Our ranking of the most beautiful sports simulations ever brought to the screen. Yes, there are also Pes and Fifa but not where you would expect them …
Welcome to this sacred territory, the virtual hall of fame where only the 10 absolutely best specimens are admitted sports video games. Now, “Sport” is a broad term in gaming. Competitive Starcraft is competitive to hellish levels, and the rosters of certain Nintendo karting titles and some skate games that have defined an era would strongly deserve to be included on this list. But we have been inflexible.
The best sports video games –
You can keep your blue shells, Mario Kart. And it’s a real shame, Tony Hawk’s 2, but it’s time to move on. Here all that matters are the numbers, face scans, animations and kits accurate to the millimeter. Sports games are all about motors that simulate and mimic real life and, more than anything else, they have to make the user feel like they are really doing sports at a high level. Below are the games that people are still talking about even though their polygons may have gone limp and their licenses may have expired, because they have made leaps forward towards perfect simulation and immersion in the things everyone screams at on TV. They are titles to which everyone has dedicated themselves body and soul, and which have rewarded players abundantly for doing so. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the GOATs of sports video games.
10. NHL 2002 (PS2 | Xbox | PC, 2001) —
There will be several long-standing sports franchises in this ranking starting with that deep rumor it says “it’s in the game”, and the first of these is NHL 2002. There are many, many reasons behind this choice. First off, NHL 2002 depicts a hockey season that included a roster full of future hall of famers. The surreal commentary of Jim Hughson and Don Tayler is still in the ears of fans and is remembered with great affection by all who have played with it, as are the collectibles of celebrations and modifiers to be unlocked through a sticker album that looked like an Ultimate Team prototype. But, above all, NHL 2002 proposed his action perfectly, placing himself alongside the cartoonish violence of NHL 94 without losing contact with the fundamentals of sport. In short, the slaps gave the impression that they could break a tectonic plate, but the movements of the players and the speed of the game were still convincing.
9. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (PS2 |Xbox | PC, 2003) —
There is a good chance the Outkast song is still playing in your head after reading that title, and this is a good demonstration of how deeply Tiger Woods 04 has impressed you. Using a precarious alchemy constituted by the popularity of Tiger Woods in the 90s, an R&B infused soundtrack and simple but subtle controls, for a moment yes, golf was cool. Sure, you had all the popular courts to walk around in Nike pants and sweaters, and a number of clubs to unlock and customize worthy of an entire mall. But the games of golf had already given all this in previous years. What he elevated this golf game was a rich component swag, a deep and engaging career mode, and a character editor that seemed to draw heavily on the Tony Hawk franchise. Also, well, we liked the way the players moved …
8. Track & Field (Atari 2600 | Arcade, 1983) —
Although the heart of the genre is to capture the glamorous aspects and the passion of worlds built around sport, in the video games that belong to the genre it is also important how the physical disciplines are replicated. And arcade legend Track & Field had an irresistible way of capturing the discipline of athletics in 1983: repeatedly pressing a handful of buttons until exhaustion. How quickly can you hammer on the buttons of your Atari 2600 controller? What if you use the tea towel trick, is it cheating? They may seem like reflections made with tears in their eyes, but it is no exaggeration to say that in the early 1980s these were the most talked about topics on the global agenda. Yes, it has been made slightly primitive by the last 37 years of innovation, but Track & Field started walking for FIFA to run. So that Mario Party could have his own parties. So that QWOP (the key combination that the player controlling the athlete in the game of the same name must press) could do… whatever the QWOP guy does.
7. Madden NFL 2005 (PS2 | Xbox | PC | GameCube, 2004) —
EA Tiburon really hit the spot in the early 90’s with sports video games. It took him longer to grasp the beauty of throwing, running, catching and rolling than it did for his NHL and FIFA cousins to capture the essence of their sports but, when he did, throw and catch a Hail. Mary it was like hearing the Beatles for the first time. Some say Madden NFL 2003 was the best of this era, but in Madden NFL 2005 the controls were a little lighter, the steps were easier to understand, the opportunities to break the lines were a little more exhilarating.
6. Wii Sports (Wii, 2006) —
Wii Sports, as you all remember, was catnip for parents. There you are, at a friend’s house, taking a look at their new Wii. Their mom would come into the room to say hello and, “Oh! What is this? And do you play just waving that thing? ”. And suddenly you ended up in a boxing match with your best friend’s mother, defending yourself from a shower of uppercuts and wondering if she had tied the Wii Remote lanyard as instructed. This was the reach of Nintendo’s transcendental genius when it radically changed its controller. Like Track & Field before him, Wii Sports found a new way to recreate boxing, bowling, golf, tennis and baseball, which resulted so fun that even non-gamers where you go try it out.
5. MLB 11: The Show (PS2 | PS3, 2011) —
MLB 11: The Show is almost unparalleled. Subtleties like throwing and baseline run have been made intuitive here, and hitting the ball with the baseball bat feels good. like swimming with dolphins. All of this has been true in MLB: The Show almost always from the beginning to the last chapter. But it was in the early 2010s that Sony’s San Diego Studio really found the right formula. Road to the Show, now in its fifth iteration, brought the irresistible richness of RPGs closer to sports games, and in 2011 MLB was, albeit very little, ahead of NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode from this point of view. The Pure Analog control system is still used today, albeit in a tremendously evolved form, and would you believe they even managed to make motion controllers fun?
4. FIFA 12 (PS3 | Xbox 360 | PC, 2011) —
Controller destroyer. Inspiration for many soliloquies at the microphone. Accused of making up bullshit roughly once every 3.4 seconds. Yet you play it every year, don’t you? It would have been easier to take the easy way out with FIFA 97. FIFA 2003 even touched the top step of the podium. But the point about FIFA 12 (released ten years before FIFA 22, feel old yet?) is this: it’s the game that provided the foundation that EA is still refining today. Ultimate Team has never entertained us for as many hours as in FIFA 12 because in 2011 we still weren’t tired of it. We had not yet seen repeatedly people in their gaming chairs screaming for having found a Messi in shape. It was a novelty even to see someone cheer over the dead fish.
3. NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (Genesis | SNES, 1994) —
Modern sports video games tend to maximize the expressions of effort they simulate, but in 1994 NBA Jam: Tournament Edition went in a different direction. This arcade-like title asked itself a simple question: What do players really want to do when they load a basketball game cartridge? (It was the 90s. Cartridges. Grunge. Heather Locklear). The answer, of course, was “Running from one side of the field to the other by being crushed in the face by 25 feet”. He simply knew what was not going to be needed – anything but what has been mentioned so far – and how to exaggerate what was left. The moment you saw it, you immediately knew what to do but, many moons later, you were still trying to decide on the perfect match and find a glimmer of refinement in all that chaos.
2. Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (PS2 | Xbox 360 | PC, 2006) —
We had to put an NBA Jam-bearing between PES and FIFA to avoid Keane vs Vieira-like behavior in the locker room tunnel, so huge is the rivalry between these two great and long-lived soccer simulation titans. PES (or eFootball, as it’s known now) has always tasted slightly different. He winked at lightning-fast arcade games, and with the other he twisted the best game in the world so that it would continue to have its drama and replicate the weight of the consequences of each gesture in a 10-minute game instead of 90. PES 6 represents the pinnacle of that arcade-oriented vision. The players move as if they were chasing each other on an episode of the Benny Hill Show, and try to play with teams like Pompey or Middlebrook and say that realism matters more than adrenaline, when you have reached the 85th minute.
1. NBA 2K17 (PS4 | Xbox One | PC, 2016) —
Of all the celebrated and immortalized sports video games on this list, NBA 2K may be the most impressive, overall. Over the past decade, Visual Concepts has built something like a live basketball ecosystem, a vibrant world in which a character with your face scanned makes an incredible rise from college sport’s obscurity to true movie-like fame. Amiably mushy TV. NBA 2K17, also known as “NBA 2K16 but without that Spike Lee story”, represents the pinnacle of that vision. It was the high point, before they started getting paid in VC for a haircut. Mechanics were finished to the luster of Italian marble, player builds were balanced but not restrictive, Michael B Jordan was alone a bit’ annoying as an unlikely dominant character and the other half of Orange Juice in MyCareer. Subsequent titles offered an extension of online gaming, but the fundamentals were never surpassed. And basketball is a game of fundamentals.
Written by Phil Iwaniuk for GLHF
We would like to thank the author of this article for this amazing material
The 10 best sports video games of all time – eSports & Gaming