NBA 2K11 and The 50 Greatest Sports Games Ever Made
NBA 2K11 was released October 11, and it's been heralded as one of the greatest sports video games of all time. Between the ability to play as Michael Jordan, to the combination of features that appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers alike, it's certainly thrust itself into the conversation.
But is NBA 2K11 the best sports video game ever? Is it even in the top 10? We've compiled the comprehensive list of the 50 best sports video games of all time, based on a series of criteria.
Timelessness: How has/will the game hold up over time?
Graphics: Obviously, we're doing this based on how the graphics were at the time of publication, rather than currently, to avoid bias towards the most recent installments of the games.
Gameplay: Was the game fun to play? How did it handle, smoothly or choppily? Once again, we're basing this on the gameplay standard of the time, to keep things fair.
Authenticity: How close to the real thing was it? This wasn't a big factor, as games can be classic without being realistic, and vise versa.
Originality: Did it do something no other game has done? Was it the pioneer for something that wouldn't be fully realized till later?
Difficulty: Was the game easy to pick up? Was it tough to master? A game that strikes a good balance here gets major points.
Intangibles: Something that can't be measured by the other criteria. It'll make sense, I promise.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get started.
50. Super Dodge Ball, Sony Imagesoft, 1989, NES
What it Is: Take Control of an upstart American dodgeball team, as they take on some of the best teams the world has to offer, in a quest to win the World title.
Graphics: 6/10. The graphics were pretty good for 1989, but nothing spectacular. Had some flicker issues, even back in the day.
Gameplay: 7.5/10. It was fairly deep, with five or six different types of throws, not counting the specials.
Each player had attributes and varying levels of health to begin with. Even so, loses points for lacking any way to know who was good at throwing, and who sucked at everything without trial and error.
Authenticity: 8.5/10. Virtual dodgeball that felt like the real thing, but without the blood and broken noses.
Originality: 8/10. It was dodgeball!
Difficulty: 5.5/10. Easy to pick up, relatively easy to beat once you get the hang of it. Still, it was tricky at times, and if you weren't careful, Iceland would mess you up.
Timelessness: 4.5/10. Dodgeball hasn't held up well over the years, and other versions on other consoles wound up being superior. Once you beat it, there's no reason to play it again.
Intangibles: 8/10. I re-discovered this game recently on an emulator, and got hooked for close to a week.
Overall: A strong effort, and a fun, unique game that just cracks the top 50.
49. Ice Hockey, 1988, Nintendo, NES
What it Is: Take control of six different nation's hockey teams and go head-to-head in this NES classic. Pick your lineup based on player attributes and try to beat the world's best.
Graphics: 7/10. From the scowling goalie masks to the faces on the players, Ice Hockey was solid.
Gameplay: 7/10. Simple, yet fun. Basic controls, nothing fancy. No way to check cost it points.
Authenticity: 4/10. Fat people can't play hockey (except Keith Tkachuck)! No line shifts, a giant puck and the lack of names made it unrealistic.
Originality: 5/10. A good game, but nothing revolutionary about it.
Difficulty: 8/10. Easy to pick up the basics, but hard to get good enough to dominate.
Timelessness: 7/10. The gameplay is basic enough that it doesn't atrophy, and it's still fun to play. With the lineup combos, you could play the same team over and over with different results.
Intangibles: 7/10. Everyone remembers the fat player's wicked slap shot, and the dog pile when you score.
Overall: Another game that's still fun to play finding it's way onto the list.
48. Lakers vs. Celtics, 1991, Electronic Arts, Sega Genesis
What it Is: Pick one of eight authentic NBA teams and go head-to-head with the computer or your friends.
Graphics: 7.5/10 The game first came out on MS-DOS PC in 1989, and wasn't released on Genesis until 1991.
For 1989, the graphics are superb. For 1991, they're not fantastic, but they're still above average.
Gameplay: 8/10. LvC was phenomenal, and was fairly easy to pick up.
Authenticity: 9.5/10. At the time, LvC was the most accurate basketball game of all time, featuring real NBA rosters and signature moves.
Originality: 8/10. Rather than going 1-on-1 or sacrificing graphics and gameplay for more on-court players, LvC chose to give users both, and in a package that had never been seen before.
Difficulty: 6/10. LvC was tough, but not unbeatable.
Timelessness: 3/10. LvC hasn't withstood the test of time, but it's still somewhat fun to pull out of the box.
Intangibles: 6.5/10. This game was historic, and people remember it fondly. But it's been lost to the annals of time, to an extent, and just feels dated.
Overall: State of the art at release, LvC just couldn't hold up against flashier titles later on.
47. 1080 Snowboarding, 1998, Nintendo, N64
What it Is: One of the first snowboarding games ever, 1080 revolutionized the extreme sports genre with its combination of tricks and races, and a colorful cast of characters
Graphics: 9/10. 1080 was one of the prettiest games on the Nintendo 64, and was certainly more attractive than anything on PS1.
Gameplay: 8/10. Simple controls that made you want to keep trying tricks after you screwed them up. Plus, everything just felt smooth.
Authenticity: 3/10. Completely unrealistic, not that it makes much difference.
Originality: 8/10. There had never been snowboarding like this before, and while other games surpassed it's style, the basic format stayed the same until the end of the SSX series.
Difficulty: 3/10. Incredibly difficult to master, even after months of playing.
Timelessness: 6/10. 1080 has held up well, although it lost much of its luster with the SSX series.
Intangibles: 7/10. This game was fun, but frustrating. I broke two separate controllers playing it.
Overall: A classic that often gets overlooked, and is still somewhat underrated.
46. Mario Power Tennis, 2004, Nintendo, Gamecube
What it Is: Mario Power Tennis is one of the craziest tennis games in history. But beneath its surface lies a fantastic game.
Graphics: 8/10. The Gamecube had better graphical capabilities than you think, and MPT utilized them to their fullest.
Gameplay: 9/10. The combination of wacky shots and strategy made this one incredibly fun. It was smooth, with few glitches.
Authenticity: 2/10. Come on! Other than the rules, there is nothing realistic about this one.
Originality: 7/10. A third installment in the MT series, Power manages to make changes to set it apart from its peers
Difficulty: 6/10. This one was tough, but not unbeatable.
Timelessness: 7/10. Still fun, and the replay value was incredibly high.
Intangibles: 6/10. Tennis games invariably turn into Pong for me, but this one came the closest to not boring me to sleep of any of the bunch.
Overall: A strong game, fun to play, unless you're looking for a straight up sim.
45. Virtua Tennis, 1999, Sega, Dreamcast
What it Is: Sega's tennis sim lets you take control of some of the biggest names in tennis (in 1999).
Graphics: 9/10. Compared to other systems, the Dreamcast was ahead of it's time technologically, and Virtua Tennis was emblematic of that.
Gameplay: 6/10. VT had a steep learning curve, and matches frequently went on forever. It wasn't terrible, but there's better out there.
Authenticity: 8/10. That's as good of a score as you can get with just eight real players, all of whom were men. Where were the ladies, Sega?
Originality: 5/10. Virtua Tennis wasn't terribly original. It just did things better than everyone else.
Difficulty: 2/10. A steep learning curve and difficult controls made this one of the toughest games to master ever.
Timelessness: 6/10. Would be more, but VT got blown out of the water by the Topspin series.
Intangibles: 5/10. I don't have many memories of VT, and neither does anyone else who didn't own a Dreamcast.
Overall: A strong game, but not widespread enough to go higher than this.
44. Madden 2003, 2002, EA Sports, Xbox/PS2
What it Is: The first truly great Madden game on the XBOX/Gamecube/ PS2 generation of consoles.
Graphics: 8.5/10. Madden got it right in 2002, with flawless visuals and smooth movement.
Gameplay: 8/10. Enough goodies for newbies and weathered veterans, with controls that were both simple and complex.
Authenticity: 10/10. Although, it's not hard when you've got NFL licensing agreements under your belt.
Originality: 7.5/10. Madden 03 tried to revamp a stale series and largely succeeded.
However, the core gameplay was pretty much the same as ever. That being said, there were plenty of new modes and challenges to keep gamers enthralled.
Difficulty: 7/10. With it's variable difficulty settings, anybody could pick up and play Madden and have success.
Timelessness: 0/10. No one plays the same Madden game once that year is over.
Intangibles: This was a revelation when it came out, but it's hard to remember much about it, as there's a new one every year.
Overall: A fantastic game with zero staying power.
43. Sensible World of Soccer, 1994, Sega Genesis
What it Is: A top-down soccer game for the Sega Genesis, Sensible Soccer set the tone for soccer games in the future.
Graphics: 0/10. Top-down cameras do not make for pretty soccer games.
Gameplay: 9/10. Sensible's gameplay was so good, it has continued to be emulated for years now.
Authenticity: 10/10. How does a roster of 1,500 teams sound to you? Authentic enough?
Originality: 9/10. A 20-year career mode, players with strengths and even a transfer market made this game well ahead of it's time.
Difficulty: 6/10. Tough, but not unbeatable.
Timelessness: 6.5/10 It never had widespread fame and success, but Sensible's following is hardcore, even today.
Intangibles: 7/10. Sensible's got the cult following, but it never quite got going in the mainstream.
Overall: A game hurt by it's lack of commercial and mainstream success, but still one of the greats.
42. Jordan vs. Bird: One-On-One, 1988, Electronic Arts, NES/Sega Genesis,
What it Is: Play as Michael Jordan or Larry Bird in this classic one-on-one tilt.
Graphics: 6/10. Not great, but above average.
Gameplay: 7/10. For the time, the gameplay was excellent. But just one year later, it would look like child's play.
Authenticity: 6/10. You had Bird shooting threes, and Jordan dunking. Sounds authentic enough to me.
Originality: 5/10. There hadn't been an NBA game with discernable players before J v. B. Otherwise, it was pretty run of the mill.
Difficulty: 5/10. Beatable.
Timelessness: 2/10. JvB was obsolete within two years, and had limited replay value.
Intangibles: 8/10. People went crazy over this, for about six months. Still that has to be worth something.
Overall: A revolutionary game that served it's purpose and went the way of the dodo.
41. Joe Montana Sports Talk Football '93, Sega, 1992
What it Is: Sports Talk Football was one of the earliest footbal sims of all time. It had full NFL licensing, and had actual play-by play with the game.
Graphics: 7/10. Weather effects appeared for the first time, and players weren't stumpy little squares.
Gameplay: 6/10. STF played pretty well, but wasn't all that great.
Authenticity: 8/10. NFL licensing made STF one of the most realistic football games to date.
Originality: 7/10. Points for play-by-play, but as a sequel, not much different about the gameplay.
Difficulty: 7/10. Came close to the balance of accessibility and difficulty.
Timelessness: 3/10. STF has been overshadowed and forgotten because of the juggernaut that is Madden.
Intangibles: 8/10. I thoroughly enjoy STF, although it's not as good as most of the other football games on the list.
Overall: A solid effort, and a couple breakthroughs Joe Montana just outside the top 40.
40. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, 1998, Electronic Arts, Playstation
What it Is: A street racing game involving the potential for arrest, Hot Pursuit focused on the chase, rather than a race, although racing is still a major part of the game.
Graphics: 10/10. Ultra-realistic car graphics made this game a hit.
Gameplay: 8/10. Strong handling and smooth gameplay were big factors in the success of Hot Pursuit.
Authenticity: 3/10. Police chases like this happen all the time, right?
Originality: 3/10. There were two NFS games before Hot Pursuit, and both featured the potential to get arrested, so all Hot Pursuit did was get it right.
Difficulty: 3/10. This game was flat out tough. There was little margin for error, even starting out.
Timelessness: 7/10. Hot Pursuit has aged fairly well, and I've played it recently on the PC.
Intangibles: 6.5/10. This game was addicting, and fun, if it was obscenely frustrating.
Overall: A solid choice to start our top 40.
39. Mario Strikers Charged, 2007, Nintendo, Wii
What it Is: A frantic soccer game full of action, crazy shots and violence as far as the eye can see.
In other words, fantastic.
Graphics: 6.5/10. Good for the Wii, terrible for the other current-gen consoles.
Gameplay: 9/10. Crazy, two-button action and the unique controls with the Wii remote made this as addicting as it's predecessor.
Authenticity: 0/10. If you have to ask why, then stop reading now.
Originality: 7/10. A fantastic concept perfected. It was a sequel, so it can't get full originality marks, but it's still pretty solid.
Difficulty: 8/10. Easy to pick up, tough to master.
Timelessness: 9/10. This one feels like it could hang around a while, and it's replay value is high.
Intangibles: 7/10. A fun game, but it lacks true substance and depth.
Overall: A truly fun, creative break from the doldrums of FIFA.
38. MVP 06 NCAA Baseball, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: When EA Sports lost the rights to MLB licensing, they turned instead to the college baseball world, using their stellar baseball engine to make a fantastic game.
Graphics: 8.5/10. Sharp, smooth, clear graphics with only a hint of choppiness.
Gameplay: 9/10. NCAA Baseball used the same engine as MVP Baseball 2005, coming up later in the list, so you know it was good.
Authenticity: 6/10. Accurate other than the fact that none of the players had names.
Originality: 3/10. Points for being about college baseball, but it was essentially the same game as 2005.
Difficulty: 8/10. Good learning curve, but can be tough if you want it to be.
Timelessness: 5.5/10. With college players leaving constantly, this game lacked real staying power.
Intangibles: 6/10. This one never made the impact EA Sports hoped it would, and they dropped the series in 2007.
Overall: A great game, but unoriginal and lacking staying power.
37. FIFA World Cup 2010, 2010, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: The official game of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Graphics: 9/10. A beautiful game that captures the essence of World Cup football.
Gameplay: 8/10. Simplified controls make it more accessible to new players, but could turn off the cagey veterans.
Authenticity: 10/10. 199 out of the 204 possible teams can be chosen. That's pretty accurate, if you ask me.
Originality: 2/10. Essentially FIFA Soccer 10 in shiny new packaging.
Difficulty: 6/10. Simple learning curve, but the new controls make the game easier to master as well.
Timelessness: 4/10. 4 for the number of years till people start focusing on the next World Cup tournament.
Intangibles: 7/10. Captures the essence of international soccer, the passion and drama of it all quite well.
Overall: An excellent effort, all in all. Not original, but solid nonetheless.
36. Topspin 2, 2006, 2K Sports, Xbox 360
What it Is: The second edition of 2K Sports' tennis sim is one of the best tennis games of all time. It's combination of graphics and strong simulation of the game of tennis make it a must-have for any tennis fan.
Graphics: 8/10. Excellent graphics for a 2006 launch, although not quite top tier.
Gameplay: 7/10. The game has a steep learning curve, but once you master it, you're hooked.
Authenticity: 10/10. Feels like the genuine article.
Originality: 6/10. Topspin 2 tries to do original things, but it's tough to do with a tennis game.
Difficulty: 2/10. Steep learning curve plus incredible A.I. equals frustrated gamers.
Timelessness: 5/10. There's a Topspin 3 out, but many diehards have stuck by the previous generation of the game. Even so, it's popularity has waned immensely.
Intangibles: 6/10. This was a frustrating game. My brother broke my 360 controller playing it.
Overall: A solid, if occasionally frustrating, game accurately captures the essence of tennis.
35. Mario Kart: Double Dash, 2003, Nintendo, Gamecube
What it Is: The Gamecube incarnation of the Mario Kart series allows for a driver and gunner on the karts, doubling the number of potential players and causing some chaotic finishes.
Graphics: 8/10. Superb. Even now, on the Wii, Double Dash still looks fantastic.
Gameplay: 10/10. Simple controls that make the game accessible to anyone who cares to play it.
Authenticity: 0/10. Turtle shells are not projectiles in real life.
Originality: 7/10. Major points for adding the gunner, an awesome wrinkle that should have stayed for Mario Kart Wii. But outside of that, it's the same as every other Mario Kart ever made.
Difficulty: 5/10. Simple learning curve, but grand prix mode is easily beaten.
Timelessness: 8/10. People still play this game with regularity, and it's got as devoted a following as any racing game on the market.
Intangibles: 7.5/10. This game is addicting, and has all the makings of a long-term classic.
Overall: The best game in the formidable Mario Kart arsenal.
34. NFL Blitz, 1998, Midway, N64
What it Is: Picture the NFL, but on heavy doses of HGH, with no rules whatsoever. Now, you have NFL Blitz.
Graphics: 6.5/10. Decent, but nothing spectacular.
Gameplay: 9/10. Incredibly fun to blow up running backs or quarterbacks on defense.
Authenticity: 2/10. It has NFL players, but that's where the realism ends.
Originality: 8/10. A completely different take on football, that was a breath of arcadey goodness in a realm dominated by sims.
Difficulty: 6/10. Easy to pick up, easy to master, easy to beat.
Timelessness: 8.5/10. People still pine for Blitz's glory days, but with Midway a shell of it's former self, we won't see anything like it again.
Intangibles: 8/10. There's something about this game that hooks you in.
Overall: A fun, if somewhat shallow, game that still holds up well today.
33. NBA Live 99, 1998, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: NBA Live 99 is a straight up NBA sim. Plain and simple.
It's a good blend of arcadey fun and serious team management.
Graphics: 8/10. Sure, they look like crap now, but back then this was close to the pinnacle of video game beauty.
Gameplay: 7.5/10. Live suffered from the same slippery floor issues it'd had in previous versions. But otherwise, it was an excellent game to play.
Authenticity: 9/10. Live had players with emotion to go along with the rosters and jerseys.
Originality: 6/10. The emotions were unique, but otherwise, there was little new in this game.
Difficulty: 5/10. Not hard to master and beat.
Timelessness: 2/10. As with most sports games, Live 99 went the way of the dodo.
Intangibles: 7/10. You have no idea how much fun 12-year-old me had turning the difficulty all the way down, turning fouls, offsides and out of bounds off, and scoring 100 points on the Bulls with Jeff Hornacek.
Overall: A good game for it's time, but it hasn't aged all that well.
32. NBA Street 2, 2003, XBox, PS2, Gamecube
What it Is: NBA Street 1 breathed life into the moribund arcade basketball, and NBA Street 2 perfected it.
Graphics: 8.5/10. Great graphics and smooth animations.
Gameplay: 8/10. Game handled well, and even the most complex dribbles, dunks and passes could be done with relative ease.
Authenticity: 2/10. Nothing like turning down the gravity to make a basketball game fun.
Originality: 6/10. Street 2 introduced the legends to the game, including Michael Jordan and Julius Irving. However, it was still the same in terms of gameplay.
Difficulty: 8/10. Easy to pick up, tough to beat.
Timelessness: 5.5/10. Volume 2's throne was usurped by volume 3, and the middle child has yet to fully recover.
Intangibles: 7.5/10. This game was as addicting as NBA Jam was back in the day.
Overall: A fun, high-octane game that was deeper than you'd expect.
31. Gran Turismo 3, 2001, Sony, Playstation 2
What it Is: One of the most realistic racing games of all time, Gran Turismo 3 is certainly one of the top 50 games of all time.
Graphics: 10/10. I've seen PS3 games and 360 games that don't look that good.
Gameplay: 5.5/10. GT3's interface was very detail oriented, and made it difficult to get into.
Authenticity: 10/10. Down to the exact length of the spoilers on the backs of the cars. Everything looked, felt and handled like the real deal.
Originality: 4/10. GT3 was mostly a souped-up version of GT2, with a few extras thrown in for good measure.
Difficulty: 1/10. It was tough to get into, tougher to beat, and nearly impossible to dominate. All in all, not for the casual gamer whatsoever.
Timelessness: 7/10. GT3 has held up well over the years, and despite a fourth edition being released and a fifth being in the works, many fans still cling to 3 furiously.
Intangibles: 2/10. This game was a true racing sim.
You tinkered with cars and tried different things, and if they didn't work, you tried something new. It was as frustrating as any game I've played.
Overall: A masterpiece few are skilled enough to fully appreciate.
30. Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest, 1999, Nintendo, N64
What it Is: The 1999 version of Ken Griffey Jr.'s baseball game was a smash hit, between its strong interface and graphics and its realistic rosters
Graphics: 7/10. It's weird to think that used to be the pinnacle of graphical prowess.
Gameplay: 9/10. Fun, engaging game, with a smooth interface and excellent pitcher and hitter controls.
Authenticity: 4/10. It had player names in 1999, which was an improvement, but it lacked even a regular season mode.
Originality: 3/10. The 1999 version basically fixed the problems with the 1998 edition of the game, but didn't do much that was new.
Difficulty: 8/10. Tough to beat, but easy to pick up and play.
Timelessness: 5/10. People look back on Slugfest fondly, but seldom dust of the cartridge and play it.
Intangibles: 8/10. There is something inherently joyous about home run derbies, but I can't put my finger on what it is.
Overall: A good balance of arcade fun and simulation seriousness.
29. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, 2003, Neversoft/Activision, All Consoles
What it Is: The fourth installment in the Pro Skater series, THPS 4 was widely seen as the best game of the group, with its diverse levels and complex, yet simple, gameplay.
Graphics: 8.5/10. This was a pretty game, but it suffered from occasional pixel issues.
Gameplay: 9.5/10. The removal of the time clock on each level proved a gameplay coup, freeing up players to go where they saw fit. It handled smoothly, and was easy to pick up and play.
Authenticity: 5/10. The tricks were legit, but the physics were way off.
Originality: 7/10. For being a fourth game in a series, THPS 4 was incredibly original. It re-defined the extreme sports genre with many of it's gameplay subtleties, but at it's core, it was still similar to the other games in the franchise.
Difficulty: 8.5/10. Hard, but not inaccessible, and it made you want to come back.
Timelessness: 6/10. People still play it, but other installments of the series have since improved on the flaws in THPS 4.
Intangibles: 7/10. This game was unbelieveably fun. It was frustrating at times, but overall, an enjoyable game to play.
Overall: The best of the series, THPS 4 changed the way we thought of skateboarding video games.
28. SSX 3, 2003, EA Sports BIG, All Consoles
What it Is: The third edition of the SSX series, SSX 3 was a high-speed, high-flying snowboarding game in which big tricks were highly valued.
Graphics: 9/10. SSX3's graphics were excellent at the time, and have stood up fairly well.
Gameplay: 8.5/10. The controls were easy to pick up, and the characters typically handled smoothly.
Authenticity: 2/10. Try taking your feet out of a snowboard at some point in midair and tell me how that works out for you.
Originality: 5.5/10. This was the same game as SSX 2, but there were some alterations. It focused heavily on continuity between tracks and creativity than previous versions of the game.
Difficulty: 6.5/10. Easy to pick up, but frustrating quite often.
Timelessness: 7.5/10. This game is still regarded as one of the best snowboarding games of all time.
Intangibles: 6.5/10. This game was fun, but it wasn't as addicting as other games on the list.
Overall: The best snowboard game of all time, and one of the best extreme sports games ever.
27. Tecmo Bowl, 1989, Tecmo, NES
What it Is: Tecmo Bowl was a football game featuring several NFL teams. It allowed you to call your own offensive and defensive plays, and has become a cult classic.
Graphics: 8/10. The graphics were great back in 1989, when the game was released.
Gameplay: 9/10. One of the first football games that was fun to play, and easy to understand. It's basic controls belied surprising depth.
Authenticity: 6.5/10. No actual teams, and slightly unrealistic results.
Originality: 8/10. Tecmo Bowl revolutionized the football video game genre, with it's playcalling and top-down view.
Difficulty: 7.5/10. Easy to pick up, hard to beat.
Timelessness: 6.5/10. Tecmo Bowl would get higher marks, were it not for Tecmo Super Bowl later on.
Intangibles: 8/10. Tecmo Bowl is looked upon fondly, and it's a requirement for the top 30.
Overall: A classic game that helped shape the way football games were made from that day forward.
26. RBI Baseball, 1988, Namco, NES
What it Is: RBI Baseball was one of the first games to feature authentic MLB rosters. It allowed you to control one of 10 teams and go head-to-head with your friends, or a computer.
Graphics: 5/10. Even by 1988 standards, these graphics were average.
Gameplay: 8/10. Simple controls that were responsive, and the game handled extremely well.
Authenticity: 6.5/10. Got it right with the rosters and team colors, but all baseball players are not 5-foot-3, fat and white.
Originality: 7/10. RBI did things that had never been done before in a baseball video game, giving you the freedom to choose pitches and steal bases.
Difficulty: 7/10. It's easy to pick up, but I played it again for this, and it's tough to beat.
Timelessness: 7.5/10. RBI's graphics haven't held up well, but the simple gameplay has.
Intangibles: 6.5/10. RBI is fun, and the player models crack me up.
Overall: A great, underrated game, that deserves to be remembered fondly.
25. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003, 2002, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: One of the first golf games that was actually fun to play, TWPT 03 took the U.S. by storm when it was released.
Graphics: 9/10. Darn near perfect.
Gameplay: 9/10. A unique swing mechanic made this one of the most fun golf games ever, and helped it appeal to even casual gamers.
Authenticity: 8.5/10. 12 authentic PGA courses, and swings that looked like their real-life counterparts.
Originality: 10/10. Tiger 2003 redefined the golf video game with it's gameplay system, rendering other golf games as less fun and less realistic.
Difficulty: 6/10. Easy to pick up, somewhat tough to master, but once you did, you were unstoppable.
Timelessness: 4/10. Some people might pick this one up for nostalgia's sake, but the rest of us moved on long ago.
Intangibles: 8/10. There is much to be said for this title, and it's impact on my childhood. It almost convinced me to play golf for real, and did get my brother.
Overall: A revolutionary game, Tiger 2003 changed the way we thought about golf games.
24. Madden 2008, 2007, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: Madden 2008 was a continuation of the Madden football series.
Graphics: 9/10. This was one of the prettiest sports games ever made at the time of publication.
Gameplay: 8/10. Classic solid Madden gameplay, with little added. Why fix what's not broken?
Authenticity: 8.5/10. Players didn't look quite right in this one, like how the Bengals' Carson Palmer had yellow eyes.
Originality: 5/10. Essentially the same as earlier versions, although EA Sports did try to change things up with their attribute system.
Difficulty: 7/10. Takes a long time to master this game, but it's accessible to everyone.
Timelessness: 0/10. People just don't play Madden after the next season starts.
Intangibles: 7/10. A fun game to play, but somewhat forgettable.
Overall: Madden 2008 showed what the Xbox 360 was capable of, but lacked staying power.
23. Forza Motorsport 3, 2009, Turn 10 Studios, Xbox 360
What it Is: The latest edition of the popular Forza series focuses primarily on realism and sense of speed.
Graphics: 10/10. A drop-dead gorgeous game from top to bottom.
Gameplay: 9/10. Solid, realistic controls, although the realism could turn some casual gamers off.
Authenticity: 10/10. 500 cars from various manufacturers, and real-world courses make this one of the most realistic racing games ever.
Originality: 3/10. This doesn't introduce too many new concepts. It mostly just packages them all together.
Difficulty: 3/10. Tough to master, and can be extremely frustrating at times.
Timelessness: 8.5/10. This one feels like a classic, but it's too early to tell quite yet.
Intangibles: 7/10. This game is less realistic than the Gran Turismo series, but has enough of it to please hardcore car afficionados.
Overall: A fantastic game, without much originality.
22. Madden 95, 1994, Electronic Arts, SNES/Sega Genesis
What it Is: The first edition of Madden to hit mainstream, it's the game that changed everything.
Graphics: 8/10. Are those player numbers? Yes they are!
Gameplay: 9/10. It's Madden's gameplay that sets it apart from other sports games.
Authenticity: 9/10. Actually, it's the realistic playbooks that do it.
Originality: 9/10. Madden changed everything about football games, making them more realistic than ever before, and this was the one that got the ball rolling.
Difficulty: 5/10. Accessible, but still tough to beat today.
Timelessness: 4/10. Unfortunately, with as far as Madden has come over the last 15 years, Madden 95 gets lost in the cracks.
Intangibles: 7/10. One of the first true football sims to hit the mainstream, on most consoles, Madden would change the game forever.
Overall: A classic. A game-changer.
21. World Series Baseball, 1994, Blue Sky Software, Genesis
What it Is: The first baseball game that attempted realism, WSB hit the world like a hurricane at it's release.
Graphics: 8/10. More realistic than anything that had been seen before, WSB showed what the Genesis was capable of.
Gameplay: 7.5/10. Played smoothly, and was more realistic-feeling than any game before it.
Authenticity: 9/10. The most realistic baseball game to date.
Originality: 7/10. Tough to revamp the baseball genre, but Blue Sky did all it could.
Difficulty: 8/10. It wasn't hard to pick up, but took real talent to master.
Timelessness: 6/10. People talk about WSB to this day, but the flaws in the 1994 version were fixed in later ones.
Intangibles: 7/10. I remember this game well. I went over to my friends house every day to kick his Reds' butt with my Cubs.
Overall: A fantastic game that is legendary among baseball game fanatics.
20. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, 1999, Activision/Neversoft, All Consoles
What it Is: The groundbreaking first title in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, THPS is one of the legends of gaming.
Graphics: 8/10. Smooth framerate for 1999, and the characters looked like the skaters they were supposed to be.
Gameplay: 10/10. Revolutionized the skateboarding genre forever, taking it beyond just racing, with its simple control scheme but complex combo potential.
Authenticity: 4/10. Tough tricks were waaay too easy to pull off.
Originality: 10/10. Re-defined everything about extreme sports games forever.
Difficulty: 7/10. Fun to play, despite the difficulty in mastering it.
Timelessness: 3/10. THPS wasn't without flaws, and later versions fixed them. Still, it's the first of its kind, and gets points for that.
Intangibles: 9/10. This game made everyone go CRAZY. Skateboarding wouldn't be what it is today without this game.
Overall: A game that completely altered the landscape of extreme sport games.
19. Pro Evolution Soccer 5, 2005, Konami, PS2/Xbox
What it Is: Konami's soccer sim took the world by storm with it's graphics and gameplay, beating the pants off EA Sports' FIFA series.
Graphics: 9/10. PES 5 was a beautiful game, with excellent flow and movement for it's time.
Gameplay: 10/10. Still considered the benchmark for soccer gameplay.
Authenticity: 6/10. Faces were realistic and rosters were accurate, but they lacked the licensing to put all the actual teams in the game.
Originality: 6.5/10. Built well on the base of previous incarnations of the series, but struggled to do anything revolutionary.
Difficulty: 3/10. There was so much to the gameplay, it was nearly impossible to master.
Timelessness: 8/10. There are those who still call this game the best soccer game ever, and play it religiously.
Intangibles: 7/10. For a game to take down EA (outside of the NBA), it takes serious chops.
Overall: A fantastic game that has reached legendary status among gamers.
18. Tiger Woods 11, 2010, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: The most recent edition of Tiger's golf game is also one of the best ever.
Graphics: 8.5/10. Great graphics, but nothing that makes you stop and look.
Gameplay: 10/10. The same Tiger play, but with new features to improve the realism.
Authenticity: 7.5/10. As real as a golf game with fictional courses in it can get. Come on Augusta National!
Originality: 4/10. Nothing world-changing here, although the Focus and True-Aim features are fun.
Difficulty: 5/10. Much like other versions, it's easy to beat once you get good at it.
Timelessness: 3/10. Tiger games are turning into Madden; you have to get the new one each year or get left in the dust.
Intangibles: 7/10. Still as much fun as ever.
Overall: A fantastic game that delivers on much of its promise.
17. NFL 2K5, 2004, 2K Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: 2K Sports' final NFL offering was also its best, hands down.
Graphics: 8.5/10. Excellent graphics, but still some bugs.
Gameplay: 9/10. The closest to a unique football experience in recent memory.
Authenticity: 8/10. Not hard to get a good score here in 2005.
Originality: 7.5/10. 2K5 featured a unique first-person camera, although the feature never quite caught on the way they hoped it would.
Difficulty: 6.5/10. Occasionally frustrating, but still enjoyable.
Timelessness: 5/10. Many people have forgotten about NFL 2K5, but there are those who still view it as the best football game ever.
Intangibles: 5/10. Sure, this game scared EA so much they decided they needed exlcusive licensing to kill it, but it never really got a chance to live up to its potential.
Overall: A great game, to be sure, but it loses points for what could have been. Given two more years, we could have had a top-10 game on our hands.
16. Madden NFL 11, 2010, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: The newest edition of Madden might also be one of the best.
Graphics: 10/10. Wow. Just wow.
Gameplay: 8/10. The simplified controls appeal to casual gamers, but hardcore players could be turned off.
Authenticity: 10/10. You can almost hear Mike Singletary's pants hit the floor.
Originality: 3/10. Not too much new here, as Madden simply improves from year to year.
Difficulty: 7/10. Can be as easy or hard as you want it to be.
Timelessness: 1/10. See every other Madden title of all time.
Intangibles: 7/10. Still an excellent game, but has the hype exceeded the product?
Overall: A fantastic game that continues to polish what ails it.
15. NBA 2K11, 2010, 2K Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: The latest edition of the NBA 2K series is already one of the best games of all time.
Graphics: 10/10. So realistic, you'll want overpriced nachos.
Gameplay: 8/10. Incredibly deep gameplay, but the controls aren't all that appealing to casual gamers.
Authenticity: 10/10. As real as it gets.
Originality: 7/10. As original as a basketball game can be, thanks to its ball-handling interface.
Difficulty: 3/10. Steep learning curve, but it rewards those who are patient enough to master it.
Timelessness: 6.5/10. For a game that gets a new version every year, that's pretty good.
Intangibles: 8/10. Michael Jordan! He wasn't even in games when he was still playing!
Overall: A basketball opus. Can it become the legendary classic people think it can?
14. NCAA Football 11, 2010, EA Sports, Xbox 360/PS3
What it Is: NCAA Football 11 is the latest college football game in EA Sports' series. After years of being baby brother to Madden, it seems the college game has finally grown up.
Graphics: 9/10. Exquisite detail.
Gameplay: 9/10. Fantastic gameplay, appealing to all possible parties.
Authenticity: 7.5/10. For a game with no player names, this manages to successfully capture the college atmosphere better than any game before it.
Originality: 6/10. The gameplay is the same as last year, but it's the atmosphere that makes this one revolutionary.
Difficulty: 8/10. Like most modern games, it's as tough or easy as you want it to be.
Timelessness: 1/10. College football games lack staying power over the ages.
Intangibles: 9/10. This doesn't feel like Madden with colleges, which is fantastic. I can't get enough of it.
Overall: The best college football game of all time.
13. Fight Night Round 4, 2009, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: One of the greatest boxing sims of all time.
Graphics: 10/10. Does that look like a video game to you? Me either.
Gameplay: 9/10. Fight Night's system makes boxing more intuitive than it has ever been before, and Round 4 continues that trend.
Authenticity: 9/10. Even the boxers' wraps are signed.
Originality: 5/10. Tough to be original when you're the fourth version of a game.
Difficulty: 4/10. The learning curve can be steep, but the game is so much fun, you'll want to master it.
Timelessness: 7/10. Feels like a classic, but it's still early to say for sure.
Intangibles: 6/10. The second most-fun boxing game ever.
Overall: An epic game, that just misses the top ten of all time.
12. FIFA 10, 2009, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: 2009's FIFA 10 was one of the fastest-selling games ever.
Graphics: 8/10. Even when it's choppy, it's pretty.
Gameplay: 8/10. Realistic gameplay, while staying accessible to the casual fan. Still feels a little stiff, though.
Authenticity: 9.5/10. National teams, EA! National teams!
Originality: 5.5/10. Does a good job of keeping the gameplay fresh, but not much new here.
Difficulty: 4/10. This one can be frustrating.
Timelessness: 6.5/10. This one could be a lock for classic status, but it's going to fade slowly, like other FIFA games.
Intangibles: 5/10. Fun to play, but frustrating at times. For all of its greatness, it still felt like it didn't fully realize it's potential.
Overall: How scary is it that a game that didn't realize it's potential is in the top 12? This could have been fantastic, but I guess we'll settle for amazing.
11. Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!!, 1988, Nintendo, NES
What it Is: You play as Little Mac, an up-and-coming boxer. Make your way through a cast of characters until you become world champ!
Graphics: 9/10. These graphics were the best on the NES at the time.
Gameplay: 8/10. Simple, yet addicting, gameplay and responsive controls made this one a classic.
Authenticity: 3/10. Mike Tyson would eat Little Mac for lunch. Literally.
Originality: 8/10. At this point, it wasn't hard to be original, and Punch Out!! was no exception.
Difficulty: 8/10. Easy to pick up, but takes real skill to beat it.
Timelessness: 9/10. This game is as much fun as ever, Wii version or no Wii version.
Intangibles: 8/10. This game caught on like wildfire, and I got hooked again within the last two or three months.
Overall: A classic, now and forever.
10. FIFA 96, 1995, Electronic Arts, Genesis/ SNES/Playstation
What it Is: One of FIFA's earliest games, 96 is also one of its best.
Graphics: 8/10. 3D! For the first time in a soccer game!
Gameplay: 9/10. Fantastic gameplay was some of the deepest in video game history.
Authenticity: 9/10. With 200 real teams to choose from, FIFA 96 was one of the most authentic games of its era.
Originality: 8/10. This one was ground breaking, its 3D gameplay on the PSX and strong gameplay on Genesis and SNES.
Difficulty: 7/10. Tough to master, tough to beat, easy to pick up.
Timelessness: 6/10. FIFA 96 has been replaced every year, but fans remember it fondly.
Intangibles: 9/10. Any game featuring both indoor soccer and the ability to slide tackle the goalie with no consequence is fine by me.
Overall: A classic that pushed the boundaries of what could be done with soccer games.
9. Tecmo Super Bowl, 1991, Tecmo, NES
What it Is: Take one of the best football games ever and make it better. Now you have Tecmo Super Bowl.
Graphics: 7/10. Not great, but not awful, either. The animations were pretty excellent.
Gameplay: 10/10. Some of the best gameplay in a football sim ever.
Authenticity: 9/10. Real players and stats, and authentic colored uniforms.
Originality: 10/10. Groundbreaking game play modes like full season mode, coupled with the deepest player rating system of it's time make this one of the pioneers of football games.
Difficulty: 7/10. Easy to figure out, but hard to be successful.
Timelessness: 10/10. One for the ages.
Intangibles: 8/10. Great game, that I still play from time to time.
Overall: A fantastic game that deserves all the accolades it's gotten.
8. Tiger Woods 2005, 2004, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: Why is this game so high on the list? It's arguably the best golf game ever, that's why.
Graphics: 9/10. The graphics were nearly perfect.
Gameplay: 10/10. Gameplay was better than ever on Tiger 2005, and was growing steadily deeper.
Authenticity: 8/10. Come on Augusta National!
Originality: 8.5/10. This edition added the create-your-golfer feature, which allowed you to, well, create your own golfer, something that had never been done in that level of detail.
Difficulty: 9/10. Nearly strikes the perfect balance between accessibility and difficulty.
Timelessness: 6/10. Still fun today, even if later games have improved on it.
Intangibles: 9/10. I played this for hours at a time, and it'll always have a special place in my heart.
Overall: The best of the best in golf.
7. Gran Turismo 4, 2005, Sony, PS2
What it Is: The most recent edition of Sony's Gran Turismo series is also the best racing sim of all time.
Graphics: 10/10. Words aren't necessary. This was a flat-out gorgeous game.
Gameplay: 9/10. GT4 was as tough to get into as ever, but it still handles better than any game before or since.
Authenticity: 10/10. So real, you might think you actually own the cars you're racing.
Originality: 6/10. The depth of gameplay made this an unprecedented racing game.
Difficulty: 7/10. Once you're in, this game is addicting.
Timelessness: 7/10. A classic, unless it's overshadowed by the upcoming GT5.
Intangibles: 8/10. This game was Earth-shaking when it was released, and it's still insanely popular.
Overall: Hands down, the best, most realistic racing sim ever. Nothing else comes remotely close.
6. Baseball Stars, 1989, SNK, NES
What it Is: An early baseball game on the NES, Baseball Stars caught on like wildfire across the world.
Graphics: 9/10. Smooth as butter.
Gameplay: 8.5/10. This game was simple, but it handled excellently for being a 1989 release.
Authenticity: 4/10. Don't recognize the players? It's because they don't exist.
Originality: 8/10. This game was one of the first to have definable pitching motions and varying batting stances.
Difficulty: 9/10. Simple controls, but good luck winning a series.
Timelessness: 10/10. There are Baseball Stars Internet leagues. Need I say more?
Intangibles: 8/10. Unlike most modern baseball games, this one was fun to play.
Overall: A true classic.
5. Blades of Steel, 1988, Konami, NES
What it Is: Konami's stab at hockey glory was well ahead of it's time.
Graphics: 10/10. 1988?! Those were from 1988?! Holy cow!
Gameplay: 10/10. Easy controls, plus fights! What more could you want?
Authenticity: 1/10. This one was as arcadey is it gets.
Originality: 8/10. From the graphics to the fighting to the general gameplay, this was a pioneer in hockey gaming.
Difficulty: 8/10. You'd better bring your A-game when you get this game down, because it's tough.
Timelessness: 9/10. Still insanely fun.
Intangibles: 8/10. This game impacted millions of youths in the U.S. That's worth a top-five berth.
Overall: A classic. Could easily be argued as the best hockey game ever.
4. NBA Jam, 1993, Midway, SNES/ Genesis
What it Is: Good old-fashioned slam-dunking fun, NBA Jam is arguably the most exciting basketball game ever.
Graphics: 10/10. This game had choppy motion, but it didn't matter, as it was borderline 3D.
Gameplay: 10/10.Easy to pick up and incredibly addicting.
Authenticity: 3/10. Hey, all the teams and players were actually teams and players. So sue me.
Originality: 10/10. This game has had no parallels, save possibly NBA Street, which just didn't feel the same.
Difficulty: 10/10. Perfect balance of accessibility and skill.
Timelessness: 10/10. There will never be another game like NBA Jam.
Intangibles: 8/10. I'm still irritated about that whole "Michael Jordan stinks against the Pistons" thing.
Overall: A classic that has never been replicated.
3. NHL 11, 2010, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: EA's newest hockey game has made its way to the top of the charts, behind stellar gameplay, graphics and creativity.
Graphics: 10/10. Easily the prettiest game ever made.
Gameplay: 10/10. Intuitive controls that are simple yet complex keep players hooked forever.
Authenticity: 10/10. So real, you can hear the zamboni humming.
Originality: 6/10. Not the most original game ever, but it does the best it can.
Difficulty: 10/10. Perfect balance.
Timelessness: 8/10. Hard to see how this one doesn't become a classic, unless next year's is better.
Intangibles: 9/10. Just plain fun to play.
Overall: This one looks like another contender from a franchise full of them.
2. MVP Baseball 2005, 2004, EA Sports, All Consoles
What it Is: The greatest baseball game of all time, and EA Sports' masterpiece.
Graphics: 10/10. Even today, the graphics would be at least a 7 or 8.
Gameplay: 10/10. Good luck finding a more fun baseball game to play than MVP 05.
Authenticity: 10/10. Unlike 2K Sports' efforts since taking over exclusive licensing rights, MVP actually feels like baseball.
Originality: 8/10. MVP perfected some of the most creative and well-thought-out baseball game ideas of all time, including the pitch meter.
Difficulty: 10/10. Perfect balance.
Timelessness: Thanks to the open coding on the PC version, people have updated rosters, uniforms, stats and even graphical power every year since MVP's release.
Intangibles: 10/10. This game could be one of the best video games of all time, regardless of genre.
Overall: EA went out on top, and 2K Sports has dropped the ball in their stead. When does the licensing agreement expire again?
1. NHL 94, 1993, Electronic Arts, SNES/Sega Genesis
What it Is: The greatest sports game in history, that's what.
Graphics: 10/10. These graphics rocked the world. Plain and simple.
Gameplay: 10/10. Hockey games copied the gameplay in this one until the most recent editions of the NHL series.
Authenticity: 10/10. Right down to the stripes on the jerseys.
Originality: 10/10. No hockey game had ever done the things NHL 94 did.
Difficulty: 10/10. Oh, you could learn it easy enough.
But mastering it? Good luck.
Timelessness: 10 out of 10. Go to NHL94.com, and then tell me this game hasn't withstood the test of time.
Intangibles: 10/10. This game is deeper than many games today are, and its following is deep and passionate.
Overall: The best sports game of all time.
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