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Top 10 Sports Video Games Of All Time

One of the best and most successful franchises ever - Madden! One of the best and most successful franchises ever - Madden!
It’s a combo that suits many guys – sports and video games. For gamers and armchair quarterbacks, sports themed video games provide the perfect way to combine passions and live out some athletic fantasies. What are the Top 10 sports video games of all time?

There have been many excellent examples of sports video games dating all the way back to the beginning of gaming. Of course, there have been some stinkers, too. But with technology developing the way it has, sports games have been advancing to the point that you almost feel like you’re out there in the action.

Here’s a look at some of the best of the best to ever come down the pipe.

10. Tiger Woods PGA Tour

Tiger Woods revolutionized golf while his video game revolutionized the golf video game.Tiger Woods revolutionized golf while his video game revolutionized the golf video game.

The Tiger Woods franchise really took the golf video game to the next level. Golf games started to hit their stride in the late ‘80s with some great titles for the NES, and Electronic Arts upped the ante again in the ‘90s with the PGA Tour series.

Shortly after EA added Tiger to the title, the innovations really took off. Graphics hit an all time high, the realism of game play approached eerie levels, and career modes that had you chasing legendary status made it hard to put down a Tiger Woods game.

A variety of challenges as well as the chance to live out a PGA career made Tiger Woods PGA Tour impossible to deny. Best of all, the weather is always right when hitting the virtual links.

9. Baseball Stars

Baseball Stars introduced the role of general manager to sports games.Baseball Stars introduced the role of general manager to sports games.

SNK’s Baseball Stars for the NES was the best baseball game of its era by a country mile. It laid the groundwork for many of the features that come standard in sports games today.

Baseball Stars was the first game to let you play the general manager of your team. You could buy and sell players, play a full season, and track individual stats. At a time when data saving was rare in cartridge games, Baseball Stars tore down the walls.

The game play itself was very good as well. Here, there might be some argument about other NES baseball games being more playable, but Baseball Stars still edges them out with great animation and fluid game play.

But even if the action had been mediocre instead of excellent, sports gamers would still owe a huge debt to the game that innovated so much.

8. Bulls vs. Lakers and the NBA Playoffs

Bulls vs. Lakers was one of the few games to feature Michael JordanBulls vs. Lakers was one of the few games to feature Michael Jordan

Until Electronic Arts introduced Lakers vs. Celtics in 1989, a good basketball video game was hard to come by. EA created that game’s lengthily titled sequel, Bulls vs. Lakers and the NBA Playoffs, two years later and cemented the hoops video game’s spot in the marketplace.

This game gave you control of all 16 1991 playoff teams and included signature moves for star players. One of its most notable innovations was to have the human-controlled player highlighted by a star surrounding that player’s feet. Previous games had the player flash brightly or have his socks change color. The convention of having an icon surrounding the feet of a human-controlled player soon extended to sports games of all types.

Bulls vs. Lakers is also one of the few video games to feature Michael Jordan. That gives it big bonus points.

7. Track & Field

Track & Field spawned international competitions.Track & Field spawned international competitions.

Many gamers remember Track & Field as a nearly universal title in the NES collection. Either you or one of your friends definitely had this game, which was always a good one for head-to-head competition. But Track & Field was a sought after coin-op machine in arcades across the continent in the early ‘80s as well.

Track & Field set the bar for Olympics-themed games, in particular, the alternating button tapping that is standard to this day in any similar style of game. Besides being an innovator, Track & Field also reached levels of popularity that spawned international competitions.

Many players will also have learned the key to racking up a great score in the stand-up version, which involved using a pen or pencil held between two fingers to create a seesaw effect that allowed for quicker alternating button pounding.

Of note in this realm is the series of games by PC producer Epyx, which included Summer Games, Winter Games, World Games, and California Games. The success of these titles on the home computer led to their appearance on other consoles, such as the NES and Sega Master System as well, but the translation from PC didn’t always do the games justice.

These titles included some obscure sports that have yet to reappear in a video game – bull riding, barrel jumping on ice skates, cliff diving, hacky sack, and Frisbee toss among them.

6. Skitchin’

Skitchin' was an exciting, if fictional, sport to turn into a video game.Skitchin' was an exciting, if fictional, sport to turn into a video game.

Electronic Arts is the industry giant where sports games are concerned. But it wasn’t always so. In the early ‘90s when the Madden Football and NHL Hockey dynasties were just getting off the ground, EA produced a game based on the fictional sport of “skitchin’.”

In Skitchin’ players skate on inline skates, grasping onto cars as they pass. You can also hit ramps and perform tricks for extra points. But the real fun begins when you start picking up weapons from the road and from other players. Steel pipes and chains can be used to knock other racers down, allowing you to literally beat them to the finish line.

Skitchin’ followed the same basic format as EA’s popular motorcycle racing game, Road Rash, but the added element of doing flips and twists for extra points makes Skitchin’ the superior game.

5. Super Dodge Ball

Super Dodge Ball gave you the chance to whallop a friendSuper Dodge Ball gave you the chance to whallop a friend

As this list shows, sometimes obscure, strange, or fictional sports make for great video games. The classic NES title, Super Dodge Ball, is a prime example. There have been updated versions, but this is the one that started it all.

In Super Dodge Ball you control a national team of cartoonishly large-headed players as they vie for world dodge ball supremacy. Part of what makes this game so much fun are the special throws unique to each character. Depending on what country you pick, and what positions you assign your players, you can end up with a devastating team.

Super Dodge Ball was the most fun to play head-to-head, as executing super sonic throws that blasted your friend off the screen provided a feeling of total satisfaction. Not to mention that such humiliating devastation was also cause for as much gloating as the world of gaming can offer.

4. Madden/ Tecmo Bowl (tie)

Tecmo Bowl was one of the most playable sports games of the '80s.Tecmo Bowl was one of the most playable sports games of the '80s.

Apples and Oranges. You know what they say about comparing them. Well, how do you pick between the two greatest football titles ever? In the ‘80s, nothing came close to the fluid game play of Tecmo Bowl. Plus, you controlled players from actual NFL rosters, making this one of the first sports games to offer the innovation of having a real team at gamers’ fingertips.

Tecmo Bowl’s sequel, Super Tecmo Bowl, also offered a ton of innovations, like the combination of every NFL franchise with its complete roster. This was also the first game that allowed you to play a full season schedule including playoffs, but the difficulty settings made realistic game play difficult.

Enter John Madden Football. The ‘90s were the beginning of the most dominant sports video game franchise ever. Although an early version appeared in 1989, Madden really made its splash on the Sega Genesis in the early ‘90s.

Eventually, Madden became the definitive sports game, adding more realistic details from managing rosters to running training camps to dealing with agents. Madden set the bar and then obliterated it.

Now, over 20 years since its first appearance, the Madden series is going strong and has become the highest revenue-grossing video game series, sports or otherwise, in North American history.

3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

The fourth installment of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater built on the solid premise of the original hitThe fourth installment of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater built on the solid premise of the original hit

Tony Hawk put skateboarding on the map, and his video game put the sport in the hands of gamers all over the world. Before Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hit the stands in 1999, skateboarding games were pretty lackluster. But Activision changed all that with this iconic entry into the extreme sports video game market.

Players had an unprecedented variety of moves to choose from, not to mention the ability to control actual professional skateboarding superstars, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Throw in some signature moves and hidden lines to grind out extra points on, and you had the makings of an undeniable gaming experience.

Since that first installment, the Tony Hawk series has produced several sequels, as well as an avalanche of imitators. But not only was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater one of the most influential games of all time, it was also one of the most addictive.

2. NHL ’95

NHL 95 was the perfect hockey video gameNHL 95 was the perfect hockey video game

Hockey has always been a regional game with limited appeal in areas where the game doesn’t have a deep tradition. However, hockey video games have long held great appeal due to their fast pace and a format that lends itself well to home video game systems.

The king of all hockey video games was Electronic Arts’ 1995 entry in their NHL series, NHL ’95. EA had been on the path to hockey video game perfection starting with NHL Hockey in 1992. The ’93 version added real NHL rosters, and ’94 upped the ante on realistic game play, but with NHL ’95 nothing was overlooked.

The game was fast-paced, fluid, realistic, and included every nuance including hits, fighting, season schedules, playoffs, and trading. Later entries in the series built on what ’95 had accomplished, but they would never again take as huge a leap forward as was done with this game.

In the NES era, Konami’s Blades of Steel and Nintendo’s Ice Hockey made for fun games, but both were lacking the realism that EA captured in the ‘90s. Those were great games, but a far cry from the perfection of NHL ’95.

1. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

The greatest sports video game of all time. Hands down.The greatest sports video game of all time. Hands down.

It’s incredible that a sports game without a two-player feature could have been so successful, but Nintendo hit the jackpot with Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. The home version of the arcade series built on the basic premise of the coin-up, but added a plethora of characters. That called for a diversified approach to problem solving in this iconic title.

Every match in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out called for the identification of your opponent’s pattern of movement, and then the development of a strategy to thwart that attack. The cartoonish antagonists were unforgettable and distinct, and every level was the stuff of schoolyard conversation.

Super Punch Out for the Super NES was also an incredibly fun game, and the recent release of a new Punch Out for the Nintendo Wii has kept the flame alive for a whole new generation of fans.

For gamers who go back as far as the early ‘80s stand-up versions, every installment in the Punch Out series has been welcomed with open arms. To have continued to build on a winning premise without ever taking a step back is unprecedented in the history of sequels.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was the best in an outstanding and timeless video game series.

There have been so many great boxing games going back to some of the earliest consoles, but Fight Night, Ring King, and the famous Rocky for Colecovision, even with its use of the “Super Action Controller,” could never accomplish the sweeping popularity of Punch Out, which extended well beyond the realm of the boxing aficionado and to gamers everywhere.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 20:11

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