The Evolution of Tennis Video Games
The tennis community’s gamers got excited back in May when a new video game, Tennis World Tour, was announced for release next year on console and PC.
The game, being created by the team behind the popular Top Spin series, will be the first time a new release brings the sport to life in video games format since that series’ last edition a whole five years ago in 2012.
Whilst we wait to see how advancements in technology will bring the likes of HEAD players Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic to life graphically, here’s a look back through some of the most notable tennis games in history.
You can’t talk about tennis video games without mentioning Pong, which was not only one of the first efforts to bring sport to the arcade but was one of the very first video games ever. Manufactured by Atari, its two-dimensional graphics reached the mainstream, first in arcades and then in households on the earliest Atari consoles. It was given the 3D treatment in a 1999 remake by Playstation and is still a regular cultural reference, be it in television advertising or shows such as That ‘70s Show, King Of The Hill and Saturday Night Live.
Developed by Nintendo, Tennis was one of 18 launch games for the first iteration of Nintendo’s NES console, before heading to handheld devise Game Boy in 1989. The game featured single-player and multi-player modes and let gamers compete in both singles and doubles matches, against one another or together against the computer. In more recent years its been updated for the Wii sports and Wii U, as well as featuring as an embedded game within Nintendo 64 life simulator Animal Crossing.
Virtual Tennis, 1999
As time’s gone on, the complexity of tennis video games has too. In the late nineties, Virtua Tennis, named Power Smash in Japan, challenged players across different modes and court surfaces. Its main World Circuit mode required players to complete training exercises and climb the rankings from a tough starting position of 300. As players completed more workouts and won matches, further exercises were unlocked an even new match outfits.
Mario Tennis, 2000
The more recently produced the tennis game, the more realistic and true to the sport’s complexities things get, with a few exceptions for much loved console characters and graphical interfaces. Released at the turn of the millennium, Mario picked up his first racquet on the Nintendo 64. He’s since enjoyed rallies on the Game Boy, Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3Ds. In the intro to the Power Tennis edition, Mario hijacks a tournament after being eliminated whilst in the Game Boy Advanced version, defending champion Dweezil refuses to speak to first time competitors but warms up to them in subsequent matches.
Top Spin, 2011
The most celebrated tennis games franchise is Top Spin, which began on the Microsoft Xbox in 2003 before heading to Xbox 360 and Playstation. Throughout its four editions players have enjoyed a variety of modes from singles and doubles matches, grand slams to exhibition tournaments and career mode campaigns. In the latter, tennis fans choose strands of DNA to configure their athlete, choosing their face, body shape and then apparel choices. Aside from match prize money, players make ‘coin’ through sponsorship agreements and public relations duties.
What does the future hold?
It sounds like the forthcoming Tennis World Tour will be a fairly conventional, better looking follow-up to Top Spin 4 but with continuing advancements in technology from virtual reality to augmented reality, you could soon be returning home from the office only to transport yourself to Flushing Meadows via headset, to choose your favourite HEAD racquet, hit the ball and join Sascha Zverev in the top ten.