Developer: Midway; Namco
Basic Idea: Blaze around the basepaths with a fat, white Vince Coleman while wondering how Al Pedrique made the All-Star team.
Review: I have a distinct memory as a child. One morning when I was about nine, I woke up and went into the living room. My dad was playing this game and excitedly told me that he had already hit three homers with Don Mattingly and was hoping to hit a fourth. He didn’t.
I originally had this game ranked much higher due to nostalgia (go Twins!), but when I really compared it to the 36 other games I couldn’t justify it. R.B.I. Baseball was the first non-awful baseball video game ever made. Play control is flawless. Defending is really smooth. And to top it off, they got an MLBPA license. Despite only having the eight playoff teams and two all-star teams from 1986 and 1987 (and despite getting a lot of the stats wrong), it was a real treat to play with real players for the first time (the game Major League Baseball had the teams but the players only were identified by number, which is simply not fun). The game really gets the flavor of each team right. The Tigers and Twins are mashers. The Astros and Cardinals rely on pitching and brute speed.
The only significant criticisms I have of the game are problems every baseball game had at the time. The computer AI is awful, especially with defense and baserunning. Vince Coleman can never be caught stealing, except for home. Home runs are comically easy (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing). There is no DH for the American League. There is also no season mode, though you can play through all 9 opponents if you don’t reset (plus get a nifty newspaper and boxscore at the end of each game).
Many prefer Baseball Stars due to the season mode, RPG elements, and more stylish play. It has its place, but if I want a quick, ten minute baseball game, I can’t think of a better option.
One of my favorite fan sites on the net is Dee-Nee.com, which goes into insane amounts of detail to show off their love for this game.