Ahh, mid-March, that wonderful time when spring is in the air and baseball fans are getting excited about the start of another Major League Baseball season. It's almost time. If you're thinking about picking up a baseball game this year, you might be wondering which one is right for you. To help you decide, we've put together a primer on this year's big baseball games covering what each one offers and everything else you need to know about them. Bear in mind that all of this information is based on what the game's respective publishers have said about each title. You may want to wait for reviews to pick up a game, but this should help you get started in thinking about what you want.
MLB The Show 18
What Is It? Sony's flagship sports franchise, MLB The Show, returns this year promising better visuals, smarter AI, custom batting stances, and more. With 2K's MLB 2K series canceled, Sony's 2018 game is the only one on the market that offers an authentic, simulation-style baseball experience instead of an arcade or management-centric take on the sport. This is a high-end, officially licensed baseball game with gorgeous graphics, involved (but not overly complicated) controls, and a level of customisation and depth that is unrivaled in the market.
Who's It For? This is the game you want if you're after a baseball experience that tries to be as close as possible to the real game.
What's New? Sony says that all major areas of baseball fundamentals have been improved for MLB The Show 18, including pitching, hitting, catching, throwing, and tagging. In all, Sony is promising more than 1,000 new gameplay animations, a revamped hitting engine with improved physics, and a player-tagging system that was completely re-written (Sony says not a single line of code from 2017's game remains). Also new for MLB The Show 18 are new dynamic crowd elements like Judge's Chambers, new Legend players (Babe Ruth!), and an expanded Road to the Show mode. Additionally, you can now customise your batting stance, while there are new home run celebrations as well. If a player hits a home run when it actually matters, like a game-winning dinger in the bottom of the ninth, the player will celebrate accordingly. In a step towards realism you didn't know you wanted, there will be rain delays in this year's game. Really. Also new for MLB The Show 18 are three-inning games, which are exactly what they sound like. Returning from last year is the Retro mode, which provides a simpler, two-button arcade-style take that aims to hearken back to older days and simpler times.
When's It Out And Where? MLB The Show 18 launches on March 27 exclusively for PS4. If you pre-order, you can start playing on March 23.
Who's On The Cover? Aaron Judge in the US/Marcus Stroman in Canada.
What's It Cost? MLB The Show is priced at $60 in the United States for the standard edition.
Review: "Sony's flagship baseball franchise has never been better. With its best-in-class controls and visuals, and impeccable attention to detail for the small stuff, MLB The Show 18 is worth catching for any baseball fan." [Full review]
Super Mega Baseball 2
What Is It? 2014's Super Mega Baseball, a streamlined, arcade-style unlicensed baseball game, was a surprise hit. It was popular enough to get an Extra Innings Edition, and now a full-on sequel due out this spring.
Who's It For? Super Mega Baseball 2, like its predecessor, is a more casual and over-the-top take on baseball. The controls are simple (relative to MLB The Show) and it doesn't take as long to finish a game. If you're looking for a more casual, arcade take on baseball that you can finish in minutes, not hours, Super Mega Baseball 2 is one to consider.
What's New? The original Super Mega Baseball lacked online multiplayer support, and that was a bit of a bummer. Thankfully, online play is here for the sequel with support for co-op and head-to-head matches. Single-player of course returns as well. In terms of presentation, you'll immediately notice that the characters and environments look more realistic than they did in the first game. Players are now more realistically proportioned, though not to the level of MLB The Show. Stadiums look better as well, and light should react and reflect more realistically. The user interface has also been updated to look and work better.
Also new for Super Mega Baseball 2 is deeper customisation across all major reasons; you now have more options available for your team and league--including things like uniforms--and your lineup. You now have one extra starting player, one extra bench player, one extra starting pitcher, and one extra relief pitcher. You can customise your players with all manner of elements such as tattoos and beards, while you can create your own custom team logo as well.
When's It Out And Where? Originally pegged to launch in 2017, Super Mega Baseball 2 is now due out in early 2018, though a specific date hasn't been announced yet. The game is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC.
Who's On The Cover? Remember when we said this was an unlicensed game?
What's It Cost? Pricing has not been announced, but Super Mega Baseball 2 is expected to be a budget-priced game in the range of $20-$40.
RBI Baseball 18
What Is It? Developed by MLB's own MLB Advanced Media division, R.B.I. Baseball 18 is an arcade-style licensed game with simplified controls.
Who's It For? If you're after a streamlined, simplified baseball game but still want recognisable names, faces, and ballparks, RBI Baseball 18 is one to consider.
What's New? Described as the most significant update to the R.B.I. Baseball series since it was revived in 2014, this year's game features tons of updates, changes, and additions. Starting off, there is a Franchise mode that lets you do things like make trades, sign free agents, and more, while a player progression system will let you create a character and lead them through all stages of the game, including ultimately retirement. Also new for RBI Baseball 18 is a Home Run Derby mode that supports local head-to-head play with another human or take on the computer. RBI Baseball 18 adds online multiplayer for ranked and unranked games. There will also be roster updates for the first time, so if a player gets traded in real life during the season, this will be reflected in the game.
Other new features include a soundtrack (featuring songs from more than a dozen popular artists) and MLB Legends for Franchise mode. These Legends are famous players who have since retired, including Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Jeff Bagwell, and Jorge Posada. Also new for RBI Baseball 18 are "completely redesigned" player models for more than 300 players, while there are "hundreds" of new animations--including player-specific ones--that should help the game feel more realistic. Finally, all 30 MLB ballparks got a makeover with things like new textures and enhanced lighting, as well as a crowd system that makes attendees look and react in a more lifelike way.
When's It Out And Where? RBI Baseball 18 launches in March for PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. A mobile version will be available for iOS and Android devices.
Who's On The Cover? Francisco Lindor is on the cover.
What's It Cost? RBI Baseball 18 will cost $30 on consoles.
Out of the Park Baseball 19
What Is It? Electronic Arts was once a big player in the licensed baseball video game space with its Triple Play and MVP Baseball franchises (and also, briefly, college baseball). Those games are out of rotation, but EA is publishing this year's Out of the Park Baseball 19 from developer Out of the Park Developments.
Who's It For? Critically, Out of the Park Baseball is a text-based, management-style game similar to Sega's Football Manager franchise. This game is nothing like the others. There is no traditional gameplay or stick skills. Instead, it's all about cultivating your baseball acumen and executing on a strategy as a manager. If you're interested in what it would be like to be a manager or a general manager, this is the game for you.
What's New? There are many new features for Out of the Park Baseball 19. Additionally, the developer says the stadiums have been had their looks "greatly improved," while player models should be better looking. Additionally, the simulated on-field players now perform all baseball actions--running, sliding, throwing, etc.--and they take more realistic routes to make a play on defense.
Additionally, the scouting report system has been "completely rewritten" to focus more on aspects that matter more, the developer says. On top of that, the AI is smarter this year. For the first time, computer-controlled players can perform things like double switches, better use of starting and closing pitchers during the playoffs, and more. Changes have also been made to the player-rating system to allow for a "more realistic and consistent" snapshot of MLB players. Some of the other new features in Out of the Park Baseball 19 include custom tournaments, the introduction of 800 custom team logos you can choose from for fictional leagues, a new stat for pitchers (RA9-WAR, which is Wins Above Replacement but based on runs allowed), and the option to delay the substitution of an injured player.
When's It Out And Where? Out of the Park Baseball 19 launches on March 22 exclusively for PC. If you pre-order, you get access on March 19.
Who's On The Cover? This ain't that kind of game.
What's It Cost? Out of the Park Baseball 19 costs $40, but if you pre-order you save 10 percent, knocking the price down to $36.