I don’t know what children did before video games. Oh that’s right, they went outside to play and actually had physical interactions with other human beings. But if you ask me, learning vital social skills at a young age to make us well-rounded, productive adults later in life is grossly overrated. Give me the Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox.
This top 10 is a list of the best sports video games that I’ve ever played (the key phrase is “that I’ve ever played”). So sorry baseball fans, I’m sure there were some great baseball video games throughout the last couple decades, but there’s none on this list. But feel free to add any of your favorites in the comment section. The following list is in no particular order, just my overall top 10.
10. NBA Live 95 (SNES, Sega Genesis)
This is the first game where I remember hearing some sort of resemblance of a human voice (and not an 8 bit robotic voice) in a video game. The famous “E-A-Sports, it’s in the game” became a memorable catch phrase. Every time you turned the game on or saw the commercial on television, you just had to say it out loud.
The graphics were pretty ground breaking for its time. The players actually had separate physical features like limbs, extremities (like hands and feet) and a head. It wasn’t just all one pixel with lines drawn through it (i.e. Super Mario). The A.I. was also great for its time. The players actually ran to their spots, moved without the ball, and you could post up players. In other words it didn’t look like a pee-wee league basketball game, full of 5 year olds, just running into each other, like other prior sports games.
9. Blades of Steel (NES, Sega)
Just the name alone is great and classic 80’s (I hear a stereotypical 80’s dramatic rock ballad playing in my head just thinking about it). I’m not a hockey fan but I am a fan of white guys fighting on ice skates, and let’s admit we didn’t play this game for the great hockey simulations, it was for the fights!
8. Double Dribble (NES)
There was nothing spectacular about the graphics or the game play itself and the game had no NBA licenses (thus didn’t have the official NBA team names), however it had the best in game cut scenes of its time, before games like Super Tecmo Bowl came out. The highlight of the game was the dunk cut scenes, and in the world of 8 bit gaming, the graphics in the cut scenes was as good as it got.
7. Game Day 98 (Playstation 1)
This game introduced the next generation of NFL video games. This game was the first NFL video game (maybe even first sports video game) to use polygons as a graphics platform. When Playstation 1 launched, it was the first console to adopt the Compact Disk format rather than the ol’ cartridge, therefore the technology allowed graphical shapes (polygons, triangles) to create games rather than blobs of pixels. Other games had already done this for the PS1 however Game Day was the first NFL video game of that time to do so. It was first time another NFL video game franchise out sold the legendary Madden series. Madden was a year late, still using pixelated graphics. Then a year later Madden took a page out of Game Day’s playbook and regained NFL video game franchise dominance.
6. Tecmo Superbowl (SNES)
This game had some of the best in game cut scenes of its time. It was very satisfying to see cut scenes of animated QB throwing the ball, to the receiver catching the ball, to a celebration after scoring a touchdown. If you played well you were rewarded with these animations.
There was a combination of buttons you had to press to pick a play and when you played against a friend you had to cover your controller so they wouldn’t see the play you picked (yea, you remember trying to cheat like that). If you picked the same combination of buttons on defense as your opponent (playing offense) it was an instant sack (with a cool animation displaying this). So you had to be covert.
What also made this game great was the fact it was the first sports game I played to have a sort of “tournament” mode. A group of friends can pick a team and you can take turns playing throughout the season or playoffs together.
5. NBA Jam – (SNES)
Every gamer over 20 knows this game (the original game). There’s no need to explain why it was one of the greatest sports video game of all time, so I’m not going to waste my time. Just enjoy the nostalgia of the following video clip (including the music, very fitting).
4. Wii Sports – (Wii)
This is the game that came with the Wii when the Nintendo Wii first came out, so that means it was the first sports video game for the Wii. Wii Sports included golf, bowling, baseball, boxing, tennis, etc. Wii Sports was the first video game where you were physically involved with your body when playing the game. It was the first kinetic involved sports video game in video game history.
It wasn’t highly competitive but that’s what made it great. It was something on the lighter side of sports video games that you could play with a group of friends or your family. When the Wii came out, everyone went to a get together/party at someone’s house and guess what? Someone had a beer in one hand while throwing an invisible bowling ball at the TV with the other.
3. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (NES)
Like NBA Jam there isn’t much to explain here. What made the game great was you played the underdog and you worked your way up the circuits, training hard by running through the city with your bald headed trainer riding a bicycle in front of you (apparently to be a great boxer all you had to do is run outside while punching the air). What made this game most memorable was the crazy, odd, and/or flamboyant opponents you had to fight.
2. The Madden Series (Playstation 1,2,3, Xbox, Xbox 360)
There’s no way I can narrow the entire Madden Series down to just any one game (not possible). So I’ll just give props to the entire Madden Franchise (except for that one year they fell off the ball to Game Day in 98). When gaming console graphics improved on the Playstation 1 and then beyond it was a wrap. Madden dominated. The best graphics, best AI, best physics, best features, best controls, etc than any other NFL video game that came before and that still may try to compete against Madden today. Hours, upon hours of Madden were played.
Video game crack.
1. NBA 2K11 (PS3, Xbox 360)
I know what you are thinking. NBA 2K is like the Madden of NBA basketball games. How can you just choose one of these and not just give props to the entire franchise. Well, first there wasn’t as many NBA 2K games as Madden (though there was still several) and second this particular NBA 2K just steps up their game that much more. This was the year Michael Jordan played a significant role in the creation of the game. Up until this point in NBA video game history, Michael Jordan was never allowed to be in any of these games. The reason being, “Trademarks”. Michael Jordan and his brand were contractually obligated to be in certain games and those games only. But now those days are over and Michael Jordan was on the cover and in the game itself. You pop in the disk, hit start, and before you can do anything else it gets dark and you hear it. The legendary Chicago Bulls starting lineup instrumental and you’re immediately thrust into the middle of the 1991 NBA Finals. You can play all of Jordan greatest games including the legendary “Flu” game.
Besides the Jordan addition, it had the best in game physics in the franchise (something I believed they changed and screwed up in NBA 2K12). The graphics only got better with players looking exactly like themselves rather than just “resembling” them like in NBA 2K10 and prior. NBA 2K11 was seriously considered, in the gaming world, as the overall “Game of the Year” that year (not just the best “sports” game of the year), I don’t remember this being said about any other sports video game in video game history.