The Best Sports Video Games Of All-Time
For athletes and fans who eat, sleep, and breathe sports, there may be nothing better than getting the opportunity to manage your favorite team, and get inside the head of players you love to cheer for, which is exactly what the best sports video games allow us to do. Our sports heroes may be on the screen, but when we have the controller in our hands we’re the ones making the decisions and playing the game. We’re able to actually get in the game and compete, even if we may not have the athletic ability to become a professional athlete ourselves. And that’s exactly what makes playing sports video games so much fun.
While the gaming industry continues to grow and evolve each and every year, pushing the limits of what’s possible, sometimes it’s fun to take a look back at how we have gotten to where we’re at are now. So, here’s a look at the best sports video games of all-time. If you disagree with our picks, make sure to sound off in the comments and let us know why.
Tecmo Super Bowl
Released in 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl was the first football game with licensing privileges that allowed the use of real names and attributes of NFL teams and players. But what made this game so special was the strategy of offensive and defensive formations and playing calling, and the ease in which users could run different football plays. This game was just flat out fun to play, which is why it’s so legendary. Simply put, the football video game industry wouldn’t be what it is without this game.
Developed and released in 1993 by Midway, NBA Jam was one of the first sports games to feature NBA-licensed teams and players. This two-on-two arcade-style basketball game was an instant fan favorite, allowing users to pick their two favorite NBA players and have them go head-to-head with two other NBA players. After a player hit three shots in a row, the announcer would declare, “He’s on fire!” and then the game would get really fun. The basketball would start smoking and glowing when the player who was “on fire” touched it. The net would also start burning after the player who was on fire hit another shot. And the dunks were legendary. “Boom-shaka-laka!”
NHL ’94 included both NHL team and player names for the first time as the result of joint backing by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association. That’s only one of the reasons why this game is considered not just one of the best sports games of all-time, but just one of the best games. Period.
The game introduced groundbreaking features like the ability to shoot one timers, save your records, and an overall revamp of the controls, which made the gameplay fairly simple and easy for anyone to learn. NHL ’94 also got the Hollywood treatment making an appearance in the movie Swingers.
Mario Kart 64
If there ever was a game that could bring people together and then turn them against one another it’s Mario Kart 64. When this kart racing game got going, all bets were off. User used all the tools in their arsenal, or well special boxes that were placed in different areas of the track, such as shells and bananas to attack opposing players and slow them down. And when you needed a speed boost, there was nothing better than getting a mushroom and leaving your competition in the dust behind you.
Mario Kart 64 was first released in Japan in December 1996 and then released in the United States in February 1997. The game has 16 race courses and four battle courses, and was the first game in the Mario Kart series that supports slipstreaming. It also has universal appeal thanks to how quickly anyone could figure out how to play it.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 built off of the first game and took things to the next level through a combination of updated trick sets, better graphics and gameplay, and cool new features like Create-a-Skater and the Park Editor. And the soundtrack was epic.
THPS2 is often referred to as the best of an all-time series that shifted skate culture. Life for so many kids playing this game was all about finding S-K-A-T-E letters in each level and getting high scores.
MVP Baseball 2005
“Owner Mode” in MVP Baseball 2005 gave baseball fans something that all of us want – complete control of a Major League Baseball franchise. This game allowed us to really make our organization our own, and we could even go as far changing the color of the new stadium’s outfield walls if we wanted to, or tinker with our farm system.
This game also introduced the meter pitching system and the zone hitting option. And who could forget the incredibly addicting and fun batting mini game in which you’d try to hit in the direction that the computer told you to with help from ramps.
ESPN NFL 2K5
ESPN NFL 2K5 is undoubtedly one of the greatest sports video games of all-time for a number of reasons. The game featured a franchise mode in which Chris Berman outlined the games of the week thanks to an official licensing deal that 2K Sports had with ESPN, it had a celebrity game that was initiated when a celebrity like Carmen Electra, Steve-O, or Jamie Kennedy made a phone call from the player’s custom crib, and the players’ face scans were pretty accurate and advanced for its time. It also cost $19.99 when it was released, which was $30 less than what Electronic Arts (EA) Sports was charging for Madden NFL 2005 before EA Sports ultimately reduced the price of Madden NFL 2005 to $29.95.
This was the last NFL 2K game that was released before EA Sports signed an exclusive rights agreement with the NFL, which made the Madden NFL series the only officially licensed NFL game. The good news for NFL 2K fans is that 2K will be making NFL games again and a new one is expected to come out in 2021.