Top 100 Retro Games: Baseball Stars

Baseball Stars
Nintendo Entertainment System

During the 8 bit era there were so many baseball games both licensed and unlicensed. I had already fallen in love with baseball via WPIX Yankees games and Micro League Baseball on my Apple II. I loved the depth and strategy of the game and got mixed results from NES games. Major League Baseball had real teams, but wasn’t that great. RBI Baseball was really fun but a bit mindless and random. Bases Loaded, and especially Bases Loaded II, almost got it down right. The pitching and batting interface was excellent and worth investing time in a season, but the fielding, especially when playing now, is very poorly implemented.

I played all of these games a lot trying to make the best out of them. Everything changed when Baseball Stars came out.

The first time I encountered Baseball Stars was at a friend’s house. He had rented it earlier in the day and when I came over to hang out. I sat down and began watching him play the game.

I remember the home run image, with all of its pomp, really drawing me in. A few innings later, my friend climbed a wall to make a catch, which absolutely blew our minds. When he fell over a wall later, we could not even believe what we were seeing in front of us.

I rented the game myself a few days ago and then bought it a few weeks later. One of my favorite aspects of Baseball Stars is all the little things about it that really made the game sit apart from others: you could climb walls, you could stop runners, and trick the AI, and generally the play control was so smooth. There was a woman’s team, and you could buy women to play on your own team. The additional RPG elements that allowed you to level up your players as you played through a league season added depth that allowed me to play the game on and off for at least three summers that I can remember.

Like I said, I kept playing Baseball Stars for a lot of my adolescence. Every summer, I would put together a team of friends and people from school. In private, some of them thought this was cool. Many just thought it made me a dork.

Because you could put women on your team, I could put a few crushes in my lineup. My heavy hitting, after some leveling up, lady catcher was my big middle school crush. All of my pitchers were her friends.

The bottomline is Baseball Stars gave me an outlet to have a space where I had friends that I did not have in real life. Looking back, that is unfortunate, but at the time, it was part of surviving.

I cannot stress enough how much video games saved my life back then. Games like Baseball Stars gave me that outlet to get away from the horrors of my day to day life at school and, once my father was unemployed and then having to commute three hours a day in a horrible economy, at home. I escaped into them and, at times, still do today.

I hate how so many episodes of this podcast have this sad tinge to them. It is one of the realities that made me want to do it though.

I am pretty proud of the fact that when I began playing Baseball Stars this summer, I remembered the code to get a pretty good team from memory. It does not guarantee domination though as some players will have pretty oblong skill sets that need to be leveled up. I did win the quick league I created, but I picked up a few losses along the way. The ability to do RPG style leveling up in a sports game felt revolutionary, just like it did in fighting games like River City Ransom, even though now it would be mundane.

The game still plays well. The play control is so good and very smooth. Fielding was often the aspect of the game that was not as good back in the NES days, but Baseball Stars absolutely nails it. I can pick this game up now and feel like I am 11 years old again. I sat down each afternoon and played a game in my league, and it felt totally natural to play this game despite it being over 25 years old. Much like other games of the era like Tecmo Bowl, there is a timeless quality to Baseball Stars that will make it playable forever.


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