Sport is big business these days, and so are sports games. Away from the photorealism and official licences of your NBA 2Ks and your FIFAs (now EA Sports FC), however, there’s a rich seam of indie sports games that just want you to have fun.
These games take the broad rulesets of a sport, then spins off in a different direction. They rarely look all that much like the real thing, but they often manage to get right to the heart of the sport.
Take these four indie sports games, for example.
Zach Gage’s brilliant reimagining of everybody’s favorite pub game isn’t all that interested in the rules of pool. Rather, it takes the basic premise of potting sequential balls on a six-pocketed rectangular table, then applies a number of thrilling modifiers that could only exist in the world of video games. Think rotating score multipliers that make the pocket you choose a prime consideration, or a mode that might give you exploding pockets or leave a solid trail behind the cue ball.
Retro Bowl transforms American football into a lovably oddball, lo-fi affair. Here the hard-hitting sport is essentially broken down into a series of delightfully tactile mini-games, with simple touchscreen controls taking the esoteric sting out of the source material. It’s all stitched together with a compelling player management element and adorable pixel-art graphics. Soccer fans should look to Retro Goal instead, from the same series.
Golf isn’t all rich people in silly trousers, you know. In Super Stickman Golf 3, the popular sport is rendered as a cosmic game of physics-defying trick shots, outlandish power-ups, and extravagantly vertical course design. By switching the perspective to side-on and offering simple 2D graphics, Super Stickman Golf 3 almost has the feel of a 16-bit platformer from the ’90s, albeit one with an inherently stop-start movement system and excellent ball physics. Plus wormholes.
Baseball has always been a game of playing the numbers, and Bottom of the Ninth makes that explicit. Developer Handelabra Studio has essentially turned the sport into a competitive dice (and card) game. All three main areas of the game – pitching, batting, and fielding – effectively come down to the roll of the dice, with just enough strategizing thrown in to keep you engaged. It makes for a compelling multiplayer experience, and an accessible entry point to the sport.