Remember the first time you booted up Madden NFL 2004 and saw Mike Vick’s speed rating? For many young gamers, it’s something of a foundational memory: one of the most exciting quarterbacks in NFL history taking on all comers with his 95 speed rating, rocket arm and generally absurd stats. Madden Vick was the kind of video game athlete who could ruin friendships with how much he could dominate opposing defenses.
He’s not the only one who carried many a virtual squad to titles with such incredible ease. Let’s take some time to remember some of the most overpowered athletes in video game history — just make sure to have an agreement with your friends on whether or not you’re allowed to pick them if you happen to do some nostalgia gaming.
Bo Jackson, Tecmo Bowl
The video game GOAT in every sense of the word. Bo Jackson looked like a cheat code in real life, so when Tecmo brought him to the NES in 1987, it wasn’t surprising that it made him OP. What was surprising was just how OP he was — there are hundreds of examples on YouTube of Tecmo Bo taking a handoff 99 yards, turning around, going all the way back to his own end zone, and then running back again, all while the opposing defense dove all over the place in a desperate attempt to lay a hand on him. No one else even came close — and he seemingly got even better in the sequel, 1991’s Tecmo Super Bowl.
Jon Dowd, MVP Baseball 2005
Barry Bonds wasn’t part of the MLBPA’s licensing agreement, so he couldn’t legally be included in officially licensed video games. But that doesn’t mean he’s not there. The San Francisco Giants had a left fielder named Jon Dowd who just happened to have Bonds’ exact birthdate, age and weight. He also had 99 power/contact against right-handers and 89 power/84 contact against lefties. Predictably, players using that version of the Giants could make Dowd put up, well, video game numbers. Just like Bonds.
Pablo Sanchez, Backyard Baseball
The Backyard series of video games were fun, cartoony sports simulations, with games being played in sandlots, alleys and the eponymous backyards. Sanchez was one of the kids you could draft to form your own superteam. He was nicknamed “Secret Weapon,” but it was really something of an open secret. The kid had max stats in batting, running and pitching, and was even one of the better pitchers in the game. The only Backyard game in which he was more dominant might have been Backyard Hockey, where he had max stats in every category.
Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
One of the most formidable final bosses in video game history, Tyson ended more Punch-Out runs than dinnertime and homework combined. He could knock players out with ease, dodge or block their punches, and if you lost, that was it. You’d have to go back and fight Glass Joe again. Anyone who managed to figure out how to beat him (hint: dodge a lot) before the advent of online guides was a legend in school.
Jeremy Roenick, NHL ’94
Roenick wasn’t actually the highest-rated player in this game — that honor goes to Mario Lemieux, who was an overall 100. But Roenick’s size and speed rating were off the charts, which allowed savvy players to outrun or outhit practically the entire roster. He might have been even better in NHLPA Hockey ’93.