NBA Jam (1993 Arcade Game): Proof a Successful Sports Title Doesn’t Have to Be a Simulation

With sports games ever-evolving, it’s interesting to see how things have changed.

Whereas shooters and adventurers are more advanced, the sports genre has become more realistic. Sports games nowadays are almost a life-like representation of their respective products.

Today, the focus is on the early 1990s, and to be specific, NBA Jam. Released in 1993, this classic remains one of the best basketball games ever. It is one of the highest-grossing arcade hits of all-time, surpassing $1,000,000,000 in revenue.

Despite the emergence of consoles like the SNES and Mega Drive, arcades remained popular.

So, what was it about NBA Jam that made it so well-received?

Slam Dunk

The early 90s was also when human characters began to resemble… Well, humans

Play ball

It is notable at this stage that the imagery in this article is from the Mega Drive version. All console editions ported from the arcade version, and released in 1994.

This doesn’t make things better/worse. Playing on an arcade machine versus home console are two different ball games.

Regardless of console, NBA Jam is what 99% of current-gen games are not. It is a concise game, with easy controls, and a simple goal. This results in the game delivering a ‘less is more’ experience, which is addicting.

How else would it make a ten-figure sum?


And not a single [insert word of choice here] given

Twice the fun

NBA Jam plays like an exaggerated form of basketball. This includes players slam-dunking from superhuman jumps. But, it doesn’t overdo things to the point in which it becomes a woeful parody.

It still remains ‘real’, in the sense that it retains the core elements of the sport. The casual approach minimises rules, and focuses on action, meaning everybody can enjoy it. Even those who have discovered basketball for the first time.

Like Gauntlet and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NBA Jam is for multiplayer mayhem. The game is decent when playing solo but the fun factor multiplies by a thousand with a friend.

Shot Missed

There are several humourous moments during matches, which makes the game more endearing

Keeping it real

A vast majority of modern-day sports games don’t deliver the same experience… Even two decades on. This may be due to an emphasis on realism, with developers making the most life-like titles.

Instead, developers could be more innovative, putting their own ‘spin’ on an existing sport. creating a game that breaks the status quo. Companies don’t seem to want to take risks, playing it safe releasing the same game every year.

If NBA Jam is not for you, there are other sports titles which are just as great (now there’s an idea for an article)…

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