With under a month to go until the NCAA Football '09 release, and with a demo that dropped earlier this month, I figured it was the right time to list my top five NCAA Football video games of all time.
No. 5: NCAA '08 (Xbox 360) I know I will take some heat for this, but I thought last year's game was solid. In other words, it was what the first installment on next-gen should have been in my eyes. Graphically it was a step up, and they tightened up the gameplay controls from the year before.
The new recruiting was also something that was interesting, although a bit tedious after a while. Nonetheless, offseason was fun to play overall and on the field resulted in some good times, especially post-patch.
Once you could drop the balls in over the linebackers and in before the secondary, the game played very well, and head-to-head was then more about play calling and execution rather than money plays.
No. 4: The Original, Bill Walsh’s College Football (Sega Genesis)
This game was literally the “granddaddy of ‘em all.” The first college football game didn’t have every D1-A team, let alone real college names. BYU was Provo and Penn State was State College, but still you got the point.
The game was so much fun to play—perfect for having friends over and playing all night with a couple of bottles of Mountain Dew to help your cause.
I remember running with the '88 Notre Dame team almost exclusively. Nobody was able to match up with the option when Tony Rice was under center. His spin move was beastly, and people would just bounce off him. Basically, once he got into the open field it was game over.
Combine him with Rocket Ismail and a few other All-Americans that had great pro careers, and you have an unstoppable team.
The game was ahead of its time in the gameplay department—and that's why what the game lacked in season mode it made up for with fun factor and replay value.
No. 3: College Football '96 (Sega Genesis)
Finally a season mode worth playing nonstop in the NCAA series. This game featured the pageantry and excitement of college football in all its mid-'90s 16-bit glory. The game played fast and smooth, and had real polls and teams, with your choice of a tournament or bowls to crown the winner at the end of a great season.
Running the option in this game was fun, and choosing your own playbook was a feature that helped the college football genre turn a page in history. This game was the first to feature the BCS and set the stage for what dynasty would become down the line.
No. 2: NCAA '99 (PS1)
One of the most fun head-to-head games I ever played. I remember teaching one of my best friends to play the series on this game. He rolled with Big Kat and the OSU Buckeyes, as I usually took UCF with Daunte Culpepper or Indiana with freshman Antwaan Randle-El.
The most memorable moment I recall was throwing a pick with Daunte, and as my friend is running it back Culpepper is the last man to beat. I had the angle on him for the stop, so rather than making a move my friend tries to run virtual Daunte over—instead Daunte just laid him out, pre-Hit Stick.
This game also had a few neat futures, like a postseason all-star game in the Shrine Game. You could also play games in other stadiums—I remember playing dynasty games in Pitt Stadium as well as Three Rivers, something that blew my mind at the time.
No. 1: NCAA 2004 (PS2)
EA hit the jackpot with this game. Everything was closer to perfection than ever accomplished before in a football game. Online was stellar, and dynasty mode was epic as well.
Gameplay was tight and tended to roll towards the offensive side with a few money plays, but head-to-head was outstanding with one key stop or turnover usually deciding the outcome.
My favorite was running my Pitt Panthers dynasty and talking Larry Fitzgerald into staying his whole career. He won three straight Heisman Trophies and set every possible school and NCAA record for me. The guy was a beast!
Online was fun too. I lived in a big apartment in Pittsburgh and had two roommates and a girlfriend at Pitt at the time. I would get home from work late at night, as would my buddy. We would play online from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
He would run the offense and I would put my defense down on anyone who tried to cheese us. It ended up being a lethal combo and provided many nights of fun.
On weekends we would go to the Pitt game and see Larry do his thing in person, and come back and have a party which usually led to a NCAA tournament (something the girlfriend never appreciated).
So that was a fun trip down memory lane. How would you guys rank your top five NCAA football games?
This article was written by Patrick Williams for Operation Sports. Operation Sports is the internet's leading sports video games resource.