All this weekend I was stewing over which sports video games could be considered the “best ever created” after hearing Toucher & Rich talk about eSports on Friday morning, so this is what I came up.
Friday morning on Toucher & Rich, with Hardy in for Fred, the conversation about eSports and gaming emerged into the forefront of the show after Rich brought up a local Street Fighter Tournament he considered attending.
Throughout the eSports conversation, games that fall under the “sports” and “first-person” genre kept coming up.
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Rich is a big fan of “Bases Loaded” on the NES console. Hardy likes to do some rippin’ while playing his favorite, “Teken 2.” Yes, Teken isn’t a sports game but whatever, it’s still first-person. And for Wallach, he likes to bash dudes’ faces in “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.”
This all leads to the ultimate question: what are some of the “best” sports video games ever created?
It’s one of the hardest questions to ask a gamer because are we talking game play, graphics or what? But for this article, the focus will be solely based on a general perspective.
So lets start with sports. The evolution of sports games has been something special to watch, from the growth and dominance of the “Madden” series to the evolution of the NBA2K series. Each year the games get better, the consoles get faster, and gamers become more infatuated with each game.
These games are in no specific order, but each have made an impact in the gaming world is some way or another. So grab a controller and lets get this gaming party started!
Tony Hawk Pro Skater (1999 — N64): This game brought skate boarding to life as gamers got to shred halfpipes and skate parks with some of the best skaters to ever compete. Hence the name in the title, “Tony Hawk.”
NHL 95′ (1994/1995 – Sega): In case you forgot, the easiest way to score a goal in this game was the wrap-around, but odds are you already knew that. This edition of “NHL” started the upwards trend for the hockey series and helped to shape it into what it is today. It’s one of the fastest paced games around, with all the bells and whistles you can think of as a hockey fan.
NBA Jam (1993 – Sega): BOOM SHAKA LAKA!…He’s heating up!…He’s on fire! These three lines came from one of the coolest and maybe one of the greatest basketball games every created. Players soar through the air like Jon Wallach before slamming down a monster dunk that shatters the backboard. And imagine if nets really caught on fire during a game if a player nailed three-straight buckets. Now that’d be cool!
NBA 2K (2000 – present — Dreamcast (original), Playstation, XBox): The evolution of the NBA 2K series has catapulted the game to the top of basketball gaming, knocking off the once prevalent “NBA Live” series.
FIFA 96′ (1993 – present — Sega, plus every console to date): FIFA has turned into on the best soccer series out there. But the 1996 edition really helped to pave the way for soccer gaming.
Tecmo Bowl (1987 – NES): This game introduced football to a wide range of gamers and it eventually paved the way for the Madden series.
John Madden Football (1988 – Present — Just name the console): In 1996, “Create A Player” was born. In the early 2000’s gameplay became far more advanced. And nowadays, it’s like you’re sitting in Gillette Stadium controlling Tom Brady from his private suite. The Madden Football series has gone onto to become the biggest sports video game series ever created. When people say they’re going to play a football video game, they all refer to it as “playing Madden.” Madden is synonymous like Kleenex, Xerox or Bounty. It’s just one of those brands. Heck there are even Madden tournaments held all over the world and ‘Madden Gras’ in New Orleans has become a huge thing, kicking off the release of the latest version of the game. The big tournament is even televised and can be seem on Facebook Live. Like, what?!
Blitz 2000 (2000 – N64): Imagine if football was really played like it was in the ‘Blitz’ series. Players would be getting hurt every other play and most of them would be monster huge. This one has to be the best arcade football game ever released.
Mike Tyson Punch Out (1987 – NES): Mike Tyson is one of the biggest names to come out of the boxing scene, so why not create a game with his name on it? But regardless, out of all the boxing games to come out, this one still remains at the top of some people’s lists.
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Fight Night (1998 – 2011, previously known as “Knockout Kings” — Playstation 2: Round 2): “Fight Night: Round 2,” set the bar for boxing games moving forward. The utilization of the joy sticks changed the fighting experience for good.
Golden Tee (1989 – present): You can play 18-holes of Golden Tee at home with a console or you can head down to your local arcade, barber or pizza shop or you can find it near the bar at ‘Disney’s Old Key West Resort.’ (I’m speaking from experience.) Either way, there’s nothing like stroking a giant white ball as you smash bombs down the fairway. But don’t expect putting to be any easier, cause it’s still wicked annoying.
Tiger Woods (2000 – Present — Playstation 2: 2004): “Tiger Shot, Shot, Shot, Shot.” One of the greatest golfers to ever hit the links found his name on the greatest golf games ever made. During the mid-2000’s, the game incorporated both joysticks, made reading the greens a priority when putting and they gave users the chance to create their own golfers to compete on the tour. I’d love to play TPC Boston (Norton) but this game is the only one that will give me a tee-time at our local PGA Tour course.
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (1994 – SNES): There was nothing like smashing bombs with the only “real” player in the game, Ken Griffey Jr. And when I say bombs, I mean like Storrow Drive type bombs.
Note: “The Boston Red Sox contained members from the show “Cheers,” like Cliff Claven (Scott Bankhead), Norm Peterson (Greg Harris), and Sam Malone (Jeff Russell) are all present. Also included are Boston landmarks B. Common (Luis Rivera), M. Harvard (Tony Peña) and figures from early American history J. Adams (Billy Hatcher), J. Hancock (Rob Deer), A. Hamilton (Scott Fletcher). S.Heat stands in for flamethrower (Roger Clemens).”
MVP 2005 (Playstation 2): Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox was on the cover of this one. This was the first baseball game that made you have to cock back and follow through with the joystick when taking hacks at the plate. It took timing to a whole new level. A “throwing meter” became a nice feature in the game when players were making a throw on the field. If you didn’t stop the meter in the right spot, you were doomed for an throwing error.
MVP 2006: NCAA Baseball (Playstation 2): This game had all the same features of MVP 05′, but instead you played as NCAA baseball teams, who just so happen to use aluminum bats. Anyone who’s ever played this game remembers the “PING!” sound of the ball coming off the bat. Simply awesome.
MLB: The Show (2006 – Present — Playstation 3): Baseball games have come and gone, but it’s ‘The Show’ that’s here to stay. Some could argue that this is the greatest baseball game series ever made. Either way, the graphics and gameplay of this game are unbelievable. Definitely a must have for any baseball fan who owns a Playstation console.
Mario Kart 64 (1996 – N64): It didn’t long for people to figure out how much fun it was to rip around a go-kart track as Mario or one of the many characters to come out of the Mario gaming series. You could shoot shells at your competitors or drop bananas around the track to make them slip up. It quickly became the ultimate party game because four people could play at once and everyone could compete with a certain level of ease. *Note: Super Mario Kart on the SNES was one helluva game too.
WWF War Zone (1998 – N64) or WWF No Mercy (2000 – N64): The WWE franchise has coming a long way since their first release in 1989 with ‘WWF WrestleMania.’ Since then the games are becoming more in tune with how the show operates, even letting you set the agenda of the program. The wrestlers look as real as ever and there are so many finisher options, there’s no way you can pick just one for your created wrestlers. But these two games from 98′ and 00′ raised the bar for wrestling games across all consoles. Entrances became a spectacle, wrestlers gained a new level of realness and the match options became nearly endless.
Honorable Mention Racing Games: Cruis’n USA (1994), Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002) and Need For Speed: Underground 1 and 2 (2003, 2004), Excitebike (1984) and OutRun (1986).
There’s certainly a few missing on this list but there’s one thing that can’t be argued, at least one of these games have made an impact on gaming life.
UPDATE: NCAA Football (1993 – Present — Just name the console): I can’t believe I forgot this game! How many games can you scout, recruit, and build up your favorite college football program and then play as them? It’s like you’re the real life Nick Saban. The gameplay has vastly improved over the years and running the option is one of the coolest things you can do in a sports game. I’m still mad at myself for leaving this one off because I used to play the one with Tim Tebow (2011) for hours on end in my dorm room.
— By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com