Sports games are some of the most popular video games one can play, many of which still have us coming back even after all these years. Today, I’m gonna count down my top 10 sports video games.
#10: SMACKDOWN VS. RAW 2006
Is this really a sports game? Well, I’m counting it as one. Hey, wrestling requires a hell of a lot of athleticism! Anyway, this game is the best wrestling game I’ve ever played. It features a control scheme that’s really easy to get used to, a huge roster of wrestlers, all the major pay-per-views, and a bunch of different game modes. The PSP version gets a bonus for the addition of stupid minigames, including Texas Hold ‘Em and…um…being an airplane as Eugene. Yeah….
#9: NBA LIVE 2002
Talk about a throwback: this game has Steve Francis on the cover in that classic Rockets jersey! This game had really simplistic gameplay, charming graphics that still hold up fine, a nice jazzy soundtrack, and hilarious in-game ambiance that sucked you into the gameplay. PRO TIP: Be the Kings, give it to Chris Webber, and dunk every time. You cannot lose.
#8: MARIO SUPERSTAR BASEBALL
Released for the Gamecube in 2005, this game is a load of fun. Baseball is my favorite sport, and Mario is my favorite game series, so putting the two together results in quite a dandy. All your favorite Mario characters are here, and they all have unique stats that you can take advantage of to build the ultimate team. The game also has very nice graphics that are bursting with beautiful colors. PRO TIP: Put Petey Piranha in the cleanup spot – he’ll hit a bomb every time.
#7: ATV OFFROAD FURY 4
This game is just fun to mess around in. Being able to ride a variety of vehicles (dirtbike always being my favorite), racing in several picturesque natural locations, and upgrading your vehicle were all so satisfying. The controls are perfect for this type of game: the steering feels natural, and it’s not inconvenient to try to pull off tricks – backflips are extra satisfying to land. Also the physics are great, especially when your character crashes and ragdolls, resulting in many hilarious moments (just try going off a ramp and crashing into the top of a sign). A super fun time waster.
#6: TONY HAWK’S UNDERGROUND
Man, I’ve played through this game’s story mode so many times. Fun fact: while my family and I were on vacation, my brother got so annoyed with me playing this game that he took the disc and threw it out the window. I wonder if some Gila monsters got some fun out of it in the Painted Desert. Anyway, I eventually got it for Gamecube, and all good was restored in the world. Being able to customize your skater’s appearance, board, and moveset all made the game so much fun to revisit, and the story mode, while a bit silly, is still a lot of fun to play through. Missions are varied and fun to do, and trying to break your high score never gets old. Manualing is a bit OP, though.
#5: NHL HITZ 2002
Chase has already gone in depth about this game, so check out his review here if you haven’t! This game is just a blast, especially the multiplayer. That traditional Midway sports edge is front and center here, and the controls are simplistic enough so that anyone can just pick up the controller and play. That’s not to say there isn’t a little strategy involved, because there definitely is. Also, being able to create your own team, complete with individual players, unique jerseys and logos, and buildable stats makes this game a must-play.
#4: MLB THE SHOW (ALL OF THEM):
Yeah, I couldn’t pick just one. In terms of being a pure adaptation of the sport, San Diego Studios has probably made the most “accurate” sports game ever. The graphics are amazing, and the game immerses you unlike any other sports game. The multiplayer is like flipping a coin, though, since most players are roughly on the same level. So who knows if you’ll be able to win. All in all, these games are…well…just baseball. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you have a really fun career mode.
#3: Madden 07:
The Mid-American Culture crew has gotten a lot of mileage out of this one over the years, and it’s certainly the best NFL game to ever be put on disc or cartridge. The graphics are nice, even after 11 years, the soundtrack is super nostalgic, and there are a bunch of teams in addition to the standard 32. All-teams, classic teams, and even NFL Europe and created teams are at your disposal. The career mode is one of the best ever, but the real unsung hero of Madden 07 is the tournament mode. Creating tournaments and simulating through them is a whole lot more fun than it sounds, and it results in more fun than almost any game ever made.
#2: NBA STREET VOL. 2:
Hell. Yes. This game has over the top gameplay, a killer soundtrack featuring some classic hip-hop tunes, a ton of unlockable characters and teams, and the best announcer in gaming history, Bobbito. The street legends are some of the most nostalgic characters in gaming for me: the dunking gods Stretch and Bonafide, Biggie Littles with his ferocious handles, Whitewater’s impeccable shot, and Dime’s cherry-picking prowess. Unlocking these characters and recruiting them to your team in the story mode was so much fun, and customizing your baller’s gear, stats, and tricks was great. The tricks in this game were ace to pull off, and nothing’s more satisfying than executing a Gamebreaker 2 to clinch the victory.
#1: NCAA FOOTBALL 2004:
I put sooooo many hours into this game, and I still play it occasionally to be honest. I really can’t explain why this is my number 1 other than the fact that I played it so much, but I’ll try to justify my pick. The create-a-team mode in NCAA 2004 is the best in gaming history, and creating a bunch of teams and putting them in the same conference to fight it out throughout the season was addicting. Even though there were limited jersey options, it was always fun to mess around with the templates and colors to try to create something unique. The gameplay was astonishingly fun – even if the difficulty range is a bit dumb. I mean seriously, you could score 100 points one game and 10 the next, even if the stats weren’t that different between the two teams. Also, you could create players and put them on your team. When I was a lad, I created all the teams from the OVC (the high school one, not college) and put them in a conference. Seriously, folks, this game was a blast then, and I still love to revisit it now. PRO TIP: Run HB Direct every play: at least 10 yards are guaranteed.
Thanks for reading! Tell me some of your favorite sports games in the comments, and make sure you check out this week’s playlist, themed around the music of Seattle. See you guys next time, and make sure you keep up with the daily content on Mid-American Culture.