30th Nov2020

The 15 Greatest Sports Video Games of All Time

by James Smith

If you’re a sports fan as well as a gaming nerd, you don’t have to settle for watching the big games live or taking part in local leagues. The best sports video games give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your favourite league or tournament, practice your real-life skills and use your wits to create winning strategies.

Sports titles have been among the best video games of the last few decades, so it’s not surprising that so many people love playing them. With outstanding graphics and intuitive controllers, playing sports online or on a console can be as good as the real thing. What’s more – the rise of 3D gaming brings sports to life in a whole new way and lets you play like you’re a pro.

Whether you’re an experienced gamer or you’ve just unwrapped your first console, you won’t want to miss out on the best sports titles. To ensure you’ve got the right games lined up, take a look at the 15 greatest sports video games of all time:

1. NCAA Football 2004

NCAA Football 2004 brought college football closer than ever before and incorporated aspects of the game that no other title had yet to achieve. From the elaborate ceremonies to the subsequent penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, NCAA Football 2004 made you feel like you were really taking part in a match, which might be why it continues to be so popular to this day.

2. Wii Sports

It might seem like a lifetime ago, but Wii Sports was only launched in 2006 when it revolutionized the world of sports gaming. For the first time, players could imitate to their heroes in order to wrack up points, win games and secure medals. Featuring five iconic games; bowling, tennis, golf, baseball and boxing, it gave users a glimpse of what virtual reality gaming was going to be all about.

3. F1 2010

If you’ve always dreamed of speeding along the track at 200mph, F1 2010 might be the closest thing to becoming a pro driver. Known for its accurate replication of world-class tracks, breath-taking graphics and impressive audio, F1 2010 remains a firm favourite amongst sports fans and gamers alike. The developers prioritized attention to detail in this release and it certainly paid off. From the moment you begin racing, you’ll lose yourself in the speed and feel like you’re really moving towards the last lap.

4. Triple Play 2002

For baseball fans, Triple Play 2002 marked the dawn of a new era for baseball games. Great graphics, an accurate draft and seamless control to baseball games a step further than they’d ever been and allowed players to really experience the joy of the game. While the lack of exhaustion and injuries does make Triple Play 2002 a little unrealistic, the ability to play for hours as your favourite baseball star outshone any pesky comparisons to real-life gameplay.

5. Football Manager 2019

An extra special title for soccer fans, Football Manager 2019 built on its previous success to achieve even greater heights in 2019. The football management simulation game allows you to take control of a club and see if your predictions come true. Reckon you’ve got what it takes to lead your team to the top of the board? Take a turn at Football Manager 2019 and you’ll soon find out just how talented you are.

6. WWF: No Mercy

Travelling through another dimension, purchasing customs and collecting weapons may seem par for the course in newer titles, but these features were ground-breaking when WWF: No Mercy first hit the shelves. Giving you the chance to act as a guest referee or step into the ring as a contender, WWF: No Mercy always has something new to offer and is well worth revisiting, if you still have your N64 lurking at the back of a cupboard.

7. Mario Tennis 64

Mario Tennis 64 was never exactly designed to be the most realistic sports title of all time but that doesn’t detract from the fun it offers. Players are required to hone their talents to achieve spectacular shots with perfect timing and innovative button combinations. The memorable animations are in-keeping with the classic Nintendo graphics we all know and love, while the challenging concept will always keep you coming back for more.

8. NBA Jam

Another title that strayed from reality was NBA Jam. Arguably the first title to capitalize on an exaggerated version of sports, NBA Jam encouraged players to be as over the top as they liked. With humorous commentary, mindboggling jumps and hoops of fire, NBA Jam contained just enough of the real stuff to retain its position as a serious sports title. However, the amplified gameplay transforms this title into a must-play sports video game for fans and non-fans alike.

9. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Even if you’d never owned a skateboard in your life, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a must-play title back in 1999. First released on the PlayStation, it was quickly made available on the Dreamcast Colour, Nintendo N64, Game Boy Colour and N-Gage. With multiple game play modes, you could undertake challenges, skate at free will or play against your friends. No matter which mode was your favourite, mastering the tricks and learning the lingo was always the best part of the game.

10. FIFA 15

With so many versions of FIFA out there, it’s hard to pick a favourite. However, it was FIFA 15 that really revolutionized gameplay. Every English Premier League stadium was available, which enabled players to walk the hallowed grounds of their team’s home site. With enhanced emotions and reactions from both players and fans alike, FIFA 15 made sports gaming unbelievably realistic.

11. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 was undoubtedly a success, but it was the introduction of Game Face that nudged the 2004 version into the top spot. The option to create your own characters added an extra dimension to the game and gave players more control of their gameplay experience. With five pro golfers added to the mix, along with seven additional courses, Tiger Wood PGA Tour 2004 was packed with features and exceptional graphics. Of course, the challenge to secure sponsorships and outperform Tiger Woods himself was always the hook that kept you playing.

12. Bases Loaded 4

For a shot of nostalgia, take a look back at Bases Loaded 4 and remember just how much time you spent trying to perfect your pitch. The addition of a smaller map made it easier to move your teammates to where they needed to be, although the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired by today’s standards. While the 8-bit graphics can’t compete with today’s virtual reality titles, there’s no denying how popular Bases Loaded 4 was back in its day.

13. Madden NFL 2005

The NFL franchise has produced so many top titles that it can be hard to determine which one deserves to be on the list of the greatest sports video games titles. However, the appeal of Madden NFL 2005 to both novice players and diehard NFL fans ensures this release is one to be remembered. If you want to build your own team, you’ll find every player from the NFL in 2005 is available, while the tournament mode makes multiplayer gaming a little more competitive. Combining set plays with complete freedom of movement, Madden NFL 2005 breathed new life into a long-running concept and cemented its position as one of the best sports titles of all time.

14. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade

A fast-paced game that incorporates up-tempo beats to help you get your game face on, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade was fun to play when it first came out and remains just as exciting today. Multiplayer online and offline games ensured you could challenge your friends at every opportunity, while power-ups were the ultimate way to gain an advantage. Although the lack of penalties and the unlimited checking arguably reduced the realism, it certainly added to the fun!

15. Need for Speed: Most Wanted

When you want to combine racing and evading the police, you might be tempted to reach straight for Grand Theft Auto. However, Need for Speed: Most Wanted combines sprint, circuit and ambush races to offer something a little different. With a similar gameplay style to earlier versions, the concept is relatively simple: select your car and compete to beat other drivers. However, the varying races and the addition of police chases and new locations pushes Need for Speed: Most Wanted to the next level.

Revisit the Best Sports Video Games of All Time

If you’re lucky, you’ll still have your old consoles and games stashed away somewhere, if you aren’t already using them. Dust them off and treat yourself to some uninterrupted gameplay to take yourself back to these classic titles. Alternatively, look out for re-releases of classic games on new platforms if you want to relive the greatest sports video game titles ever made.
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