A fan-favorite baseball video game like Metalhead’s Super Mega Baseball should know a thing about fan-favorite players. The studio has created dozens of these players for three critically acclaimed games over the past decade, from Ham Slamous to Beefcake McStevens, Joseph Broseph to Johnson Swanson. Thing is, they’ve all been fictitious.
Well, Super Mega Baseball 4, launching June 2, is finally getting real-life MLB stars, owing in no small part to Electronic Arts having acquired Metalhead two years ago. It’s not the entire current membership of the MLB Players Association, or any of the 30 teams in the National or American Leagues — just a free agent pool of 200 guys you can put on any of Super Mega Baseball 4’s quirky teams (or not; your choice). Instead, they’re past pros who fit the Super Mega style, says Metalhead studio director Scott Drader.
The marketing copy with Tuesday’s announcement mentions all-timers like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, as well as two of the 2004 Boston Red Sox’s gang of “Idiots,” Johnny Damon and David Ortiz, the latter of whom stars on the game’s cover, rendered in Super Mega style. (His co-star is the fictional Hammer Longballo of the Sirloins.)
“Trying to figure out what the right fit, for licensed players, is in Super Mega, we’re not just looking for big names; we’re looking for a good spread of positions, and eras, so that it fits from a game design perspective,” Drader told me last week.
“Of course, we are looking for all of those things,” he continued. “We’re also looking for, like, Super Mega personalities, too, and players that felt like they should just be in this take on baseball, right?”
“Bartolo Colón — Big Sexy,” Drader said, his smile cracking wide as one’s mouth usually does when it speaks the name. “Is there someone more Super Mega than him?”
No, there is not.
Colón was a four-time All-Star, and the 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner. But after a 21-year career spent almost entirely in the American League, he joined the New York Mets, whose fans celebrated him as much for his, well, zaftig proportions as his zany batting appearances, which ranged from slapstick ridiculous to hall-of-fame sublime and few in between. And he was never a joke on the mound. Closing out his career in Texas, the 44-year-old Colón damn near threw a perfect game.
The roster tease — and Colón’s inclusion in it — is, for Super Mega Baseball fans since Metalhead’s indie days, part celebration and part reassurance. Getting a license to real, well-known ballplayers is a looks-like-we-made-it moment for fans who have been with the series since 2014 and can’t believe an unlicensed indie sports video game has come this far.
And it’s a reassurance that the game, its appeal, and its tone aren’t going to be corrupted or co-opted by a huge publisher accustomed to writing enormous checks for sports licensing.
“They acknowledged the same things you did just now,” Drader said, talking of when EA bought his studio in May 2021. “The most important thing was [EA saying], ‘We’re not going to tell you what you’re going to do next, but we’re going to have a conversation about what the right next step is, for the IP and the studio.”
Thus you get something like Super Mega Baseball 4, which will be the first console baseball title published by Electronic Arts since its venerated MVP Baseball 2005: a game with the mass-market appeal of real-life stars that doesn’t sacrifice the rollicking, grassroots spirit that makes Super Mega Baseball unique.
“What we’ve tried to do here is allow for, Do you want to play with the legends? Is that what resonates with you? Well, then that’s there,” Drader said. “Do you want to stay with the classic content? That’s cool, too. Are you all about customization, and you want to make all your friends and family and do your own takes on our game? That experience is there too.”
Super Mega Baseball 4 is not just 200-plus big names skinning a mild update of 2020’s exceptional Super Mega Baseball 3, Drader promised. There are six more stadiums, again done in Super Mega style for players to barnstorm through. But with a total of 20 venues, each team in the game can now have its own ballpark, Drader noted.
Players will also be able to see and use some of baseball’s modern developments, like two-way performers and the new extra-innings baserunner. Roughly speaking, the new features follow something any sports developer, large or small, must answer to: fan requests.
The biggest one led to a kind of deck-building feature, Shuffle Draft, that players may use to quickly create their own leagues along several parameters — with (or without) legends, or Super Mega rosters — and start a Franchise playthrough. There are also several premade league types for those who simply want to jump in and leave personnel management to the CPU.
“The classic Super Mega League exists, so if you just want to play with the classic content, that’s there,” Drader said. “There’s a Legends League, roughly era-based, that’s the simplest way to engage with the licensed legend players.” Players could also start a league purely with the Super Mega gang and have a free agent pool of legends.
Super Mega Baseball 4 launches June 2 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, with support for cross-generation and cross-platform play. Pre-orders are now available for the base game, which will cost $49.99, as well as the $59.99 Ballpark Edition, which comes with three days of early access (except on Switch) and three DLC stadiums.