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Super Baseball 2020 Ruled

This isn't Inside Baseball, it's Future Baseball

Super Baseball 2020

We're running Inside Baseball Week here on Aftermath because "Inside Baseball" is a very common saying in media that refers to coverage of "the minutiae and detailed inner workings of a system that are only interesting to, or appreciated by, experts, insiders, and aficionados". Despite this, we have received numerous complaints from people that there is not enough content about the actual sport of baseball for the week.

Fine, here you go! Let's talk about Super Baseball 2020, one of the greatest sports video games ever made, and easily the best video game about the sport of baseball that I, an Australian who does not like baseball, have ever played.

First released in 1991 for the Neo Geo, Super Baseball 2020--or as it was known in Japan, 2020 Super Baseball, an important distinction--is a sports game that, at its heart, is very similar to loads of other baseball games, even ones being released today. You pitch and bat from a behind-home-base perspective, then for fielding the camera zooms out and lets you run around from a bird’s-eye view.

Of course, the concept of "today" being 2024, when this entirely fictional science-fiction game is set in 2020, is absolutely wild to process. We were so optimistic then! This game's developers honestly thought that, 29 years into the future, we'd be playing professional baseball with robots! And cybernetic power-ups! And women!

While our actual timeline has been far less interesting, the good news is that, all these years later, this game survives and is still extremely fun to play. Or, fun to be around, at least; while the pitching and batting is fine, fielding in this game is an absolute nightmare, which would sink a video game about normal baseball, but this isn't normal baseball. In normal baseball you can't do...well, loads of this shit, including leaping dozens of feet into the air to make a catch and having landmines all over the outfield.

I loved this game as a kid. And that was having first played the markedly inferior Mega Drive port; it was only years later, as an adult capable of using the internet, that I managed to track down and play the original, when I fell in love with it all over again. Like I said, I don't even care for baseball, but there was something just so cool about this game, its joyously vibrant aesthetics especially, in the same way so much anime (and so many Neo Geo games) from the time period has stuck with me even decades later.

Despite clearly coming from a time, and being set in a time, it's timeless. This is what we (and Japanese artists of the time especially) dreamed the future would look like in 1991, sure, but it's what I still want the future to look like standing amidst the wreckage of 2024. It sucks that these robots are doing cool baseball shit while our robots are taking jobs and ruining the internet. Despite being decades old, this vision of the future doesn't look like a failed prophecy; it still looks like a vision for the future.

If you want to play the game today, there are multiple ways; you can Google it and play it in a browser, sure, but for something slightly more permanent it's also available as a retro release on places like the PlayStation and App stores. Whichever way you play it, though, please be sure to appreciate my favourite thing about it before closing this tab: the incredible artwork from the game's Japanese release, which is not only featured on the cover:

But throughout its manual as well:

Inside Baseball is a week of stories about the lesser-known parts of game development, the ins and outs of games journalism, and a peek behind the curtain at Aftermath. It's part of our first subscription drive, which you can learn more about here. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing!

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