Image: Charles Williams
Video games remain immensely popular, even in the face of twerking, cell phones and reality TV. However, not so very long ago, software companies began enlisting star athletes to serve as the face of their video games in order to promote the latest releases and attract the attention of sports fans. Some of these athletes were at the peak of their careers, some were past greats, and others were just starting to make a name for themselves. Here’s a look back at ten of the best athlete-endorsed video games from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
10. Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey (1996)
After debuting as an arcade game in 1996, Atari Games’ Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey became the earliest four-player Nintendo 64 release when it hit the console in November that year. The game was later brought out on the PlayStation and repackaged as Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey ‘98. It offered gameplay similar to that in other over-the-top, arcade-style ‘90s sports games, like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz, and put the focus on high scores and exaggerated fight scenes – despite Gretzky’s aversion to the latter during his playing career.
“The Great One” also lent his name to 1988’s Wayne Gretzky Hockey, which was followed by two sequels. In 1999, after 20 seasons in the NHL, Gretzky retired from professional hockey with an incredible tally of 1,487 games played, 894 goals scored, 1,963 assists made and 2,857 points to his name – the latter three stats of which are still NHL records.
9. Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing (1992)
Before Mike Tyson chomped off a piece of his ear, Evander Holyfield tore through the world of professional boxing, becoming the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion for the first time in 1990. This 1992 SEGA exclusive, released on the Genesis and Game Gear, used Holyfield’s “Real Deal” nickname, bestowed upon him as a badge of honor because he held both the heavyweight and cruiserweight world championship titles. In addition to Holyfield himself, the game featured 29 default fictional characters, 20 more unlockable figures and one secret green-skinned brawler known only as “The Beast.” Although reviews of the game were mixed, a follow-up title, Greatest Heavyweights of the Ring, came out in 1994.