Memories of playing International Soccer or Matchday, depending on your 8-bit of choice come flooding back this week as the retrobear looks at football games.

Originally Posted to on July 1st 2010

Emlyn Hughes International Soccer Cover

Cover star..

With the World Cup in full swing and England coming home in shame like the bunch of overpaid, nancy boys that they are, it’s probably a good time to look back at some of the football games that have graced computers and consoles over the years.  The back of the net winners, the nearly but faltering at the last hurdle promotion contenders and the pixelated equivalents of Hull City.

My first taste of footie goodness was Emlyn Hughes International Football on the C64 [Editor – bet you didn’t know that there was a site dedicated to all things EHIS?]. Basically an update of the old International Soccer cartridge, it allowed you to change all the player’s names so you could bung all your mates in and recreate those lunchtimes in the playground. It was a great game and set the standard for many years. Match Day and its sequel were ok, but suffered from a real slowness to proceedings and in Match Day II if you held the power gauge too long you did a back-heel. Not ideal for shooting at an open goal.

The game that began to bring realism to computer footie was Kick Off. Its initial outing on the Amiga was praised to hilt, despite it being an acquired taste. Football games to that point allowed the ball to be stuck to the foot. In Kick Off it moved and many a cursed word was said as you went one way and the ball went the other. It also contained referee S. Screech (one of the actual Anco programmers) who would send you off for any tackle and reduce games to 8 a side. Kick Off was only bettered by its sequel (the inspiringly titled Kick Off 2 and data add on Extra Time), but when the game transferred to the Megadrive and Master System it just didn’t feel the same.

The only game at the time to rival KO was Sensible Soccer. Now this really split gamers; either it was the greatest football game ever, or if you were like me, a steaming pile of dog poop. It’s that sort of game. I still can’t believe any game allowing you to curl the ball into the net from the halfway line is deemed realistic. The Sensi v KO argument rages on even to this day. For some it brings back mist-eyed memories of halcyon days, for others red mist descends and you feel the need to lash out.

It was left to EA and Konami to move football on computers into the next generation with its ongoing and yearly updated FIFA and Pro Evo titles. Again like before you fell into either camp, FIFA always lagging behind until recently. For me FIFA 95 on the Megadrive and Pro Evolution Soccer on the PS1 were about as close to the best footie games you could ever play. Current gen titles FIFA and PES 2010 are pretty good fun with FIFA having the edge (not for me though, I’m a Pro Evo man through and through).

And a quick word for management games, which began with the humble Football Manager (the Kevin Toms original – the bearded bloke with his face on the box) and now dominated by….errr…Football Manager, this time from Eidos. Honourable mentions to Player Manager (Kick Off with the management element), Championship Manager (taken to great heights by the team now behind Football Manager and a shadow of its former self thanks to a god awful bug ridden reboot with Championship Manager 5) and Premier Manager (Gremlin’s more fun and less statistical answer to Championship Manager)

Of course there have been a fair few crappy footballer endorsements over the years (Hey anyone fancy playing Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer? Hey where did everyone go?) but what of those that have got left behind or are yet to be made into games :

Rivaldo’s Dodgeball – Turkish footballers kick balls at you and you have to avoid them. Take one to the stomach and go down clutching your face for unique Samba Di Ronaldo mode, where you wander round Paris in 1998 looking dazed and confused when it should be the biggest freaking night of your life.

Sepp Blatter’s True or False? – If the ball goes at least 2ft over the line is it a goal; true or false ? I’ll let you guess that one for yourself…..also features Opt Out mode where you simply shrug your shoulders, look anywhere in the room but at the person talking to you and get your magic broomstick out to brush everything under the carpet.

Motty’s Statistical Football Feast – with free shock collar to keep you awake whilst Motty drones on about how good the 1978 Zaire team really were. To beat the game you have to find the stun gun from a map of over 600 locations across five continents. And you travel in real time whilst Motty’s words are pumped into your ears via an IPod.

Till the next time…..I’m Ed Winchester.