Hockey video games are very popular right now due to most of the world having some type of stay at home in order. Most people are playing EA’s NHL 20 or some form of that. However, with this article, I wanted to focus on five titles / series that have been forgotten. The games in the article cross all about 3 decades, and several consoles…(even one that debuted in a cabinet).
The NHL Hitz series was created by Midway for the 2001 – 2002 season. This game was the continuation of the Wayne Gretzky model from the N64 console (also on this list). It also was similar to the NFL Blitz. This was a popular arcade-style game that allowed players to hit players with minimal penalties, you could catch fire, and if players lost a fight then, the loser was done for the game. It was a great alternative to those who were looking for something a bit faster paced than EA’s NHL series or 989’s NHL Faceoff series.
Mutant League Hockey
Mutant League Hockey was a game by EA in 1994 for the Sega Genesis and the Commadore co, which would explain why the game looks like the NHL series but with monster sprites for that time. However, this isn’t anything close to the NHL game. Teams are composed of monsters and mutants (hence the name). In addition to playing hockey with monsters, there are a few other twists. Fans throw weapons on the ice and can players can fall through the ice if a chainsaw is used. Fights are taken place in a graveyard because why not!?!
Another throwback game that is apart of another successful lineup of sports titles. Backyard Baseball was the game in the mid-90s that put Humongous Entertainment and the Backyard Franchise on the map. What followed were sports licensing deals with all major sports including the NHL in 2002. These games were aimed at younger fans, but were still very fun. Games were 3 on 3 with selected players from the NHLPA and the Backyard characters. You could also create a team use all 30 logos, or create your own. In later years of the series, it was ported from the PC to Gameboy.
Wayne Gretzky Hockey
An arcade game and N64 game developed by Williams Entertainment featured some things that I believe paved the way for NFL Blitz. This game featured unreal clappers, big hits, and fights. If you hit someone hard enough an ambulance came across the top of the screen. You could also get on fire too, or the goalie could turn into a magic brick wall! Games were usually high scoring and close. You also played 3 v 3 and you pieced together your lines. Which, could lead to some unreal line combos!
2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge
This game like the Gretzky one was an arcade game first. Then it was ported to the original PlayStation. It featured the Blackhawks own, Pat Foley, providing commentary. It also had a lot of gameplay elements that other games on this list were inspired by such as power-ups, unreal clap bombs, big hits where you could flatten out guys, people on fire, and more. Also with this game coming out in 1994, player photos with hockey hair were amazing!
Bush Hockey League
This game is the only game on the list that came out for modern consoles. This game came out in 2017 and is set in the 1970s and has a retro theme to it. The graphics are a bit cartoony as well but is meant to be an arcade option in the days where the only top publishing company producing a game is EA with the NHL franchise. The game takes cues and is heavily inspired by the movie Slapshot. However, it was met with only mediocre reviews, but if NHL 20 is overwhelming or you’re looking for an arcade-style game, this might be a good alternative for you.