Five Obscure Sports Games

This week has seen the occurrence of both the Grand National and the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race, two of the most important sporting events in the British calendar. As I watched Oxford coast to an easy victory (after one of Cambridge’s rowers, from what I could tell, got bored and decided to dunk his head in the water momentarily), it struck me that a significant proportion of the nation gets quite involved in what is, after all, nothing more than two boats rowing down a river for twenty minutes or so*.

I’ve never been a great sports enthusiast, though it’s understandable that there’s a great deal of crossover between sports and video games, with sports rules giving a ready-made framework to programmed rule systems in games. There are FIFA football games, Madden American football games, NHL ice hockey games and more, all of which sell tremendously well every year when they release the same game with slightly nicer graphics. Even horse racing has been relatively well-represented in various forms; there are simulation games such as Derby Owner’s Club where you run your own jockey stable in the arcade (yes, this is a big thing in Japan), arcade games with ride-on plastic horses, and the inexplicably popular Barbie Horse Adventures.

Barbie Horse Adventures

No, I haven’t played it, and nor do I wish to.

In today’s blog post, I’ll be taking a look at a few of the more obscure sports titles which may not have crossed your gaming radar.

Take-Out Weight Curling Series (2002-2003)

Yes, curling. A sport that captures a small amount of attention at the Winter Olympics and is then promptly forgotten for four years at a time has been made into not one, but two PC games. I am reliably informed that Take-Out Weight Curling 2 is the superior version, though I’m not sure that anyone reading this is going to rush straight to Amazon and order a copy. It’s got 4 out of 5 stars though.

You can watch a YouTuber named Captain Moose getting some slight enjoyment from the game here:

Apparently, the physics in Take-Out Weight Curling 2 is a realistic depiction of the way in which a block of stone slides on ice when accompanied by a team of people with brooms. There’s really very little more to say about it; even one of the game features is “For 1 or more players”. Lucky, that. I hate it when I get a new game only to realise that it’s for 0 players only, and all I get to do is watch.

…wait, are those just those “movie” things I’ve heard about?

Take-Out Weight Curling 2

Big Buck Hunter Series (2000 onwards)

The Big Buck Hunter games are entirely predicated on the notion that shooting animals is fun. I won’t offer my personal opinion on that sort of entertainment, though it does make me think that there may be a market for games along the lines of Badger Baiting Simulator 2014, Super Magnifying Glass vs. Ants, and Kick The Puppy!. Regardless, they are actually well-made games, fun to play, and definitely more enjoyable than lurking in a wood and waiting for a deer to show up.

I understand that in America, hunting is a much more prevalent pastime than here in the UK, what with the availability of guns and vast open spaces, but the game enjoys popularity over here despite the relative obscurity of hunting with guns as a sport (or “sport”, depending on your viewpoint). Frankly, it’s just nice to have a game in which you shoot dumb animals instead of dumb humans, for a change.

There has even been a pinball spin-off, proving that you can make a great pinball table regardless of the source material. For another example, see also: Johnny Mnemonic

Big Buck Hunter Pinball

World Games (1986)

Ah, World Games. Undisputed master of the obscure sports genre, which definitely is a genre, because I say so. Released on the venerable Commodore 64 and then ported to all sorts of 8-bit and 16-bit systems, World Games was developed by Epyx as a follow-up to Summer Games and Winter Games. Apparently they had exhausted the possibilities of “normal” sports, so they decided to simulate eight unusual events including Canadian Log Rolling, Scottish Caber Tossing, and German Barrel Jumping. That last one is not a misprint, for any German readers; apparently jumping over barrels is one of your national sports.

Here is some relatively normal weightlifting, from Russia:

World Games remains unparalleled in its collection of obscure sports, as far as I can tell. I’m unaware of any game before or since that simulates caber tossing or bull riding, and I’d be very interested to see Oxford vs. Cambridge Barrel Jumping on television. 

World Games was followed by California Games, which featured a few more obscure sports, and taught me as a child that everyone in California goes surfing and rides on BMX bikes.

California Games

Gaelic Games Football (2005)

Gaelic Games Football, released on the PS2, has a place in my heart. Not a fond place, you understand; more like the place a lump of cholesterol would occupy, clogging your heart and reminding you with painful twinges that you really should see a medical professional, but a place nonetheless. The reason is that I worked on the game, and I’m sure all of you that own a copy are now rushing to check for my name in the manual.

What do you mean, none of you own a copy? Then you've never seen the stunning graphics.

Gaelic Games Football

On the back of their success (read: they managed to get it released) with AFL Premiership 2005 - this game’s predecessor, which featured Aussie rules football - IR Gurus went on to develop Gaelic Games Football, a title with similarly awful gameplay, uninspiring graphics and minuscule international appeal.

Gaelic Games Football, despite being a pretty dreadful and boring game, at least had one laudable goal in that it attempted to give Gaelic football fans a representation of their sport on home consoles, and IR Gurus should be commended for that. They should be scorned for the results, though; I helped make the game, and I still don’t know the rules of the sport. In preparation for working on this and AFL, I was forced to watch a video of various men running around sports fields and jumping on each other violently. That seemed to be almost the entire point of the game, though there was also a ball involved.

The only reason I’m sure that at least ten copies of this game were printed is that they were handed out to the team as a “reward”. Look, I still have mine:

Gaelic Games Where It Belongs

Who says I can’t use this blog to work out some anger towards the less glamorous side of games development?

Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (2008)

You’ll have to forgive my including this game as it’s not truly a sports game, nor based on an obscure sport, but it’s an obscure game with a sports star as the main character, and this is my blog post, so I get to choose what games go on the list.

Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is an unofficial, fan-made sequel to Barkley Shut Up and Jam!, which was a basketball game starring NBA basketball player Charles Barkley and released on the Mega Drive and SNES. In BSUaJ:G (as I think the catchy initialism should go), you control Charles Barkley in “post-cyberpocalyptic Neo New York”, twelve years after performing a slam dunk so powerful it wiped out almost everyone in the crowd and leading to the outlawing of basketball.

If that’s not enough to pique your interest, try this gameplay video showing Barkley fighting his arch-enemy, Michael Jordan:

It's a perfectly insane, tongue-in-cheek yet deadpan role-playing game, which begs to be played just as a way of congratulating the developers for their creative insanity.

Charles Barkley is no stranger to bizarre media, of course, having been immortalised in comic form playing basketball against Godzilla.

Godzilla vs. Barkley

Yep, that was really published.

So, those are my five choices for sporting games you might have missed due to their obscurity. Though sports games are churned out with frightening regularity in the mainstream, some sports are still waiting for their chance to shine as digital media. I haven’t seen an Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race game yet, though I’m sure it could be made to be at least as much fun as Gaelic Games Football.

I’d like to hear from you, though. Do you think I’ve missed any obscure sports games? Have you ever tried curling? Do you have any explanation for Charles Barkley’s career decisions? You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written By: Dave Morgan

*Of course, I’m being facetious and reductionist - everything is “nothing more than” if you boil it down. Football is “nothing more than” 22 men kicking a ball at some nets. Scaling Mount Everest is “nothing more than” climbing up a big rocky hill. Audrey Tautou is “nothing more than” a bunch of atoms clumped together.

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