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8-bit baseball video game 'Baseball Stars' turns 25 years old

Baseball Stars introduced elements still used by sports video games today
Baseball Stars introduced elements still used by sports video games today
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A beloved Nintendo-era baseball video game is celebrating a quarter century at the plate.

SNK's Baseball Stars first appeared in Japan on May 19, 1989, where it was known as Baseball Star Mezase Sankan on the Nintendo Famicom. It was released for the Famicom's American counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System, in July of the same year.

While the NES had plenty of baseball titles, Baseball Stars instantly stood out. In addition to a catchy theme and unique art style that visually stood out in a crowded genre, Baseball Stars was the first to add role playing game elements and a battery back-up and allow gamers to create custom players and teams and save in-game statistics. It also introduced console gamers to concepts such as gate money, player upgrades and team prestige and broke new ground in the inclusion of women players and teams.

After the success of the original Baseball Stars, SNK created several sequels, including Baseball Stars Professional, a graphically enhanced version that was among the original releases for the cult favorite Neo Geo console.

It also left a lasting legacy on modern sports games. David Littman, director of the NHL franchise for EA Sports, told Yahoo! in 2011 that the GM mode in NHL '12 was directly inspired by features introduced in Baseball Stars some 22 years earlier.

"I actually designed one of the original GM modes, designing the NHL fantasy mode back in 2004, the first one that was in there. Baseball Stars was one of the inspirations," Littman said to Yahoo! "What I always wanted was a sports RPG, and Baseball Stars was the first real sports RPG."

The lasting impression of Baseball Stars has also spilled over into the world of mainstream sports. NBC Sports reporter Drew Silva recalled memories of the game in a column he wrote on Christmas 2010.

While titles such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda might be the most fondly remembered games of the original Nintendo generation, the legacy of Baseball Stars continues to resonate just as loudly a quarter century later.

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