Remember when sports games were weird? Sportsfriends does.
There was a time before the Fifa-ocracy ushered in a hegemony of simulation-centric sports titles. In games like Ring King, Epyx Summer Games, and Track & Field, you'd be doing weird shit that vaguely resembled a sporting activity but with an energy and fanaticism that far outstrips what happened in real life. You were the one who was the athlete; yours was the skill that mattered.
The four games that come out today under the name Sportsfriends pick up that forgotten lineage and give modern players new experiences where their sofa battles—and verbal insults—can rise to championship levels. Barabariball imagines what it'd look like if Smash Bros. had a baby with volleyball. Hokra's a super-fast soccer variant that fuses Atari-era visuals with ruthless competition. Super Pole Riders combines pole vaulting and martial arts. And Johann Sebastien Joust? It doesn't even have graphics. You might even touch other people playing it.
In the interviews below, we spoke with the lead designers of Sportsfriends' four games to find out the inspirations and challenges of making their weird, rowdy virtual competitions. If you like the look of these games—and the unique take they offer on what it means to build skill and compete against others in a video game—then you should probably know that Sportsfriends is out for PS3 and PS4 today.