In tribute to the efforts of Andy Murray in the Australian Open, I thought I’d take a look back through some of my favourite tennis games. Quite worryingly this list spans some 26 years but begins with a classic.
Although simplistic, allowing only a simple stroke or a lob, I garnered many pleasing hours from this blocky classic as it was how you used these basic controls that mattered. Timing proved crucial; hit the forehand early and your shot would pull left, leave it a little longer and you’d push it wide to the right, allowing for a lot of variation. This was quite a revelation to my young self and the experience was only bettered by a portly plumber sitting in the umpire’s chair.
Mario Tennis (N64)
Another Nintendo entry onto my list but it sits here not just on my behest but also thanks to the three other people I used to live with at Uni. Along with Pro Evo and F-Zero X, this four-player beauty sucked up many an afternoon that should have probably been spent revising or writing up coursework. An array of characters, power-ups, silly sound effects, it had everything to keep us hooked and shouting at the telly. My only complaint was that the colourful court coverings often meant that the ball could be lost from view, like dropping a pound coin on the carpet of a pub last decorated in the Seventies.
Top Spin (Xbox)
Looking back, I have very mixed feeling about this game. Even though I used to play it obsessively I seem to remember hating it by the end of my time with it, the problem being that I became too good. As conceited as that sounds, my doubles partner and I edged up to being ranked 8th in the world, an achievement wrought from sheer effort and teamwork. Sadly in our closing weeks we encountered far too many glitchers and standbyers for the fun to continue and my last loving memory of it is swearing loudly down the headset and shutting off the Xbox in a huff as we were cheated for the final time.
Wii Sports (Wii)
Returning back to the Nintendo platform and we find possibly my favourite tennis game on any platform. If anything, this portion of Wii Sports must have shifted millions of consoles on its own for it exhibits just the same properties that Tennis did back in the early Eighties. For those that wanted to do no more than take part they could swing the racket and see their on-screen Mii mimic their actions and thwack the ball back gracefully across the net. Those who probed deeper discovered with a twist of their wrist or a flick of their hand that they could pull off slices, top-spin, lobs and a great deal more that turned a seeming tech demo into something wondrous.
Pong (and all its clones)
Some time ago I may have baulked at putting this on a list of favourite tennis games, calling the decision too clichéd and cheesey. A couple of years ago, however, I went to an exhibition entitled Game On where dozens and dozens of arcade cabinets and old systems were on display and playable. Having played through things I had only ever touched via Mame I became incredibly sentimental and touched by the entire thing; each time I stood at a new cabinet I felt waves of heritage sweep over me. Asteroids and Missile Command were among my favourites but having gotten to grips with a Pong machine I found something delightful about its basic nature as it almost embodied a time where gameplay had to win out over graphics.