Regardless of what your favorite sport is, surely, you’ve found yourself yelling instructions at your television wishing your favorite athlete could hear you and execute your desired plays.
Since controlling athlete’s moves or the pace of your favorite sport is impossible, most fans turn to the next best thing; video games. Whether the motive is to release some stress or build a fantasy matchup, video games are a gateway for fans to continue to indulge in their favorite sports. As quarantine extends with no live sports, videogames are all we have to sustain the craving even in a simulation.
With more time than ever to spend on video games, it is fun to dive into a list of popular sports video games—both old and new— to explore new options and perhaps get a hint of nostalgia in the process.
10. NBA 2K19 (2k Sports, 2018)
The NBA 2K franchise’s popularity has skyrocketed throughout the years; with the ridiculously realistic graphics NBA 2K19 delivered, it was almost as close as watching a live NBA game.
The game also featured an easy-to-navigate online mode which was a fun way to play with others outside the MyCareer mode. While others argue NBA 2K11 was the best release given the changes and roster, this one is pretty hight up as well because of the different in-play options.
9. NBA Jams (Midway Games, 1993)
Arguably the first fan-favorite basketball game, NBA Jams was highly popular in its release for the Genesis Saga and Super Nintendo gaming systems. The game was also NBA approved, which allowed popular basketball stars at the time to be featured, with the exception of Michael Jordan.
By making three baskets in a row while also preventing the opposing team to score, you’d hear the game commentator yell, “He’s on fire!” which quickly became a popular catchphrase amongst gamers. A newer version of the game titled NBA Jam: On Fire was eventually released late 2010 on PS3 and XBOX360 with upgraded graphics; however, there are no current plans to bring the game back for the newer gaming systems.
8. Backyard Baseball ( Humongous Entertainment, 1997)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This is a kids game.” Right? Well, yes. However, when you hear the name Pablo Sanchez, it has the same effect as when you hear the name Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez. While both are fictional characters, they are within the most beloved names in the fictional baseball world.
Though the game— originally for Macintosh and PC— was easy to navigate because it was targetted for children, a bigger wave of adult players was intrigued to play when a new version of the game featuring popular MLB players was released for Nintendo GameCube console (and Sony’s Playstation in a later year). In the new MLB version, you had the option to create your own roster featuring child versions of baseball stars such as Barry Bonds, Shawn Green, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, and Jim Thome. The cover featured New York Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez
The game contained three difficulty levels (Rookie, Pro, and All-Star), as well as a Home Run Derby and a Hall of Fame to commemorate the highest stats within the Backyard Baseball game.
More versions of the game were released for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, though none that gave the fans the same nostalgic feeling as the initial MLB collab release.
7. NFL Blitz (Midway Games, 1997)
Though this was obviously a football game, the level of violence in this game could any combat sport's game a run for its money. With the ability to pull wresting-inspired moves during the game plays, the game became an instant hit with football fans who also enjoyed the perks of the game not following the usual NFL rules.
Initially, after witnessing the video game in action, the NFL refused to have their brand associated with such brutality and disregard of the actual game protocol. However, after careful consideration and compromise from Midway, the NFL agreed to slap their logo on the cover which featured Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart.
6. Fight Night (EA Sports, 2004 & 2005)
For almost a decade, boxing fans have been neglected with the constant request of a new boxing game, because who cares about a Creed game, am I right? That doesn’t count.
Fight Night 2004 featured four-division world champion Roy Jones Jr., which was a favorite to pick for most players. The game also featured what at the time was groundbreaking realistic graphics. The 2005 Round Two release featured former middleweight undisputed champion, Bernard Hopkins, and included a fan-favorite career mode with options to create your own story or relive one of the boxing star’s stories to success.
While rumors of a new Fight Night game to be released in 2021 circulate the internet, nothing has been confirmed by EA Games or any other developer. Boxing fans, however, continue to speculate on who would earn the cover spot and how much better the graphics could be and the fantasy matchups they could create.
5. NBA Street Vol.2 (EA Sports, 2003)
With the option to play with not one, but three versions of NBA legend Michael Jordan(1985 Chicago Bulls Jordan, the 1996 Chicago Bulls Jordan, and the Washington Wizards Jordan), NBA fans both young and old jumped at the opportunity to pick their favorite teams and create their perfect matchup.
Just like the previous pick, NBA Street Vol. 2 also opted out of following typical game rules, offering a more flexible playing experience. Of course, by flexible, I mean slightly violent with several plays leaving the characters a bloody mess. But hey, it IS a street basketball game where just like in real life, dunks are exaggerated and anything goes.
4. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! (Nintendo, 1987)
While the game was considered slightly controversial because of the obvious stereotypical representation of the characters, “Iron” Mike Tyson’s popularity in the 80’s far surpassed any expectation of political correctness for the much contentious boxing star.
Regardless of the game only being marketed for a three-year period, the game reached the spot of the 11th most popular Nintendo game in the console’s U.S. history with about $2 million copies sold.
To this day, those who owned the game still remember experiencing a certain satisfaction from knocking out the legend himself, Mike Tyson.
3. Tony Hawk Pro Skater (Neversoft, 1999)
The soundtrack alone makes this game take the top three on the list. From metal and punk to more upbeat alternative rock, cruising through career mode and designing parks was a therapeutic experience. Possibilities were endless as you could focus on completing missions or simply skate around and attempt tricks at your own pace.
Though Midway Games initially rejected Hawk’s idea claiming there was no audience for skateboarding game regardless of the popularity of the X Games at the time, the series of THPS games were eventually produced by Activision sold over 15 million copies.
2. Madden NFL 18 (EA Sports, 2017)
While Madden NFL has been responsible for year’s worth of ignored girlfriends around the world, Madden NFL 18 has revolutionized the series by finally adding a career story mode along with mind-blowing crisp graphics which almost resemble those of the popular motivational football movies.
The game also added target-passing abilities giving complete control of where the ball is thrown, further improving simple game functions that make substantial changes that keep the players happy.
1. FIFA (EA SPORTS, PICK YOUR YEAR!)
With 27 versions of the game released since the FIFA debut in 1994 and over 100 million copies sold, football fans all over the globe never seem to want to pass on the yearly release of this popular game series.
While the top spot for the game could be subjective to everyone based on their nostalgia and access to the games throughout the years, many fans of the series believe FIFA 2012 earns the number one spot as it secured its spot above Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) in football game rankings. With improved defense controls and dribbling tactics, it allowed players to remain in control even under heavy pressure from the opposing team.
Whether you rank your favorite FIFA game depending on the certain modes or functionalities or pick a favorite based on if your favorite players are on the cover, the longevity in popularity of this game series is unmatched.