Sports games have been around since the dawn of gaming. Ever since 1972’s Pong on the Atari console, they've been a staple on every gaming generation since. We’ve come a long way since then, and the past decade saw the release of some of the best sports games of all time. Here are our picks for the top 10.
Release: October 2010
If we were doing this list a decade earlier, an iteration of NBA Live would have probably made it to the top 10. But from 2010 onwards, NBA 2K became the undisputed king of the court.
While there have been better iterations in the franchise since, 2K11 holds the distinct honor of killing off the NBA Live series. Sure, they would attempt a comeback a few years later, but the Live franchise never recovered from the fatal blow dealt by 2K11. Having Michael Jordan on 2K11’s cover was a strong statement of their newfound basketball sim GOAT status.
2010 FIFA World Cup
Release: April 2010
The World Cup is undeniably one of the biggest global sporting events we have and it’s such a shame that we never had a game that did that justice. Until, that is, we got our hands on 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Featuring 199 teams and all 10 venues used in the actual World Cup tourney, it was a complete and robust experience that wasn’t just a re-skin of the previous year’s regular FIFA game. The crowd detail was superb (complete with flag face paints and color-coded vuvuzelas) and the small changes meant that the gameplay was one of the best in any FIFA game we’ve played to that point.
Release: July 2015
Technically, Rocket League isn’t a sports game, but it would be a huge mistake not to include it in this list. Whoever had the novel idea of combining demolition derby and soccer is a genius and should be credited for one of the freshest sports-based titles of the decade. We are still secretly hoping that automotive soccer becomes a real sport because that would be epic.
Release: September 2017
Golf Story is an unusual mash-up of two completely unrelated gaming genres that feel like they won’t work together but ultimately does. While there are heavy RPG elements in the gameplay, there’s still a solid golf mechanic to be found at its core. It’s a Nintendo Switch exclusive, so not everyone will be able to play this indie gem, but if you’ve been wanting to get the handheld hybrid for yourself, count this as one of the reasons why you should.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
Release: September 2015
In the world of soccer games, only two titles matter: FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). And in 2015, PES released what is, in our opinion, one of the best soccer games we’ve ever laid our controllers on. PES 2016 didn’t have the licensing power of FIFA, but it delivered on what matters most: the gameplay. We’ve never played a more physical-feeling game of soccer before PES 2016 and the sim should be recognized as one of the best this decade.
Madden NFL 18
Release: August 2017
Madden NFL is a monopoly when it comes to American football games. And every year, we’ve come to expect a good game, but with marginal changes from the previous installment. But that wasn’t the case with Madden NFL 18. Aside from utilizing a new engine, this was also the year that Madden jumped on the career story mode wagon with an amazing arc that’s still one of the best sports games narratives we’ve ever played through.
MLB The Show 19
Release: March 2019
To say that MLB The Show 19 is one of the best sports games, regardless of the sport, is a statement that we won’t argue with. The Show has always been one of the smoothest and slickest-looking sports games in the market, and that fact remains unchanged with this year’s release. Aside from the expected additional animations and improved gameplay, The Show 19 takes a page from NBA 2K11 and 2K12’s playbook and introduces the Moments mode which allows you to play as some of the sports’ legends and relive the best moments in baseball history.
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
Release: July 2016
It's not a "sports video game", it's a video game that's truly a sport. After making an appearance at the recently concluded SEA Games, there’s now very little doubt as to the legitimacy of computer and mobile gaming as a legitimate competitive event. And in this decade, Mobile Legends has undeniably been the flag bearer for the exponentially growing esports scene here and abroad. You’re probably reading this article in between ML sessions anyway, so we don’t need to defend this pick any further.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
Release: March 2015
We never thought that any game would ever replace Tony Hawk Pro Skater as our favorite skateboarding game of all time. Then we played OlliOlli2. OlliOlli2 is a highly addictive sidescrolling skateboard game that might look childish and simple, but is one of the most technical games we’ve played this decade. There is a slightly steep learning curve you have to get through to fully enjoy what this game has to offer, but the game truly sings once you get the hang of nailing tricks and stringing combos together.
Mario Tennis Aces
Release: June 2018
While tennis has been steadily growing in popularity over the years, there is also a noticeable lack of fun tennis games to be played on consoles. Fortunately, everyone’s favorite Italian plumber has his own version that's an absolute blast to play. The folks at Wimbledon would probably frown upon Mario’s brand of tennis (though the Italian plumber does face off against Rafa Nadal in one fun trailer), but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the only tennis game worth playing today and is the most fun we’ve had with any sports-based game in quite a while.