The landscape of sports gaming has changed dramatically over the last decade, with the number of games being reduced, distribution evolving and new priorities shifting to maximize the revenue they generate.
While there is a legitimate reason to be frustrated by the evolution of the genre, there is no doubt that the games that remain are generally of high quality: Extensive sets of features that allow them to play in a variety of ways, partnering with leagues that provide incredible authenticity and technology have taken gameplay and graphics to a whole new level.
MORE: The door is finally open for the ‘NCAA Football’ franchise
By the end of the decade, the best of the best in sports gaming deserved to be recognized. Some games that fall short of the top five include “NBA 2K11”, which would be cut if the list included multiple titles from a single franchise. It was the release that started 2K in a stratosphere that was previously unthinkable.
“Madden NFL 17” was easily the best Madden of the decade in a series of aggressively mediocre. “Super Mega Baseball 2” stands out as the best arcade-style game, and yet many elements were more realistic than its Sim counterparts. Any number of entries from the “Out of the Park Baseball” series could also have done the best of sim-management games as well.
Here’s a look at the top five sports video games from 2010:
5: ‘MLB 13: The Appearance’
Almost any repeat of “MLB: The Show” from the decade could be considered among the best sports video games of the decade. The series was the most consistent in the genre for both its strengths and its weaknesses.
‘MLB 13’ and its late release on the PS3 get the nod because it was the first to pull it all together as a complete product, ultimately achieving a decent online gaming experience. Ironically, the online account dropped to MLB 14 before recovering in the coming years. The only real areas of frustration with MLB 13 concerned its annotated text, along with a way of building a Diamond dynasty team that had not yet evolved into what would soon become the best of its kind in the genre.
With a full and fully functional set of features and a game setting that opened the slot window – making it more realistic and enjoyable – “MLB 13: The Show” wins a spot in the best decade as a spokesperson for a trusted franchise.
4: ‘NCAA Football 14’
With at least a few more years before his potential return, the “NCAA Football” franchise remains in the minds of many because of how big the final entry in the series was.
Anyone visiting “NCAA Football 14” is struck by how well it lasted six years after its first release and landing on the previous-generation console. The level of detail and authenticity that comes into play and the experience associated with college is impressive.
But the game wasn’t perfect and nostalgia has caused some of its flaws to be forgotten. The Road to Glory career path has remained untouched since last year, the comment was ridiculous, few uniforms and stadium upgrades were missing and it seemed that only one penalty (cut) was ever called.
Nevertheless, it remembers a lot about its rich dynamic operation, a surprisingly good Ultimate team – its first attempt – extremely fun gameplay and a delayed fix for slow loading menus and slow loading times. This removed a level of frustration he had created over the years.
Many will refer to “NCAA Football 14” as the best sports game of the decade, though this is partly because it was the last college sports game license to be released. And while it’s definitely a great game, it’s unlikely it would be highly respected today if it was followed by “NCAA Football 15.”
3: ‘FIFA 2010 South Africa World Cup’
Until recently, EA Sports would release standalone games for the World Cup. The release every four years would stay between the annual FIFA game releases. They benefited from improvements for the next FIFA game and were more accessible to those who were not so committed to football.
Almost around 2010 is when the FIFA series exploded to become a global phenomenon. It would not only consistently become the highest-selling television game in the world, but would also rank among the top 10 in North America. Some of the credits have to be given to the “FIFA 2010 South Africa World Cup” – a game so entertaining that it gave many fans a soccer boost that they would later switch to the FIFA flagship franchise.
The “World Cup” was much more appealing to those who even had an elusive interest in the sport or world event. The games were freer, the characters on the court more specialized, making it easier to have fun while learning as a beginner. Beyond that, it was the atmosphere and the feeling that went up every moment. Even the vuvuzelas – love them or hate them – were there.
However, the game unfortunately lacked Online Team Play and encountered some curved issues during the cuts. Very few others could be mentioned as problematic. A new online mode called World League Ladder has been introduced, which has affected similar online modes to other sports games over the years.
“FIFA World Cup 2010” is one of the selected sports video games of the decade that was fun and rewarding to play, even at the losing end. This has helped many football fans for a living.
MORE: ‘MLB: The Demo’ that goes on many platforms, ends Xbox, Nintendo’s drought
2: “Rocket League”
The “Rocket League” came out of nowhere in 2015 and is as important now – if not more so – than it was after the release. The hybrid racing / football game was incredibly designed and has received unprecedented support over the years since its release.
“Rocket League” was initially given away as a free download to PlayStation Plus subscribers, a brilliant move that took the game into the hands of consumers who might not have been given a chance. Since then, it has grown to more than 60 million players, making it by far the most sports game of the decade. It also has the largest presence in the world of esports.
The Rocket League is easy to get up and play with, but it has remarkable depth that has allowed for a natural skills gap. Many different variations can completely change the players’ approach to the game, from the 3v3 standard to the more challenging 1v1 or 2v2. The online experience is great, even when working with – and facing away from – random players.
Post-release support is unquestionably in kind, as DLCs are limited to cosmetic items rather than payment advantages. New cars (including licensed tie-ups such as Fast and Furious and Back to the Future) and other variants, such as basketball and hockey modes, have kept the game fresh.
Credit should also be given to the “Rocket League” to help make the gaming platform possible at the end of the current generation. The impetus to allow online players from all consoles and PCs to play together has led Microsoft and Sony to open up and interact.
The merger of football and cars wasn’t much of a thought that would be a hit when it was first released in 2015. However, as the decade draws to a close, the Rocket League will be reviewed as one of the best and most significant video games of the decade.
1: ‘NBA 2K16’
The most spectacular sports video game ever assembled, the “NBA 2K16” is remarkable for the crisp content provided along with excellent gameplay and presentation. It’s the best kind he had to offer this decade.
At a time when most franchise sports began to neglect Franchise Mode, “2K16” featured two of them with their own unique spins on MyLeague (which also went online) and MyGM. The story mode included games from high school games through colleges, with 10 licensed teams. Team migration was added along with impressive uniform creation features and arena.
This was a year when developers were faced with a challenge of how to represent Steph Curry, who did things in real life that could never be in the games – and could potentially break them. Hitting nearly half the court and the high success rate in fierce disputes was something they had to understand when it came to the Curry rule. In the game, he saw his turn expanding and his Overall Score reaching a height that only topped Michael Jordan.
Indeed, that was the year with the awful story of what a “movie” by Spike Lee was – but the production prices were amazing. While micro-trading was a factor, they did not have the same negative presence as they do now. The online servers were relatively stable, which was an improvement on the order.
“NBA 2K11”, “2K12” and “2K19” could also be found here, but they had more flaws in the form of unstable tactics online or harmful monetization than “2K16” but also added a number of great additions that really worked right out of the gate.
The ambition and effort put into the product has been and continues to be unparalleled in the sports video game. “NBA 2K16” is a great sports game of all time and nothing has come close to matching it since its release.
Bryan Wiedey posts gambling news and analysis daily at Pastapadre.com, is co-founder of the HitThePass.com site, hosts the “Press Release” and is accessible on Twitter @Pastapadre.