Pele's Soccer (Atari VCS, 1980)
As I've said before: "I'm not a sports fan" so how I felt about this game surprised me.
Contrasting from our recent excursion into third-party software that had only two games to a cart, Atari's (the party of the first part) Pele's Soccer has 54 games promised for it on the front of the box and it delivers with 28 versions of two player and 28 versions of single player. The "versioning" is three variations each on modes of speed, modes of challenge and goal size. The playfield is interesting in that it's a scrolling vertical field. As you move the ball up or down it, the field scrolls up and down with it. It's another good example of "there's more to this playing area than meets your eye" that was emerging from videogames more and more. Yes, some videogames don't need that, Fishing Derby and Boxing, for example, do just fine without it but I really like the idea of using it to allow the player to focus on "what's happening right now" while being aware of a bigger picture. That's not a very good way to articulate it, but I do like this style of game. I can see how it might not work as well for sport-ports like hockey (where seeing where your team-members are helps) or basketball (important to see the big picture) but for this simplified version of soccer it works.
You only have three players for each team and they're locked into a triangle formation, the "forward" at the apex of the triangle and two "backs". You can pass the ball among the members of your little triangle but it takes some practice. I started playing the easier two-player game (game 28) (EDIT: Nelio correctly points out that this is a typo and I was playing the easier one-player game. It's entirely possible though, that I WAS playing the two-player game by myself, which would indeed make it pretty easy.) and unexpectedly found that I enjoyed it. I advanced through a number of the variations, trying them out as I went, finding that the harder it got the more work it felt like and the more my button-thumb began to protest. Regardless, it kept my attention for far longer than I thought it would. I've yet to play it with either of my kids, but I look forward to trying it out with my son, who used to play soccer (ages 5 to 8ish)
I think the real plus of this game is how, even on the easiest level, if you're doing pretty well (say, you've scored twice and your console opponent hasn't scored at all yet) the computer player improves its game. The goalie becomes more reactive and I'd swear the blue triangle of the enemy move faster, but again, I tend to imagine these things. Your mileage may vary.
For me, personally, it was a lot more fun than watching professional soccer, which, to me, consists of a lot of this:
There are penalties in the two-player games that do not exist in the single-player variations that I'm looking forward to experiencing with my son. It would be nice if they could simulate penalties for excessive ear-flicking.
While I don't like watching real world Soccer, I must admit there are sometimes amazing moments like this one:
(EDIT: Awww, I can't even remember what this gif was, but the link has died. Oh well.)
which even makes an "professional sports neutral" person like myself feel begrudging admiration even to the point of tingles.
Anyway, sorry for the "half-entry", I really can't count this game as "completed" until I've enjoyed it a bit in the two-player mode. Since I'm a bit retentive about splitting entries into two parts, I'll just edit this one with the two-player information after I've played. (Edit: no, this never happened because OF COURSE it never happened.)
Golf is the next game in the pile. (EDIT: When I pulled a bunch of games out of the closet I'd actually thought about doing Golf, but then I noticed Bridge. Bridge is one of those games that I was never able to get myself to play and now that I've finally done so, I'm SO glad it's over. I should do Golf soon. It's funny, because Golf and Bridge are both games that my parents both like to play fairly regularly in real life these days and I just cringe thinking about either.)