Fantasy Death Sports video games

At a time when games were starting to create controversies (Barbarian, Wolfenstein 3D, Mortal Kombat, etc.) and attract the attention of parents and associations, studios found a way to create violent games with unrealistic settings that would then be less linked with real world violence. Of course, at the time there were no age ratings on the games and most games in this article were released before the creation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board)...
The fantasy / medieval settings were a perfect fit for such games and thus were also used for brutal and deadly sports games.

Ninja Golf by BlueSky Software (1990 - Atari 7800)
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If i told you the weirdest game in this article would be about a ninja playing golf, you probably wouldn't have believed me. This one plays like a regular golf game...until the ball is in the air and your ninja starts running after it.
You must then evade or kill enemy ninjas and...some kind of mole-like animal that throws stuff at you (feces? dirt ? who knows...). You then have another shot at getting to the green. Once you do (and you've gotten back to your ball), you need to defeat a dragon boss in order to finish the course.
It's really silly but somehow more fun than the regular golf games of that era. It does get repetitive, though, as enemies and boss are always the same. There will be more enemies and the boss will be faster, along with more difficult courses but that's it.

Pigskin 621 A.D. aka Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl by Midway (1990 - Arcade, Megadrive)
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It's one of those games you might remember having rented or played at a friends and couldn't remember the name... If you forget about its weird endorsement from a US football head coach/commentator, Pigskin Footbrawl actually has much more in common with rugby than football.
The game plays on a grass or rock field on which 5 player teams try to score by crossing the endzone. Of course, you can hit your opponents and even kill them, using the weapons you grab along the way. A brawl can happen when you grab the ball carrier and multiple players can jump in, resulting in a big mess...
I remember renting this game a lot (never found it for sale, for some reason) and having a blast with it. It still plays alright and is fast compared to some other games. It has a good fun factor and the cartoony visuals definitely contribute to that.

M.U.D.S. aka Mean Ugly Dirty Sport by Golden Goblins (1990 - Amiga, MS-DOS)
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In this original brutal mix of Rugby, Football and Basketball, you need to bring your "ball" (it's actually a tiny animal called a flonk) to the other side of the field and shoot it in a basket (the flonkpott) in order to get a point. You can knock down, shove opponents and even push them into the water moat which contains a shark (if near, it's certain death). Graphics aren't that great but the game is fast and smooth and actually plays much better than it looks. You can train your players, buy new ones and there are different strategies as you can win by killing all the opposing players or having more points but losing your players means you'll have trouble getting past the next matches. All in all it's a pretty fun game with enough depth to keep you playing for some time.

Mutant League Football by Electronic Arts (1993 - Megadrive, PSP)
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Here's the poster boy for the fantasy death sports...MLF takes regular US football, replaces its players by mutant superhumans, trolls, aliens, skeletons and robots and pits them in 2 teams of seven players.
The rules are somewhat similar to regular football and the game uses the same kind of UI as the Madden series but you can kill players, bribe the ref, get killed by hazards and traps on the field such as land mines, fire pits, toxic waste, etc.
If you are familiar with US football rules and how the games are played, you'll feel right at home here. The teams are also parodies of the NFL teams and some players are in the game with pun names (Bones Jackson, Joe Magician, Scary Ice, etc.)
The game is very fun even though it can seem overwhelming for a beginner. If you don't know how US football is played, i'd recommend playing Mutant League Hockey instead. The game has a spiritual successor in Mutant Football League, a game designed by Michael Mendheim, the original lead designer of the Mutant League games...

Brutal Sports Football aka Beastball by Teque London (1993 - Amiga, MS-DOS, Jaguar)
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First in a series of 2 games, Brutal Sports Football is a seven vs seven US football game with little to no rules. You can hit and kill opponents and the game has items and weapons on the field that you can use against them.
You can kick the ball over players, the ball bounces on the walls which allows for some fun strategies.
The designs are pretty cool and the graphics are definitely better than the previous games featured here. The game is also faster than Pigskin Footbrawl and plays well.
Overall, a fun game that deserves a play or two (it'll be even more fun if you play it against another human opponent).

Mutant League Hockey by Electronic Arts (1994 - Megadrive)
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Let's now check out MLF's cousin, Mutant League Hockey which replaces the gridiron with a ice hockey rink. So it's basically similar to NHL but with robots, skeletons and trolls (yes, less races than in MLF). The field is, again, trapped and you can hit/kill your opponents.
The main difference is that fights break out and you need to punch each other in a very hockey-like manner (Hockey is usually much more brutal than US football). Overall, it feels much less fun to me, especially since the controls of hockey games are always a pain to deal with.
The move inertia makes it hard for me to enjoy them...but if you like Hockey games, definitely give this one a try!

Wild Cup Soccer by Teque London (1994 - Amiga)
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The second and last game of the Brutal Sports series ditches US football for soccer (association football) and uses an isometric view instead of the sideview of Brutal Sports Football. You can still hit and kill opponents, sometimes sending their head flying and there are bonus and weapons on the field as well. The game feels slower than its predecessor, probably because of the isometric view. Visuals are still pretty good even though i liked Brutal Sports Football's design a bit more. Definitely a step down and probably the reason the series stopped at 2 games.

Blood Bowl by Destiny Software (1995 - MS-DOS)
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And now for something completely different (bonus points if you find the reference)... This game is indeed completely different from all the games featured in this article because it is a direct adaptation of Games Workshop's board game. It is a turn-based game in which you need to keep control of the ball and find a way to score more points than your opponent. You can pass or run, you can try to add movement with the risk of losing the ball and you can attack opposing players. There's a lot of strategy in the game because you have better chances to hit your target if other players from your team are near your current player. You can try to run near an opponent but risk being tackled and lose the ball. When you lose the ball, it's an immediate turnover and the opponent starts playing which means ball control is your top priority. It's a fun game but it requires delving deeper into it than the more arcade-oriented games in this list as the rules are a bit complex. I wouldn't really recommend it since the visuals are really bad for a 1995 game...however, several new versions of the game were developed in recent years, the latest being Blood Bowl II by Cyanide in 2015.


Fantasy Death Sports sadly got much less love than the Future Death Sports and that's a shame because some of these games were very fun and had the potential to be developed into bigger hits. Of course, the fantasy aspect was also less popular at the time, reserved for role playing games and less present in books, movies and the general imagery of the 80s and 90s.


Brutal Sports Football Pigskin Footbrawl Fantasy Death Sports