Less a hoop dream than a fever dream, Midway's basketball game NBA Jam hit the Sega Mega Drive in 1993 – and took a very different approach to the licensed sports game. While most previous licensed sports titles had taken the po-faced simulation approach – like EA’s FIFA, Madden and NHL series – NBA Jam didn’t take itself too seriously. And gamers loved that.
NBA Jam offered a stripped-down version of professional basketball with its two-on-two matches, lax approach to the rules and massively exaggerated nature. In NBA Jam's world, basketball players – all recreations of real-life stars – could jump to insane heights, and scoring three baskets in a row resulted in them becoming “on fire” and able to perform even more physics-defying feats.
Top-notch commentary (who can forget “BOOMSHAKALAKA”?) and graphics helped create the feeling that you were in the middle of a major match-up, but NBA Jam is probably best remembered for its zany array of Easter eggs, unlockable through button combinations. You could play as hidden characters like US President Bill Clinton, or give every player on the court a grossly oversized head.
Unsurprisingly, NBA Jam made our 25 best sports games ever list – and sequels and updates have kept the game alive to this day. The game’s latest incarnation, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (ironically developed by Midway’s old rival EA Sports) is now available to download on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.