This is the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do. Harder than burying my childhood dog or saying, “I love you.” Below is the painstakingly creating list of the 10 Best Sport Video Games of All-Time. You could have a healthy debate about the 10 best sport games release in 1994 alone! What allows a game to reach “all-time best” status? A number of factors were considered – playability, iconic stature, genre-changing effects, etc. A game needs more than just a bucket of pixels to make the list. So, read on, and then start yelling. After all, that’s what sports are for, right?
10. Gran Turismo
Not the first, but definitely the best. Gran Turismo set the standard for all racing games that followed. Individual car engine sounds, a ridiculous level of control and incredible graphics put other games on notice. Mechanics as well as gamers couldn’t help but appreciate the detail that developers put into the game. In addition to the amazing detail, huge breadth of cars and tracks, GT is totally fun to play for all ability levels. Slide behind the wheel of Toyota Supra and remember what it was like to make high school girls swoon.
9. Super Tecmo Bowl
Why my mom made me ride to the video store every weekend and rent this game instead of buying it is beyond me. Perhaps I needed real exercise. Regardless, my weekends and those of 9 year olds across America were on seasons of Super Tecmo Bowl. Graphics? No. Realistic gameplay? No. The first game to use real NFL players names? Yes. Before we got uppity and demanded ultra-life like games, blowing teams out 84-7 was the tits. Remember the Bills? Don Beebe was faster than Usain Bolt in STB and Bruce Smith could not be blocked.
8. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
A,B, up, down, left, right. Little Mac had a simple game plan to become World Champion. He didn’t care about weight classes, he feared no one. And NES was not afraid to take on political correctness, delivering a number of wonderfully stereotyped characters. Perhaps that is what Little Mac really set out to teach us, to move beyond stereotypes. His defeat of Soda Popinski was actually a beat down to those purporting Russians were all drunk on “soda” (read: vokda). Amazing. He may be called “Little” Mac, but his big heart is an inspiration to us all.
7. FIFA: Road to World Cup ’98
Choosing a single game to represent an entire series is difficult, but I wanted to go with the version that really changed the series. From the beginning, EA’s line of FIFA games outclassed other soccer titles. They had the FIFA endorsement, which meant the use of real players and teams, and the first games had an angled view, not the top-down or side scrolling seen to that point. The ’98 version featured more stadiums and teams than ever before, along with much improved graphics and gameplay. Goal scoring glitches were removed and the computer controlled teams actually put up fight. Important, because we all know soccer games are supposed to end 1-1.
6. Wii Sports
Who knew moms loved video games so much? The geniuses at Nintendo, that’s who. The Wii represents the greatest improvement in controller technology since the PowerPad. I would be inclined to list this higher, were its invention not also an admission that Nintendo had a monopoly on awesome controller ideas and never used it! I digress. Wii Sports, which is included with the console, was so successful, many people did not bother buying other games. Tennis and Boxing, were announced as “fun” by generations of adults who had no business being near a video. Subsequently, the game revealed how out-of-shape most of the country was.
5. Mortal Kombat
Yes, this is a sports game. Perhaps the ultimate game, for if you lose, you die. For all the love mothers shower on Wii Sports, Mortal Kombat has endured more than its fair share of parental hate. Disgusted by copious gore, adults’ were outraged, which only fueled the game’s popularity. The violence in MK was so awesome, it led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The game deserves props because it took on the man, just like rock ‘n roll. It also gave us the wonderful, “Fatality!” (read with a deep, ominous voice) Specialty moves, lots of blood, and fatalities…visionary.
4. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004
This series has been around for awhile (Formerly PGA Tour), 2004 took it to another level. This version debut the uber popular “game face” feature where you could customize the look of your own golfer. In fact, you could make a frighteningly close image of yourself (or the you you always wanted to be). Of course, 2004 added new courses and golfers, along with “World Tour” mode. “World Tour” allows one to play up to 20 seasons on the tour, gaining sponsorships, new gear, etc. Also referred to as “40 year old Male Fantasy” mode.
3. NBA JAM
Few moments we experience are actually “life changing,” but I remember being different after I heard NBA Jam was being released for consoles. Hours I spent at the arcade, dreaming, “What if” I could play NBA Jam on my Sega. Then it happened. The 2 v 2 basketball was uncontrollably fun because it was so high-paced and action packed. No more boring passing, NBA Jam took the most exciting play in basketball, the dunk, and made it the focal point. If you shot 3-pointers, you were somebody’s sister. The game also featured awesome commentary (done Marv Albert style) such as “Boom-skaka-laka” “Whoomp, there it is,” and, “Nail in the coffin.” Perhaps the oddest feature was the ability to unlock and play with President Clinton. Odd and Awesome.
2. Madden 2005
Many of you might prefer we list Madden for all ten spots, the only debate being where each version ranked. This is without question THE premiere sports game franchise, and has a following rivaled by few games in any genre. The games not only carry his name, but also commentary from one of broadcasting’s best. “Boom! Where’d that truck come from?” Priceless. Additionally, Madden has consistently brought his desire for realistic game play. He has always insisted that upgrades be made to make the game more authentic. Even some changes are bemoaned by fans, you have to appreciate the effort. I highlight 2005 because this version brought the defense into focus with pre-snap read changes and the “hit stick.” John Madden hates two things in life, going for it on 4th and 12 and closing time at the buffet.
1. NHL ’94
This was easiest choice on the list, an absolutely must have. NHL ’93 revolutionized game play by moving away from side-scroll and top-down, but ’94 gave us the ability to break the glass and shoot a one-timer. Unfortunately, fighting was removed (famously discussed in “Swingers”), but at least you could save your progress. Great game to play with friends as NHL ’94 was one of the first to support 4 players at once. NHL ’94 is so good in fact, when EA Sports released NHL 2006, they included in the game a playable homage to ’94 (players names are removed). It is as if EA is admitting they cannot improve on perfection, and sheepishly apologize by giving you what you really want.