A look at 10 of the best sports video games of all time

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, just about every sports league has either suspended play or canceled games. It’s certainly left sports fans searching to fill that huge void that the lack of sports has created. One of the more popular activities that people have turned to is video games. A large amount of society owns some type of gaming console whether it’s a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, a handheld Nintendo Switch, or older iterations of the three.

Over the last few decades, there have been several amazing sports video games that fans have enjoyed. Here’s a look at 10 of the best sports video games of all-time.

NFL Blitz (1997)

NFL Blitz was one of the more fun early football games and easily the most ridiculous. NFL Blitz started off as an arcade game before ultimately being released on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo 64. It was a very unorthodox game in which you could absolutely destroy your opponent even after the play was over. Most of the fun was when you were on defense and you could hit your opponent after the whistle or even jump on them while they were on the ground. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart was the cover athlete, which was probably because he was one of the most exciting players that the NFL had to offer in those days. NFL Blitz was a wild affair and I can remember many days spent in the arcade playing this one.

NCAA Football 14 (2013)

Fans have been clamoring for the return of NCAA Football and for good reason. One of the most fun aspects of the game was playing as a smaller program like East Carolina or North Texas and building them into a powerhouse. In addition, the Road to Glory mode was fun because you could create a player and have him dominate the high school season before moving on to the collegiate level. Fans continue to beg for this game to return, but who knows if we’ll ever see that happen.

MVP Baseball 2005

MVP Baseball was truly a game that was ahead of its time. Sure, MLB The Show is phenomenal these days, but EA Sports’ MVP Baseball set the standard for what a baseball video game should be. The pitching meter was fairly simple and also allowed players to control the velocity and pick their location pretty easily. Obviously, graphics have come a long way since the mid 2000s, but many players looked spot-on in MVP Baseball. This game still holds up and, like the NCAA Football series, is a game franchise people are still waiting to return to.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)

Whether you were a fan of extreme sports or not, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a game for the ages. There was so much that you could do in the career mode in terms of hidden objectives at each of the different levels. First of all, this was during the rise of the X Games and the game featured skaters like Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek and Rune Glifberg in addition to Hawk. Collecting the random S-K-A-T-E letters and knocking over each set of boxes were some of the hidden gems that earned players additional points. Oh and the game had an outstanding soundtrack that included Goldfinger’s Superman, Dead Kennedys’ Police Truck, and Primus’ Jerry Was A Race Car Driver.

NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)

This was the closest that a basketball video game came to the And1 Mixtape Tour back in the day. Players could use actual NBA players, but they had some pretty filthy moves. When you got into “Gamebreaker” mode, you knew you were dominating. The announcing was also particularly entertaining. If you blocked a few shots in row, you’d hear “it’s a block party. Bring the family, bring the kids, and bring the hot dog buns.” That would easily get me jacked up every time.

NBA Jam (1993)

NBA Jam was the quintessential basketball game in the early days of arcade games and gaming consoles. The classic 2-on-2 formatted game saw players become “on fire” if they connected on several shots in a row. You could play with paired up stars like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing and John Starks, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, and Karl Malone and John Stockton. It was a fun era of basketball and this game may have even been more fun at your local arcade. I remember having it on Sega Genesis, but it wasn’t quite as cool. 

Madden 2004 (2003)

Michael Vick donned the cover of Madden 2004 and that was really all that you needed to know. Vick had a 95 speed rating in this edition of the game and made the Atlanta Falcons a very popular team to play with when this came out. The dual-threat quarterback was nearly unstoppable due to his ability to get away from pressure. Vick certainly blossomed into one of the greatest individual players in the history of the video game franchise and everybody wanted to be the Falcons.

Mario Kart 64 (1996)

Perhaps it straddles the line of being a sports video game, but Mario Kart is one of the greatest games — in any genre and on any console. This is one that you could play for hours with your friends and no one would ever get tired of it. There were so many options in terms of characters to race with, including Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach just to name a few. Toad was easily my go-to the majority of the time. Many childhoods were defined by the Mario Kart franchise.

Tecmo Bowl (1987)

Tecmo Bowl was the original football video game that was released in arcades in 1987. Two years later, it made its way to Super Nintendo and was a huge hit. Obviously, it’s a very simple game that was one of the first of its kind, but it was a lot of fun to play. The game wasn’t able to get the licensing from the NFL, so the teams are made up, but they did get approval from the NFLPA to use player likeness — most notably Bo Jackson (if you think Vick was dominant in Madden 2004, play this game with Jackson.) Each team had two running plays and two passing plays to pick from except for Miami and San Francisco, who had three passing plays and one running play. And who could forget the jingle that played throughout the game. It was definitely ahead of its time and was a huge pop culture phenomenon in 1980s and 1990s.

NBA 2K19 (2018)

Oftentimes, sports games don’t change much from year to year. However, NBA 2K19 made significant strides that showed why the franchise is the best basketball game to exist in quite some time. The MyCareer mode made vast improvements from previous years and the neighborhood became more lively and fun. Finding pickup games to play online was very easy and you could survey the different neighborhoods to see what skill level the majority of the users were at. One of my favorite features was the nightly trivia contests that took place on a nightly basis. You would answer a variety of general knowledge questions and if you were one of the final players standing, you would win virtual credit, which could be used to buy upgrades for your character. It was one of the cleaner 2K games that we’ve seen in quite some time.

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