This was the moment. Time to be a hero, to go down as a legend, forever remembered in the history books as the person who took the team into the final.
He stepped up to the penalty spot, placed the ball and shuffled back. The goalkeeper looked nervous, but then so was the penalty taker. It was a cold afternoon, but inside this arena (a field), things had reached boiling point.
Thoughts flashed through his mind: why is a defender taking this penalty? Why is one of the strikers crying on the sidelines? Who’s dad is that shouting and hollering about how “he’s going to go to your right”? What happens if he misses?
Using the aggro dad’s words against him, he struck the ball to the keeper’s right, and it worked. The goalie dived the wrong way, the ball sailing clearly into the net... until a leg popped up, seemingly stretched out beyond all boundaries of human contortion. A foot... a toe even, impossibly bulging out of a football boot, nudging the ball onto the post.
The boy had missed.
Time accelerated in a blur, so in an instant the Under 11s Cubs football team was out of the tournament. Steve was still crying on the sidelines, more now, perhaps knowing he’d bottled it as the team’s main attacker.
The defender collapsed to his knees. Heartbreak, the same felt by so many of his sporting idols. Glory wasn’t to be. Game over.
In that moment the boy vowed that, should it ever come to pass in his future, he’d never take part in a 30-minute (or thereabouts) podcast about balls in sports video games, so welcome to the VG247 Best Games Ever Podcast, Episode 9: Best game with balls that isn’t a sports game.
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“What is VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast?” you ask, still a bit confused about the genre-defying opening to this podcast article. I’ve tended to say something like “It’s a 30-minute panel show where we decide the best game in a specific category,” but given that some of these episodes now touch 40 minutes that’s a blatant lie, although still a goal – sometimes we just get a bit carried away. I’m sorry, OK? It’s easy to point fingers and say things should have been different. Don’t be one of those people. “The boy” knows he should have kept the ball lower. Leave it be.
We’ve got some details on the show’s content below (if you want to get a refresher before heading to the comments to make a wonderful, considered post or don’t want to listen but do want to know what games we picked), so if you want to avoid spoilers, don’t scroll past this fan-made creation of what Chris Bratt would look like if he had his dog’s head and was looking out from a balcony in Red Dead Redemption 2 (Support friends of VG247, People Make Games, on Patreon).
The Best Game with balls that isn’t a sports game
This is the topic of Episode nine of VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast. Here’s a rundown of who picked what.
Tom – Red Dead Redemption 2
Great game? Check! Perhaps one of the greatest of all time, even. Features balls? Yep. Rockstar modelled those horses accurately. Not a sports game? Check! This one is a full-on western. Surely even Jim can’t snatch this victory away from me?
Alex – Conker's Bad Fur Day
When this topic was chosen for the podcast, I obviously decided to interpret balls as testicles, because I am a fully-grown, 33-year-old adult. When I think of bollocks in games, my first thought went right to N64 classic Conker's Bad Fur Day, which is utterly packed with balls. My primary argument is for the Bourgeois Big Bollocked Boiler, a memorable boss that's a giant furnace that happens to have "balls of brass, polished to the nth degree". And what do you do? Well, you get between the boiler's legs and smash its balls with a house brick. This is just one example of the glorious use of balls in Conker, too; there's more in the podcast. A feast for the ears!
Connor - Lethal League
Lethal League is a brilliant fighting game where instead of smacking each other in the faces directly, players must land blows on their opponent via a baseball placed in the centre of the screen. The more the ball is hit, the faster it goes, leading to high intensity matches where spacing is crucial. It's got brilliant music, enticing visuals, a cast of characters each with their own special moves and super attacks. It is also not a sports game! Just because a baseball is present, doesn't make it a sport! If you kick a football through a school window, are you playing football? No way.
Let us know what game you’d pick and if you think Tom was right, again? If you like the podcast, please subscribe and leave a review saying how wonderful it is, and tell all your friends. Do a tweet about it, post on Facebook, write an obituary for Eurogamer’s podcast(s) for the local paper, and ask people to listen to this instead.
Come back in a week for another episode of VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast.
If you want more podcasts, you could do worse than checking out our friends at Rock Paper Shotgun who have the Electronic Wireless Show. Eurogamer has two shows (greedy!), Digital Foundry has DF Direct, Dicebreaker covers the world of tabletop gaming, and the Outside Xbox lot has Oxventure - A Dungeons & Dragons Podcast.