What is the best sports video game of all time?


This week at SB Nation, we’re going to be talking about video games across the network. That’s not limited to sports video games, but in this post, right here, that’s what we’re going to talk about. What is the greatest sports video game title of all time?

That’s where you come in. We’ve selected 32 games from a variety of sports, types and eras, and we’ll be running polls over the course of this week for you to decide which one reigns supreme (there’s more info at the bottom on the selection and seeding process, for those interested). There are some I couldn’t make room for (Pyre and Golf Story stans, know that I’m with you) and some I definitely forgot. I’d love to hear about them! Please yell at me in the comments.

If you can’t see the voting box, click here.

Voting for the first round will close at 11:59 PM ET Monday, June 15. We’ll vote on the second and third rounds Tuesday, and the final four games Wednesday before crowning a champion Thursday.

The Originals Region (pre-1999)

Poll

(1) NBA Jam vs. (8) RBI Baseball

  • 89%

    (1) NBA Jam (1993)

    (201 votes)

  • 10%

    (8) RBI Baseball (1987)

    (23 votes)



224 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(4) NFL Blitz vs. (5) Mario Kart 64

  • 30%

    (4) NFL Blitz (1997)

    (68 votes)

  • 69%

    (5) Mario Kart 64 (1996)

    (158 votes)



226 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(3) Punch-Out!! vs. (6) NHL 94

  • 58%

    (3) Punch-Out!! (1987)

    (124 votes)

  • 41%

    (6) NHL 94 (1993)

    (88 votes)



212 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(2) Tecmo Super Bowl vs. (7) Backyard Baseball

  • 50%

    (2) Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

    (112 votes)

  • 49%

    (7) Backyard Baseball (1997)

    (110 votes)



222 votes total

Vote Now

Tons of classics in this region! My personal favorite in this group has to be Backyard Baseball, but I grew up playing most of the games in the Backyard series and I will not begrudge any of you who vote for the excellent Tecmo Super Bowl.

The Turn of the Century Region (1999-2003)

Poll

(1) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 vs. (8) Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest

  • 86%

    (1) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)

    (190 votes)

  • 13%

    (8) Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest (1999)

    (29 votes)



219 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(4) NBA Street Vol. 2 vs. (5) WWF No Mercy

  • 72%

    (4) NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)

    (151 votes)

  • 27%

    (5) WWF No Mercy (2000)

    (58 votes)



209 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(3) SSX Tricky vs. (6) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004

  • 51%

    (3) SSX Tricky (2001)

    (110 votes)

  • 48%

    (6) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (2003)

    (104 votes)



214 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(2) Madden 2004 vs. (7) Top Spin

  • 84%

    (2) Madden 2004 (2003)

    (180 votes)

  • 15%

    (7) Top Spin (2003)

    (34 votes)



214 votes total

Vote Now

This region has arguably the favorite to win the whole thing: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. The first two games in the series are being remastered, with a release date of September, so get excited for that. The region also has the legendary snowboarding title SSX Tricky, and standouts from wrestling (WWF No Mercy) and tennis (Top Spin).

Other personal favorites here: NBA Street Vol. 2 (still holds up!), Madden 2004 (aka Michael Vick Madden) and Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest (I logged way too many hours in that game as a child).

The Mid 2000’s Region (2004-2008)

Poll

(1) ESPN NFL 2K5 vs. (8) All Pro Football 2K8

  • 89%

    (1) ESPN NFL 2K5 (2004)

    (168 votes)

  • 10%

    (8) All Pro Football 2K8 (2007)

    (20 votes)



188 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(4) College Hoops 2K8 vs. (5) NFL Street

  • 45%

    (4) College Hoops 2K8 (2007)

    (88 votes)

  • 54%

    (5) NFL Street (2004)

    (105 votes)



193 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(3) NBA Live 2005 vs. (6) iRacing

  • 83%

    (3) NBA Live 2005 (2004)

    (157 votes)

  • 16%

    (6) iRacing (2008)

    (31 votes)



188 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(2) MVP Baseball 2005 vs. (7) Wii Sports

  • 34%

    (2) MVP Baseball 2005 (2005)

    (68 votes)

  • 66%

    (7) Wii Sports (2006)

    (132 votes)



200 votes total

Vote Now

This is when things started to consolidate into the major titles we see today (the next region is even more illustrative of that). I’m really intrigued by that first match-up: two beloved 2K football titles before EA boxed them out of football games. All-Pro Football 2K8 is one of the few examples of me taking some creative license here: it didn’t get great reviews, but it’s my all-time favorite football game (in my opinion, no game has better balanced rushing and passing on both sides of the ball). 2K will be returning to football soon, though!

Two more of my favorites here from now-discontinued series: MVP Baseball 2005 (a game that we’ve already laid out the case for as the best of all-time) and College Hoops 2K8. Two comments on 2K8: 1) the career mode was so much fun I applied to Elon because of it and nearly went to school there 2) go Leathernecks.

A potential darkhorse here is iRacing, the best-in-class racing simulator, complete with laser-scanned tracks.

The Modern Era (2009-Present)

Poll

(1) FIFA 13 vs. (8) NCAA Football 14

  • 32%

    (1) FIFA 13 (2012)

    (65 votes)

  • 67%

    (8) NCAA Football 14 (2013)

    (135 votes)



200 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(4) Fight Night Round 4 vs. (5) Super Mega Baseball 3

  • 58%

    (4) Fight Night Round 4 (2009)

    (102 votes)

  • 41%

    (5) Super Mega Baseball 3 (2017)

    (72 votes)



174 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(3) NBA 2K12 vs. (6) Rocket League

  • 40%

    (3) NBA 2K12 (2011)

    (77 votes)

  • 59%

    (6) Rocket League (2015)

    (112 votes)



189 votes total

Vote Now

Poll

(2) MLB The Show 09 vs. (7) Motorsport Manager

  • 87%

    (2) MLB The Show 09 (2009)

    (157 votes)

  • 12%

    (7) Motorsport Manager (2014)

    (22 votes)



179 votes total

Vote Now

Now we’re pretty fully into the big franchises. It can be hard to pick representatives for each, because the games often hardly change from year to year.

NCAA Football 14 has a big upset opportunity here — the game did not get as high reviews upon release as the rest of the entires here, but as the last licensed NCAA Football title there is a looooot of nostalgia around it.

You’ve also got Motorsport Manager, which in my opinion may be the best-in-class of the simulator genre. There are also a pair of excellent new takes on the sports genre from the past few years: Rocket League and Super Mega Baseball.

How the games were selected

A combination of personal preference, crowd-sourcing my SB Nation and Polygon colleagues, Metacritic review scores and the always-slightly-intangible “legacy” factor. I limited it to one selection per franchise (and often used Metacritic score as a tiebreaker) — if you are so inclined, feel free to view each individual entry for a franchise as representative of the franchise as a whole. This is not my 32 favorite sports games of all time — that would be a different group. I tried to make the group of games representative of the common fan favorites and the different kinds of sports games we’ve seen over the years.

Seeding was done strictly via Metacritic review scores, with the exception of the first region (old enough that most didn’t have Metacritic scores). I tried to make logical seeding out of that one.



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