The 15 Greatest NHL Video Games Ever Made

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IDecember 10, 2012

The 15 Greatest NHL Video Games Ever Made

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    With no NHL hockey due to the current lockout, fans are headed to their consoles to play some video game hockey. While there is a vast difference between the two, most fans are just happy to be getting their hockey fix. 

    EA Sports has even helped out fans by simulating bits and pieces of the season to give fans a realistic experience. If you haven't been playing any video games to date during the lockout, here are the 15 greatest NHL video games ever made.

NHL '94

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    NHL '94 is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all-time. It isn't just one of the best sports games of all-time, but it has been featured on all-time lists featuring other genres of games as well.

    There are a ton of features that made the game amazing, but the following stand out:

    - The inclusion of realistic organ music, the one-timer, dekes and other realistic moves made NHL '94 an amazing game to play. These additions gave the game a new and unique feel for video game die-hards.

    - Additionally, new game modes in NHL '94 included regular season, playoffs, best-of-seven playoffs and a shootout mini-game, and these additions took the game to a brand new level.

NHL Hitz

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    Hockey is a great game full of scoring and amazing creativity, but hockey video games are all about hitting.

    Before there was the innovative physics engine that allowed fans to put their least favorite players into the bench or through the boards, NHL Hitz was a fun arcade-styled game full of hitting and physicality.

    There also were some cool power-ups that players could use if you scored three-goals in a row with a one-timer or if you accomplished other tasks, and it was one of the most entertaining goals of the era.

NHL 2K2

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    Although the NHL 2K series is often remembered for its failures and foibles, NHL 2K2 was an amazing game.

    The realism of rosters, the graphics and slowed-down gameplay made 2K2 an enjoyable and realistic game. It was a video game that really lived up to the hype, and many die-hards still play the game today.

    This game was probably the best 2K release, and it is one of the best hockey video games of all-time. It is games like these which make me happy to still know someone who owns a Sega Dreamcast.

Blades of Steel

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    Blades of Steel was a revolutionary hockey video game that was ahead of its time. It was a completely fictional game in terms of players, but the teams were based out of real hockey cities. 

    The game is loved with a cult following because of the arcade style, the fast paced action and fighting. While this game may not feature graphics of the EA series, it is an amazing game that brings back a lot of memories. 

NHL '11

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    NHL '11 was an amazing game that really impressed the fans that hailed NHL '10 as the greatest game in the existence of hockey video games.

    The reinvented physics engine got rid of all of the older animations that had been featured in previous NHL games. This allowed a player to score a goal from any place on the ice.

    Big changes in this physics engine allowed players to break their sticks while trying to block shots on defense, or when a player would wind up for a slap shot or wrist shot.

    This game received very good reviews and the additions of restricted free agency to the "Be-A-GM" mode, the new faceoff system and the hockey trading card game, known as "Hockey Ultimate Team," were some of the biggest documented improvements.

    Just when fans thought NHL '10 was an amazing game, EA released NHL '11 and shocked the gaming world.

NHL 2004

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    NHL 2004 was a huge turning point in the EA NHL franchise. 

    The overall presentation of the game included a better checking system, more puck control and advanced game modes. For example, the franchise mode was renamed dynasty mode, and it gave the player more chances for an authentic gaming experience.

    The game also featured the inclusion of a Stanley Cup victory celebration in which players skated around with the Stanley Cup hoisted over their head.

    The biggest reason that this game is one of the best of all-time is because of the PC version of the game. To this day, there are NHL 2004 league games that continue within a certain gaming community.

    There are even modded versions of the game online that allow it to rival more recent versions of the EA franchise.

NHL 2009

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    NHL '09 was another game that introduced some new changes. The defensive "Skill Stick" was added, defensive styles were added to the game and zone strategies, like forechecking and dump-and-chase, were included in the game.

    In addition, the PS2 version of NHL '09 featured the "Be-A-Pro" mode. In "Be-A-Pro" mode, the player at home creates a customized player and they can choose their NHL team. 

    This game was very well received and it received multiple "Best of the Year" awards from respected gaming outlets.

    All in all, NHL '09 is one of the greatest games of all-time, and one that many still play today.

NHL 2002

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    EA's NHL 2001 was an abomination of a video game, and the franchise had to bounce back with a winner in 2002.

    The release of NHL 2002 introduced fans to career mode, an emotion meter that gauged the crowd's activity throughout the game and some various presentation features like a camera that honed in on breakaways and big hits.

    The game also featured a trading card element that was a precursor to the H.U.T. that was introduced in NHL'12. ˆThis game featured a lot of action, a lot of great features and it was a game that had a ton of longevity for die-hard fans of the series.

NHL Blades of Steel '99

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    NHL Blades of Steel '99 was a game that broke new ground for hockey video gaming.

    It was the first hockey game released on the N64, and it was one of the first games to utilize colorful graphics and analog stick controls, which made the game very realistic and fun to play.

    This game is a classic hit amongst people who still own an N64, and it is a game that will definitely help keep your mind off of the lockout.

NHL '99

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    After a poorly received NHL '98, EA Sports made some significant improvements that made NHL '99 a hit.

    The big addition to this game was a career mode, which would turn into a franchise mode, which really set the foundation for what is now EA's "Be-A-Pro" mode. 

    When you look at this game, it is a game that was a building block for future things to come.

    EA also overhauled the overall presentation and graphics by introducing a higher resolution and a faster refresh rate.

    This game is still a fan favorite, and it is one that I wish I still owned.

NHL 2K7

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    This game was the first "next-gen" game to be released on an advanced gaming console, and this game really set the bar high.

    Unfortunately for the makers at 2K, this game signified their peak at making hockey games because, as a company, they fell into a steady decline of obscurity with titles released after 2K7.

    The presentation and graphics of this game were the best of any sports game at the time. Also, the AI was realistic as it featured players pinching in or trying to break out on a rush, and it was just an enjoyable game.

    If 2K was able to build off of this momentum, there is a good chance that EA would have been pressed to make their games even better, but now they have a monopoly on the market.

NHL '08

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    NHL '08 was an amazing "next-gen" game that completely revamped the entire hockey gaming industry.

    The EA team continued making stick handling developments, and it launched an improved "Skill Stick."

    The "Skill Stick" allowed players to have more control with the puck when it came to dekes. Now, a player could engage a defender one-on-one and push the puck past the defender and then skate around the defender to pick up the prone puck.

    When you consider all the improvements and the realism added to the game, NHL '08 is one of the greatest hockey games of all-time.

NHL '10

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    NHL '10 is widely considered to be the best game of the EA NHL series, and one of the best hockey games of all-time,

    Some features of NHL '10 included "Be-A-GM" mode, battling for pucks along the boards, highlight reel goals, increased A.I (especially for the goaltender), precision passing, scoring from all areas on the ice and post-whistle action.

    The physics engine was completely re-designed, making the gameplay very authentic. It rivaled real NHL action. This game was so well received that many have opted to play this game throughout the lockout.

NHL '07

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    2007 was an amazing year for hockey video games, and NHL '07 was just as good as NHL 2K7.

    NHL '07 was the first game in the EA series that was released on the Xbox 360, and the animation and software engine blew all of the previous editions out of the water. This game made some drastic improvements that made it one of the best sporting games at the time of its release.

    The major new feature was the "Skill Stick Revolution." This feature allowed a user to take different types of shots and the dual-analog stick control allowed a user to execute various dekes.

    The integration of analog sticks put control into the user's hands and gave them the most authentic experience ever.

    It was a fun game to play on a "next-gen" console, and fans loved the drastic changes that made video games so easy to enjoy.

NHL '13

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    NHL'13 was released earlier this year, and many fans joked that this would be the only form of hockey played in 2012-13. The release of NHL '13 ushered in a new form of hockey gaming, that helped fans cope with the impending lockout.

    The addition of a "True Broadcast" camera gave NHL'13 a realistic feel that made it resemble a live NHL game broadcast on NBC.

    In addition, the game added a revamped physics engine that added realistic skating, hitting and puck physics that allowed for multiple goals to be scored from throughout the ice.

    In addition, EA added improvements to H.U.T., more features to "Be-A-Pro" and increased online club play options.

    Overall, NHL'13 is an amazing game that will help get fans through the lockout.