I know sports game sort of get a great deal of shame by game collectors because most of them are just the same iterations of a series with new rosters.  Plus the tend of fill up budget bins and make it harder to find the games you actually want to play.  And, even worse, they’re usually just budget games that grandmas buy their kids for birthdays.  

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Also – overall – sports games become shoddily-made cash-grabs.   Often the money from reliable sales (which the sports titles represent) corrupts formerly-good companies – moving them away from creativity and toward cookie-cutter productions.  For example, the early EA games (not just sports) were amazing endeavors full of heart and soul. 

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(Old EA games are just really fantastic.  What a shame they’ve ended up where they have.)

Somewhere along the line EA just cranked out games to make stock investors happy.  But go pick up a retro-game (PS1 and before) and you’ll see why they originally grew to the size they did.  And what did they do with all that sports-game franchise money?..  Well buy other creative companies, suck them dry (i.e. use their intellectual properties to cash in without providing quality), and then – of course – discard their left-over corpses

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(Some of EA’s poor victims – source)

So back to sports.. I personally don’t really know jack about sports to tell you the truth.  I mean I –was– in the band during high-school and probably went to a ton of games, but I wasn’t really focused on the score or the plays (more the pretty cheerleaders, hitting the notes, and making the right turns on the field while marching).  I’ve just never been an sports fan.  I mean on top of watching plays, there’s a lot of rules and statistics involved that I just don’t care for.  

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But even I (the guy that doesn’t really get sports) appreciates the occasional game that is sports-related – especially if they’re actually fun.  And they can be fun; I’m not saying they can’t be.  For example, watching NASCAR on TV puts me right to sleep (500 laps is like counting sheep), but I freaking love racing games – especially Daytona USA (the Game Over music is just amazingly goofy).  

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And I’m sure I’ve pissed off many people I’ve raced with.  After all, rubbing is racing, right?  Well tell that to the guy cosplaying as The Stig at Magfest that didn’t want to shake my hand after I brutalized him, trying desperately to win.  (And he won regardless anyways, by the way.)  Sorry man!  Blame Days of Thunder.  *mutters: and me being a terrible driver*

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This theme of gaming being fun regardless of the theme is true of boxing or golf – just only if the game is arcade-like.  When things get too much like a simulation they just tend to lose me (Football especially.. I’m not interested in planning my plays; just controlling my guy on the field).  And reduce a golf game to hitting the button at a certain time and you’ve got me interested.  Throw in a fantasy theme or goofy sub-text (anime bonus!) and hallelujah; I’m there!

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Well I’m in luck apparently.  A lot of these games came from the arcade and were developed by arcade/gaming companies we’ve grown to live – like Atari and Midway.  Even the first football arcade game was a really cool arcade game more than an accurate representation of football.  At the time, it was sort of a new concept and the technology was sort of new and made to fit the arcade scene rather than fit any sort of realism or be a simulator.

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In picking my list of games (I went for a hundred to to put enough on there for everyone to find something), I wanted to really avoid games that would be in other genres (like fighters and racers).  I might include some of them here anyways (like the occasional Motocross game), but it’s really just because they bridge the gap between genres (like extreme sports).

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I also wanted to limit games to just one per series if possible (trying to take the most famous or the most fun.. so Mike Tyson’s Punchout for all the Punchout series).  I’m also not listing every single port of a game.  A lot of these have Game Boy ports, but the gameplay is most-likely totally different and that’s not the version of the game most people thing about when picking the title to recommend.

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Also, I’d really like to thank everyone on Twitter for suggesting titles to help me build this list up.  Some things I noticed from them was that almost every competent NES game would have made the cut here.  They’re all  very arcade-like because the NES was sort of primitive for the simulation angle and so the developers just focused on making the games fun.  To us casual (sports) gamers that’s kind of awesome.

Below is a list of games by category, title, system, and why they’re to be considered here.

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Baseball

  • Backyard Baseball, Football (Nearly Everything) – Simple Charm
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  • Base Wars – Cyber Stadium Series (NES) – Robots
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  • Baseball Stars 2 (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Little League World Series Baseball 2010 (360, PS3) – Overall Fun
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  • MLB Slugfest (Gamecube, XBOX, PS2) – Midway, Arcade-Like
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  • Mario Superstars Baseball (GameCube) – Mario, Overall Fun
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  • RBI Baseball (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Super Baseball 2020 (Arcade, NeoGeo, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Super Baseball Simulator 1000 (NES) – Ultra Moves, Goofy Fun
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  • Super Mega Baseball (PS3, PS4, XBONE) – Arcade-Like, Overall Fun
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  • The Bigs (WII, PS3, 360, PS2, PSP) – Fun Home Runs
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Basketball

  • Arch Rivals (Arcade, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Bill Lainbeer’s Combat Basketball (SNES) – Future Combat Basketball, Goofy Fun
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  • NBA Hangtime (Arcade, N64, PS1, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • NBA Jam (Arcade, SNES, Genesis, SCD, GG) – Mortal Kombat Characters, Arcade-Like, Goofy Fun
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  • NBA Live ’98 (SNES, Saturn, PS1) – Arcade-Like
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  • NBA Showtime (Dreamcast) – Arcade-Like
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  • NBA Street Vol. 2 (PS2, GameCube, XBOX) – Overall Fun
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Biking

  • Downhill Domination (PS2) – Arcade-Like
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Bowling

  • Elf Bowling (NDS) – Goofy-Fun
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  • League Bowling (NeoGeo) – Arcade-Like
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  • Silver Strike Bowling (Arcade) – Arcade-Like
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Boxing

  • Evander Holyfield Boxing (Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Mike Tyson’s Punchout (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Ready 2 Rumble Boxing (Dreamcast) – Arcade-Like
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Dodgeball

  • Super Dodge Ball (Arcade, PCE) – Chibi-Characters, Overall Fun
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Fencing

  • Nidhogg (PS3, PSVita) – Fun Party Game
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Fishing

  • Fisherman’s Bait (Arcade, Playstation) – Arcade-Like
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  • SEGA Bass Fishing (Arcade, Dreamcast) – Arcade-Like, Overall Fun
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Football

  • Cyberball (Arcade, NES, Genesis) – Robots, Arcade-Like
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  • Mutant League Football, Hockey (Genesis) – Mutant Theme
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  • 10 Yard Fight (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Blood Bowl (PSP, 360, NDS) – Violent Sports Game, Goofy Fun
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  • John Elway’s Quarterback (Arcade, NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Madden (Arcade) – Arcade-Like, Overall Fun
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  • NFL Blitz (Arcade, PS1) – Arcade-Like
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  • Super High Impact Football (Arcade, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Tecmo Super Bowl (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Tekken Bowl (PS2) – Fun with Tekken Characters (this is an unlockable)
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Frisbee

  • Windjammers (NeoGeo) – Arcade-Like, Fun Multiplayer
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Golf

  • Hot Shots Golf, Tennis (Series) (PS1) – Arcade-Like, Goofy Fun
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  • Golden Tee Golf (Arcade, Plug’n’Play) – Arcade-Like, Plays with Roller Ball
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  • Kirby’s Dream Course (SNES) – Kirby, Overall Fun (not just golf)
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  • Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS) – Mario-Characters, Overall Fun
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  • Neo Turf Masters (NeoGeo) – Arcade-Like
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  • Ninja Golf (Atari 7800) – Action Game, Goofy Fun
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  • PangYa Fantasy Golf (PSP) – Anime-Characters, Overall Fun
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  • Powerstar Golf (XBONE) – Arcade-Like
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  • Ribbit King (PS2, GameCube) – Frog, Golf game, Goofy-Fun
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Hockey

  • Blades of Steel (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Ice Hockey (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • NHL Hitz (PS2, GameCube, XBOX) – Arcade-Like
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  • NHL Open Ice (Arcade, PS1) – Midway Arcade Game
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  • Speedball 2 (NES, Amiga, SMS) – Violent Futuristic Hockey
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  • Wayne Gretsky’s 3D Hockey (N64) – Overall Fun
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Motocross

  • Freekstyle (GameCube, PS2) – Goofy-Fun
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Multi/Misc

  • American Gladiators (NES) – Goofy-Fun
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  • California Games (Lynx Version) (Lynx) – Surfing really fun
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  • Caveman Games (NES) – Goofy-Fun
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  • Crash n The Boys (NES) – Chibi-Characters, Overall Fun
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  • DecAthlete (Athlete Kings) , Winter Heat (Saturn) – Arcade-Like
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  • Konami Track and Field (Arcade, NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Sega Extreme Sports (Dreamcast) – Arcade-Like
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  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Acme All-Stars (Genesis) – Toon-Characters, Goofy-Games
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  • Trackmania (NDS, WII, PS4, XBONE) – Arcade Controls
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  • Wii Sports, Resort (WII) – Motion-Controls, Fun Bowling
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Quidditch

(OK.. I know I don’t need a category, but c’mon..)

  •  Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup (Gamecube, XBOX, PS2) – Harry-Freaking-Potter
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Skateboarding

  • 720° (Arcade) – Atari-Classic, Arcade-Like, Goofy Fun
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  • Street Sk8er (PS1) – Overall Fun
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  • T & C Surf Design (NES) – Goofy-Fun
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  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (Dreamcast, N64, XBOX, PS1) – Goofy-Fun
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Skiing

  • Alpine Racer (Arcade) – Arcade-Like with Physical Skis
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  • Alpine Ski (Arcade) – Arcade-Like, Overall Fun
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Snowboarding

  • Amped 2 (XBOX) – Arcade-Like
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  • SSX Tricky (GameCube, XBOX, PS2) – Goofy-Fun
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  • Snowboard Kids 2 (N64) – Goofy-Fun
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Soccer

  • Adventures of Kid Kleets (3DO, Amiga, SNES, Jaguar, GBA, PS1) – Kid just uses soccer ball as a weapon.
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  • FIFA ’95 (SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • FIFA (SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Inazume Eleven (NDS, 3DS (Downloadable)) – RPG Sports Game
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  • Mario Strikers (GameCube) – Mario, Overall Fun
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  • Mega Man Soccer (SNES) – Mega Man, Robots, Just Soccer Otherwise
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  • Nintendo World Cup (NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Rocket League (PS4, XBONE) – Vehicles, Futuristic
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  • Sega Soccer Slam (PS2, Gamecube, XBOX, 360) – Sega Characters, Overall Fun
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  • Sensible Soccer (Arcade, Amiga) – Arcade-Like
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Tennis

  • David Crane’s Amazing Tennis (Arcade, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • Mario Tennis (N64) – Mario-Characters, Overall Fun
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  • Pong (Atari 2600) – Two-Player Classic
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  • Sonic All Star Tennis (PS2, PS3, WII, 360, NDS) – Sonic Characters
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  • Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast) – Overall Fun
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  • Wii Tennis (Wii) – Motion-Controls
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Volleyball

  • Dead or Alive Xtreme Series (Xbox, 360, PS3, PS4, etc) – Sexy Ladies, Date-Sim Aspect
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  • Beach Spikers (GameCube) – Arcade-Like
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  • Championship V’Ball , Super Spike V’Ball (Arcade, NES) – Arcade-Like
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  • Outlaw Volleyball (XBOX) – Sexy Ladies, Goofy-Fun
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Wrestling

  • Saturday Night Slammasters (Arcade, SNES, Genesis) – Arcade-Like
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  • WCW, NWO: Revenge (N64) – Goofy-Fun
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  • WWE: Smackdown Vs. Raw (PS2) – Goofy-Fun
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  • Wrestlemania (PS1, Saturn) – Arcade-Like
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