The 10 Best Sports Video Games
As a sports fan, I'm addicted to competition, that primal human urge to be better at something than someone else.
I know many of you are the same way, so it stands to reason that many sports fans gravitate to video games, a competitive arena that mirrors sports in its need for strategy, skill, and dexterity, but requires much less athletic ability to compete in.
Where else can a 5'7" white guy with a weight problem feel what it's like, even remotely, to face Randy Johnson at the plate, or to drive the lane against Shaq?
Hence, these are my 10 favorite sports video games of all time.
Note: I have not played EVERY sports video game ever released; these are the best of the ones I have played.
Please feel free to comment and suggest some games I omitted. I'm always looking for a new game to play.
Honorable Mention: Pong
Yes, it's a stretch to call ping-pong a sport, and a stretch to include a game that is so archaic as to be laughed at by any respectable gamer, which is why this one falls outside my top 10.
However, it must be mentioned at least because it is the first foray into home video gaming, and that it is loosely based on the sport of tennis.
For that, it gets an honorable mention.
10: Virtua Tennis (Sega Dreamcast)
I've never been much for tennis as a sport, but I recognize the skill it takes to play it at the highest level and always enjoy watching the women's side of the game.
This game was actually so well done as to make playing tennis in video format fun.
It came out at a time when there were barely any household names in the game, but it doesn't suffer noticeably.
If anything, it keeps someone from picking Roger Federer every time and whooping on you.
One of the few great Dreamcast games, and the only tennis game you'll see on the countdown.
9: Super Baseball 2020 (Neo-Geo, SNES)
A little known, under-appreciated baseball title featuring teams made of muscle-bound dudes, hot chicks, and R2-D2 looking robots.
The game play was solid and the concept was fun.
Though it was a little hard to master the pitching and batting, fielding was easy to master, and the fun of the concept more than made up for any shortcomings.
Not to mention truly well done baseball games are hard to find for any system.
8: Skate or Die
Whether competing in a downhill event through a trash-strewn alley or jousting against an opponent in an emptied out pool, Skate or Die was one of the best early games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
While not really true to the skateboarding scene, it was an introduction to the sport for many kids and probably contributed to some of them picking up a board.
With the success of the Tony Hawk games and Skate more recently, this game is clearly dated.
But it was a groundbreaker at the time, and is still fun today.
7: Tecmo Bowl
The first title to feature real NFL players, it was also the first great football game on any system.
I played this game for almost an entire summer with my cousin. Every time he'd pick the Dallas Cowboys, I'd choose the Chicago Bears and run Walter Payton right up his keester every play.
As a bonus I found a picture of the game with Scott Norwood kicking off.
6: NHL '94
This is the hockey game by which all subsequent hockey titles are judged. With pinpoint control, great passing and puck-handling, and full rosters of the NHL teams, this was the best hockey game made for over 10 years.
The only reason it's this far down on the list is because you can't drop the gloves and throw down.
But being able to turn off the offsides almost makes up for it.
5: MVP Baseball 2005
While having the dual distinction of Man-Ram as cover boy and being the final pro baseball game EA ever made (thank you exclusivity) is a nice thing, what truly made this game special was the all-around excellence in game play and a great franchise mode.
The batting and pitching mechanic was dead on, and with the "hot zone" feature you could tell where a batter was more likely to hit you, and vice versa where a pitcher was more likely to throw.
The franchise mode allowed you to take over the management of your favorite team and build it into a powerhouse to rival the New York Yankees or Red Sox.
That in itself earned it a special place in my heart.
Best baseball game ever.
4: Blades of Steel
This game leapfrogs NHL '94 for one reason only: fights.
It's a huge part of hockey, and hockey intellectuals be damned, any game needs to recognize that.
The ability to bump a player repeatedly until you throw down the gloves and start punching makes this the most accurate hockey game of the generation.
3: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
I lost an entire summer to this game.
I played it so much that June, July, and August blurred together into one long mish-mash of button pressing and pseudo-trickster skateboarding.
I paused only long enough to go to work, eat, sleep, hit the bars, and excrete waste. Every other spare moment was spent mastering the combo tricks, manuals, grinds, and special tricks of each skater until I unlocked every single thing in the game.
Plus, skating as Spider-Man is just plain awesome.
2: Madden 2004
To me, this is where the development of video game football crested; every other game after this one has been a rehash or slight update of this game.
It introduced fully fledged franchise mode, in which you could train your players to improve their stats, trade or sign free agents, scout and draft new players, and take your team to the top.
In addition, the best game play mechanic was featured in this iteration: playmaker controls.
No subsequent Madden game got is as good. With a press of a shoulder button, you could tuck the ball and run like Mike Vick, provided your QB had the wheels.
It added a whole new dimension to offense.
1: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!
The winnah, and still champeen!
Twenty years later and I still can't quit this game. I still try and beat Glass Joe in under 30 seconds, and laugh as Soda Popinski swills soda during a fight before I take his narrow-ass down.
Go ahead, tell me the trick to beating King Hippo.
If you can't remember you're lying, or you never played the game.
On top of that, it has by far the hardest end boss of all time: Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream if you have a post-rape trial copy).
I beat this guy once. ONCE. In all the times I've played it through, honest to God, just once have I completed it.
That's impressive, trust me.
The elation you feel when you take him down (I assume) must be what it feels like to hold the Stanley Cup or win the Super Bowl, but on a miniature scale.