01st Jan2018

Sports that have crossed over into games

by James Smith


From the very first Atari game of Pong that attempted to recreate an arcade version of table tennis, to Nintendo’s Wii Sports whose efforts to get us up off the sofa were a good thing, video games based on sports have always been popular. As console technology developed better graphics and more complex gameplay the sports genre has produced some classic games. But what is it about sports games that have us so hooked?

For some, it’s merely a love of the sport itself. Not content with a full sports schedule on TV, the playability offered by internet access allows gamers to interact with other players for some exciting competition. It’s the same drive with fantasy football leagues; the excitement of playing the game is enhanced when you have a greater interest in the outcome. So, which sports have made it big as video games?

General sports games

There is an abundance of games we could include here from those that link in with sporting events, like Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, to those with official links to clubs, teams and sports.
However, one of the most successful and universal of games to hit the markets over the last few decades has undoubtedly been Wii Sports. This truly interactive game was sold as part of a bundle to promote the revolutionary console, the Nintendo Wii. The game included baseball, golf, bowling, tennis and boxing, which all worked by the player mimicking the actions of the sport using the Wii remote. Love it or hate it, the game was immensely popular, and almost 90 million copies have been sold worldwide making it one of the best-selling video games of all time. Its appeal was widespread not only because of its novelty at the time but also because it transcended typical console playing demographics. Old or young, male or female, Wii Sports offered a new take for family and social gatherings.


For lovers of the beautiful game, consoles have been inundated with titles with none gaining such critical acclaim and commercial success as the official FIFA series. Available across multiple platforms – including Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation and PC – the FIFA series was launched in 1993 by the already successful developer, EA Sports. Offered in 18 languages and sold in more than 50 countries, the series is the best-selling sports game franchise in the world. In 2010, the total number of copies sold exceeded 100 million and, with FIFA 2012 selling more than 3.6 million copies in the first week of release, it was the fastest selling sports game ever. One of the advances in technology that has helped boost its success is the ability for players to compete online with other players. In this way, the franchise combines the experience of exceptional gameplay with real competition.
Football also attracts those that like to have a bet on their favourite team in the real world. Several sites provide odds online with up to date information on individual players and the form of teams. One of the most notable is the informative Stakers.com.


A top-selling sub-genre of the sports game, motorsports underpins some big-name titles. While Forza Motorsport have dominated the market, we must pay homage to the equally as enjoyable, but perhaps less realistic game, Mario Kart. The enjoyment of games like those is in the frenetic pace at which they are played as well as the hyper-realism offered by developments in accessories. You can buy steering wheels and a set of pedals to lift the gaming experience to a new level.


No name is as synonymous with a sport as Tiger Woods and the game of golf, so it was perhaps inevitable that one of the best golfing games created is the Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Replaced by Rory McIlroy in 2015, there are now 16 titles in the series. At the time of the first release (1999), golf was a popular desktop game with Microsoft Golf and Links being prominent. However, EA Sports’ development of the gameplay produced the now familiar three-click swing format. This offered greater control and accuracy over shots and was so popular it has now become the standard for similar games. Enjoyed by golfers who got to play their perfect games on some of the world’s best golf courses, Tiger Woods PGA Tour set the bar for the golf simulation games that were to follow.


Even if you’ve never watched the pro-sport of skateboarding, you will be familiar with the name, Tony Hawks. Known as the ‘Birdman’, Hawks has spawned 19 titles of his eponymous Pro-Skate game. The series was launched in 1999 with the last licensed game being released by Activision in 2015. The initial five games were a huge success for the company and were among the best games for both the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 for several years.

Of course, everyone has their favourite sports crossover game and whether you enjoy American Football, baseball, basketball, wrestling or even Aussie Rules Football, there is a console game simulating the play. For many of us, it is as close as we are ever likely to get to donning a kit and getting involved but at least the only injury we are likely to sustain is RSI.

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