Super Mega Baseball 3 Review
It’s the bottom of the 9th inning. The Sirloins trail by 2. Men (well, 1 man and 1 woman) on 1st and 3rd. 2 outs. Hammer Longballo steps up to the plate.
Yes, you read that right: Hammer. Longballo.
The slugger is well known in the minds of Super Mega Baseball fans. A hitter of epic proportions, both in his head size and on the stat sheet.
He’s older now. Has been in the Super Mega Baseball League for more than 5 years — the first edition of the game was released in 2015. Now it’s Super Mega Baseball 3, and the 39-year-old slugger looks as good as ever.
The game itself isn’t too shabby, either.
Return of the magnificent
Outside of the excellent MLB The Show series, baseball video games had fallen on hard times until the release of the first Super Mega Baseball game five years ago. Despite its cartoony appearance, SMB offered a mean game of sim baseball. It’s one of the best examples of a pick-up-and-play sports game this side of Wii Sports.
Super Mega Baseball 3, released in May of this year, continues with the series’ now storied stellar play and style, and adds on a deep-as-you-want-it franchise mode to pad out the single-player experience.
Simply put, this indie baseball series is the second-best set of baseball games on the current generation of consoles, behind only MLB The Show, which thus far is only on the PS4. Super Mega Baseball 3 is the best baseball game on Xbox or Nintendo. And, to be honest, it’s not all that far behind The Show.
What makes this franchise great is its adaptability, quick gameplay and ultimate depth. Controls are easy to understand, and the tutorial prompts are available as-needed. Case in point: I’m awful at baserunning in video games, whether it’s stealing or just trying to advance. To the point where I usually just set it on auto and let things play out. In SMB, I always feel like I’m in control, and if I make a mistake, it’s generally an error in judgment and not from pressing the wrong button.
SMB’s adjustable difficulty system, called Ego, should be emulated in any sports game. With levels from 1 to 99, the game can seem laughably easy or punishingly hard. It’s easy to play with the Ego settings, and you can easily adjust for different facets of the game. I’m better at pitching than hitting, so my pitching Ego is set higher.
What makes this system extra…extra?…is how it is implemented in multiplayer. I can play with or against my daughter, set her level at a 10 while I’m at a 60, and we can have a competitive game. It’s the same with online play, as well.
SMB’s core gameplay has been solid from the beginning. The main single-player experience in the original game was a single-season mode. It was plenty enjoyable, but lacked longevity or any stat tracking.
The 2018 sequel expanded the offering a bit, but the main addition was really the stellar online Pennant Chase mode.
Super Mega Baseball 3 finally adds a multi-year franchise mode, stocked with stat changes, retirements and contracts. There are still some tweaks I’d love to see — multi-year contracts; trades; and a draft — but now there is incentive to mold your favorite squad over a long period of time.
Each season, you have a certain budget — starting at about $145 million, and going up from there. With any money you have below that cap, you earn it back in money to spend toward upgrading your existing players. There is a great risk-reward system at play here that is truly unlike anything you’ll see in a licensed sim game.
Say you’ve got $10 million in cap space and then you play a game. Depending on the length of your season — 16, 32 or 48 games in the standard franchise, or up to 162 in a custom game — you will “earn” a portion of that cap space that you can then put toward upgrading a current player.
So, do you save and upgrade your existing players, or do you use that budget to find a free agent upgrade at 3rd base? More risk and reward: That target upgrade is currently asking for $13 million. You could shuffle some players around and try to open up the additional money; or you can wait a few games and see how low his (or her) asking price will drop before making your offer. The only catch is that the Platypi might swoop in and snag your prize before you have the chance to.
A deeper franchise mode, stellar online mode and the best difficulty sliders in the world mean nothing if the gameplay isn’t fun and engaging. Super Mega Baseball 3 remains a blast to play. It’s got my favorite pitching and hitting interface of any baseball game I’ve ever played — going back to Bases Loaded on the NES.
The art style is awesome. I love seeing the varied character designs, combined with punny names. Over the past 5 years, I’ve developed an attachment to some of the teams — I always pick the Sirloins or the Platypi. That is a testament to what the team at Metalhead Studios has created.
Between their over-the-top animations, goofy names and colorful stadiums, Super Mega Baseball 3 oozes personality. Ultimately, that’s what keeps me always looking forward to the next iteration of the game.
There is still some room to grow, and a part of me will always hope they can nab the Major League Baseball license. But SMB doesn’t actually need the license. Without the license, the game is actually free to go in its own direction, and is ultimately timeless.
If you have Xbox or Switch and you love baseball, you owe it to yourself to pick up Super Mega Baseball 3. Even if you have the PS4 and access to The Show, you should give this game a chance. I hope it gets its hooks into you as much as it has me.