The 10 Best Golf Video Games Ever

Jake Mann@@mjakemannContributor IIINovember 24, 2012

The 10 Best Golf Video Games Ever

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    To most sports gamers, blockbuster series like Madden and NBA2K get all of the digital attention, while some of the best experiences—like golf, for example—fall by the wayside.

    Well, we're not going to let this stand anymore. 

    Let's take a look at the top 10 golf video games ever made.

10. John Daly's ProStroke Golf

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    Upon seeing this, your first thought is probably: John Daly has a golf game!? 

    After the shock subsides, and if you had the chance to pick up this game out of the nearest bargain bin pile at your local electronics store, give it a whirl.

    While ProStroke doesn't hold a candle to the overall package offered by EA Sports' Tiger Woods games, it does do motion control very well, and it gives players a neat first-person view at address.

    For those looking to give their PlayStation Move a try on the virtual links, we'd recommend giving Daly's game a shot, as it offers a bit more feel than the TW series, but if you're using the standard analog controller, there are obviously better alternatives out there.

9. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13

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    While the latest version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 isn't the best in the series, it may offer the most intriguing game mode.

    As seen in the trailer on the left, one of TW 13's focal points is on the Tiger Legacy Challenge, which gives players the ability to play throughout many important events in the iconic golfer's career.

    TW 13 also offers a more complex take on digital analog swing control, with a greater emphasis placed on timing, direction and speed through the ball. Unlike previous years, players are given the option to control all aspects of a swing with the stick, which takes a bit longer to learn, but ultimately improves the "sim" feel of the game.

    As the current generation of consoles begins to show its age, it's obvious that graphics will look less improved than in years past, but we may look back on TW 13 as an important step in the franchise's journey from an arcade/sim hybrid to a full-fledged simulator in future versions.

8. CyberTiger

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    CyberTiger just has to be included as one of the sickest golf games of all time, as it gives those who love Hot Shots and Mario Golf the ability to play the sport arcade style with real-life PGA players. 

    Most may not be aware, but CyberTiger was actually developed and published by EA Sports just a year after the company's first Tiger Woods game.

    Most of the features in CyberTiger—including a practice range, power boost shots, player editor, celebratory animations and digital analog controls—were implemented in the TW series a few years later, so let's give this game credit for that.

    If only EA Sports kept the game's Battle Mode, which pits two players against each other in a golfing fight to the death. We can only dream. 

7. Hot Shots Golf Fore!

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    Hot Shots Golf can be likened to Mario Golf with a bit more attitude. As can be seen in the video on the left, Hot Shots offers players one of the funnest arcade golfing games out there, complete with backspin control that literally turns the ball into a pin-seeker.

    Fore wasn't the first Hot Shots game to be developed, but it does sport the best graphics we've seen in the series, in addition to more courses, characters and ridiculously addictive online play.

    The reason we have Mario Golf above Hot Shots Golf Fore on this list is because there's something a bit more entertaining about playing golf with Nintendo's characters, but we wouldn't argue if you prefer teeing off with Ratchet and Clank.

6. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12

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    For those waiting for a modern-day Tiger Woods game to be mentioned, wait no more. EA Sports' 2012 entry into the series was notable because of the addition of an in-game caddy and Augusta National as a playable course.

    Regarding the former, it's honestly surprising that it took developers over a decade to include a feature as important as a caddy in gameplay, but EA's first venture into this arena is nearly flawless. As is the case with most real-life caddies, the advice given won't be correct 100 percent of the time, but it does offer players more resources at their disposal when facing that tough layup/go-for-it decision on a par five.

    In addition to digital analog control, it is also easier to use the PlayStation Move or the Wii as a make-believe club, as long as adventurous gamers remember to strap the controller on before swinging.  

    Oh, and we almost forgot: Jim Nantz's iconic voice was added to the commentary in '12. Enough said.

5. Mario Golf

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    There have been two Mario Golf games ever sold to the public. The first, released in 1999 at the height of the Nintendo 64's popularity, features the typical bright color palette and goofy animations that we've come to love from all Mario games, and it is actually realistic enough for avid golfers, too. 

    While it looks rather childish, Mario Golf offers hardcore gamers the option to use complex slope measurements, variable camera angles, wind readings and velocity tracking while featuring one of the best alignment systems this side of Golden Tee.

    If that didn't convince you, did we mention that most characters have their own in-game tournaments, complete with specialized courses? Don't take our word for it, check out this sweet Bowser Star Championship

4. Sid Meier's SimGolf

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    Sid Meier's SimGolf is a bit of a loner on this list, and quite honestly, it's hard to categorize since its gameplay isn't your typical golf experience.

    Developed by Firaxis and Maxis, and published by EA Games, SimGolf can be likened to a real-world strategy game that's a beautiful hybrid between Roller Coaster Tycoon and Sim City

    In the history of golf video games, SimGolf is the only one to offer empire-building tools at the player's finger tips while yielding hundreds of hours of gameplay. 

    SimGolf is easily the most open-ended golfing game ever created, and it isn't a half-bad simulator as well, though it's at its best when teaching the economic trade-offs that a golf course manager must make on a day-to-day basis.

3. Golden Tee 2013

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    For those who prefer to hit the links with a pint, there's no better way to do so than with Golden Tee. Originally released in 1989 by Incredible Technologies, this coin-operated arcade series has grown with popularity seemingly every year since, and it has recently released a 2013 version.

    The newest iteration of Golden Tee offers graphics that are arguably better than any console golf game on today's market, in addition to the ever-iconic trackball control system.

    To those who have ever lined up an actual tee shot before, the sheer simplicity offered by Golden Tee's controls is refreshing. There's something about rolling that ball back, virtual driver in hand, and pushing it forward as fast as you can that is supremely satisfying.

2. Links 2003

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    To the most dedicated fans of Links 2003, it's likely that this game is numero uno in their eyes. After all, while yearly renditions of the Tiger Woods franchise have come and gone, there's still a hardcore community of gamers willing to gather for Links tournaments.

    The 2003 version, created by Microsoft Game Studios, was the last of its kind ever developed for the PC. 

    In recent years, course mod packages and the Arnold Palmer Course Designer have kept this game alive, in addition to its pinpoint control system and easy-to-use online matchmaking system that are arguably the best ever created.

    The reason we're putting this game behind TW '04 on our list is its playability, which is geared more toward those who want a pure simulator, compared to those desiring an arcade/sim-hybrid experience.

    We'd liken the comparison to Call of Duty versus SOCOM; you can probably guess which one of those turned out to be more popular.

1. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004

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    According to IGN, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 is the highest-rated entry into the TW series of all time, which is essentially like saying that Seinfeld is the best "show about nothing" that has ever existed. EA Sports' Tiger Woods franchise created the modern-day golf simulation, and it is considered by many gamers to be the only way to hit the virtual links.

    TW '04 wasn't the first golf game that EA Sports released, but it was the year that the developer perfected digital analog swing control, added John Daly and Gary McCord to the game, introduced a real-time events calendar and gave players a bevy of licensed equipment to use, from Titleist balls to Ping putters.

    While later iterations of the Tiger Woods games were a bit more challenging—it is possible to break 59 consistently with enough practice—there's an essence about '04 that's hard to put into words unless you've played it.  

    If we were creating a golfer's time capsule to bury in an underground fallout shelter or to jettison into space, this game would be the only choice.