Video Games: 10 Best Since 2002

Jonathan Coltogirone@@jcoltogironeContributor IApril 4, 2012

Video Games: 10 Best Since 2002

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    This generation has been fortunate enough to experience incredible advancements in technology.  A lot of those new and improved physics and graphics engines have been used to create a realistic game play experience for avid sports gamers.

    In recent years, the crowd has become more involved with the game, even chanting names of hometown favorites and holding up customized signs.  With the introduction of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, gaming has taken off to another level.

    Integrating crisp online play with epic season/franchise modes have made today's sports video games even more exciting for fans of the game.  Here are my top 10 games released in the past decade.

10. UFC Undisputed 2010

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    With Brock Lesnar bringing new viewers and excitement to the sport of MMA, UFC took advantage with the release of UFC Undisputed 2010.

    With the current heavyweight champion gracing the cover, UFC also boasted some pretty extensive fighting mechanics.  Because players could utilize kicks, ground and pound and submission moves, fights were almost always different from the last.

    Gamers could build their own fighter, focusing on their favorite techniques in order to catapult them to the top.  The game also featured a vast array of submission moves and other combinations that took some time and effort to master.  Once the gamer was able to harness all of the real-life moves, fights were as exciting as the real life versions.

9. Fight Night Round 2

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    After a successful run with the original Fight Night, EA Sports released Fight Night Round 2 with a new feature that would change boxing games forever—the haymaker.

    Instead of left and right jabs and hooks, slowly bringing down opponents, the introduction of "the haymaker punch" led to even more exciting bouts.  Timing things just right would leave your opponent rolling on the floor with stars swirling around their head, while mistiming the punch could leave you open for a similar fate.

    A cut-man in each corner healing the previous round's injuries was an awesome feature.  Your ability to clean cuts and reduce swelling prior to the next round would greatly affect your chances at making a great comeback or continuing your dominance in the ring.

8. NCAA Football 2004

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    NCAA Football has been a completely different franchise when compared to its cousin, Madden NFL.

    Rather than making major changes in gameplay over the years, NCAA Football decided to keep a lot of the game the same, while changing major parts outside of the game.  Recruiting was greatly improved in 2004, along with huge strides in bringing tradition back to college football.

    EA Sports focused heavily on bringing the "gameday" atmosphere home with gamers. Mascots, cheerleaders and other special features were added so that playing a game in NCAA Football 2004 felt as close to being at the real game as possible.

    Mechanics weren't too different, but the feel of the game was greatly improved.  It was one of the earliest games to truly take note of the crowd and the characters not on the field, paving the way for later games to follow suit.

7. NBA 2K11

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    The game wasn't all that different from the previous year's when it comes to gameplay.  Sure, there were the usual yearly graphics and mechanics improvements, but this game truly shined when it came to all of the new features available to gamers.

    Highlighting this edition was the introduction of "His Airness," Michael Jordan.

    From playing as Jordan against the Celtics in the NBA playoffs to unlocking versions of his shoes to give your created player a boost; the greatest basketball player of all time was integrated in to virtually every aspect of the game.

    While some people might get annoyed by the constant references to Jordan throughout the game, true basketball fans were happy to see "Air Jordan" all over the place.    

6. Tony Hawk's Underground

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    After five years of success, Tony Hawk's Underground changed the game of virtual skateboarding for good.  Instead of constantly being tied to your board, you were now given the ability to get off and walk around.

    Climbing to new skate spots and secret areas was extremely fun and new.  Combining that with the good ole' skating game that we have all come to love, made for a great addition to the series.

    The landscape became more expansive and interactive with the main character, and a storyline was even introduced to help the move from place to place seem more fluid.

    Gamers could customize tricks, decks, skate parks and, of course, their own skater.Neversoft even added some vehicles that could be driven throughout the skate-world, making this game even more fun than the previous installments.

5. FIFA Soccer 12

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    After having such great success the past few seasons, EA Sports was looking to improve on an already great series in 2011.  With the release of FIFA 2012, EA introduced a new impact engine that gave gamers a more realistic and physical feel to the game.

    Rather than constantly being able to finesse your way around the pitch with the newly updated precision dribbling system, the impact engine brought the true physicality of soccer to the gaming world.

    Player AI was greatly increased, causing players not controlled by the user(s) to make plays of their own.  With so many teams, leagues and players, FIFA 12 appeals to a worldwide audience and is definitely capitalizing on all of the game's many strengths.

4. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12

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    Just as Michael Jordan's inclusion in NBA 2K11 vaulted the game to the cream of the crop, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Master's used a similar technique.

    With Augusta National Golf Club being excluded from all previous Tiger Woods PGA Tour's, the addition of the hallowed course brought the game to new heights in popularity.  The graphics of this game far surpassed any of it's predecessors, especially when traversing the rolling fairways of Augusta.

    This game was aesthetically amazing, and its gameplay wasn't far behind.

    Competing for the top spot on the PGA Tour has never been so much fun.  With an extensive list of top golf brands, the best golfers in the world and the most premier courses and tournaments, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Master's set the standard for what a golfing game should be.  

3. MVP Baseball 2004

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    Nearly a decade old and still heralded as one of the best baseball games ever, MVP Baseball 2004 was truly one for the ages.  This was the first game to introduce a truly realistic feeling baseball game to users.

    The pitching, hitting and fielding were all simple yet realistic—producing a fun experience on the diamond.  Since then, pitching has gotten extremely complicated and hitting has changed as well.

    This game might not have all of the incredible graphics and features that some of the newer versions include, but when it comes to pure gameplay and "fun," this is still the best baseball game of all time.

2. Madden NFL 09

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    The 20th installment of the Madden franchise, Madden NFL 2009 by EA Sports, is one of the most complete games in history.

    This was before EA started tinkering with the graphics and physics engines too much.  This game was a slightly arcade, yet realistic, version of NFL football.  The new Adaptive Difficulty Engine helped new gamers learn the ropes while allowing veterans to jump right in and be challenged.

    The coolest new feature was the introduction of the online franchise that allowed users to join a virtual National Football League online and compete for a Super Bowl with friends.

    Blockbuster trades and epic playoff games resulted from the new online franchise mode, with users pushing for MVP votes for their star players.

    Since then, EA has made some changes to make Madden NFL feel more realistic but in my opinion have made the game slightly worse.

1. NHL 12

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    While games like Madden and Tony Hawk have sold many more copies than the NHL series, NHL 12 is one of the best games ever released.  It's fast paced and hard hitting style has led to a massive increase in popularity over he past few years.

    The game plays so smoothly and responds so well to the controller that every year it's hard to imagine improving on an almost perfect game.  I have experienced first hand non-hockey fans enjoying the game so much that it even brought them to love the real game.

    No other game requires a constant relationship with the controls like NHL 12.  The user can literally do almost whatever he/she wants to do with the puck by using the right analog stick.  

    In this year's version, the crowd has even become a huge part of the game.  They chant a goalie's name when they make a big save or a skater's name after a game-changing goal.  

    EA also took notice of some problems with the goaltending, implementing a huge physics engine that now makes the goalie react much more realistically to the vast array of dekes and dangles employed by the user.

    EA also introduced an all new skater physics engine that causes big players to bounce off of smaller ones and also let's the stars of the NHL keep the puck on the stick despite heavy traffic, just like real life.