cataLISTS Sports

One Man’s Definitive Top 5 List for Old School Sports Video Games that need the “Reverse-Retro” Treatment

Throwback to the Future
Written by AJ Smith

Written By: AJ Smith (@adotjdotwoots)


We all do it. We all relish the opportunity to bust out an old gaming system, like Super Nintendo, Sega, N64, or for us twenty somethings, even XBOX or PS2 (as they now qualify as “old school” – Gosh we’re getting… seasoned…) The rush of memories that come from holding those classic controllers… the way they conform to your hand… It’s just unquestionably natural. All is right in the world.

Devastatingly, these experiences are becoming increasingly more challenging to enjoy. The “blow in the cartridge” technique only works so many times (millions of times, but still…)… our vintage gaming systems can only survive so many of our parents’ moves/spring cleanings/downsizing. New technologies are appearing and growing (or even… inflating) faster than Tom Brady’s 2015 TD count. And of course, the enhanced graphics that come along with these mega-luxuries somehow make 64 bits look exponentially worse, if your new TV can even support the inputs required to hook up our old systems. Fortunately, some of us still have massive tube TVs in our backrooms and enough appreciation for the past to play these games on days not called Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday [End rant…]

What does it all mean? I’m glad you asked. It means we hold that much greater respect, that much higher regard, and that much richer appreciation for the opportunities to play our childhood favorites. Recently, I stumbled upon a subscription service fueled by a company called My Retro Game Box. This one-of-a-kind company offers the deluxe service to equip interested parties with monthly mailings of old school game cartridges. This company is literally reviving the dream and sponsoring the sweet satisfaction of playing our all-time favorites.

This heroic service got us thinking – if My Retro Game Box can make this happen, anything is possible. What if… (Stay with us here)… we had the power (with which comes great responsibility)…. To not only revive our all-time, classic games but to refresh, revitalize, and transform them through a “Reverse-Retro” treatment?

  • Editor’s notes:
    • Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I am NOT, by any means, proposing that we tarnish the integrity of our favorite games by upgrading them to 1080P or 4K HD or blowing up the nostalgic perfection that comes along with playing them. I clearly have more integrity and self-respect than that. Rather, by “Reverse-Retro treatment” I propose maintaining the same gameplay, the same consoles, and the same graphics – and simply updating the characters, refreshing the maps, and attracting a new generation of dedicated fans.
    • Let’s also briefly discuss the incredible value of the original content and characters. Talk about an irreplaceable sense of history. We relish the opportunities to play old school sports games, almost solely for the opportunity to control our childhood favorites (Thunder Dan, Sir. Charles, and KJ – just to name a few). I am, by no means, proposing these updated versions should replace the originals. Rather, I believe these updates represent a perfect complement to keep gameplay fresh and intoxicatingly awesome.

Enough context… Let’s get to it! I’ve created a top 5 list (with an honorable mention, of course) of my favorite classic games that I believe are deserving of this Hot Tub Time Machine opportunity. Comment on this list and vote for which list you think is worthy of the “Reverse-Retro Treatment” – basically… Which throwbacks, do you back?? Don’t forget to tell us YOUR top 5, too!

Rank AJ’s “Reverse-Retro” List
Honorable mention Title: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (video)

Year: 2000

System: PlayStation 2

Reverse-Retro treatment:  Let’s keep this one simple… this game is like crack. You can literally play it forever with one goal: beat your high score. How can we make it even more intoxicating? Update the maps, add new skaters, include a BMX component, and create then/now versions of our favorite characters that are STILL skating (looking at you Tony, Bob, and Bucky).

5. Title: Mortal Kombat (video)

Year: 1992

System: Super Nintendo

Reverse-Retro treatment:  Mortal Kombat represented the best tournament-style fighting game of my childhood. Imagine adapting the characters with today’s champions from UFC, professional boxing, the WWE, and other ranks? A snapshot of my proposed treatment:

  • Get started by updating the protagonist (Liu Kang) to today’s hero, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey (Let’s forget all about that Holly Holm nonsense…) … and then adapting the antagonist from Shang Tsung to Floyd “Money” Mayweather… and finally, changing Hollywood movie star Johnny Cage to actor/WWE megastar/icon Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
  • Equip each character with special fighting skills (super powers, if you will) that represent their obnoxious traits. Provide Ronda with an “Entourage” and “dirty jokes” to represent her recent endeavors – Money Mayweather with “bling attacks” and “make it rain” sweeps” – The Rock with “Ballers” style tackles and “Baywatch” blasts.
  • Fill out the remaining roster with other modern phenomes of fighting and let the battles begin!
4. Title: Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball (video)

Year: 1998

System: N64

Reverse-Retro treatment:  Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball ’98 basically taught me the rules of the game. As such, it holds a special place in my heart. At one point, I could literally list every single player’s ratings. Imagine, if this game was updated with new parks, franchises, players, and stats to represent today’s MLB? While the ’98 version featured its best players with all 10 ratings as Ken Griffey Jr. Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemons – here’s a snapshot of my proposed retro treatment:

  • Equip Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt with all 10s for position players (power, speed, average, defense, and arm strength), and Felix Hernandez, Zach Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw as all 10s for pitchers (speed, control, stamina)
  • Produce classic throwback rosters to help educate a younger generation on the history of the game! Rosters that are must-adds: ’01 Diamondbacks,’04 Red Sox, ’11 Cardinals, and ’12 Giants to name a new.
  • And to think, in ’98, several of today’s MLB players’ FATHERS were featured in the game (Cecil Fielder, Delino Deshields Sr., and Eric Young Sr. to name a few)… how awesome would it be for a Father/Son game?
3. Title: NFL Blitz (video)

Year: 1997

System: N64

Reverse-Retro treatment:  Blitz, or “Bonanza of Boom” (as I like to call it) represents a timeless tradition of mega-tackles, fake field goals, and heroic Hail Mary tosses. To this day, Blitz is an arcade staple in (the coolest) bars across the country – literally representing the sole reason I’d go to certain establishments. So what’s missing?

  • Just imagine today’s gridiron Gods… Clay Matthews, James Harrison, Luke Kuechly, and Ndamukong Suh just BLOWING UP offensive foes in an updated Blitz?
  • What if you could build your own Blitz squad (powered by Draft Kings, like everything else nowadays) by having a fantasy draft?
  • Don’t forget about the new era of mobile quarterbacks – Kap, Cam, Teddy B., and Vick (or the ghost of Vick’s past) combining speed and power to take the league by storm.
2. Title: NBA Jam (video)

Year: 1993

System: Nintendo

Reverse-Retro treatment:  As inspired by the Bleacher Report piece on 2015’s Modern NBA Jam Rosters for all 30 NBA teams, this game is just begging to be revamped. One of the all-time greatest video games, period, just being weighed down by the “old man games” of Horace Grant, Charles Oakley, and Danny Manning. After a shot of modern energy….

  • Let’s state the obvious: this game NEEDS LeBron, the Durantula, the Splash Brothers, and the Brow. The sheer athleticism is irrefutable.
  • With the explosion of international swag in the last two decades, there’s now a strong case for creating “all-time global rosters.” Let’s give Tony Parker (France), Dirk (Germany), Manu (Argentina), Nene (Brazil), and the Gasol brothers (Spain) their opportunity to shine.
  • This is another game that MUST include modern classics… imagine playing today’s big three of LeBron, K-Love, and Kyrie (clearly starting LeBron and Kyrie) against any duo from the Celtics Big Tree, Miami’s Big Three, the Spurs Big Three, the ’01 Lakers, the ’04 Suns, or any other of the last 20 years of historically epic crews?
1. Title: Mario Kart (video)

Year: 1997

System: N64

Reverse-Retro treatment:  Get off your high horse – Mario Kart is definitely a sports video game. There are race cars… NASCAR is on Sportscenter… my logic is undeniable! So how do you update or refresh an absolutely iconic franchise? With another longstanding and successful, even legendary, franchise…

  • Updated all characters to South Park! Include Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman, Towelie, Butters, Chef, Randy, Mr. Garrison and friends.
  • Update maps, toolkits, and other critical gameplay components to include South-Park-related items.
  • Just to put a finishing touch on the Reverse Retro treatment for the GREATEST VIDEO GAME OF ALL TIME – let’s add in the opportunity for users to build their own South Park character and race against your friends. GAME ON!


– AJ Smith (@adotjdotwoots) and Wheelhouse Factory (@wh_factory)


About the author

AJ Smith

AJ has a bachelor degree in marketing and management as well as a master's degree in business administration. His specialties are basketball (letsgoo Suns!), baseball (letsgoo D-Backs/Bo-Sox!), football (letsgoo Cards and my "legendary for all the wrong reasons" fastasy football teams), early 2000s pop-punk, college gourmet culinary creations, Star Wars, bromance, cheese, and longwindedness.

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