Michael Jordan is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. His ability to dunk and dribble on the court helped him transcend the world of basketball and become an icon of pop culture and one of the world’s most valuable brands. According to Forbes, Jordan Brand closed the 2019 fiscal year with $3.1 billion in revenue, with an estimated net worth of almost $10 billion.
But not everything MJ touches turns to gold. In 1994, Electronic Arts developed the video game Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City for the Super Nintendo console, and the results were disastrous.
EA already had experience working with MJ. In 1988, they launched Jordan vs. Bird: One on One with good results. Five years later, EA developed Michael Jordan in Flight, a 3-on-3 basketball game for the DOS system. The game received rave reviews for its 3D engine, which Computer Gaming World magazine claimed was ahead of its time.
Despite all their experience developing basketball games, EA decided to follow a different path with Chaos in the Windy City. Instead of developing a traditional sports game, they created a hybrid that combined a side-scrolling action game with some basketball elements.
The game’s plot introduces us to MJ on his way to Scottie Pippen’s charity game. When he arrives at the stadium, he discovers that there is no one in the place. Suddenly, a ball breaks the ceiling. On the ball is a note telling Jordan that he must meet with the villain, Dr. Maximus Cranium, in the museum if he wants to save his friends.
Jordan heads to the museum, where a security guard lets him in without many questions and even guides him around. Jordan discovers a secret entrance in the Egyptian hall that leads him to an underground prison, the first of the game’s four areas.
Upon entering the prison, Jordan must face spiders, flying eyes, basketball-headed zombies, and killer robot whistles as he searches for the keys that unlock his fellow captives’ cells.
MJ is armed with an infinite supply of basketballs to battle his way through the game’s 24 levels. Jordan also can use power-ups that turn the ball into ice or fire. The player will also find Wheaties and Gatorade bottles to recover health.
Something that could not be omitted from an MJ video game is dunks. The EA engineers managed to include this ability in the game mechanics. The player will find five types of hoops throughout the game in which Jordan can demonstrate his skills and make a dunk. Depending on the kind of hoop, the player can get coins, power-ups, or a save checkpoint.
In addition to the strange story and mechanics, the game has terrible playability. The controls are complicated, and it is very confusing to navigate the levels and know where to go. Nintendo Power magazine ranked it as the seventh-worst game ever in its 100th edition in 1997.
Jordan would appear in other games, including EA’s popular NBA 2K franchise, but Chaos in the Windy City would be the last title he would be the main protagonist. Perhaps the game’s low sales and popularity made MJ decide to step away from the video game business.
In any case, the question that still keeps me awake at night is: Why would a doctor kidnap some hoop players and then send a message to MJ about where and how to rescue them?
Hankering for more? Check out this full playthrough of Chaos in the Windy City.
Bryan Bejarano is a sports and business writer. He’s a fan of basketball, English soccer, and video games.