In the world of sports video games, choice reduction has been a very unpopular trend for the last two decades. During this time, the importance of “alternative” sports choices has become crucial to the genre. This is how we think of this category. It’s not alt-rock or skateboarding, it’s just a game that’s an “alternative” to the accepted norm for various sports (where applicable).
Beyond that, yes, this is a good catch-all category for any sports games that may not come up elsewhere. While there are many games that strive for excellence, few alternative sports options garner enough attention to make it to the mainstream.
Best Alternative Sports Game In 2021: Legend Bowl
Success stories such as Metalhead’s Super Mega Baseball franchise are the exception, not the rule. Throughout history we have also had various EA Big titles (NBA Street), Midway’s NFL Blitz series, and The Bigs from 2K. These are all great series that had that elusive staying power during their time.
There are more to mention, but the game that stands out the most in this department for 2021 and wins the editorial side of our Best Alternative Sports Game of the Year Award is Super Pixel Games’ Legend Bowl.
If you have not heard of Legend Bowl, it is a football title that incorporates a bit of Tecmo Football, a sprinkle of Joe Montana Football, and then just a hint of Madden and NFL 2K for good measure.
At first glance, it would visually come across as a pure arcade experience. However, once you play the game, that arcade experience turns into a full-fledged sim-cade experience. It’s both arcade and simulation, and for me, it is a perfect blend and recipe I wish many other independent developers would follow.
The game has the perfect balance of fun, action, strategy, and to makes things even sweeter for the consumer, the ability to modify it on the PC side with complete NFL, NCAA, XFL, and CFL leagues (plus multiple rosters to choose from).
What I absolutely love the most about Legend Bowl is the simple fact that the development team is continuously updating the game with new modes, gear, and “quality of life” additions.
The game now offers exhibition mode, season mode, full stat tracking, and day and night games. Even more is in the works as the developers are extremely active on social media and are implementing community feedback as much as possible.
For those who are curious, while the game does not have a franchise option just yet, the developers have it on their radar but are not sure if it’s going to be implemented into this version or its sequel.
Either way, once a full-blown franchise mode is in place, I have a feeling that this title will pick up even more steam and settle in nicely right alongside the Super Mega Baseball franchise as one of the best “alternative” sports series to ever exist.
Game modes aside, the gameplay takes a backseat to nothing, and the on-field experience is, simply put, fun and addictive. For me, the game play is about everything I could ask for in a sports title, especially when I have one of the mods implemented.
Hitting the edge with a running back only to have him crushed by an imposing linebacker before his helmet pops off and a small splatter of blood emerges is amazing. And, yes, you can call me bloodthirsty for loving this cartoon violence.
The passing feature is a touch and feel type of system that really rewards nailing the timing, and the same goes for the kicking game, which is more of a challenge than I have ever been privy to in the Madden series. Legend Bowl just feels like football when playing it, and while that feeling is subjective, the amount of extremely positive reviews on Steam tends to agree with my sentiment.
If you are looking for either an alternative to Madden or even a replacement, I cannot suggest Legend Bowl enough. For those worried about it being PC-only, release those worries as Legend Bowl will finally be coming to more major platforms in 2022 as well.
Legend Bowl lives up to its namesake, and this is why it’s the Best Alternative Sports Game in 2021.
Community Vote – Best Alternative Sports Game In 2021
1. Mario Golf: Super Rush
2. Riders Republic
3. Legend Bowl
4. RetroMania Wrestling
The community went a different route here with its vote, but it was a relatively close vote between 2-4 on the list. Still, Mario Golf: Super Rush ran away with the community’s vote and it’s understandable why. Mario Golf has a lot of history at this point, and we did think the newest version was a very good game. Beyond that, spoiler, Nintendo knows how to make good games.
We also do want to mention Riders Republic here because Ubisoft did a great job refining ideas from Steep to make one of the more underrated sports games of the year. All in all, this was a very good year for “alternative” sports games to us.