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Top 10 sports video games of all time

Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 19 Dec 2019, 19:54 IST

“The Graphics outside are pretty amazing, but the gameplay and  storyline are just terrible.”  - every compulsive gamer.

Being someone who isn’t athletically gifted but a massive sports fan, video games, especially the sports type, have been a massive solace. Sports video games are probably the most realistic of all video game genres, but realism alone doesn’t make a great game; you’ve got to consider the gameplay, authenticity, timelessness and of course the impact that it had when it released. After thorough ‘research’, I’ve come up with a list of the 10 best sports video games ever made. Not everyone out there is going to agree with my list, then again it’s my opinion after all.

10) NBA 2k  (Franchise)

Publisher: 2K Sports

Basketball video games can’t get more realistic than this  after all, it has got amazing graphics, incredibly deep gameplay and a whole set of modes  that can put any sports games to shame. It’s a testament to NBA 2k’s  popularity that it has put EA’s NBA Live into complete submission , EA’s last major release being in 2010! Since it’s domination over the Basketball genre, 2K has really given it their all, with NBA 2K12  the icing on the cake. With widespread critical acclaim, this was able to consolidate 2K Sports position as the leader in Basketball genre. Although deep gameplay sometimes can be a hindrance for casual gamers, 2K sports has really done well to hold on to it’s fanbase.

9) Tiger Woods PGA Tour (Franchise) 

Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)

Few eyebrows would have been raised already. But let me tell you, golf as a video game really isn’t as boring as golf on TV. Actually, PGA Tour has got  really good gameplay coupled with superb graphics. The storyline in the career mode isn’t bad either. I suggest you play this thing on the Wii, it’s the closest thing to playing real golf without having to leave your home. Excellent game, that is if you are interested in golf.


8) Madden NFL (Franchise)

Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)

Madden NFL is still the best American football video game by a mile. Named after renowned coach and hall-of-famer, John Madden, it has spanned a staggering 27 releases. To give you an idea of exactly how big the Madden franchise has gotten, the box cover has its own myth called the “Madden Curse”. Lore dictates that if an athlete is featured on the cover, they’re surely destined for an injury or some other fate of misfortune. That myth has long been debunked as there are a number of other athletes have done fine after gracing the cover. NFL has probably the best gameplay any sports video game has to offer,the graphics ,the features, everything is just brilliant, the downside being that it doesn’t really have a big fanbase in any country other than in USA, where it has sold a mind-boggling 70- 80 million copies. Madden NFL, one of those games every gamer must get their hands on  for it’s incredible graphic engine, but playing a game you’re not familiar with can be exhausting though.

7) Virtua Tennis (Franchise)

Publisher: SEGA

Occasionally, a game maker happens upon a flawless recipe on the first attempt, a kind of perfection that would be compromised if any of the ingredients were added to or taken away from. So it is with Sega’s Virtua Tennis, an arcade game that translated the stretch-and-dive drama of professional tennis with such assured brilliance that, aside from the absence of female players, it never really needed a sequel. 12 years since its inception, and into its fifth instalment it still has the best video approximation of tennis available. Its gameplay is one of the best, easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master. The only thing going against it is that SEGA haven’t really tried to bring in any major improvements; agreed the game has steady improvements done on it, but these are just tweaks. Maybe SEGA decided to play it safe, but Virtua Tennis still is the best tennis video game out there.

6) Track and Field (Game)

Publisher: Konami

These days, you can come across a lot of posts on the internet like ‘If you remember this or if you’ve watched this, you had an awesome childhood’. Track and Field exactly fits into that mold. This game has nostalgia written all over it, from the unforgettable theme by Vangelis to the comically drawn characters. The gameplay was simple based on quick repeating button presses. Consisting of  6 Olympic sports, this probably is one of the best arcade games ever made. Provided with a multi-player option, competition never seemed duller. Also the official game sponsor for the 1984 Olympics, its subsequent sequels couldn’t come anywhere near it. Take a bow Track and Field for making our childhoods awesome.

5) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (Franchise)

Publisher: Activision

Tony Hawk may not be the greatest skateboarder, but his game is the greatest X-Games based video game. Truly one of the most revolutionary games with it’s simple yet unique gameplay. From the soundtrack to the ridiculous amount of combos you can do, this game was able to attract your average arcade gamer as well as the serious gamers. It also had unlockable guest characters like Spiderman, Shrek, Wolverine and, wait for it, Billy Joe Armstrong of Greenday to name a few. Into its 15th instalment with the compilation of the first two versions in HD, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remains one of the greatest sports videogames ever made. Tony Hawk’s Gaming legacy is something he can be proud of, on the same level as his 900 (for everyone who doesn’t know 900, it’s a trick where in you make 2 and 1/2 mid air revolutions on a skateboard).

4) Punch-Out!!/ Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (Game)

Publisher: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Released in 1987 by Nintendo Entertainment System, this was the bomb back then. It was about a boxer known as “Little Mac” making his way up the professional boxing circuit. Similar to the movie Rocky in many ways, i.e., that of an underdog overcoming all odds, it got a brilliant concept to begin with. See, in any fight it’s the underdog everyone sympathises with. Punch-out had that, and then there’s the added bonus of meeting Mike Tyson in the final. Mike seemed almost invincible at that point of time and to fight him, although virtually gave a sense of satisfaction. The gameplay was simple, neat and tidy; but the secret behind its popularity was that it was too damn hard! Imagine being part of an elite few that have completed the game, more so defeated Mike Tyson in the final match, the challenging nature of the  game added to its intrigue. Estimated sales of Punch-Out stand at an excess of 2 million copies. If you haven’t played Punch-Out yet, then go give it a try, it’s better late than never. Here’s the link  - totally worth it!

3) NHL ’94 (Game)

Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)

You might be wondering why I have included a game that is as old as the internet (1994). Let me tell you something – gaming list makers should not go by just technology alone, but also consider the cultural impact the game had. This is precisely the reason why NHL ’94 comes in the third place. Being the third installment of the NHL franchise, it still remains the favourite sports game for a large number of Americans. NHL ’94 remains a testament to how a simple but effective design upgrade can make a whole lot of difference. NHL’94 was in no way different from NHLPA ’93 graphics-wise, but the real game changer came in the form of a move called ‘One-Timer’, where you take a shot directly from a pass. So devastating was its impact that gamers mostly preferred to score using the one-timer. NHL’94 also included the features of having separate anthems for each team and a time-out after each half. NHL’94 always features among the best sports games lists. It was named the Greatest Sports Game of all time by

NHL’94 – Old, but Gold.

2) Wii Sports (Game)

Publisher: Nintendo

Designed and developed by Nintendo as a simple introductory line meant to offer something for both gamers and non-gamers. Sports was chosen as the theme because of  the widespread familiarity with it. Rather than feature professional athletes or have realistic graphics, the game was designed to be simple so that anyone could play. That brings us to the question – why second place? The answer is it was path-breaking in many ways – it disproved the notion that gaming is for teenagers and children and also made adults recognize its usefulness not only as a fun tool, but also to maintain fitness. Consisting of a Wii remote and a nunchuk, gamers were provided with an option to choose from a vast pool of sports such as tennis, baseball, golf, etc. Importantly, it provided gamers the option to compete against each other, taking its gameplay experience to a whole new level. By 2009, Wii Sports was the best selling video game of all time, having outsold Super Mario Bros, also published by Nintendo. Wii Sports resort, the sequel to Wii Sports, was released in 2009 and garnered largely positive reviews. Wii Sports remains truly one of the outstanding innovations in gaming. For once, age barrier in gaming wasn’t a hindrance anymore.

1) F.I.F.A. (Franchise)

Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)

Being a long time FIFA franchise fanboy, for 7 years to be precise, it may seem that I’m being a bit biased, but let me assure you FIFA has been one of the best selling video franchises ever, with figures estimated at 100 million copies being sold. Such was the popularity of EA’s FIFA, that FIFA 12 as of now remains the fastest selling sports game ever. Beginning with FIFA 94, it has really come a long way with its 19th and latest version FIFA 13 being released recently. With FIFA 94, EA were the early pace setters in the console football competition having a big edge over their rivals by introducing various  changes to the then existing methods. EA dominated the late 90′s with the FIFA World Cup 98 being the icing on the cake, but in the early 2000′s with the emergence of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), FIFA’s sales begin to take a hit. PES provided the users a rich gameplay experience like never before and by 2006, EA started to lose its fanbase to PES, but before things got out of hand FIFA 2008 started the re-emergence of EA culminating with the fans favourite FIFA 11. FIFA 11, arguably the most radical among the FIFA versions won the best Sports Game award for that year with a record 2.3 million votes. Even EA’s quadrennial specials like the World Cup (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010) and Euro (2004, 2008, 2012) received excellent reviews. It is a testament to FIFA’s popularity that it is often abbreviated as Females Ignored For Another < Insert Version here > months. To sum it up, EA’s FIFA is the best sports game ever. Period.

The Near Misses:

The thing is that there are more than ten great games in the present sports video games market; due to this, some great games had to be left out of the list. So here’s a compilation of the near misses, which just might have made it, but haven’t.

WWE (Franchise)

Publisher: THQ

Classic case of ‘to be or not to be’, the only thing  going against WWE is whether it is really a sport or not. Some say it’s a form of entertainment since it usually has a storyline associated with it, while others say it  is  a sport since all the moves done by the wrestlers are real. Be it ‘Smackdown! vs Raw’ or ‘Here comes the pain’, WWE is one of the most exhilarating games out there.

Pro Evolution Soccer ( Franchise)

Publisher: Konami

Even now, PES 5 remains the benchmark for footballing gameplay, but still playing with Mereyside Red and North London F.C. doesn’t give the same feel as playing with Liverpool and Arsenal does. Due to its inaccuracy in depicting clubs and players, mainly due to copyright reasons, PES only makes it to the so-near, yet so-far list, even though it is nearly on par with EA’s FIFA, and is still worshipped by fans worldwide.

F1 (Franchise)

Publisher: Codemasters

Agreed F1 has got killer graphics, interesting gameplay and that timeless feel; but why would anyone other than F1 fans buy a copy of F1, when you’ve got loads of racing games, which are more interesting and less constrained than it. F1 is a great game, but being in a genre that has a very high competition seems to be its undoing.

Brian Lara Cricket/ Ashes (Franchise)

Publisher: Codemasters

Another one from the Codemasters stable in this group, Ashes is a good game, if not an extraordinary one; it too has got copyright problems of its own from the BCCI, PCB etc. Barring the ’99 edition, all other editions haven’t really been excellent; but being an Indian, you just couldn’t resist not playing this game. Hope Codemasters really come up with a  big breakthrough in the near future.

And that brings us to the end of the 10 Best Sports Video Games ever. Hope you enjoyed it.

Published 12 Oct 2012, 16:12 IST
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