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Top 10 Longest-Running Sports Games [Best Recommendations]

While the likes of fantasy football have existed since the early 1960s, gamers can also enjoy having their own ideal season through video games. Didn’t like how the Patriots won the 2017 Super Bowl? Pick up the latest Madden, pick your team and play through a season mode to get them to win it.

As technology progressed since the days of 8-bit, so did graphics and the execution of the gameplay. While older consoles between the NES and Super Nintendo made it difficult to portray the style of Michael Jordan during his prime, modern consoles such as the PS4 have made it possible for players to believe that they are seeing the actual Michael Jordan from his days in the 1990s. In addition to these sports, many others have found success in the form of a video game franchise and continue to this very day while their initial releases still hold up. So what are some of those long-running sports games you may ask? If you want to know, read our list to find out.


10. NBA2K

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: SEGA, 2K Sports
  • Developer: Visual Concepts
  • Release Dates: Nov 10, 1999

Since its debut in 1999, it has captured the hearts of NBA fans, gamers, to even real-life superstars. As the franchise continues long past the retirement of NBA legends such as Michael Jordan, 2K’s present releases allow you to play as some notable teams such as the 1985-1986 Celtics, the 1995-1996 Bulls, the 1989-1990 Pistons, to even the Lakers of the 1970s. Heck, you can even select the teams from the EuroLeague.

But what if you want to make your own fantasy team with your own Lakers starting lineup with Magic, Kobe, Worthy, Shaq, and Kareem? Well, this game allows you to customize your own teams to do so! Do you need someone to get the rebounds? Then Dennis Rodman is at your disposal! What about someone who can block the other team’s shots? Look no further than Dikembe Mutombo. Do you need someone who can shoot three-pointers at a high frequency? Then yes, you can play as Steph Curry. The movements, styles, victory poses (such as Vince Carter’s revving up a motorcycle hand gesture after a dunk) and stats are very accurate to the real thing!

So if you want to make a dream match between the 95-96 Bulls against the 16-17 Warriors, just put it on computer mode, sit back, and relax. The controls are pretty simple and all you got to know are the rules of the game. But if you want to turn off fouls and abuse the other team more badly than Piston’s bad boy Bill Laimbeer, then bombs away!


9. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Neversoft, Robomodo
  • Release Dates: Aug 31, 1999

Living up to his last name, Hawk can soar the skies, tunnels, and ramps in real life. Thankfully, Activision put that into a game and became a smash hit for players to enjoy the realistic skills and thrills of skateboarding. With the players assuming the role of Hawk, they are given a skateboarding course where they can try every trick that is imaginable from mid-air 360 turns, flipping the skateboard while going up and down a ramp, riding the grinds, etc. The second game would then introduce new tricks, most notably the manual where you balance on two wheels. In addition to Hawk, other skaters would eventually come aboard such as Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen.

Naturally, Tony Hawk would contribute to the creation of the game by sharing with the developers the realism of skateboarding and was even used for the motion capture. While many sports games tend to have soundtracks these days, the first Tony Hawk game would be one of the first to use soundtracks from mainstream bands such as Primus and Dead Kennedys. The second game would then feature tracks from Bad Religion, Rage Against the Machine, and Papa Roach. Last, the game’s engine and the inclusion of Spider-Man as a hidden character actually paved way for Activision’s Spider-Man series.


8. Gran Turismo

  • System: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSP
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Developer: Polyphony Digital
  • Release Dates: Dec 23, 1997 (Japan), Apr 30, 1998 (US)

Through Gran Turismo, players have numerous cars to select to play in many racing events such as the Monaco Grand Prix. Do you want a hotshot Ferrari? Then you got a good selection of models at your disposal. Want to try and win a race with a run-down hippie van? Then that’s equally possible but good luck. Many of its praises come from its realism in context to how each car steers, accelerates, the engine sounds, etc. In addition, you can customize cars by adjusting the suspension, adding in turbo upgrades, and so on. Because of these factors, it is considered to be a simulation as opposed to being a game.

As technology advances, the graphics of the game naturally improved to the point that you swear you could be watching a real race while you watch a replay. As VR becomes progressively available to the public, this only makes the experience more immersive and enjoyable. While the idea of buying a VR helmet, a PS4 and a steering wheel may be collectively expensive, it’s still cheaper than buying an actual Ferrari. So instead of the real one, maybe we can drive one in a virtual sense. A gamer can dream, can’t they?


7. Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf (Minna no Golf)

  • System: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSP, PS Vita
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Developer: Camelot Software, Clap Hanz
  • Release Dates: Jul 17, 1997 (Japan), Apr 30, 1998 (US)

While this game does not largely feature any real-life golfers, many gamers find a charm with its anime-inspired designs, which have remained unchanged since its initial release. People love the game because it’s really simple to pick up without having any exposure to actual golf, and contains so much humor with its character designs and animations. As you progress throughout the game, you can unlock various golfers with their own distinct abilities. Some have better swings, and others are better putters. The second game features Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal and Gex as actual unlockable characters in the international release. The fourth game would also include Jack from Jack and Daxter, and Ratchet (as a golfer) and Clank (as a caddy)

Just like most golf games, Hot Shots Golf will display a flag where the wind is blowing to give players an idea of how to aim their ball for their drive. When you are up to the putting green, you can put on a grid to give you an idea of how it slopes and to help you aim to the hole. So if you want an equal experience of both fun and realism, Hot Shots Golf is strongly recommended.


6. NHL

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Sports
  • Release Dates: 1991

Thanks to EA’s reputation and success with the Madden series for American football, they expanded their development to the intense sport of hockey. In addition to playing the teams in the NHL, you can also select teams from the East Coast Hockey League as of NHL 17. In addition to gliding with the puck, you can check your opponent in order to get the puck to your team. And in case you wanted to know, yes, you can do hockey fights! In some installments, fights are based on the respective stats of certain players in regards to aggression.

For some of you familiar with hockey, players such as Gretzky never got into fights in his real-life games and this quality is transferred into EA’s series. However, for Tony Twist who got into a few brawls, his aggression levels would be put into this game and is prone to fighting. Like the real game of hockey, getting scores will be a challenge due to the pace and the size of the goal and goalie. Like most modern sports games, you have a season mode and a career mode for a custom player. So if you want to re-create your own Miracle on Ice, NHL is the game for you.



5. Fire Pro Wrestling

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: Human Entertainment, Spike, BAM! Entertainment, Agetec, 505 Games
  • Developer: Human Entertainment, Spike
  • Release Dates: Jun 22, 1989

While many of you wrestling fans are probably familiar with WWE 2K series’ or the highly regarded Nintendo 64 releases during the Monday Night Wars, the Japanese have Fire Pro. While it was largely a Japanese exclusive for the first half of its life, it eventually got international releases from the PS2 generation. While no actual wrestlers are directly featured in this game, resemblances to the likeliness of American, Japanese, European and Latino wrestlers are going to be instantly recognizable to hardcore fans. Mastering the game itself is its own unique craft with its deep grappling system.

In addition, some installments feature gimmick matches that are exclusive to the world of Japanese wrestling such as the exploding ring match. If nobody can win a match within a certain time limit, the ring explodes! Or you can do the electric barbed wire matches where if a wrestler comes into contact with it, then they get electrocuted! Some other releases have MMA style matches where you can fight in a cage appropriate for that sport. But what gamers love most about this game is its deep create-a-wrestler feature.

It is detailed to the point that explaining it could be its own article. You can give your wrestler every strike, takedown, and submission you can think of. You can also create their habits such as are they likely to attempt to cheat or will they play by the rules.


4. FIFA

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Sports
  • Release Dates: 1993

Another long-running EA franchise is the FIFA series, where you get to play some of the hottest stars in soccer such as Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. After finding success with American football under their Madden franchise, EA would continue their empire with the sports genre by making a soccer game in order to appeal to European markets. While the first release did not feature any real teams or players due to licensing issues, as it found success, it was only natural that the following installments to this day would only feature the superstars of soccer.

While the sport is also gaining popularity with its women’s league, recent releases now include women’s teams. Other than that, the presentation for all releases makes players easy to follow and the controls have always been easy to get into. Even if you have little to no familiarity with soccer, the series is fun and has many educational qualities to get players to understand the sport in a very immersive and realistic sense. If you want to understand the road to becoming a soccer player, then the journey mode of FIFA 17 may be what you’re looking for. In addition to the training and having to prove yourself, you also have to deal with the corporate side of things showing that not only are soccer players just athletes but walking advertisements.

In addition to its main installments, other spin-offs include games dedicated to street soccer and playing the role of a manager. So if you really want to go for the cup of life, then FIFA is the ultimate representation of what that journey in many forms.


3. RBI Baseball (Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium)

  • System: Multi-platform
  • Publisher: Namco, Tengen, MLB AM, Time Warner, Atari
  • Developer: Namco, Atari Games, MLB AM
  • Release Dates: Dec 1986 (Japan), 1988 (US)

RBI Baseball was one of the first baseball games to feature real-life American Major League players, most notably the disgraced Jose Canseco, who was in his prime at the time of its initial release. While the graphics of its debut are obviously beyond outdated and players look nothing like their real-life counterparts, the game received praise for accurately portraying the pitching abilities of Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, and the running abilities of Vince Coleman. While the graphics have naturally evolved, the foundation and presentation of the gameplay have largely remained unchanged, though, the physics of the pitches have become progressively more realistic.

In all versions, you can move the batter around the batter’s box to get a better aim to hit the ball. If your batter is right-handed, the ball is likely to go in the direction of the left field. The reverse is also true if the batter is left-handed showing some real-life physics in relation to the game. In addition, you can steal bases or try to throw a ball to prevent bases from getting stolen. Even for the initial NES release, the physics real realistic to the point if a batter hits a fastball at the tip of the bat, you can hit it out of the field. Or if you hit the ball with a lower part of the bat, it won’t go as far.

All versions are rather straight to the point and the actual of baseball don’t require any complex controls, so it’s easy to pick up. So if you want to win another World Series with the Cubs, RBI baseball is the game to play.


2. Punch-Out!!

  • System: Arcade, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Wii
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: Oct 1987

While Punch-Out does is not a series that is released on an annual basis, Nintendo has always been about quality over quantity and Punch-Out is a great demonstration of their commitment to that. In addition, this gaming series is more comparatively gimmicky compared to a majority of the listings here. With the exception of its first installment where you fight Mike Tyson as the final boss, the characters are entirely fictional and based on politically incorrect stereotypes by modern standards.

The series is simple but by no means easy. As Little Mac, you observe your opponent’s movements and find a weakness to exploit. Some are easy to find, and some are just too quick to catch by the time you’re knocked onto the canvas. While it may not have a deep system like EA’s Fight Night series, it does offer its own fun and addictive challenges. Once you learn how to stick and move in context to this game, you are on your way to winning the title.


1. Madden NFL

  • System: Multi-Platform
  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Developer: EA Sports
  • Release Dates: Jun 1, 1988

Even after nearly 30 years, EA’s NFL games endorsed by famous commentator John Madden continues to flourish to this very day. While the first game was released in 1988, it was originally conceived in 1984. Due to Madden’s insistence that the game be as realistic as possible, it took four years to complete! In addition to being the name of the franchise, Madden contributes to the development of the games by updating programmers on the rules and plays. In some earlier installments, he even provided the commentary. The game’s realism has been praised to the point that even players and coaches as research and to study the game first hand.

While we understand that Honey has an international audience that has little to no exposure to American style football, if your local game stores sell Madden, try picking up a copy to get a better idea of why the sport is popular in the US. In fact, younger NFL players who grew up playing the Madden games use many of the offense plays in their real game as well.


Final Thoughts

People love their professional athletes to the point that we all wish we could be like them. Thankfully, video games give us the opportunity to assume such roles. While some games from older consoles weren’t 100% to the real thing due to the technology of the time, they still retained the basics of the sport and bring their own charms. Some players like to create an athlete with their likeness and put them in a career mode. Some want to get an NBA ring, others want to get a Super Bowl ring, win the Stanley Cup, or win a championship belt in combat sports or professional wrestling.

Games are the ultimate tool in allowing people to experience their fantasies, and one common fantasy is being an accomplished athlete. Due to these games being able to appeal to those desires, they managed to become successful for the past few decades.

Madden-NFL-17-Wallpaper-2-700x393 Top 10 Longest-Running Sports Games [Best Recommendations]

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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