Arcades during the 80s and early 90s were mostly known for their excellent action, racing, and fighting titles. However, there were many excellent video games developed for some of the less popular genres, especially in the sports genre, the very best of which featured America’s national pastime: Baseball.
While there were many, we are going to limit our list to the top 5 baseball arcade games of the 90s. So get a hot dog or some cracker jacks, and let’s recall some of these classic titles.
Best Baseball Arcade Games Of The 90s
Released in 1991 by Sega, Clutch Hitter quickly became one of the most successful arcade games of the year.
In the United States, the game featured a license by the Major League Baseball Players Association which allowed the team rosters to be composed of real-life players. However, since the game did not have an official MLB license, the team names were just city names.
The player’s viewpoint is set behind the home base, but the visuals switch right after batting to an overhead view to increase the player’s field of view. The game featured competitive play and let two players go head to head.
While the sprite animations were very basic, the game was colorful and its gameplay mechanics were dynamic enough to keep fans coming back.
Relief Pitcher was released in 1992 by Atari and proved to be highly popular despite its unorthodox game design and laser focus on the action of pitching.
Relief Pitcher had different modes, each with a different structure and flow, such as a varying quantity of innings, and players.
However, each mode focused on pitching the ball, and all of the batting action was handled by the computer characters.
Players would pick and choose between a wide number of “pitch” and “dive” statistics to tailor their pitch against the computer-operated batter.
The teams and players in the game were all fictional, but the depth of gameplay and high-skill ceiling kept this game highly engaging.
Great Sluggers by Namco is the third game on our list of the best baseball arcade games. It was released in 1993 and the machine featured simultaneous competitive play for two players.
Great Sluggers was a fast-paced game, with snappy animations and a banging, funk-infused soundtrack.
Actual stats from MLB teams and player rosters were modeled into the game, which gave it significant complexity and gave players tons of freedom and choice.
Baseball Stars 2
Baseball Stars 2 is another highly popular arcade title from the 90s, and one of the most fun on this list.
Baseball Stars 2 placed a bigger emphasis on style and graphics than its competition and also featured less realistic gameplay mechanics. For example, players were able to power up their batters to increase the size of their bats.
The game was so dynamic and engaging that GameFan magazine said it was “the best graphics, sound, and gameplay this side of ESPN.”
My favorite feature, however, was the Auto-Fielding mechanic, which allowed my incompetent 8-year-old self to enjoy the intense, fast-paced action.
I also loved the fact that if the batter was hit by a pitch, the player could run up to the pitcher and punch him hard in the face.
World Series 99
World Series 99, released in 1999 as the name so aptly suggests, is arguably the title with the highest pixel count on this list. But, while the advanced graphics were one of its defining features, the gameplay is what made it so popular.
World Series 99 featured a “Virtual Manager System”, that gave you full control of your starting line-up, make substitutions on the fly, and call all plays for players from every major team of the MLB.
The arcade cabinet also featured a precise and highly accurate joystick that gave players flick-action control over batting and pitching mechanics.
World Series 99 was very easy to learn, but hard to master. This game was the very definition of depth of gameplay.