Finally, we’ve arrived at the matchup we have all been waiting for. When this tournament started, it seemed as though these two franchises were destined to meet here in the finals, and even though many other games have plenty of merits, these two have stood the test of time and always won the “classic baseball video game mentions in social media” awards. MVP Baseball 2005 and its soundtrack gets mentioned at least once a month on Reddit, and there have been multiple Carlos Beltran Backyard Baseball 2001 tweets with thousands of responses, just to name a few examples. These games are titans of the industry and fondly remembered by all who have come in contact with them, but which game is better? Only one can be crowned the champion of our tournament, and Dave Cherman and I sat down to have a friendly debate about which game was the better game.
Dave Cherman: Anything but Backyard Baseball being in the final would have been a mistake. If it hadn’t made it, then clearly there would have been something wrong with the tournament, or the polls, or something, because this game needed to be in the championship. It’s a phenomenal game. The concept and the gameplay all still hold up in 2019. It provides so much joy when I’m able to play it.
Myles Nelson: Sure, but you talk about gameplay, and that’s the No. 1 thing that MVP Baseball 2005 did best. This game is 14 years old, and I’ve yet to find a game that has better gameplay when it comes to a realistic baseball experience, and that includes games that are still being made like MLB: The Show. MVP Baseball 2005’s gameplay is far and away better than Backyard Baseball 2001’s, and that, to me, matters most.
Cherman: The reason I can’t pick any MLB-simulation style game to beat out Backyard Baseball 2001 is because if you gave these games in our tournament to a 12-year-old today, they would pick up MVP Baseball 2005 and say, “Who the hell are these players? I don’t know who they are; why do I care about any of them?” Whereas with Backyard Baseball 2001, you don’t need to have been a baseball fan in 2005 to connect with Pete Wheeler, or with Kenny Kawaguchi, or Luanne Lui. You have to be of a certain age to enjoy these simulation-style games, but anyone, born at any time, can enjoy Backyard Baseball.
Nelson: Unless that kid was a historian of the game and wanted to learn about prior generations of players.
Cherman: He’d probably want more than just the players active in 2005, though.
Nelson: OK, I’ll grant you that. MVP Baseball 2005 does have a vast amount of unlockable, historical legends, but point still taken. But you don’t have to necessarily connect with the players to enjoy good gameplay, and I honestly think that just in terms of gameplay, MVP Baseball is still the best game available today for that. If that hypothetical 12-year-old baseball fan wanted to play the best baseball game he could get, he would want to be playing MVP Baseball, not Backyard Baseball.
Cherman: But we aren’t comparing MVP 05 vs. MLB: The Show or any of those other games, we are comparing it to Backyard Baseball, where he would have an easier time picking up the controls and able to start enjoying the game right away, which could more quickly inspire a pure love of baseball.
Nelson: Backyard Baseball is easier to pick up—absolutely. There’s not much of a skill gap, though, so while he would have an easier time picking it up, he would also get bored of it quicker. When I went back and played this game for the purposes of my review (though to be honest, I didn’t need to play it to do my review; I could have done it from memory), I played the game on the hardest difficulty and still scored 19 runs in the first inning. Now I did have all the best kids on my team, like Pablo Sanchez and Keisha Phillips, but the game was still too easy. I have yet to be an above-.500 player on MVP Baseball 2005’s hardest difficulty, and I’ve been playing that for 14 years. So this 12-year-old might play Backyard Baseball more at first, but he’ll play MVP more in the long run as it will provide more of a challenge.
Cherman: To go back to one thing you just said there: You didn’t have to play Backyard Baseball 2001 to do your review for it. You knew exactly what it was already, because no one forgets Backyard Baseball. That’s how memorable it is. All of us know Backyard Baseball, we haven’t forgotten any of the players, or any of the mechanics. Hell, everyone knows Pablo Sanchez—even people who haven’t played the game themselves. You didn’t need to go back and play it, because you’ll never forget it.
Nelson: I’m so mad that I just handed you a point on a silver platter. Ugh, OK, let’s just recap where we’re at right now. Gameplay-wise, I think we can agree that Backyard Baseball has easier mechanics, makes it easier to pick up and play, but MVP Baseball has more complex and true-to-baseball mechanics. As far as replayability, they both have points there, MVP Baseball’s skill gap keeps me and others always coming back for that, but Backyard Baseball gives more customization with rosters and it’s easier to come back to after some time away from playing the game. Agreed?
Nelson: Let’s not talk graphics too much because that’s a win for Backyard Baseball. MVP Baseball didn’t have bad graphics for the time; unfortunately 14 years have passed and the graphics have not held up, whereas Backyard Baseball’s cartoonish style has held up much better and is definitely more memorable. But let’s talk sound. If MVP Baseball is mentioned online anywhere, someone inevitably responds with how amazing that soundtrack is.
Cherman: Yeah, it’s an incredible soundtrack. Undoubtedly.
Nelson: And the commentary team of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are pretty good too.
Cherman: Well, yeah they’re good, but they are no Sunny Day and Vinnie the Gooch. Those are the best commentators in the tournament, and the only place that they lack is just pure range of recorded lines. If Backyard Baseball had given them more phrases, they would be perfect. And they are already the best.
Nelson: OK, but Kuiper and Krukow are no slouches, and they really bring what MVP Baseball needed from them, which was a professional booth that sounded like a real game being played on television, while not being boring, or repetitive, or annoying. And they succeed at that. Which kind of makes me realize that the conclusion we can draw from this is that Backyard Baseball 2001 and MVP Baseball 2005 set out to do different things. Backyard Baseball wanted to make a Little League baseball game that celebrated the fun of going to the sandlot with your friends on a summer day, picking teams, and having a good time, and MVP Baseball wanted to make the best MLB experience that they could. And both games knocked it out of the park.
Cherman: Amen to that.
Nelson: So I think, really, the winner of this matchup is going to come down to which of those experiences speaks to the voters more. Do they want the fun, pick up-and-play sandlot game, or do they want the MLB experience?
Cherman: The winner of this thing is us, for getting to play both of these awesome games.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)