The Tuesday Triple: Best Arcade Gameplay in Sim Games

This is The Tuesday Triple, where I attempt to break down random topics into three points, and maybe an “and one” if I need it. Similar to the established Friday Five by Andrew, the topics will be related to basketball video games and their communities as a whole.

I have noticed a couple of articles lately that cover the lack of arcade sports titles coming out. Not including the roster updates for the mobile version, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition was the last arcade basketball game to come out, in 2011. With the NBA Street, NBA Ballers, and really any other non-traditional basketball series missing in action for almost 10 years now, fans of this subgenre have had to deal with either playing the same games with outdated rosters or relying on fan updates. Personally, I have gone a different route. Each year I turn the annual simulation release into the arcade game I want it to be, and here are the three I think transform the best into an arcade game.

LeBron James as a Highflyer in NBA Live 06

Free Throw – NBA Live 06

Freestyle Superstars made this game somewhat arcadey to begin with. Its purpose was to provide some kind of separation between the superstars of the NBA and the hundreds of other players in the league. Split between different offensive and defensive subtypes, Freestyle Superstars really did nothing more than add some super-moves that were questionably balanced, in a simulation sense.

From an arcade standpoint, NBA Live 06 shined when every single player in the NBA was given a Freestyle Superstar ability. Coupled with rating edits, and of course some street or other arcade themed settings, it almost forgave the infamous ‘EA Comeback Code’ included in the game. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that one of the canimation dunk-ons for a highflyer player is to clear a defender a la Vince Carter.


Slama Jama – NBA 2K7

I have said in previous articles that NBA 2K7 was the first time I took an NBA 2K game seriously, mostly thanks to MomentousCeltic‘s fantastic mixes where that clip above came from. It was also because NBA 2K games had that fantastic Street mode I love to play and talk about so much, now called Blacktop Mode. While the nifty streetball animations in NBA 2K7 initially caught my eye, it was the gameplay and graphics that let me truly enjoy this highly regarded sim title as an arcade game.

The thing I love the most about NBA 2K7 and NBA 2K8 was the amount of rare animations included in the game. These games were the first to truly embrace the ‘little things’ we now expect from 2K Sports, but having animations like the self-bounce, rim-grab, or the above no-look dunks made the game extra special. Tweaking settings and ratings brought these out more, making once-in-a-year animations show up every quarter, as well as easy ISOmotion and circus shots. With enhanced animation quality, stylized reflections, and exaggerated arena lighting, NBA 2K7 made for one fun arcade game of 2K.

NBA Jam He's On Fire Mod NBA 2K14 PC

Half court Shot – NBA 2K14

Once the NBA 2K series hit PC, I feel like each consecutive year could be the most “arcadey” when compared to the last year, for the most part. NBA 2K11’s blocks certainly shined in comparison to NBA 2K12’s wimpy blocks, but you can’t overlook NBA 2K12’s contact slams or the self off-the-glass oops in NBA 2K13. When you take the greatness of those NBA 2K11 blocks and combine them with the arcadey options of NBA 2K13’s fast break slams, you get NBA 2K14.

Sadly, it has taken until this year for us to realize the true power of NBA 2K’s coaching profiles. Just as he did with the NCAA March Madness mod, our own bigh0rt completely changed NBA 2K14’s gameplay with the recent NBA Jam inspired He’s on Fire mod. Even without coach profiles, simply choosing casual sliders has been more than enough to have some great arcade fun with NBA 2K14, including the next gen versions of the game as well.

NBA Live 2003: Steve Francis

And One – NBA Live 2003

Of course, it would be foolish to have an article like this without mentioning the truest arcade “sim” game, NBA Live 2003. Overpowered Freestyle dribbling, explosion sound effects on dunks and blocks, over-the-top dunk animations, and a default tempo that makes the recent NBA Jam remakes look like turtles are just some of the reasons why this game barely qualifies as a simulation title. It is without a doubt a fun basketball title, but when compared to the likes of NBA Live 06, NBA 2K7, and NBA 2K14, it is nowhere near sim.

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you think there is another simulation game that could be transformed into an arcadey monstrosity that I missed, let me know in the comments below.

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April 29, 2014 11:09 pm

This week’s Tuesday Triple not only lines up quite nicely with last week’s Friday Five, but also the one I’ll be posting this Friday. A fun coincidence, since I wrote both of those Fives a couple of weeks in advance!

From doing the LIVE JAM mods for NBA Live 2005-08, I’d have to say that NBA Live 08 lends itself pretty well to arcade gameplay when the ratings are boosted and sliders are adjusted for up-tempo gameplay. One of 08’s advantages in that regard is its use of Freestyle Superstars, which weren’t really the focus but the moves are still present and don’t require a specific moveset to be assigned or toggled during gameplay. As such, you can have everyone pulling off the Highflyer dunks, as well as throwing flashy passes and the like. All things considered, LIVE JAM 08 was probably the best version of that mod.

LIVE JAM 2005, on the other hand? I’m happy enough with how it turned out, but it wasn’t the best game for it. 😉