In 1992, when Nolan Ryan’s Baseball was released on the Super Nintendo, there were several other options available for a simulated baseball experience. Extra Innings, Super Bases Loaded, and Super Baseball Simulator 1000 were the top of the heap. Super Bases Loaded is, in my opinion, one of the best baseball video games ever released. So why did I buy Nolan Ryan’s Baseball? Because I was a ten year old with birthday money and I liked Nolan Ryan.

Can you imagine, or perhaps even remember, what being a ten year old baseball fan in that situation was like? I mean, the dude’s picture is on the box! None of the other games had any real players in them. Shit, this one had one of my favorite players! It’s like he’s endorsing it personally right? It can’t be bad. It just can’t.  I had yet to learn the reality of professional sports. That would come two years later when there was no world series and my favorite player at the time, Mr. Tom Glavine, ended up being the media’s scapegoat/players’ union figurehead during the strike against the collective of team ownership. At this time in my life, it was unthinkable that a high caliber player like Nolan Ryan would slap his name on a crappy game.

Kids are stupid.

Nolan Ryan’s Baseball is probably one of the worst pieces of bad game licensing in history. Maybe next to Shaq Fu or Micheal Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City this game stands tall, but at least those weren’t trying to be sports games. Maybe if it had been Nolan Ryan’s Carnival Dunk Tank where you play as the Ryan Express soaking hillbillies with flaming 104 mph fastballs it would have been worth some respect and a few chuckles, but it wasn’t. It tries to be real baseball and that’s why it fails.

You cannot throw from third base to first, without the pitcher cutting off the throw. You cannot throw from center field to the plate without the second baseman AND the pitcher cutting off the throw. The infield doesn’t move and will just allow grounders to roll into the outfield. There is no bunting. There are no pitch types, you just hold up to throw slow and down to throw fast, moving the direction pad around to curve the ball. This can be exploited to an amazing degree. There are no team names. The teams are just letters. If you pick the “T” team, you will have a pitcher with the name “Ryan,” but since all of the players just have single syllable first names, it’s more than likely just some scrub named Ryan and not the guy who’s name is on the fucking box. There is a season mode, but since there is only one league, there are no playoffs and no world series. The team with the best record at the end of the season wins. The list of stupid things about the game is arguably endless.

I hear you saying, “It can’t be that bad. There has to be something good about Nolan Ryan’s Baseball.” You are somewhat correct. If you can get past the glaring problems and exploitable game-play idiosyncrasies, it has a nice editing system that is pretty well featured for a game of its time as well as very good stat tracking. Players never retire so if you like the idea of breaking real major league records in a video game, it’s very very possible here. It was one of the first cartridge game to have actual voices for sound effects, though they are limited to the standard umpire calls. It also has the absolute coolest pixel art picture of Nolan Ryan for a splash screen. If I could get it as a poster I would frame it and display it proudly, although my girlfriend would probably disagree on that matter.

Isn't it beautiful?

Nolan Ryan’s Baseball is going to ruin my life one day. I’ve tried to play it from several points of view.  I’ve tried playing it seriously, ironically, and in the throes of wistful nostalgia. I’ve tried playing it with a friend. I’ve tried playing it drunk and dead tired. In the end, I’m done trying. It’s a terrible piece of sports gaming that would have ruined Nolan Ryan’s reputation if video games had been more mainstream in 1992 and I refuse to grade it. There is no number rating or letter I can give it to really describe how disappointing an experience it is, was, and forever will be. I’ll just leave it at that.

$20 Question:

Why would Nolan Ryan, a player who for all intents and purposes, is well respected and taken utterly seriously as one of baseball’s greatest of all time put his name on such a mediocre title?  My guess is probably for another paycheck. Back in 1992, video games weren’t as mainstream as they are now. It was sort of like American actors doing commercials for television in other countries but not in America. No one is going to see it right? Well I did, and while I’m not mad at Nolan Ryan, I’m very disappointed in him.

Srsly

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Comments
  1. Terry says:

    My favorite player-endorsed game of all-time is Ken Griffey Baseball on SNES. The best part was after hitting a homer, whoever hit said homer would round the bases real quick and then stand on home plate and just straight flex.

  2. k spexet says:

    Great review Matt. Looking forward to future reviews.

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