What Sports Video Game Intro Will Never Leave Your Head?
2:54 PM EST on December 8, 2022
We begin with a relatable tweet:
"FIFA-core" is a very real genre of music, and the popularity of this post is good evidence for how widespread this specific phenomenon is (among more than just men, I would say). Year after year, the game has included a new collection of catchy, inoffensive indie-rock and EDM-lite songs from artists that usually sit just a tier or two below real fame (think Hot Chip, The Ting Tings, or Miike Snow). Because such a massive number of people rack up a massive number of hours playing the game each year, the tracks get permanently drilled into their heads. And because these songs almost always aren't popular enough to have a public life outside the game, it's a novelty to hear them coming from somewhere other than your TV. So when you catch, say, "I Can Talk" by Two Door Cinema Club playing faintly at a restaurant, it's difficult to keep your surprise and nostalgia to yourself.
The first song that popped into my head upon seeing this observation was Kings of Leon's "Red Morning Light," which was in the 2004 FIFA game well before that band became briefly ubiquitous. That straightforward rock song stands out the most because it accompanied what was really my first-ever intro to legitimate European football. I don't remember why, specifically, I wanted FIFA 2004 when I was eight or nine, but I do remember popping it in and getting, before anything else, this striking opening cinematic of the game's top stars showing their skills while, I guess, simultaneously escaping from prison.
These intro videos, which have populated sports video games since consoles were powerful enough to support them, are perhaps the least essential part of the entire game (maybe second-least nowadays). And yet, first impressions are extremely powerful. Unless you were a very impatient gamer, you watched all of these short films before playing the game itself, and if the follow-up experience was good enough that you kept going back day after day, they can become tattooed on your hippocampus.
A bunch of intros from around this time stand out to me, but maybe none more than the first console game I ever owned, NFL 2K3. Twenty years later, having real sports personalities and TV graphics in games is mostly taken for granted, but seeing this one start with a faux-SportsCenter report from Dan Patrick made me feel like a lamplighter gazing upon modern-day Times Square. Long before every big-budget movie featured Batman fighting Darth Vader, this was the crossover event that blew my little second-grade mind.
It wasn't all awestruck wonder, though. Sometimes these videos wormed their way in through unabashed silliness, especially the exaggerated one-on-one game NBA Ballers. This 2004 release (which, incredibly, had Rasheed Wallace on the Atlanta Hawks) opened with rapper Supernatural doing G-rated lines about perennial Slam magazine cover stars while backed by cheap green-screen graphics. (Sample line: "When Latrell got the rock never leave him alone / You better guard the basket like a dog does a bone.")
I mostly dropped out of gaming after the PS3, but even as I forget such personal details as the name of my first-grade teacher or the phone number of my childhood best friend, these moments will refuse to move out. From the Limp Bizkit ruckus at the start of NHL Hitz 2002, which was awesome, to the uncanny umpire calling "Safe" in MLB Slugfest 2003, which was also awesome, these ostensibly disposable creations stay with me.
So let's remember some sports video game intros. Drop whatever comes to mind into the comments. And the NHL 99 one with "Heroes" is already a given, so pick something else.