Back in 2015, EA Sports bragged to anyone who heard that FIFA 16 would be the first video game of its kind to feature female footballers.
Given the popularity of women’s football – especially in the United States, where women actually do better than men – it seemed odd that the FIFA franchise hadn’t included women for so long. It took the 2015 Women’s World Cup (played in Canada, where the FIFA series is developed) to spur EA to include women in its best-selling sports franchise.
FIFA 16, released in the fall of 2015 after the USWNT grabbed the nation’s attention with another thrilling Women’s World Cup, was touted by EA as a defining moment for women’s soccer.
But FIFA 16 wasn’t the first video game to feature women’s soccer from afar – and we’re not just talking about Princess Peach in Super Mario Strikers.
The FIFA franchise has, indeed, been battered by 15 years.
Mia Hamm Soccer 64 was released on November 9, 2000 for the Nintendo 64, becoming the first major video game featuring female soccer players and, to date, the only one that we know of focused solely on women’s play.
Mia Hamm Soccer 64 was a reskin of Michael Owens’ WLS 2000 released at the same time. It was a blatant attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the US Women’s National Team, which had just won the 1999 Women’s World Cup a year earlier in front of record crowds as the USMNT had recently finished dead last in the Cup. of the world 1998.
By this point, Mia Hamm was already an expert in sponsorship, having appeared in dozens of commercials and being the most visible American soccer player in the world.
Mia Hamm Soccer 64 was published by SouthPeak Games, which also published titles like Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, Pinky and the Brain: World Conquest, The Dukes of Hazzard II: Daisy Dukes It Out and the very good 3D Dot Game Heroes and Trinity.
SouthPeak commissioned all-male DC Studios to convert the European men’s soccer game into a women’s game in just 12 weeks. This was DC Studios’ first full release and the team went on to produce hit games such as Bratz and Hannah Montana for the Game Boy Advance, a web browser game Charmed (yes, the TV show) and Fear Factor: Unleashed, a GBA title where players went through mini-games to determine if their character could pull off the crude silly stunts made popular by the silly TV show of the same name.
Changing from a men’s soccer game to a women’s soccer game mainly involved putting long hair or ponytails and slightly enlarged chests on all character models and creating 32 international teams and 18 teams made up of the American League to play.
So, uh, was the game any good?
The first women’s soccer video game was actually shit, unfortunately.
With 32 international teams like Brazil, Russia, and the United States, a host of fictional American Women’s Soccer League clubs, and a Mia Hamm All-Stars team, the game lets you play in one of four modes: Exhibition, US League Season, World Cup and Practice. You can perform player substitutions and change formations during the game and change camera angles. The game also featured 10-second instant replays to review your best goals.
Graphically, the game wasn’t too bad for its time, but the game offered little in the audio department. While video games are primarily visual experiences, audio cues are key to immersing a player in the created world, but Mia Hamm Soccer 64 did little to convey the atmosphere of the beautiful game.
Wendy Gebauer, former USWNT player and TV host, was asked to comment and her performance was solid. However, the production team only made him read a limited number of basic phrases like “beautiful pass” and “man on”. The small amount of audio gets extremely repetitive, but it beats out other in-game sounds, like the unique “poo” sound of the ball being hit, the faint static-filled crowd noise, and the occasional whistle from the referee.
The gameplay – you know, the most important part of the game – wasn’t much better. While the player and ball physics were actually pretty good for their time, the game was clunky to control and hampered by poor AI.
There were two control options: Easy and Professional. The latter was so absurdly difficult and complicated to control that it was essentially useless, while the former lacked the responsive feedback you’d expect from a fast-paced sports title. Computer-controlled players routinely dribbled out of bounds, and the framerate tended to slow to nearly unplayable levels.
Perhaps worst of all, on defense, you would have no jurisdiction over the player you control, being randomly changed by the whims of the computer. It’s something that even early football video games had, but for some reason it got ignored in this title.
the Mia Hamm Soccer 64 IGN Review from November 22, 2000, said in a caption that it was “the best thing to do after looking at your Mia Hamm posters”. We’re not sure exactly where Cory D. Lewis was coming from, but the overall review didn’t favor the title, giving it a 4.8 out of 10, which is honestly a bit generous. IGN gave the game a 3 on presentation (“minimal effort”), a 5 on graphics (“not very feminine” player models), and 1 on sound (“virtually none”).
The IGN review is the only one listed on Metacritic – not a single user decided it was worth writing a review. FIFA 19 for PS4 has 67 critical reviews and 270 user reviews, but to be fair, Metacritic didn’t exist when Mia Hamm Soccer 64 was released (it launched a few months after).
Despite the fact that the game was not very good, it sold quite well. the 42,886 copies sold may not seem like a huge number today, but compared to Earthworm Jim, a super popular contemporary title that sold 76,000 copies, Mia Hamm Soccer 64 was a surprising success for an all-women’s soccer game in the States. -United.
Wildly, Amazon is still selling Mia Hamm Soccer 64, including apparent new copies. You can also find the game on emulation/ROM sites if you want to delve into the dodgy world of hacking 20-year-old video games.
With FIFA regularly including a (small) selection of international women’s soccer teams in its series, soccer video games featuring women have never looked so good. But let’s not forget that it took EA Sports 15 years after the first women’s soccer video game to include women in FIFA. Let’s not forget Mia Hamm Soccer 64, for all its flaws, the world’s first women’s soccer video game.