A lot can be said about sports and the culture they have created over the course of their existence. One of the biggest things I can associate sports to is video games. The NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, Boxing and many other sports have touched the lives of gamers all over the world since the days of Nintendo. Here is my ode to the top 15 sports video games of all-time.
Outside looking in: NFL Fever 2000 (Xbox), NBA In The Zone 1999 (Playstation), Jordan vs. Bird One on One (NES), Arch Rivals (NES), Base Wars (NES), Mutant League Football (Sega Genesis).
#15: NFL Street
Living off the success of it’s sister-game, NBA Street, NFL Street took the same unrealistic, backyard qualities and applied them to football. Real players, cool gear and a lot of flashy moves would make the “street” series a pretty big success during the mid-2000′s. In order to attain “street credibility”, NFL Street allowed players to dress their team in anything from jeans and work boots, to fully authentic jerseys and athletic shorts. They also had seriously sweet mini-games like “smear the queer”. Let’s face it, we all remember tossing the ball to the smallest kid on the field in hopes to ruin his day a little bit.
Probably the only really good motocross game that I’ve ever played. Excitebike is a pioneer to, not only sports game, but the entire gaming world. It brought addicting competition and a customizable track creator, which was completely new to the gaming world at that point. For such a good game to come out, with such a simple structure, yet such ground-breaking features like the track-creator in just 1985 is truly an incredible accomplishment.
#13: NFL Blitz
Although I feel the NFL Blitz series stole much of it’s successful idea from the already established Mutant League Football series, it also brought the one thing Mutant League Football never did, real teams and real players. Gamers enjoy games like Madden because it gives you the realistic gaming experience, but every now and then you just get that compulsion to tear the opposing players head off without drawing a flag. NFL Blitz brought that. I always felt it was the best when played on an arcade (yea an arcade, remember those oversized boxes with a heavy glass picture tube and joysticks?) but whichever console you chose to play Blitz on, it always delivered.
#12: Blades Of Steel
I feel like this game gets far too overshadowed by NHL 1994. Blades of Steel offered the best fighting system that I have ever played in any hockey game. That says a lot considering a guy like me only plays a hockey game because I want to bash another players head in. This game also featured pretty solid on the ice action that didn’t pertain to fighting. Way back in the days of cartridges that you had to blow into the bottom of when they acted up. Long before you ever worried about your disk getting scratched or your laser fudging up on you. Blades of Steel was another powerhouse pioneer for sporting games!
#11: NBA Jam
I can’t say enough great things about this game. From playing it on a robust arcade system in the back of a music store or jamming it for hours on my Super Nintendo. The nostalgia of this game for me is almost overwhelming. The first game that combined 2-on-2 NBA play with sky-high dunks, heat checks and incredible commentary. NBA Jam is probably the single most important basketball game of all time. Too bad it’s success never quite carried over into the next-gen systems with much success. Although it certainly paved the way for a game like NBA Street.
#10: NBA Street
This game essentially went over NBA Jam with a fine toothed comb and made it a better game. NBA Street added in the “street” aspect which completely launched this game into stardom. You’ll notice the similarities between Street and Jam almost 10 years later. Street features the high-flying jams and the intense announcers, they added the outdoor element and some nifty trick dribbling and the ankle-breaking cross-overs that were at the height of their popularity in the the early 2000′s (what ever happened to the And-1 Mix Tour?). Toss in some slick character like “Stretch” and you’ve got a hit!
#9: NHL ’94
Still considered by many as the best hockey game of all time. NHL ’94 incorporated all NHL teams and both of the All-Star teams. Part of it’s success can be attributed to it’s realistic play and ability to use real players in real games situations. All of the rules are true to the game and this game simply flowed well. NHL ’94 still boasts the best hockey experience to date. The NHL games of the newer era have failed miserably to match the joy that ’94 gave hockey fans.
#8: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11
Tiger Woods Golf has been one of the best and most exciting video games to ever represent the sporting world. Somehow golf became tons of fun. And the kicker was, you didn’t have to spend tons of time perfecting your game while being absolutely silent. Golf plus childish outbursts equals Happy Gilmore in an accurately staffed video game. I was super close to choosing Tiger 2007 because that game was my absolute favorite until last years’ release. Tiger 2011 just nailed it. It became more difficult than it’s predecessors, but still stayed true to it’s roots. 2011 featured a nice cast of real life golfers to combat against as you build your very own legend from the ground-up. I was always partial to the EA created “fake” players who littered the older Tiger games, but the future is in realism, and Tiger Woods had to “keep it real” to stay competitive with the like of Madden and NBA 2K.
#7: MLB The Show 2007
MLB The Show has taken over baseball for video game addicts. It is the Madden Football of baseball games. It continues to be a fan-favorite across the globe and it consistently beats out 2K’s version of America’s pastime. It’s hard unravel this great franchise and find the best. But many seem to believe that ’07 rules the diamond and I tend to agree.
#6: Fight Night Round 3
The best boxing game to date for the next-gen systems. The Fight Night series made strides every year. 1 was great. 2 was even better. And 3 was by far the best. EA Sports went ahead and lost me after 3. I thought FN Round 4 was awful. They concentrated too much on the aspect of finally adding Mike Tyson to the line-up and didn’t focus enough on the game. They changed too many things and really took the simplicity that once dominated the ring, and they twisted it into something that really took the casual gamers out of the picture. The 5th installment furthered this mess and Fight Night has me shaking my head.
#5: Madden 2005
This was probably the toughest part of this entire list. Trying to pick a legitimate winner from the 18 dozen Madden games out there was tough. I had my work cut out for me, especially considering how alike most of these games are. I actually had to break out the old Playstation 2 and rediscover some quick differences. To me, it really boiled down to how simple and smooth 2005 was. It’s almost actually like EA Sports released a rough copy. Because in many ways, Madden 2005 is very unpolished, but that is what makes it work. You don’t over-think the game and it’s easy to grasp the concept of, without it being too simple. Playing on All-Madden is always a challenge. Add bad Ray Lewis to the cover and we have a gold hit!
#4: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Not your typical sports game, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was insanely addictive and super popular. This game would find it’s way onto my favorites of all-time. I can’t quite be certain how many hours I spent busting tricks on the original Tony Hawk, but one thing I am sure of is that it was well worth it. The game launched extreme sports games onto the gaming scene like no other game before it could. It was the first of many Tony Hawk games that would become one of the biggest video game franchises out there.
#3: Tecmo Super Bowl
Can you believe Tecmo Super Bowl is 20 years old? I was just playing this around Thanksgiving last year on my PC. It still delivers. I used the San Fransisco 49ers and the Montana-to-Rice feature is absolutely unstoppable. This game provided guys my age with countless hours of entertainment as kids and will forever remain the mecca of all football games!
#2: NBA 2K11
By far, hands down, the best basketball game for any system, ever! NBA 2K11 is a monster. NBA 2K12 is actually a hell of a game too, but I’m going to credit NBA 2K11 because it was more complete, due to the lock-out and 2K12 not having a rookie class. Also, the Jordan mode for 2K11 beats the legends mode for 2K12. This game should be a wake-up call to the video game world that maybe the NFL made a poor decision in handing their exclusive rights over to EA sports rather than 2K Sports. The team over at 2K apparently makes the better games. Madden is struggling pretty badly as a franchise, while 2K is breaking into the most success it’s ever had.
#1: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out
007-373-5963… For any viewers who still own an NES. That is the password to get directly to Mike Tyson. This game was awesome. I’ve never had so much fun playing any game. The competition was stout, the controls were simple, and the characters were on the money. Plus what better way to end a video game then going toe-to-toe with Iron Mike? I can’t think of one. This game takes the cake when it comes to sports, and possible anything.