There's nothing like pulling off the win when the decks are lined up against you. That sweet victory that follows when you serve defeat to rivals in their own game. Nothing beats continuously owning your best friend over and over and over again because they are not allowed to beat you in your element. Period.
Whether they’re on the field, on the track or on the halfpipe - sports games have the power to bring the intensity of a clinched victory and hard-earned win to life. It doesn’t matter if fans can really throw down with the sport IRL, these games bring the magic of the experience right to the living room or arcade for all fans to enjoy.
Here are the 11 best sports games that go down as some of the best in the genre:
“NFL Blitz” is remarkable in its own way, due to the fact that it was one of the first arcade (American) Football games to grace the arcade after the “NBA Jams” era was coming to the end. This allowed arcade go’ers to enjoy the NFL action first-hand with big hits and bone-crunching tackles from favorite teams across the NFC and AFC. “NFL Blitz,” in its own way, was able to bring the action from the gridiron; minus any real rule structure (first down lines were 30 yards apart and no unnecessary roughness calls, or pass interference for that matter) and allowed players to go toe-to-toe with a seven-on-seven squad. “NFL Blitz” was a trash talker’s paradise — you could outscore your opponent while delivering a Hulk Hogan Leg drop, just to add insult to injury.
“NBA JAMES: Tournament Edition”
“NBA Jams” completely kicked-up the basketball gaming venture from what many fans were experiencing in their living rooms with “NBA Live.” From ridiculous dunks to insane on fire three-pointers and signature glass breaking backboards, “NBA JAMS: T.E.” quickly became a staple in arcades across America in the mid-’90s. “NBA Jams: T.E.” improved on the formula by adding licensed NBA players and special flare the NBA was known for. The game definitely brought the arcade alive in the ’90s and spawned a fast-paced genre of sports games from “NFL Blitz” to “FIFA Streets” that are still classics to this day.
Honestly -- what “best sports video games” list wouldn't be complete without Madden? This franchise has been the front-runner for (American) Football simulations since it monopolized the market back in 2007. EA has continued to build upon its IP every year of the series and it continues to polish the gameplay and features to allow the average armchair quarterback to feel like they can take the field.
“Fight Night Round 3”
Though the popularity of UFC has all but extinguished the pro-boxing game genre, "Fight Night Round 3" is by far the panicle of boxing royalty. Even though "Fight Night Champion" offered an intriguing storyline, "Fight Night Round 3's" boxer development and gameplay were a cut above. This series created one of the best graphically and stylized gameplay in the genre, allowing the player to feel every blows, display the fortified impeccable impregnatable defense, and craft three-piece combos that would make Colonel Sanders revamp the menu. There was a particular delight in watching opponents feverishly try to bring their sticks together while you display your favorite Muhammad Ali "float like a butterfly sting like a bee" dance without knocking all your stuff off of the coffee table. Let's hope EA returns to the series for the serious boxing fans still out there.
“MLB The Show”
Batters ups! With 162 games to complete a season of baseball, "MLB The Show" made it a joy to sit in the outfields with the boys of summer for a spell. This title was a great baseball ball game that actually put players in the dug-outs of their favorite clubs and gave a taste of the big leagues. "MLB The Show" introduced intriguing story aspects of the league and gave the player first-hand views of what it’s like to be in the majors. With great game modes from the home run derby to character development, "The Show" was a great game to breathe fresh air into a classic American past time.
Back when the Super Nintendo first came out, there were little to no actual sports games outside of the norms of football, baseball, and soccer. "Mario- Kart" changed that, allowing Nintendo fans to pit their favorite NES characters against each other in karting competitions (if you don’t think it’s a sport take it up with Lorenzo Travisanutto 2018 Kart champion). The 64th version of the game takes the prize due to tight game mechanics and the ease of which the game was so accessible. The familiarity of the characters made this a go-to for house parties and sleepovers across the world. From the zany tracks of Mushroom Kingdom, Star Roads coupled with unique kart power-ups that sent your opponents flying across the track or spinning out after running over a banana peel, this games still keeps many of us karting into the wee hours of the morning.
“Gran Turismo 2”
"Gran Turismo" induction on the PlayStation revolutionized the racing genre and garnered a new era of street racers on consoles that games like “Out Run” and “Ridge Racer” just couldn’t quite muster. The number of cars and the amount of customizability had many players pouring hours into every little detail and customizing everything from the engine down to the accent colors. I literally had to give this game away because I couldn't stop tweaking my Honda Prelude and didn’t want to end up on an episode of "Intervention." This game is one to remember.
“Blades of Steel”
Even though there were no licensed teams, this hockey treasure still makes the cut. Okay, the graphics might have been on the same level as "Tecmo Bowl" side and the sounds effects a little cookie cutter, but our mainstay was the easy gameplay, a loose rule set and the fights. Oh yeah, the fights! Fighting was a big draw for this title as it was amazing to not only whoop your opponent on the scoreboard but thrown down some gloves and land a couple punched to really put the icing on the cake of a sweet victory.
“WWF NO Mercy”
"WWF No Mercy" may not have aged well, but at the time of its release, it was a crowning achievement in the pro-wrestling game genre. It includes all the favs from this era of wrestling biggest names and allowed the player to craft a persona and enter the square circle alongside them. The various game modes allowed the player to compete in all of the various forms of matches we were accustomed to catching every Monday night on RAW and WAR; all the modes were there, from tag team matches to historic all out royal rumbles. It was always a delight to catch a sucka in a Stone Cold Stunner if you smell what I’m cooking. Cue the glass breaking!
Without a doubt "NBA 2K" has dethroned "NBA Live" as the No. 1 option in NBA simulations. "NBA Live" held the title for many years until its demise with over-the-top franchise options and overly intuitive player ball control, which resulted in unrealistic and gawdawful dribble and layup animations. Thankfully "NBA 2K" restored the genre with realistic graphics and player animations that stayed true to player’s mannerisms on the court. Reworked control scheme That allowed for the casual couch-hooper to put up buckets in no time. The create player options and player progression added with the open-world “neighborhood” game mode had fans running home to lace up and put some work in on the black-top with friends from halfway across the nation.
“Tony Hawk Pro Skater”
When "Tony Hawk Pro Skater" came to the PlayStation, it was a bodacious move for the sport. It helped popularize an all but underground sport and subculture which helped shine a light on many of the pro-skate cultures’ all-stars. The game's skate mechanics and controls were shining factor compared to previous skate games — we're looking at you “Skate or Die” and “720°” — were just a bit too bogus. In "Pro Skater," players could either choose one of the legends or create their own character to level up to compete alongside the greats. The soundtrack alone was big for the game as well, incorporating licensed grunge music to add authenticity to any nollie flip underflip.