Some of you may know that I have a passing association with track & field. I ran track in high school and college, and even coached track at the collegiate level for a number of years. However, my first exposure to the sport was through Konami’s arcade classic Track & Field. One of my best friends from high school used to have an old arcade cabinet with Track & Field. I remember mashing those buttons as fast as I could, before button mashing mini games from Mario Party took up most of our free time. When the game was released for the Xbox Live Arcade it quickly became one of my all time favorites.
I had originally forgotten about this game until I looked back at some of my Xbox Live achievements and remember trying in vain to collect all of them in Track & Field. The most challenging achievement was to qualify on every attempt for every event. Every event had a qualifying time or distance that you had to achieve in order to move forward to the next event. For the field events like the long jump, javelin, and hammer throw you were allowed three attempts. In order to unlock the achievement you had to surpass the qualifying standard on each attempt. I just could not achieve this goal with the hammer throw, without fail one of my attempts would go wide or foul or some other tragedy would befall me.
This game epitomized the pick and play nature of Xbox Live Arcade classics. It was so easy to boot up the game, run through the Olympic gauntlet of six events and get a new high score or set a new world record. For the first time I felt connected to the real world through video games. I would look up the real life world records in the 110 hurdles and marvel at how easily I was able to surpass that in the virtual world. The online leaderboards were even more competitive and I am fairly certain that there was some glitch that players exploited in a few of the events, which made chasing leaderboard records meaningless.
This game had a bunch of little quirks that gave life to the Olympic spirit. Hitting a passing bird with the javelin was hilarious back then, and I am so glad that an achievement was associated with it. This game was not the reason that I started running track & field, but it was one of the first games that introduced me to the joy’s of chasing a new high score or following the online leaderboards. If this game becomes available on the Xbox One through backwards compatibility I would probably still play it every once and a while to relive some of those feelings.
I thought about including one of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympics games, but really this game is a classic that created the mini game button mashing genre. And it still holds up well 35 years after it’s initial release! This game was a reason to own two Xbox controllers, because any friend would be interested in a quick Olympic decathlon (with only six events). The high jump was clearly the weakest event in the game, but the long jump was probably the best. If I ever buy my own arcade cabinet, this will be the game that I will own.
You can begin to understand how this list will work. Track & Field is not the most critically acclaimed game ever, nor is it remember as one of the best arcade classics. But I enjoyed specific parts about playing the game and I especially enjoyed some of the experiences I had with friends because of this game. I’ve also tried to only choose one game from each franchise, in order to avoid filling the list with The Legend of Zelda titles. That being said, tomorrow’s game is:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993) by Nintendo
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks