Each passing day reminds sports fans that both the NHL and NBA playoffs should be starting on April 8 and 18, and the MLB season should have started already. With all sports seasons on hold for the foreseeable future, video games have filled a huge void for fans. Twitch’s peak daily users reached 22.7 million in March and Verizon reported that U.S. video game usage increased 75% during the first week of quarantine.
With everybody stuck inside, it’s the perfect time to dust off that Nintendo 64 that’s been sitting in your garage for 15 years and get ready to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. We’ve compiled the top ten sports video games –– released during or after 1996 –– for you to play while stuck in the house. (And while‘80s classics like “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” and “Tecmo Bowl” likely deserve a spot on this list, it’s best to not invest in any super retro stuff if you don’t need to.)
10. Wii Sports (2006)
When the Wii came out in November 2006, everybody in my first grade class was losing their minds.
With its motion-sensing ability, the innovative Wii remote made it easy for anybody in the family to play, regardless of their gaming background. “Wii Sports,” of course, is a compilation that includes five sports –– tennis, baseball, bowling, boxing and golf –– that are easy to play and provide fun for the whole family.
Just make sure to have that safety strap on your wrist or risk putting a hole through your TV.
9. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (2011)
Consoles: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
This ‘90s arcade classic was recreated in 2011 with immense success. With simple controls, it’s easy for anybody to simply pick up and play, and provides fast-paced, over-the-top basketball action. The two-on-two basketball game augments the original with better graphics and faster gameplay while maintaining its iconic arcade feel.
This game is one of the 600 Xbox 360 games that are backwards compatible, so you can play it on an Xbox One. From the high-flying dunks to the famous “boomshakalaka!” commentary call, “NBA Jam: On Fire” carries the legacy of its predecessor.
8. NBA Live 2005 (2004)
Consoles: Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube
Not only is “Live 2005’s” cover of a young Carmelo Anthony rocking the baby blue Denver Nuggets jersey awesome, but the gameplay is a slam dunk.
It was the first NBA game to master dribble moves, a feature that fans now love in basketball games of today. The game’s “Freestyle Control” capability allows users to perform the ankle-breaking dribbles of NBA legends like Allen Iverson and Steve Nash.
“Live 2005” features some of the most fluid gameplay of all NBA games and also introduced the festivities of NBA’s All-Star Weekend such as the slam dunk contest to the series.
7. WWF No Mercy (2000)
Console: Nintendo 64
There’s a debate on whether or not professional wrestling should be considered a sport, but no debate on this early 2000s classic being iconic.
“No Mercy” is the pinnacle of wrestling video games. With a 65-character roster, unique pay-per-view match arenas and over 10 match types, it’s the deepest wrestling game ever made. You can fight your opponents in the ring, the parking lot and even the bar. The game also features a one-player story mode that is as in-depth as the rest of the game.
And honestly, who doesn’t want to swing a steel chair around with The Rock?
6. Madden NFL 2004 (2003)
Consoles: Xbox, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube
“Madden NFL 2004” brought many new features to the Madden franchise including owner mode and the ability to call audibles at the line of scrimmage.
The game-changing “playmaker” functionality allows players to change their plays at the line of scrimmage based on the defense. The game also features one of the most dominant video game players of all time, cover athlete Michael Vick. You can simply do whatever you want with Vick in “Madden 2004,” with his 95 speed rating, he’s nearly unstoppable.
5. FIFA 15 (2014)
Consoles: Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Wii
“FIFA 15” isn’t the game for the soccer purist, but it’s the video game young gamers need. For some people, soccer is too slow, but this isn’t the case with “FIFA 15.” It’s a fast-paced game based around player speed and movement. Give your fastest player the ball and move out of the way.
With solid graphics and animations for things like celebrations and yellow cards, “FIFA 15” looks the part. Good graphics combined with a fast style of play makes a fun soccer game for even non-soccer fans.
4. NBA 2K11 (2010)
Consoles: Xbox 360, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Wii
Michael Jordan is known as the greatest of all time and ironically, so is “2K11,” where he shines on the cover.
The gameplay is very smooth and players perform realistic to their real-life abilities. The game is so realistic that fans don’t even show up to a bad team’s games. “2K11” features a level of detail never seen in a basketball game.
It also features a realistic franchise mode that replicates what you would see in the NBA. The “Jordan Challenge” mode gives gamers a chance to recreate Jordan’s greatest games and moments. “NBA 2K11” is made for basketball diehards, and it plays the part.
3. MVP Baseball 2005 (2005)
Consoles: Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube
The gameplay in “MVP Baseball 2005” is top-notch, it’s smooth and easy to control.
It plays like a real-life baseball game and provides a realistic, yet extremely fun baseball experience. “Owner Mode” was a huge hit and gave players the chance to run their own MLB team, where they can control everything from trades to ticket prices. “MVP Baseball 2005” also includes mini-games to add depth to its game modes. The players feel fluid and almost everything about this game is fun. “MVP Baseball 2005” has stood the test of time as the best baseball game ever.
2. NCAA Football 14 (2013)
Consoles: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
The “NCAA Football” series is one of the most beloved franchises in video game history, and “NCAA Football 14” is the cream of the crop.
Ball carriers can cut on a dime and perform ridiculous spin moves with the combo/ juke system. The grind of trying to win the Heisman Trophy in the “Road to Glory” game mode is iconic and has stood the test of time. The “Dynasty” mode takes you into college recruiting and the process of turning a team around.
The fact that this was the last “NCAA Football” game makes it even more memorable. Fans have been begging for “NCAA Football” to make a comeback, but its final installment is still entertaining fans to this day.
1. ESPN NFL 2K5 (2004)
Consoles: Xbox, Playstation 2
This was the last NFL game released by 2K and frankly, we need another one. “ESPN NFL 2K5” is the most engaging football game ever. The gameplay is phenomenal and the CPU and AI are much better than any Madden game in history as the computer actually plays like a regular person.
“NFL 2K5” also features the best presentation of any sports game with the licensing to SportsCenter for pregame and half-time shows. The franchise mode is in depth and realistic and provides all the drama of an NFL season.
“NFL 2K5” will keep you hooked for months. The game was originally sold for $19.99, further solidifying its place as one of the most iconic sports games ever. Now, you can probably scoop up a copy for a couple bucks.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.