Sports games are the average Joe's best chance at getting to play under the big bright lights with thousands of people in the stands watching their every move. It doesn't matter if you're a hoops junkie or a baseball fan, sports video games let you live out your hopes and dreams.
To meet this demand, there have been some pretty good sports video games over the years. Some of them even end up spawning sports game franchises.
Unfortunately, not all sports game franchises end up lasting a long time. A few even end up being forgotten.
Here, we've rounded up some of the best forgotten sports game franchises that we believe are in deep need of a comeback.
MLB Power Pros
Realism doesn't always belong in a sports sim. The proof of this is MLB Power Pros.
MLB Power Pros was first released on the Nintendo Wii back in 2007 and it gave fans a more stress-free way of experiencing what it is like playing baseball professionally. Even though it still let players run franchises and control players, its approach made the game easier to pick up for complete beginners.
Make no mistake though. The gameplay is surprisingly brilliant, which is in stark contrast to the goofy appearance. Not to mention, MLB Power Pros has a handful of modes that you can cycle through, including the story-based "Success Mode", as well as "Season Mode" where you get a chance to run your own team for 10 years.
Unfortunately, MLB Power Pros only saw two sequels. The second one, MLB Power Pros 2008, released in 2008, and a third sequel, MLB Power Pros 2010, came out in 2010. After that, Konami nor 2K Sports didn't seem interested in continuing the series anymore, which is a shame.
Electronic Arts have been known to make perplexing decisions when it comes to its franchises. Case in point, MVP Baseball.
MVP Baseball was EA's official successor to its long-running Triple Play Baseball series. From its launch in 2003 up until 2005, MVP Baseball simulated Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, EA was slow to sign a licensing deal with Major League Baseball. Instead, Take-Two interactive would beat them to it and gain exclusivity until 2012.
Even then, EA did not give up. In response, EA simulated NCAA college baseball games in 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, "poor sales" would ultimately result in EA discontinuing the MVP Baseball series in 2008.
We're hoping that EA will circle back and try to revive MVP Baseball now that they are technically allowed to do it. The sheer depth and replay value of the gameplay offered by the MVP Baseball series of games rival that of the more modern MLB The Show titles, which is high praise considering it's been more than a decade since the last MVP Baseball game released.
If it's any consolation, EA did recently make a move to go back to making baseball video games with Super Mega Baseball.
Visual Concepts' NFL 2K, which was released back in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast, is the OG 2K game. It's what gave birth to the giant that is the 2K Sports brand that currently has multiple sports sims under its name.
However, NFL 2K isn't just here because of what it gave birth to. NFL 2K is here because of its own merit, with NFL 2K5 known to many as one of the best football games ever made. As a matter of fact, NFL 2K5's success was what prompted EA to sign an exclusivity deal with the NFL for its Madden franchise, which is why we haven't heard from NFL 2K since 2005.
There are talks that NFL 2K is going to return as an arcade game in March 2022, but that isn't exactly a full revival.
1993's NBA Jam was arguably the first great basketball video game, even though it was more arcade than sports simulation.
NBA Jam was initially released as an arcade game, but its success prompted the developers to port the game to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo so audiences can enjoy it at home. This was a good decision as the fun and easy gameplay meant that the entire family could enjoy it, even parents who knew very little about how to play video games.
NBA Jam also earns the distinction of being one of the first few games to receive an NBA license, which means that you could play as all the stars at the time outside of Michael Jordan.
A remake was later released in 2011 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which upped the experience by updating the graphics, teams, and rosters, while still retaining the core gameplay. Unfortunately, that was the last that we heard of NBA Jam. Since then, many others have tried to recapture the same experience. This includes the upcoming title, Ultimate Rivals: The Court.
Top Spin 4 is the best sports simulation game that you have never heard of, which is a huge damn shame.
The first Top Spin was released in 2003 for the original Xbox and quickly set the bar for tennis games. Since then, the franchise has grown to spawn three more sequels, with each subsequent installment being better than the previous one. The latest title, Top Spin 4, was released in 2011, which added fantastic modes and a fluid engine where characters reacted and played like how pros would in real life.
Despite its success, we never got to see a Top Spin 5 and there's been no news of that happening anytime soon since.
NBA Live isn't exactly forgotten, but let's be honest. NBA Live has been dead for a while. The series peaked in the mid-2000s with NBA Live 2005 and things have slowly descended from there. The last truly good NBA Live was NBA Live 2007, which is probably why EA decided to skip a year or two soon after until effectively putting an end to the series in 2019 by canceling NBA Live 20.
Now, if only EA can go back to the drawing board and do something like NBA Live 2005 so it can finally give NBA 2K a true competitor.
Just in case you're wondering, there's a good reason why we keep on mentioning NBA Live 2005. It was the starting point for the numerous features that we've seen in the NBA Live and NBA 2K games that succeeded it. The game's unprecedented levels of creativity and variety in moves were groundbreaking at the time.
Not to mention, NBA Live 2005 added the entirety of the NBA All-Star Weekend to the game. The feature has remained consistent in every NBA game.
THQ’s Wrestling Games
Wrestling video games are a hit or miss. The best example of the latter is WWE 2K20, which prompted 2K Sports to cancel WWE 2K21 outright and skip to WWE 2K22 instead. The verdict is still out if 2K22 will redeem the series since it hasn't been released yet. However, what we do know is that no wrestling game has managed to top 2000's WWF No Mercy.
WWF No Mercy was the last in a series of wrestling-based video games published by THQ for the Nintendo 64. The first one, WCW vs nWO: World Tour, was a huge success in 1997, which prompted an even better sequel in 1999's WWF Wrestlemania 2000. But, as it turned out, the developers, as well as THQ, saved the best for last.
WWF No Mercy lets you relive what it's like being your favorite wrestler. You could do everything from jumping off ladders to body-slamming your opponents right through the announcer's table. You could even go backstage and start a brawl because that's just how you roll. It also didn't hurt that the game lets you create your own wrestler with an even better multiplayer experience that surprisingly still holds up today.
While it's highly unlikely that we'll see THQ and WWF No Mercy's developers go back to making wrestling games again, we're hoping that WWE 2K22 takes some notes from this game.
What is it with NBA games that feature Carmelo Anthony as the cover star? First, there was the aforementioned NBA Live 2005, and now, we've got NBA Street. Or, to be more specific, NBA Street Homecourt, which was the last NBA Street game ever released and arguably, the best.
NBA Street was a fun and arcade take on basketball simulation. The series was highlighted by its fast-paced street style of gameplay and the numerous modes that you could play. It even had a mode where you would go from a nobody in the streets to a superstar whose name was known by everyone around the world.
What really made NBA Street such a unique experience was how it replicated playing basketball on the streets. It had realistic sounds like traffic, sirens, the crowd, and even hecklers. Plus, it had the audacity to inject some humor into the game, which is sadly absent in a lot of sports games.
Tecmo Super Bowl
Tecmo Super Bowl is a legend in the video game industry. It was released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo and was one of the first to prove that you can make good games based on real players. It featured the likes of Christian Okoye and Bo Jackson, among others, with the latter still appearing in advertisements about Tecmo Bowl occasionally, which isn't surprising when the virtual character of his name was damn near impossible to beat.
What made Tecmo Super Bowl such a great game was that it had something to offer to both casual audiences and hardcore players. The gameplay might have been simplistic. However, it had a surprising amount of depth that let you call plays, as well as come up with offensive and defensive formations, all of which could be easily done.
Tecmo Super Bowl was proof that a sports game doesn't have to be complicated to be good. It's a shame that EA has had exclusivity with the NFL since 2004.
Fight Night Champion
In total, there were five Fight Night games. The best of them, Fight Night Champion, was released in 2011 and immediately became an instant classic. It took all of the good things about the previous Fight Night games, added an expansive character roster, and simulated boxing in a way that hasn't been done since.
Unfortunately, Fight Night Champion was the last in the series, with EA seemingly having moved on to making EA Sports UFC instead.
Here's to hoping that the success of Esports Boxing Club makes EA want to go back to making boxing games.