Easily one of the most popular sports in the world, NBA basketball was just getting started on its road to absolute craze when Midway’s classic title, NBA Jam, released to arcades in 1993.
Arriving on the heels of the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II craze, NBA Jam used a graphical style that was reminiscent of stable mate Mortal Kombat and gameplay modeled after the classic arcade titles of the 1980s. Basically, NBA Jam was an arcade experience par excellence and it happened to come just as the industry was dying in the transition to home consoles and PC gaming as the preferred modes of gaming.
Using luminaries such as Michael Jordan, among others, to stand out wasn’t the only trick that NBA Jam had up its sleeve. The game was packed with secrets, Easter eggs, codes, and tricks that kept players coming back for more. Ostensibly inspired by the gameplay of Midway’s other game Arch Rivals, NBA Jam’s 2-on-2 action translated into frenetic pacing and constant ball movement. Eschewing the approach of a simulation, NBA Jam embraced the absurd with its over the top dunks and the flaming basketball that indicates “he’s on fire!”
NBA Jam Arcade Cabinet
But the true magic of NBA Jam was in its ability to inspire competition among players in a market overrun with fighting games. Standing out in the arcades during this era was tough because Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat tended to be the only games in town that mattered. NBA Jam never really displaced these games but it offered an alternative to gamers sick of the fighting game mania that dominated arcades in their later years.
The games use of bright, colorful graphics, loud sound and music, plus the addition of celebrities helped to give NBA Jam an aura that drew players in and had