Ice Madness – The Best Retro Hockey Video Game!

Before I get to a major (major!) announcement, let me brag for a second.

One of my favorite places in New York City is the Nintendo World Store in Manhattan, right at Rockefeller Center. It’s literally the best and a must visit for anyone who is a video game fan. It’s Nintendo heaven.

There’s merchandise of all kinds: games, memorabilia, even a mini Nintendo museum upstairs (there’s even a Game Boy that was damaged in the Gulf War on display, which is amazing).

Late Thursday night after the #MSGHockeyShow, I went to the store in advance of their midnight launch of their new system, the Nintendo Switch. The event was a blast. Nintendo has some passionate fans! One dude even shaved the Switch controller into his hair!

I FINALLY got a picture with my fav Mario, which I have to share:

But I want to share this one also. Here I am with Nintendo’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

His name is Doug.

Doug Bowser.

Doug BOWSER.

HIS NAME IS *BOWSER* AND HE WORKS AT NINTENDO!!!!

I … I can’t even.

Anyway, can you believe it’s already Smarch? Lousy Smarch weather …

Sports fans, there’s lots happening this month: the NHL and NBA playoff pictures become clearer, the MLS season begins, baseball is just around the corner … and one of the biggest sports tournaments of the year, March Madness!

Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, it’s fun to fill out a bracket and follow along (especially on Twitter when people’s brackets get busted, then they cry about it with sad animated GIFs and memes, oh the joy!)

But this year, March Madness isn’t the only sports-related tournament that will take place.

Throughout March, we will get to the bottom of the single most debated topic in hockey. Nay, sports. Nay, the entire universe. It causes blood spilling brawls in bars, ruins long term marriages and exiles perfectly good people to remote uninhabitable islands.

We will finally answer the question — what is the BEST retro hockey video game of all time?

Take a breath.

I know, it sounds like it can’t be done, but we will do it.

This single elimination tournament will take place until the end of March and will be voted on by YOU! We will use Twitter/Facebook polls to determine, once and for all, the king of the hockey video game mountain.

Here is a short FAQ on this tournament:

Which games will be part of the tournament?
There will be 16 games in total. A list of retro games that didn’t make the cut are below.

How do you define “retro” for this tournament?
Initially, I thought older than 20 years. But to make it a smooth sounding year,Β I made it any hockey video game made in 1995 or before.

Is it limited to one video game console?
No! NES, SNES, Atari, Arcade cabinets … every console, system or platform is fair game.

Where will the winners be announced?
On this blog! Every single Monday, we will give updates on the standings as we move forward towards the finals.

Where do I vote?
Polls will take place on this blog.

How are you putting the bracket together?
Good question. To avoid early heavyweight matchups (like say a Blades of Steel vs. NHL 94 in the first round) I’m putting each game in “pools” (Pool A will be higher-rated games and Pool B will be lower-rated games, according to the internet, which is always correct) then filling in the bracket so Pool A games face Pool B games in the first round.

When will you announce the bracket?
Monday, March 13.

How many games will be in the tournament?
Sixteen. I literally answered this above, are you paying attention?

When will voting take place?
Here’s the breakdown:
ROUND OF 16: March 13 – 19
QUARTERFINALS: March 21 – 24
SEMIFINALS: March 27-28
FINALS: March 30

So there you have it, the tournament to settle the score once and for all!

Before we begin with “Ice Madness” next week, let’s take a moment to give props to the games that didn’t make the cut. We’ll call them the ice hockey video game OGs. They paved the way for the golden era of retro hockey gaming, but sadly they definitely didn’t stand the test of time!

Retro games that didn’t make the cut:

Hockey!/Soccer! (1979, Magnavox)

From what I can tell, this was the first ever ice hockey video game ever made. Definitely, have a look just to see how far we’ve come! It’s played with both teams apparently having pulled their goalies. The nets are giant rectangles.

Ice Hockey (1981, Atari 2600)

Not to be confused with “Ice Hockey” for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is 100% in consideration for best retro hockey video game! This one looks, feels and plays like a quintessential Atari game.

Hat Trick (1984, Arcade)

This looks like pong if the paddles could move around the screen. One-on-one hockey with goalies, can’t raise the puck, good ol’ red vs blue.

Great Ice Hockey (1986, Sega Master System)

This was part of Sega’s “Great” sports titles series. Spoiler alert: it’s not that great. Even for the time, it’s a difficult game to play (often you’re not even playing the game as you scramble to try and grab the puck). The scene has a Blades of Steel prototype phase sort of look to it. The players also raised their sticks to get back to center ice after a goal and there are whistles in the crowd (also all adopted in Blades of Steel). I will give the music some credit, there are sweet 8-bit tunes in this release.

Slap Shot Super Pro Hockey (1987, Intellivision)

This is a remake of NHL Hockey for the Activision console (which also didn’t make this list because it was worse than this release). I suppose this can take credit for originating the 3-on-3 overtime hockey we all love today. My only issue is that these Activision sports games all look pretty much the same. But hey, at least this one has goalies!