When it comes to digital entertainment, there are very few things as popular as video games. Hundreds of new games are released each year, with each developer trying to create a game that will tower over all the rest.
With such competition in the industry, studios are forced to give their best—resulting in some incredible games for players to enjoy. However, sometimes, the results of their labors are less overwhelming and can lead to disappointment.
Sports games, in particular, are one genre where competition is rife. While only a handful of developers (namely EA Sports, Ubisoft, Konami, and 2K Games) have experienced mentionable success, endless sports games are jostling to be crowned king.
Below, we’ve dug into history and found the best sports video games of all time (in no particular order). If you haven’t played these games before, make sure you find a way to experience everything a sports video game should be by playing the titles below.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Released in September 2000, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is anything but modern. Yet, the game still offers incredible fun that even newer titles cannot compete with.
When it hit stores, the game was available only on PlayStation, but it was soon ported to Windows, Mac OS, Dreamcast, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and Xbox. So that you could enjoy the gaming experience on your mobile, it was also released on iOS several years later.
Published by Activision, THPS2 (as it became known) was the first skating game ever to feature things like Create-a-Skater and the ability to edit skate parks. It also featured plenty more than simply skating around trying to land challenging tricks.
From playing S-K-A-T-E, where you had to find each letter in different locations, to searching for hidden tapes as you progressed through levels, the game had plenty to do. While achieving these tasks, you could visit numerous cities (including NYC) and try to perfect tricks that would be impossible in real life for even the most seasoned pro.
Speaking of pros, the game featured a plethora of incredible pro skaters. Amongst these are the legend himself—Tony Hawk—Steve Caballero, Rune Glifberg, Geoff Rowley, and Rodney Mullen.
FIFA 2013 (FIFA 13)
Easily one of the most prominent names in sports video games is FIFA. Developed by EA Sports, the game has multiple iterations available on almost every console released over the last 30 years—the amount of time that EA has held a license with FIFA.
While some versions of the game are not highly rated, the 2013 version is among the most popular sports games ever. It was released in September 2012 and quickly added to the FIFA video game franchise record as the best-selling sports franchise in history.
Aside from hosting all the greatest teams and players at the time, the game was the first in the FIFA franchise to support PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect. This allowed players to get off the couch and engage more with their virtual players on screen as they aimed for the win.
The support of this newer technology (at the time) and a spectacular career mode quickly grabbed fans’ attention and made people log countless hours playing. This love has secured this game in history as a favorite, with many replaying it in light of speculation of what new FIFA games will be like after EA Sports lost its licensing deal with FIFA in 2022.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
As one part of the popular Punch-Out!! franchise, which has seen eight video games released over the years, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is by far the most admired. It was developed exclusively for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by Nintendo and released in 1987.
The game’s fundamental graphics and movements weren’t anything fancy by any stretch. However, while fighting your way through the World Video Boxing Association ranks, you will encounter numerous colorful opponents to take down.
As you would expect, having a legend like Mike Tyson will be one of the most brutal levels, and that is why you only meet him in the game’s final round. Here, you’ll need to show incredible skill to take down the king of boxing.
One thing to note is that another version of this game titled Punch-Out!! Gold was also released around the same time. This didn’t feature Mike Tyson and instead had Mr. Dream as the final contender. After licensing lapsed with Tyson, all future game versions also featured Mr. Dream.
In 2006, Wii Sports was a Nintendo Wii exclusive offering five games in one. These were tennis, baseball, golf, boxing, and bowling—officially recognized as a sport in 1981.
Using the unique motion detection technology of the Wii console, the game required players to get up and become active. The ability to physically engage with sports rather than sit on the couch with a controller immediately captured sport game fans’ attention.
While the games didn’t offer incredible graphics, some fun features added to the game’s popularity. Amongst these were the ability to use your Wii character to play in the game and the multiplayer mode that let players pit their skills against each other.
These and the fact that the games were simple yet challenging enough have made this one of the best video games not just in the sports genre but of all time.
Other Notable Mentions
Alongside the games mentioned above, a few other sports video games stand out from the rest. As expected, these are based on factual sporting competitions and teams and allow you to play using characters based on your favorite real-life players.
- NBA 2K11 – Released by 2K Games in 2010
- NBA Jam – Released by Midway and Acclaim Entertainment in 1993 as the start of a franchise of NBA-branded games
- Madden NFL 2005 – Released by EA Sports in 2004