I always have to preface this award by saying that we leave the management sims out of this category because obviously Football Manager or OOTP would win it every year if we did not. With that in mind, the community and staff believe Super Mega Baseball 3 deserves the Best Franchise Mode in 2020 award.
Personally, I’m really happy for Metalhead here. Back before SMB3 was announced, there were rumors Metalhead might be moving on to a different sport, and I would have understood that because on some level it did feel like the developers had perfected their formula with baseball. However, Metalhead came back to baseball instead, and SMB3 is without question the deepest and best version of baseball the studio has created so far.
This includes the new franchise mode that was added in SMB3. What’s so good about this particular franchise mode is that it understands what it wants to be and focuses on making those things stand out. It is not the deepest franchise mode around, and that’s by design. This is not a title that needs hundreds of layers and things to do. It’s there to prop up the elements of the game you already care about — stuff like your affinity for your players and the style of team you want to build — while still calling back to great franchise modes of the past that made many of us the franchise mode fans we are today.
Whether you use a custom roster or not, you start to form relationships with these players. SMB3 is all about the personalities of these players, and that comes off with the names, physiques and stories you build up for them based on how they’re playing on the field. These players will progress or regress based on age, training, and results, and that progression is different from playthrough to playthrough. On top of that, having things pop up like fathers and sons on the same team and so forth just add so much color to the proceedings.
You have to make choices about when to cut people loose and who to re-sign, and these choices are harder than they are in most other sports games because of the bonds you build up with these players. There’s sentimental value that builds up at times here, and it puts into perspective why being a GM is a cold job a lot of the time because you have to look past your affection for players and move on even if you will miss having certain players around. Plus, the limited amount of funds at your disposal add to the decision making struggles here.
Free agency overall is a real strength as well. Whether you’re frantically checking to see if a player is still in the player pool after each game or you’re just hoping a certain player does not go to your top rival, there’s a real gamesmanship that happens here. You have to weigh the risks and rewards of waiting for a player’s demands to go down, as sometimes that leads to you getting a better deal, but other times it means someone else steps in and signs that player. With the contracts being basically year to year, it’s a smart way to keep the game within the game interesting every step of the way.
Community Vote – Best Franchise Mode In 2020
- Super Mega Baseball 3
- MLB The Show 21
- NBA 2K21 – MyNBA/MyLeague
All in all, I get why the community also went the route that it did here. The vote was actually really close between The Show and SMB3, and I get why on OS. We have so many custom rosters and people who have been carrying over their franchises for years, and MLB The Show still does those two elements the best — and with the franchise saves, SDS is the only studio that allows you to bring a franchise from game to game. So even though the franchise mode itself is incredibly stale, I also still play a ton of franchise mode because I just treat it more like a “season mode” and do fantasy drafts with all the cool community rosters.
With NBA 2K21, as I said in the career mode write up, I think this is a case of just having a lot of content outweighing the negatives. Again, the NBA 2K21 MyNBA mode on next-gen consoles is a hot mess. You can’t really play more than a couple seasons because the progression is so broken that there’s tons of great players who just sit in free agency. On top of that, the “Start Today” feature still does not work — and probably won’t work at all this cycle — and it’s just not that fun if you don’t also treat it like a season mode.
In other words, a lot of these “franchise modes” are not franchise modes because they forget what a franchise mode is about in many respects. Where Super Mega Baseball 3 focuses heavily on the idea of year-to-year progress, how your team is changing, how these relationships are changing, and how the league is changing, a lot of the big-budget sports games don’t have the infrastructure to allow these stories to play out in a satisfying fashion. This is due to simulation engines being busted or the management options being broken or unenjoyable, and that’s why the brilliant simplicity of Super Mega Baseball 3 works so well.
Bottom line, Super Mega Baseball 3 is more than deserving of the Best Franchise Mode in 2020 award.