PowerPlay: Re-Evaluating The SNES Position On Sports Games



Author: Mongunzoo

Genesis fan: “In the 16-Bit generation, the SNES lost the sports game players to SEGA.”

Super NES fan: “LOL,  WHAT sports games?”

Genesis fan: “The SNES is lacking in the sports category.”

Genesis fan: “Do you guys have Mutant Football?  No?  Then SHUT UP! You lose!”

It’s that same ole’ song and dance: Either the SNES has no sports games, or the SNES lacks sports games, or the SNES cannot compete with SEGA in the sports category. As a matter of fact I’m willing to bet that it’s all three …

Well ladies and gentlemen, I’ve had it with this talking point! While it may be true that the Genesis has MORE, that does not mean that it has better content than the Super Nintendo. So let’s explore this argument a little bit more and take a look at why this perception becomes reality. IS the SNES really a terrible platform for virtual sports enthusiasts? Let’s find out!

Did The SNES Lose The Sports Gamers?

With the NES, there was almost no competition from other platforms in Japan and North America. If you wanted to play ball on consoles, you really only had one place to go, and Nintendo’s terms for playing were considered brutal. Licensees were not permitted to release the same game for a competing console until two years had passed, and Nintendo would decide how many cartridges would be supplied to the licensee. Worse, there was a minimum number of cartridges that had to be ordered by the licensee from Nintendo. The worst restriction came in the form of an annual five-game limit on developers.

This changed with the arrival of the Sega Genesis to the marketplace. SEGA came onto the scene and quickly became known as a much more friendly place to develop for and do business with. With no annual limit and less censorship involved, we all watched as the Genesis disrupted the console market. One of the spoils SEGA received was the flood of quality sports titles from third parties, along with the fans that came with them. Nintendo eventually reversed these policies in 1993, but by then the damage had already been done. (1)

Further cementing this advantage was the reverse-engineering of Genesis hardware by Electronic Arts, the largest distributor of sports games in the world. (2) This allowed them to cheaply produce carts for the system without the typical licensing fees normally associated with consoles. This also contributed to their support of the SEGA Genesis since they made much more money on each cart sold. So in this instance we have to conclude that the critics are right: There WAS an exodus of sports gamers to the competition.

Now saying that the Super Nintendo LACKS compelling material of its own is a different matter entirely …

Are There No Good Quality Sports Games on SNES?

The short answer to this is: OF COURSE THERE ARE SOME GOOD ONES!!!! It may be one thing to state that the Genesis had MORE, but to say that there is a vast difference in general quality is just not true. Let me say this with clarity: There is a quality SNES game for almost every sport you could be into. Let’s take a look.


Baseball: Who can say with a straight face that Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is not quality? Endless league play, home run derbies, and accurate stadiums all contribute to a stellar performance. I cannot think of a better baseball game that appeared on the Genesis, and I am not kidding when I say that this is the ONLY baseball game I choose to play.

Football: Okay, I get it. The Genesis had a much larger selection when it comes to the Grid Iron. AND they do have Mutant League Football. But to anyone who says that there is not a comparable football offering, I point you to Tecmo Super bowl 3:  Final Edition. Nostalgia aside, this is the best game in the Tecmo Bowl series, and while I cannot say for sure whether it’s a better game than Joe Montana or Quarterback Club, It stands amongst them. Give it a try.

Basketball: Proof positive that the Genesis lost its sports game advantage in the later years of the console wars. NBA Jam:  Tournament Edition is better than its Genesis counterpart in every way. Plus, you can do this one with four-players if you have a Multi-Tap! BOSS!!

These games aren’t even the end of the rainbow. Do you like tennis? Try Super Tennis! Then there are the later Madden games. There’s NHL Hockey! Soccer is also well represented with titles such as Sensible Soccer. You see, it really is ignorant to claim that the SNES has no sports games worth mentioning. There is a wealth of opportunity for the sports enthusiasts out there, and since many sports fans never owned a SNES, this is my call to them to give it a second chance! If you’ve never played Ken Griffey or Super Tennis you really are missing out on some of the best sports games of the era! So what do you say?  Let’s give the SNES a fair play!

Play On!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*1) Game Over by David Scheff


*2) http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2008/08/the-story-of-ea-and-the-pirate-genesis-development-kit/

Story by Ben Kuchera


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I am an avid fan of the SNES who never really left. When others were upgrading to the 64 and enjoying Star-Collector Mario, I was Perusing Japanese auction sites for hidden gems on the other side of the ocean! I now have a collection spanning over 200 SNES games and accessories. When not playing on SNES and writing for this website, I enjoy traveling, good food, drink, and company, and deep discussions with Grimm.


  1. It’s funny how some people think a system is more dominant than another based on one game! It’s better to look at the whole picture–thanks for doing that for us.
    It seems the bulk of sports titles were available on either console, so at that point it’s merely a matter of preference between the Super NES and the Genesis.
    Which leaves us with the “only for Nintendo” games to represent the Super NES. You named some good ones. I actually like Tecmo III a little less than I, only because I stays closer to the NES version which is my fave sports game of all time. But as far as games most likely to be enjoyed by both sports enthusiasts and the rest of the crowd, you picked a great trio to highilight.

  2. I actually never knew that the Genesis had such a great Library of sports games. I have owned a Super Nintendo since I was a kid, Ken Griffey Jr. has been a staple for me and my friends. It has aged very well, and NBA Jam needs no explanation.

    I could never get into Tecmo Football games on the Snes though.. Always preferred Madden. Super Tennis is actually a great title, not sure if its exclusive though. Other than that, there is a futuristic baseball game that is really fun, but I’m forgetting the title.

    You also never mentioned Mega Man Soccer! Probably my favorite sports games on the snes!

  3. Yeah, how I forgot that one I’ll never know haha!

  4. The Genesis had quantity over the SNES when it came to sports games, though the SNES had a few high quality exclusives.

    One thing that helped the Genesis stand out was that it generally got the better version of all EA Sports games. It also got the best sports game ever: NHL ’94.

  5. The Genesis had quantity over the SNES when it came to sports games, though the SNES had a few high quality exclusives.

    One thing that helped the Genesis stand out was that it generally got the better version of all EA Sports games.

  6. EA made way too many sports games. I actually preferred some of they’re earlier stuff like The Immortal, Galahad and Blades of Vengeance, the latter being the most underrated platformer on the Genesis ever.

  7. Comparing sports games to non-sports games is really an apples-to-oranges comparison, though EA certainly showed the Genny a lot of love in the early days (they had a great working relationship with Sega of America at the time(.

    • I wasn’t trying to make a direct comparison, merely stating that I liked their other game genre’s. EA’s Trip Hawkins always said from the off that he wanted EA to become the biggest and best name associated with sports titles and getting John Madden to help design a well received game franchise set them well on the way to achieving that aim.

  8. It wasn’t that great of a relationship for SEGA. SEGA received no licensing fees for the carts that EA made. That is why all those EA game carts look so different.

  9. I disagree Mong. SEGA sold tons of consoles because of EA’s games (they generally got the superior version of the annual sports iterations). SEGA and EA worked very closely at that time, so it’s not like SEGA felt like they were being screwed over.

    The EA Genesis carts do look kind of funny though; especially the ones with the yellow tabs!

  10. Sega felt screwed over. Sure they sold more consoles, but they lost out on hundreds of MILLIONS in licensing fees and distribution rights on those games and it is the SOFTWARE where companies make their money, not the hardware. Keep in mind that EA did not like Nintendo’s rules for licensing and would have sided with SEGA no matter what, thus SEGA was lost what was guaranteed in the first place.

    Game Over Details this extensively. Its a good read.

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