average of 50? Those were the kind of players you could order to stonewall, go all out, change in the batting order, or trade entirely.
Loving cricket is often a matter of enjoying numbers, statistics and process. Australian Cricket Captain is still, at least for humble Aussies, the best iteration of that.
Don Bradman Cricket 14
There's been a string of features introduced with Don Bradman Cricket 17 and Ashes Cricket more recently. But given that these games are best played singleplayer - online has always been a little sketchy - I went with the game I put the most hours into, and the one whose structure is best aligned with gameplay.
The original DBC 14 rewarded players the more they executed shots in a match, and in training. The principle of application exemplifies the spirit of cricket: you work at something, over and over, until you have it down to a fine art.
It makes sense from a game perspective to let people level up in between matches in skills of their choosing, but this is cricket. If you want to get better at a cover drive or a basic offbreak, get your foot or or bowl the bloody ball. That's how the game should be.
Every time the topic comes up, I always get the same response. "I can't believe you like cricket," Mark says. I've sat next to him for a year, and it's almost the same reaction, the same stunned. Cricket. You. Cricket. You monster.
There is a ton of fun being able to play for Bowral (since I was born in the local hospital there) and DBC 17's improvement to the square drive was much welcomed.
But I just didn't put as much time into Ashes or DBC 17 as I did the original. So DBC 14 it is, which you can still pick up today for $28.95. That's good value for a cricket fan.
Bonus: Shane Warne Cricket 96
Earlier this year Bennett Foddy, maker of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy and QWOP, sat on stream and introduced Tim from our US team to the art of cricket.
I'm pretty sure neither of them scored beyond the single digits.
Cricket fans, I ask you. What virtual five-dayers have you turned to for solace or enjoyment in previous summers of cricket?