The 50 Best Sports Video Games of All Time‬

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIINovember 7, 2011

The 50 Best Sports Video Games of All Time‬

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    While fans love to watch their favorite athletes scratch and claw for victory, they seemingly yearn for the ability to control the movements and decisions themselves through a fun simulation.

    Video games not only present the exciting opportunity to stimulate one's hopes and dreams on the field of play, but they also often allow users to play the role of general manager.

    These games continue to shape generations of exhilarated users.

    Here are the best sports video games of all time.


50. Arch Rivals

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    While basketball enthusiasts undoubtedly loved the mechanical and proper format of the classic NBA games, there were those who enjoyed the vicious, ruthless style of Arch Rivals for NES.

    Not only was this an arcade classic, but it combined basketball and boxing to create a juvenile, yet entertaining, game that allowed users to deck opponents and excite the crowd.

    An oldie, but a goodie. 

49. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003

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    While she may not be one of Tiger Woods' actual mistresses, this "golfer" was undoubtedly causing the legend to salivate while waiting his turn.

    It may not seem quite as fast-paced and intense as other sports games, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 presents a realistic and enjoyable golf game for eager enthusiasts.

    With 25 individualistic golfers to choose from, illustrious courses and the "Tiger Challenge" (which allows players to win cash prizes to be used on skill points and unlock courses), this game became an instant hit.

    All it lacked was Tiger Woods' notorious extracurricular endeavors.

48. World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 International

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    With a heated rivalry once prospering between Konami's World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 International and the FIFA series, fans continued to question which game they preferred.

    FIFA may have inherited many fans who were afraid to attempt a pronunciation of its oddly named competitor, but World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 International may have been the most realistic soccer game at the time of its introduction.

    While dribbling, passing and the graphics have been significantly improved, the game continues to be a verbally intimidating chore for fans.

    Perhaps Konami could have improved upon the 70 million copies they sold worldwide if they kept the title to fewer syllables.

47. NFL 2K1

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    It may have only been released for the throwback that is Sega Dreamcast, but NFL 2K1 revolutionized one aspect of football video games that seemingly couldn't be matched at the time.

    This game featured not only new and improved fan reaction, but it also displayed the initial potential of online play.

    Its franchise mode may have paled in comparison to the one featured in the Madden series, but it's game play and high ceiling made it quite the pioneer.

    That potential would never be realized, as Dreamcast eventually fell into the abyss of ancient video games. 

46. Excitebike

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    Simple yet addictive was seemingly the modus operandi of this engaging NES game.

    Elementary games like this set the stage for a bright future of dirt-bike games.

    Being able to create your own tracks was revolutionary at the time.

    Users were also careful not to push too hard on the bike and overheat the engine, as the noise that resulted was deafening to say the least.

    It clearly taught its youths discipline.

45. Blitz: The League II

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    For football fans who enjoy the fearless action of the gridiron (albeit exaggerated and often gory), Blitz: The League II offers a unique representation of what hard-core fans love most—hard hits and fast-paced action.

    What's unique about this version is the inclusion of various NFL scandals. While the team names are fictional, the league featured former Washington Redhawks quarterback Mike Mexico serving time in prison (Michael Vick used the name "Ron Mexico" when searching for herpes treatment), the New England Regulars allegedly cheating in a championship game (in reference to the Patriots' Spygate scandal) and the Minnesota Reapers being involved in an incident reminiscent of the Vikings' boat scandal.

    Some may have seen this as the darker side of football, while others undeniably entrenched themselves in a world of hard-hitting entertainment.

44. ESPN NFL 2K5

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    While it did feature a celebrity game involving Jamie Kennedy, Steve-O, David Arquette, Funkmaster Flex or Carmen Electra and a franchise mode with a SportsCenter feature hosted by Chris Berman, this game arguably received the most nationwide acclaim for its pricing.

    With fans having to pay $49.99 for the Madden games, ESPN NFL 2K5 saw an increase in popularity with their price resting at a comfortable $19.99.

    However, this gift wouldn't last long, as EA Sports acquired an exclusive rights agreement with the NFL and NFLPA following the 2005 release to be the only creator of NFL video games.

    The next season saw Madden 2006 rise back to $49.99, to the likely dismay of many fans.

    While NFL 2K5 was arguably the best value of any video game, its improved cheerleader moves are what really drew in a new throng of fans.

43. NCAA Football 2004

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    Not only did NCAA Football 2004 have former USC Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer (yes, the one whom the Oakland Raiders mortgaged their immediate future for), but it was also the first video game to feature the elaborate ceremonies of college football.

    Players entered the field behind a group of flag-holders and an exhilarated mascot, and excessive post-touchdown celebrations were sporadically called for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

    The energy of this game arguably matched that of a real college game with its numbing vibrations and clutch performances.

42. Big Buck Hunter Pro

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    For hunting enthusiasts who enjoy practicing their craft in the comfort of their own home, this is the ideal activity.

    With surprisingly quick load times considering the graphics, a unique soundtrack and lively animals, this seems like an entertaining yet safe opportunity for users to kill time.

    Just be careful not to clip a female deer, as it will immediately end the round.

41. Madden NFL Arcade

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    If the complex simulation style of Madden is too complicated for you, then this arcade-like production will surely suffice.

    Bereft of the penalties, pre-snap audibles, time limits, first downs, special teams and in-depth playbooks of the intricate games, Madden NFL Arcade simply features a five-on-five battle with comical power-ups.

    With these unique game-changers such as frozen players and multiplied defenders, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

40. Wii Sports

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    This collection of five sports simulations was undoubtedly revolutionary for the video game industry, as it led users to optimistic expectations of future virtual-reality games.

    With the opportunity to play tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing, users can use the Wii remote to exert the actions that are needed to perform.

    Not only did Wii present players with the exciting motivation to work out and break a sweat, but it required users to get off the couch.

    A step in the right direction.

39. NFL Gameday 98

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    Without sacrificing game play or aesthetics, NFL Gameday 98 created a revolutionary game by combining  precisely improved running controls, a competitive nature and better graphics.

    The graphics may seem little more than elementary now, but at the time they pioneered the way for a bright future in NFL gaming.

38. NHL 09

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    A significant improvement over NHL 08, the 2009 version offered new stick skills, dump-and-chase and the lift stick option, as well as the opportunity to use the NHL '94 controls for beginners.

    The aspect of the game that truly separated this version was the "Be a Pro" mode in which users were able to create a player or use a rookie NHLer and get him to the big leagues.

    As each sport adds more personal control to their games, fans seemingly feel more inclined to partake.

37. F1 2010

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    The key to a successful racing game is undoubtedly the attention to detail. F1 2010 takes the cake in regards to its accurate sounds, real-life tracks and breathtaking graphics.

    It may be a bit difficult at first with the lack of working mirrors, but the realistic feel on the tracks will keep users engaged.

    Arguably as close to the real thing as it gets.

36. Need for Speed: Most Wanted

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    With comprehensive and challenging game play that never seems to get boring, this game eliminates the tedious process of one-dimensional racing.

    Rather than repeatedly racing the same way, users now have the chance to evade the police, tune their car mid-race and enjoy humorous cinematics.

    More of Cops and less of Pimp My Ride. 

35. NCAA Basketball 2010

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    We may not have the NBA, but college basketball is always there to give fans a warm feeling.

    While nothing can match the intensity of the real March Madness, NCAA Basketball 2010 does a great job mixing an aesthetically pleasing presentation with somewhat-smooth and accurate game play to give users a fun experience that is as close to reality as possible. 

    Its positives are thoroughly embraced, its flaws easily ignored.

34. EA Sports MMA

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    For loyal MMA fans who want a realistic simulation of the competitive sport, this is seemingly perfect. 

    Bereft of the button-mashing aspect of other sports games, EA Sports MMA combines controls similar to those in Fight Night and smooth game play to offer users a war-type event, rather than a short, fast-paced battle.

    However, the best feature is the attention to detail within each fight.

    Superior graphics and unique moves leave users in awe.

33. Super Dodge Ball

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    Elementary graphics and gameplay are met with an addictive nature to the game of dodgeball.

    The theme of the past continues to be simpler is better.

    We must appreciate the past before we can embrace and attack the future of gaming.

32. Joe Montana's Sports Talk Football

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    This video essentially speaks for itself, as there was nothing like this 1993 game to keep fans enthused.

    The humorous commentary, expected glitches and simple game play gave users consistent entertainment.

    Still a classic today.

31. California Games

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    With sporadic earthquakes, numerous seagulls and random sharks, this game was one of a kind.

    The graphics may have been atrocious, but the engaging nature was far from unacceptable.

    Addictive, yet always challenging.

30. Hydro Thunder

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    Incredible graphics, user-friendly controls, unique boat designs and a solid selection of courses created the opportunity for more hours of fun on the N64. 

    Bonus boats, secret courses and a nice array of difficulty levels will keep users engaged and competitive.

    The ultimate experience in racing games. 

29. Blades of Steel

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    While it may be a laughable attempt at ice hockey by today's standards, Blades of Steel was seen as the best at the time of its inception.

    A simple pastime may not garner any attention now, but it was once the little things that made youths happy.

    Blades of Steel continues to have increasing value as a collector's item, at the very least. 

28. Little League Baseball Championship Series

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    It may have featured the same mundane graphics and rigid game play of fellow games, but Little League Baseball Championship Series offered that unique opportunity to play with little leaguers.

    There's nothing quite like playing with characters of a childish age.

27. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe

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    Seemingly a mix of handball and ice hockey, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe evidently required violence over skills. 

    While it came out in 1990, the game was meant to be featured during the year 2105, following the failure of the first Speedball league (founded in 2095).

    It may sound confusing, but this action-filled arcade game is quite the addictive production. 

26. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

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    When few believed that chin-dropping graphics like this were possible during game play, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec evidently made the unlikely occur.

    The engine noises, tire sounds and authenticity of courses left fans yearning for more.

    This game set the standard for future racing games.

25. Sports Champions

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    Not only will this game make users do more exercise than usual, but the selection of beach volleyball, bocce, disc golf, archery and gladiator duel will keep players yearning for more.

    With the ability to break a sweat in one's own living room, there is seemingly still no reason to leave the couch.

24. Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

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    Released in 1988, Jordan vs. Bird: One on One was seemingly another numbing display of poor graphics, yet it undoubtedly kept users stimulated.

    With Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only two characters in the game, players were essentially given two scenarios. 

    Whether it be a dunk contest with Air Jordan or a three-point contest with Bird, hours of fun undeniably ensued.

23. NFL Street

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    This game essentially took the same exaggerated qualities of NBA Street and put them on the gridiron.

    Players could wear any attire, from jeans and work boots to authentic jerseys and nylon shorts, and celebrate as enthusiastically as they pleased without worrying about yellow flags.

    There are few who didn't enjoy the ruthless nature of this street game. 

22. Triple Play 2002

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    This title will undoubtedly bring warm memories to a plethora of diehard baseball fans who had the privilege of playing this game.

    Impeccable stadium graphics, smooth fielding and a somewhat-accurate draft left fans more than pleased and excited for the future.

    It may not be the most accurate in terms of injuries and fatigue (which essentially don't exist), but Triple Play 2002 successfully created a fast-paced simulation that doesn't reek of arcade baseball.

21. Virtua Tennis

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    Stunning graphics, realistic courts and challenging yet simple game play presented Sega Dreamcast fans with quite the addictive tennis video game.

    Aside from excluding female tennis players, this game was essentially ideal. 

    Virtua Tennis laid the groundwork for future tennis video games to build on. 

20. Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.

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    Not only was it arguably one of the best N64 sports games ever made, but it featured perhaps one of the best baseball talents of all time on its cover.

    Something about this engaging arcade-style baseball game keeps users engaged for hours, especially when playing friends.

    With Ken Griffey Jr. as its poster boy, this game paved the way for a future in baseball gaming.

19. WWF: No Mercy

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    Whether users want to step in the ring in the first-ever ladder match or be a special guest referee, they undoubtedly most enjoyed touring the SmackDown mall.

    With the opportunity to buy costumes, weapons and even Andre the Giant, this game was unique for its time.

    There was also a riveting survival mode in which users had to beat 100 wrestlers without losing.

    N64 never failed its fans. 

18. Mario Tennis 64

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    While the character of Mario may be most associated with Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64, it was his overlooked participation in Mario Tennis 64 that truly displayed his diversity.

    The comfort of the traditional Nintendo aesthetics and the unique game play makes for a fun day of animated tennis.

    With a concentration on timing and combining buttons to optimize a shot, this game successfully sacrificed reality for relentless fun.

17. NBA Street Vol. 2

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    EA Sports BIG took the high-flying, exuberant nature of the '90s-style game and made it even more exhilarating.

    With 29 NBA teams, 26 NBA legends and an arcade-like feel, NBA Street Vol. 2 attracted most youths with its engaging game play.

    Unimaginable dunks, exaggerated fouls and player attitudes laid the groundwork down for a new kind of experience.

    This game also offered Michael Jordan loyalists the ability to play with three different versions of the NBA legend (the 1985 Chicago Bulls Jordan, the 1996 Chicago Bulls Jordan and the Washington Wizards Jordan).

16. NHL '94

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    The graphics of today's hockey games may cause this epic edition to seem like a traditional pastime, but the creators had to start somewhere.

    NHL '94 not only introduced an improved game play, but it was the first hockey game to feature one-timers.

    It may have lacked exciting fights, but NHL '94 paved the way for a future of prosperous hockey titles.

15. Fight Night Round 4

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    With Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson on the cover, it was clear this game would be of epic proportions.

    Improved technique, a new point system and the foundation of a legacy mode gave users quite the unique opportunity to knock out opponents.

    Fight Night Round 4 not only focused more on counter punching, but it added flyweight and bantamweight classes for a larger selection.

    Boxing games have come a long way.

14. R.B.I. Baseball

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    For those who love their eight-bit console and the myriad glitches of a 1988 game, this production can subtly waste the hours away.

    While it may have had only 10 teams and comically bad graphics, R.B.I. Baseball combined smooth game play, accurate skill level regarding players and a fast pace to offer an entertaining game.

    It takes only 15 minutes to run through nine innings. Can't ask for much more.

13. NBA Live 2005

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    This was seemingly the last of the NBA Live series games to dominate over its competitors, such as the NBA 2K series, but it was revolutionary with its remarkable (at the time) graphics and online capabilities.

    A freestyle control for moves while dribbling, an exhilarating and realistic dunk contest and engaging game-play made this game arguably the most significantly improved edition in the Live series.

    As we reminisce, we'll enjoy Shaq's final dominant years.

12. NBA Jam

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    It was the release of this seemingly misguided game that led the way for action-packed, exaggerated versions of basketball simulation to prosper.

    Phrases such as "He's on fire!", "He's heating up!" and "Boomshakalaka!" undeniably haunted users any time they were away from their Sega Genesis.

    Fiery nets, ludicrous jumps and unnecessary dunks entertained generations of optimistic youths. 

11. MLB 09: The Show

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    While this updated baseball game did present improved graphics, refined simulation and a tweaked franchise mode, its improvement of the "Road to the Show" put this game in a class of its own.

    Similar to the Superstar Mode of Madden 2006, the "Road to the Show" (created for the 2007 version) gave users the ability to take a youthful player and turn him into a star.

    MLB 09: The Show not only strengthened its enjoyable attributes, but also improved a unique aspect that allowed for a new type of enjoyment on the diamond.

    Users are essentially creating their ideal champion.

10. Backyard Sports Series

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    With the ability to use youthful impersonations of Albert Pujols, Paul Pierce, Barry Bonds, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, Joe Thornton and Andy Macdonald, this series presents fans with hours of exhilarating fun.

    While no sport takes precedence over the others, each has its own unique flavor that brings users back to childhood...

    ... until they begin to gain wacky power-ups that are somewhat ridiculous, yet unquestionably exciting.

9. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

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    While the original Tony Hawk video game set the standard for an engaging yet challenging game play that allowed users to master the board, the second installation presented a career mode, the ability to create-a-skater and create-a-park and an exhilarating and competitive multiplayer mode.

    For those who could never stay balanced on a real board, this game offers a riveting experience.

    Only in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 could users carelessly shred around the Big Apple while surviving cab accidents and without attracting the police.

8. MVP Baseball 2005

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    There was arguably no game with a more in-depth minor league system and engaging "Owner Mode" than MVP Baseball 2005.

    Essentially given complete control of a Major League Baseball franchise, users could change everything from the color of the new stadium's outfield walls to the starting rotation of the Single-A club.

    Aside from several comical announcing glitches, this game was seemingly flawless.

7. Madden 2006

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    While Madden 2004 may have been revolutionary with the inception of the "Playmaker" feature, it pales in comparison to the unique repertoire or Madden 2006.

    Not only was the illustrious "Truck Stick" introduced to allow for offensive players to creatively break tackles, but the 2006 edition featured "Superstar Mode," which essentially became the most realistic experience for any fan who admired the process of a young prospect working his way towards stardom.

    Users would take control of a rookie and put him through an IQ test, interviews, workouts, the NFL Draft and hiring an agent, as well as anything else that comes along in a football player's life, and work towards an immortal career.

    This feature pioneered the way for users to be in complete control.

6. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade

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    For enthusiasts of 3 on 3 NHL Arcade, the sounds of "blorp" and "woosh" ring endlessly.

    From the get-go, this fast-paced game makes noises and blows fist-clenching music towards users' ears to get the blood flowing and the adrenaline running.

    While the name speaks for itself, this game offers multiplayer online and off-line play, as well as power-ups that give advantages to whoever grabs them.

    With unlimited checking, no penalties and exhilarating moves, this game is one for the ages.

    It is the perfect combination of old and new school.

5. Snowboard Super Cross 3

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    One mountain, three peaks, endless euphoria.

    EA Sports introduced SSX's third edition with 262 mountain cams and a plethora of new tricks.

    With improved graphics, relaxed music and wide-open tracks to garner plenty of hang time, it's easy to see why this game sold 1.38 million copies for the PS2 alone.

    There's nothing quite like shedding down a deserted mountain with snow fluttering by to calm the nerves.

4. Tecmo Super Bowl

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    Released in 1991, this game was the first with licensing privileges to allow for the real names and attributes of NFL teams and players. 

    With prior games using one or the other, fans were left without a realistic feel to the simulation.

    While it only featured one scheduled season (1991) with player attributes based on the 1990 season, users could play the season infinitely, and evidently fell in love.

3. NBA 2K11

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    With 5.5 million units having been sold worldwide, it's safe to say that NBA 2K11 has cemented itself in the upper echelon of sports video games.

    Improved graphics, euphoric game play (albeit more mechanical) and an updated "My Player" mode give users the best in the NBA 2K series.

    This series continues to impress.

2. Punch-Out!!

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    It may not be the most accurate representation of a boxing match, but when Punch Out!! was released over 20 years ago, it hinted at a bright future for boxing fans.

    It may have increased Mike Tyson's cultural influence and given fans a new outlook on boxing. 

    Rhythm, precise timing and sheer determination are needed for energetic victory against a throng of unique characters, such as the comically named Soviet boxer Soda Popinski.

    Always a classic.

1. FIFA 10

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    For fans who find themselves avoiding soccer, any FIFA game will significantly alter their mindset.

    However, FIFA 10 uses much-improved game play, an updated "Manager Mode" and "Virtual Pro," which allows a created footballer to go through the four Be a Pro seasons, to get players excited to hit the sticks.

    FIFA 10 combines engaging game play, realistic performances and jaw-dropping graphics to create the ultimate soccer experience.