basketball video games 1991 featured

Basketball Video Games 1991 – 90s Video Games, Episode 11

Basketball Video Games 1991

Basketball video games of 1991 – In this post I take a closer look at the basketball games released in 1991. This is a follow up article to Basketball Video Games of 1990, which you can find: here

Games: Rim Rockin’ Basketball (Arcade), Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball (SNES), TV Sports Basketball (Turbografx-16), Harlem Globetrotters (NES), Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs (Genesis).

Release date: 1991

Platforms: Nintendo NES, Nintendo SNES, Turbografx-16, Arcade, Genesis

Rim Rockin' Basketball (Arcade)

rim rockin basketball video game 1991

Rim Rockin’ Basketball on the Arcade is a nice looking basketball game with a voice commentary. It allows you to play either 5-on-5 or 3-on-3 game with up to 4 players simultaneously. You can play either single game or tournament, where you need to beat 20 games. Every quarter is 12 minutes long (fictional game time, not actual 12 minutes). It didn’t have a license from the NBA, therefore it uses imaginary basketball players with similar names. The game is viewed from the baseline and the camera view switches every time so that attacking team is always moving up.

Gameplay is smooth, but game itself gets repetitive as you end taking threes mostly. There is no turbo button, no dribble button, no steal button, and even no way to smash your opponent. You can only block to defend. 
On the bright side, the game features nice commentary, cool clips between baskets, you can dunk the ball, and you can even destroy the backboard with dunks sometimes.

Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball (SNES)

bill laimbeer combat basketball video game 1991

Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball is a futuristic combat-style basketball game that takes place in the year 2031. Bill Laimbeer has become commissioner of a basketball league, fired the referees and created a style of play without rules. Obviously, the game stars Bill Laimbeer, who played for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA during a time when the team was notorious for aggressive and dirty, physical play. Nice introduction to a horrible game.

The game is presented in overhead view and this time, it doesn’t work, at all. All the characters in the game look exactly the same, and remind infamous crab character from the 80s boxing game on Atari 2600. Other than that, they all have exactly same properties – speed, strength, moves.
Besides that, you can not really play basketball in this basketball game. You can not pass and catch the ball, like in other basketball games. And they made scoring in this game a complete hell.
Literally, one of the worst basketball games, and one of the worst games on the SNES.

TV Sports Basketball (TurboGrafx-16)

TV Sports Basketball is a television style basketball game by Cinemaware, originally released in 1989 for the Amiga, MS-DOS, Commodore 64, and then ported to the TurboGrafx-16 in 1991. The game is part of TV Sports series, which back in a day, was famous for more realistic graphics and tv annoucers in the game.

The game is presented in multiple camera views, with top-down views when the ball is close to either hoop, and a side-view when the ball is mid-court. At the mid-court, you can only choose strategy while watching a cut scene. The game allows you to choose a single exhibition game, with one player against the cpu, two players against each other or teammates mode with up to 5 players in cooperative mode. In the league mode, a single player can choose a team and participate in the NBA season. There is also a clipboard option, which allows you to study the league, learn the players.

The game doesn’t have NBA licence, so all the teams and players are fictional.

In the game you can shoot, pass, block and steal, all with single button. You can call timeouts during the game and substitute players. Unfortunately, here all the good things end. Shooting the ball is very frustrating because of the shot release timing mechanism. And remember the mid-court cut scenes and the ability to choose defense and attack strategies, well it completely destroys the gameflow. First of all, these cut scenes are slow. But the worst part comes with camera views that are changing all the time and then having to find the player you are controlling again. 

Be prepared to receive a lot of charging fouls as well.

Harlem Globetrotters (NES)

harlem basketball video game 1991

Harlem Globetrotters is a basketball video game featuring the infamous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

Unlike most of the other basketball video games, only an exhibition mode is available in this game. You can play as the Harlem Globetrotters or as their long-time rivals, the Washington Generals. Unlike regular basketball video games, player can pull down the referee’s pants or trip the ref when a free throw has been called.

Graphically, the NES port is nothing impressive, but compared to the MS-DOS original it actually plays, looks and sounds a lot better than the original. 

If you ever play this game, go for dunks! It has some of the most insane dunks in it.

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Nintendo NES Mini

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Nintendo SNES Mini

Nintendo SNES Mini has the same look and feel of the original system only smaller and comes pre-loaded with 21 games. Step back into the 90s and re-experience some timeless classics!

Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs (Genesis)

lakers vs celtics basketball video game 1991

Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs was originally released in 1989 for MS-DOS. It was the first NBA licenced basketball video game and obviously the first to contain real NBA teams (8 teams) with real rosters.

When it was first released, in 1989, it was the first NBA game to feature TV style starting line up prior to the opening tip. It also featured halftime shows and announcers to simulate an authentic feel.

In 1991, the Genesis version again, was the only one, and first on the home console, with the NBA licence.

Players can pick from one of eight teams who were in the playoffs the year before the game was released. As the title might hint, you can not play the full season, you can play exhibitions or playoffs, however.

Biggest difference while comparing the Genesis version with the MS-DOS original is the teams lineup. The Mega Drive version, though very similar to the original DOS game in nature, contains the teams taking part in the 1990 NBA Playoffs (as opposed to the original’s 1989 roster). As a result, the Seattle SuperSonics, New York Knicks and Jazz are replaced with the Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.

Both conferences’ All-Star Teams were available as well. This was the only way to use players from teams that were not represented in the game – Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins, Chris Mullin and Reggie Miller being examples.

European version of the game is abnormally rare, to the point where for many years, its existence was widely doubted. Around 95-96, I was one of these lucky kids to actually have it, in Europe. It might have been fake, however.

Like in the original, players all look different, have different speed and abilities, and some have even special signature moves. In the game, you can do a lots of things. You can shoot and dunk, do lay ups and fake shots, offensive fouls. In defense, you can pass, steal and block. You can also call timeouts and substitute real NBA players as they get tired.

In addition, Genesis version sounds, looks and plays a lot better. So if you are not after the exact (1989) teams and rosters precisely, Genesis version is the definite version to choose. Compared to the other basketball video games of 1991, Lakers versus Celtics is way better than the other basketball games released that year.


In 1991, there were basketball games from edge to edge.

Some of these games were very bad, I mean worst of the worst. Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball is considered as the worst basketball video game of all time and among the worst video games on SNES in overall.

However, games like Lakers versus Celtics, which is a fantastic basketball game and Rim Rockin’ Basketball on the Arcade, were nice additions to early basketball video games, so you can not say 1991 was all bad.

For the first time you could play with real NBA players, in quite realistic basketball simulation which allowed you to substitute tired players and more.

You have to understand, in 1991 basketball video games were still in baby shoes and most of the better basketball games were still to come. You only had few good basketball games from earlier years to go with – Arch Rivals, Double Dribble, maybe Punk Shot? and that was about it…
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