Honourable Mentions: There are so many sport games around that including all would be nearly impossible. Some of the best have not made the list, but deserve a mention for being great in their own right. Madden 11, Brian Lara Cricket, UFC3 and FIFA 1996 all added something to the genre but there is unfortunately only space for 10 games on the list.
10. Mutant League Hockey (Sega) – 1994
Mutant League Hockey (also: Mutant League Football) was a different take on the sports genre. Forget realism and anything related to it, the game offered gory fun. Players could make use of special attacks, weapons and plays in order to defeat opponents by any means possible. Exploding pucks, chainsaws (Gears of War take note) and more made this an unbelievably fun game. The actual hockey aspect wasn’t too bad either.
9. NBA Jam (Sega, SNES, Arcade) – 1993
Boomshakalaka! Anyone who has never heard that phrase before has missed out on a great piece of history. The 2-v-2 basketball game from the days when SEGA ruled the planet displayed some elegant touches which inspired later games such as the FIFA Street and NBA Street games. Tricks in abundance and insane dunks were the order of the day, not to mention all the special modes and characters hiding within the game. Newer versions of the original are fun, but none quite capture the nonsense that made the original so good.
8. Fight Night Champion (Xbox 360, PS3) – 2011
EA’s boxing phenomenon has come on in leaps and bounds over the years, with Champion proving to be a huge success. With an engrossing story mode introduced into the already great mechanics of the game players had the best of everything. Fight Night Champion is perhaps even more interesting than real boxing at the moment, which is going through some difficult times.
7. Top Spin 4 (Xbox 360, PS3) – 2011
Tennis games are seemingly the easiest to get right out of all the sport games. The rules are relatively simple and as there are a maximum of four people on the court at a time it gives developers a chance to concentrate on the finer details. This wasn’t always the case with some very disappointing entries in recent times, but Top Spin 4 hit the sweet spot. A decent sized roster together with a riveting, in-depth career mode made 2K Sports’ tennis game a master class on any court.
6. NHL 12 (Xbox 360, PS3) – 2011.
Ice hockey games tend to be very technical and the smooth skate and shoot games of yesteryear have finally been outdone. The past simulation-oriented titles were often over complicated and felt clumsy, but EA found the perfect balance with last year’s edition of NHL. The game offers a ton of content in terms of online and offline modes and is fitted with the most comprehensive Be a Pro mode ever created.
5. Rockstar Table Tennis (Xbox 360) – 2006
Not many people would have predicted that Rockstar would create a game based on table tennis. Despite taking a completely different tack from the open world endeavours of GTA and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar pulled it off and then some. Table Tennis was an Xbox 360 launch title and did a great job of showing off the console’s next-gen graphics, and also boasted frantic, accurate and entertaining gameplay. There was no need to be a table tennis fan for this one, just a fan of fun.
4. Football Manager (Multiple) – 1992
Originally under the sobriquet of Championship Manager from as long ago as 1992, the now-titled Football Manager series has seen more sales than almost all of the other sport titles. It gives players the ability to manage their favourite football team while dealing with almost every single facet of being in the driver’s seat. The amount of days players have lost to this game are innumerable and a testament to its addictiveness.
3. NBA 2K12 (Xbox 360, PS3) – 2011
Over the past few years 2K Sports have taken basketball fans to giddy heights with their offerings and this was emphasized when NBA 2K12 was released. When you thought the game could not get any more detailed, when you believed the graphics couldn’t get any better, and just when you were under the impression that there is no higher for the series to rise 2K Sports stepped up and exceeded all expectations, providing gamers with the most polished, near perfect sport simulation of all time.
2. FIFA 12 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) – 2011
Another offering from EA makes the list with FIFA 12. EA took a calculated risk in changing some of the dynamics of their much loved football game. The changes to the way players collide, a change to the defending and a change to the dribbling were all introduced. It was a move which could have cost them as fans are not known for welcoming changes. Thankfully EA got it right and the changes have added a fresh dimension to an already great series. Not only did these changes improve the game, but it also provides a basis for EA to go forward on and improve even further which limits the possibility of the series going stale, hopefully for a long time to come.
1. PES 4 (Xbox, PS2, PC) – 2004
Deciding the top two was a difficult task, especially with the various factions of PES vs FIFA fanboys out there. Both series have their merits, both have strength and weakness and both could have been number 1. That being said, the pinnacle of football games has got to be PES 4. Konami’s football game never had the licensing or the fine visuals of FIFA, but what it did have was an undeniable ability to serve up the most realistic gameplay known to footballers. The AI was perfect, the player movement was masterful. What the game did more than anything else was provide a unique experience in every match. Even after years of playing you could learn something new. Put it together with the Master League and playing a football game has never felt so real.