With the lack of sport going on, ABC’s Grandstand recently ran a little poll to determine the best sports game. Football Manager 2020 won out, which I can understand, but it’s still a bit of a travesty. So let’s run a slightly different poll.
I’ve led with a shot of Jonah Lomu Rugby from the PS1, which somehow didn’t make the final of ABC’s Boredom Bracket. And as much as I’d rather replay Myst than endure a match of rugby, Jonah Lomu is probably the PS1’s greatest sports game.
It’s certainly the greatest rugby game, that’s for sure.
I’ll take one more liberty: games that used an Australian or New Zealand icon for the cover will be counted. And in fine Aussie fashion, any New Zealand games will also be counted as Australian. It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t just steal things that weren’t ours, right?
Shane Warne Cricket ’99
If you still have the CD or DVD of this, please contact me. I need this blocky love back in my life.
I wonder how well it’d play today with a modern gamepad.
AFL Finals Fever
I know there’s a lot of love still for AFL 98, the first 3D AFL game in the franchise. I found that to be a bit too janky for its own good, but the arcadeness of Finals Fever really worked for me. Getting this game going again on Windows 10 is also a giant pain in the arse, although thankfully I still have the original CD lying around.
Super International Cricket
I don’t know how or why we ended up with a game that let you bowl off two steps or permanently spam the appeal button, but I’m glad we did.
Cricket 97 Ashes Tour
Basically a slightly tweaked version of Cricket 96 from Beam Software. You could edit your own teams, create your own players, and there was full licensing, although it didn’t support DOS anymore, but by then most people had migrated to Windows 95 anyway.
Aussie Rules Footy (NES)
Another classic from Beam Software in Melbourne, although I don’t know that this one would have set the world alight. Those flashing arrows are a bit of a nightmare, and there’s no HUD to give you an idea of where your teammates are. Some nice animations, though.
Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 / Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007
Ricky Ponting was on the cover in Australia, but the game itself was also partially made down under. Codemasters partnered with IR Gurus, a Melbourne studio responsible for the AFL Live games and a Saddle Club tie-in.
Brian Lara/Ricky Ponting ’07 was also the first cricket gave to support online multiplayer, which was a huge departure for any niche sporting games at the time.
Probably the only thing to take up the mantle from EA’s ARL 96, the Rugby League series of games were made by Sidhe Interactive in New Zealand. The games were a huge success locally – GameSpot reported over a decade ago how a single EB Games store in Sydney took 1,169 preorders for the original Rugby League, a figure that was later bettered by Rugby League 2‘s release.
Australian Cricket Captain
Australian Cricket Captain was a localised version of International Cricket Captain from Empire Interactive, based around Sheffield Shield cricket and released just for the Australian/New Zealand market. Everything about the game was functionally the same as the UK version, but it meant that instead of dealing with a bunch of Poms, people got to see what it was like when players like Martin Love and Stuart Law actually got a proper run in the Test team. Or what happened if you just promoted Adam Gilchrist immediately.
Don Bradman Cricket 14
Cricket 19, Ashes Cricket and Don Bradman Cricket 17 are all out, but there’s just a certain charm about the original game. It still looks real good in screenshots, and I’m still partial to the progression system.
383 hours. It's more time than most people put into any video game in a year. It's more time than most put into any video game ever. And it's definitely more than most would consider sane for playing the virtual version of a sport that's akin to watching paint dry. Let me explain my obsession with cricket.Read more
AFL Live 2003
Sure, the commentary repeated constantly, but the gameplay was smooth for the OG Xbox. It marked the first of a string of officially licensed AFL games over the next few years, with AFL Live sequels, AFL Challenge, three AFL Premiership titles on the PS2, and a reboot of AFL Live in 2011. Given that a “good year” of sales for those games would have been around 80,000 or 85,000, it’s kind of remarkable how many AFL games got made in the first place. (Cricket games, according to Laura Parker at the time, could sell in the hundreds of thousands owing to their bigger global appeal.)
AFL Evolution 2
AFL Evolution didn’t get a look in for ABC Grandstand’s video game bracket, but being the most recent it deserved a shout. The graphics are naturally going to be a little jankier than the latest FIFA, although from all the AFL fans in my feed, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Also, I appreciate the fact that you actually get a full view of the pitch and where most of your players are.
That said, I still really enjoyed the speed of AFL 98. Won’t ever replace my love of cricket, but you do have to enjoy a good sports game.
So that’s a round-up of some of the greatest Aussie and Kiwi sports games. What game did you sink the most time into – and what would you love to replay now? (Also, if you know how to get Shane Warne Cricket working on Windows 10 please email me because I’m about to tear my hair out.)