Sports video games are among some of the most immersive genres in the industry. For the fans who are less athletically inclined, these games allow us to feel as though we really are athletes on the big field. Hockey is one of these sports that rests on the long lists of athletics that have been turned into a successful list of games. We saw the origin of hockey based video games with Ice Hockey, released in 1981 for the Atari 2600. Ice Hockey is simple by today’s standards, but for the time period, it was revolutionary. Since its release, hockey games have evolved to feature near real-life simulations, with game entries being so crisp and smooth we feel as though the controller itself is a hockey stick ready to glide the puck into the goal.
However, this does not mean that every hockey based video game that gets released is a gem. There have been some real misfires in the genre. The fact of the matter is that some hockey games can be classified as nothing more than dirt on ice. There is a variety of reasons these games do not work out. Often times we see issues with a game’s graphics or gameplay that make it unplayable, and there are some hockey games that have fallen harder for odder reasons. So if you are looking to pick up a new game that will make you feel like you are on the ice, you might want to steer clear of these tragedies.
15 3 On 3 NHL Arcade
Let’s start small here. 3 On 3 NHL Arcade was originally released, as you may have guessed by the title, as an arcade entry for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. From a distance, it may not look all that bad; just a silly bobble head version of an NHL title. However, when you get closer to it, you will be disappointed to find out that it is nothing more than a poor man’s cash cow. The game keeps the attention of the player for as long as they can say its title.
This title is nothing more than a joke of a game, passed off as something unique. I do not care what anybody tells you, no joke is worth a $10 price tag. Reviews of this game are for the most part similar: anger with a side of regret of purchase. This game should not be a stand alone title and deserves to be nothing more than a bonus feature in an actual NHL title.
14 NHL 2000
The turn of the millennium was not kind on this title. NHL 2000, released for the original PlayStation, has all the classic signs of a must avoid title. While it seems like the game has a long list of dependable features, like exhibition games, full season campaigns, even sending players to the penalty box, what falls short for this title is the general gameplay.
Sure, all the nice little features may make this game seem appealing, but when the overall experience is delivered in an unresponsive package, then you are going to want to return it for the money you spent on it. The gameplay is as blocky as the graphics are and one can only wonder how positive this game could have turned out had the developers spent a little more time smoothing things out. With no more than one sound effect of the puck slapping against the stick, this game ensures itself that it is a less than immersive experience.
13 Hit The Ice
One may not think about it at first, but camera angles are an important part of the playability for any game, sports included. This is where Hit The Ice makes its first mistake and it is all downhill from there. Following an arcade presence, Hit The Ice was released in 1990 for the SNES. Bringing the game home, players found that the game did not play well.
The sound effects are more than cacophonous, with little to no in-game music and an annoying shuffling that scratches at the player's ears throughout the entire game. The characters are difficult to control and so rigid that even shooting for the goal is an ordeal. You spend most of your time in the corners, not because of the player’s choices, but because that is where the puck seems to want to go at all times. If you are looking for a game that has aged well, it is not this.
12 Wayne Gretzky And The NHLPA All-Stars
If you can make it past this mouthful of a title, than I say congratulations! You will be disappointed to find out that this game is about as tiring to play as it is to say its name. Released for the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1995, this title was met with poor reviews from the get go. The game feature quality graphic sprites and full motion video, but that did not help the game’s ugly animation style and floaty graphics that don't immerse the player at all. Despite all these graphical hiccups, the game should have been good, as it came with a solid set of game modes and fast paced gameplay that was meant to keep the player on edge at all times. Sadly, just about every match is won not by skill but by how many times you can check an opposing player, making this a game to check off of your list of good hockey simulators.
11 ESPN National Hockey Night
This game will remind you why ESPN should keep its name out of the video game scene and stick to television. This title was released in 1994 for the SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD. If you look up reviews of this game online, the only praise you will find is that it sticks to the ESPN game formula. Despite this, however, the game’s music has been called annoying and the controls difficult and even “soupy” at times.
2001 saw a re-release of ESPN National Hockey Night by Konami under the same name for the PlayStation 2. Did this version improve upon all or any of the little problems of its predecessor? Actually, you might (not) be shocked to hear that they made things worse somehow. If you watch a minute of gameplay, you will see how it looks more like mannequins trying to learn how to ice skate than actual hockey being played. If you possess a copy of either version of this game, then it is best to lay it to rest.
10 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge (PS1)
Another lengthy title of a game, 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge showed off just about nothing of the original PlayStation's potential as a console. If you could find just about one good thing from this title, then it would be that the colors are bright. Anything you can from this game beyond that is purely negative, as the graphics are not only blurry but slow and choppy to the point in which you cannot find the player that you are controlling. The real-life portraits of the players that appear on the bottom of the screen from time to time are low quality to the point that they feel as though they were taken with a potato. This game has you controlling characters that are spinning about aimlessly and flying into the air the way that no real hockey player does. This game is about as ugly as it gets.
9 Brett Hull '95
Have you heard of Brett Hull? If not, do not be worried, because this title teaches us that you can’t just slap a famous hockey name onto a cartridge and expect it to become a good game overnight. Brett Hull ‘95 was released in 1994 for SNES and Sega Genesis. While at first it received some mixed reviews, it sank to the ocean floor in negative feedback.
You need only play a minute of this game to release how slow and choppy the graphics are, and how much slower the gameplay is. The game’s camera angle tricks the player’s depth perception, as the matches are played from a cornered view, making game play uneasy. Not to mention the terrifyingly robotic voice of the announcer. If you are looking for a good hockey simulator, you could play this game, but you might be better off using a couple of old action figures in your basement.
8 NHL Hitz 2002
It is sad to say that NHL Hitz 2002 was for the most part not the hit that we were hoping it to be. Fans of the game say that while the game is playable to some degree, it is unrealistic in gameplay. When we play hockey video games, we want them to have some degree of realism that, as previously stated, makes us feel as though we are really out there on the ice and looking to score.
This game may at first look like something that does this, but after five minutes of gameplay, the player will find themselves skating back and forth from one end of the rink to the other. Not much skill is required to win a match, you the player just has to be in the right place at the right time. Sorry to say it, but that makes this game unplayable in the end.
7 Pro Sport Hockey
Released in 1993 for the SNES, Pro Sport Hockey does not live up to the expectations that a sports game should. This is one of the oldest entries on this list, but that does not excuse the fact that this game was a little late for its time. The sound effects sound more watered down and simple than an Atari 2600, and the camera is so shaky that you would think the game was recorded during an earthquake. The sad part about this game is that it really tries to be good. I could tell that the developers really tried to give this game some sort of flare every now and again. Cutscenes are cropped in-between periods and an energy system was put into play to give the gameplay more of an edge on the market. Still, this game just falls short as it is clunky and kind of hard to play.
6 Great Ice Hockey
Great Ice Hockey is far from a great ice hockey video game, just ask the Jason Voorhees lookalike. Released way back in the year 1986 for the Sega Master System, the game capitalizes on graphics, but does not do much else in the way of improving on the genre. Great Ice Hockey was released just five years after the original Ice Hockey for the Atari 2600, but the Atari title still proves to be better than Sega’s half decade follow up.
The big problem with Great Ice Hockey is the camera focus. Atari’s Ice Hockey proved to be a very simple game, but one that had a clear goal and focus when being played. Much of this game has the screen slowly pausing the action and moving from one end of the rink to the other. Great Ice Hockey proves to be too big for its own good and to be an overall wonky experience.
5 NHL 06
Of course you had to expect that out of them all, at least one of the mainstream NHL series entries would wind up on this list. 2005 proved to be an unfortunate year for major league hockey fans, with the release of NHL 06 for the original Xbox and PlayStation 2. The players look off, to say the least. The graphics themselves are okay, but the players during the match have a minor case of dwarfism and appear to be a little unusually short.
The big issue with this game, however, is the amount of bugs that appear to have been overlooked. Fans old and new will tell you that this game is not what it could have been. It does not add anything new to the series and, with all the little quirks and missteps, this game does not live up to other entries in the series.
4 NHL 2K10
Another poor installment in the 2K franchise, NHL 2K10 falls short of anything more than terrible. Released in 2009 for the PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, and even PlayStation 2, this title, like many others in the franchise, sticks to the same formula that the 2K games have managed to perfect in a way. However, with this title, there appears to be more faults than your average hockey simulator.
Some of the big problems with this game center around the AI. We have all had experience with cases of troublesome, sometimes even annoying, computer characters ruining our gaming experience. But as far as NHL 2K10 goes, the AI is about an unresponsive as you can get. For many fans, the PlayStation 2 version has been called the least buggy and somewhat playable. So if you want to pull out your old PS2, then go ahead. Otherwise you can stay away from this one.
3 NHL Rivals
An original Xbox exclusive released in 2003, this game was by no means the diamond in the rough that fans usually look for every now and again. This title introduced a “role-playing” system in which the player took on the role of one of four classes during a match. While innovative, this could not keep the game afloat with all of its sins and tragedies. The AI has been called “cheap” by some, and simply “unfair” by others, making it an all around negative for the games playability. One can make the argument that this game was a first time effort and that makes it a noble cause, but any hockey fan should be able to see passed this excuse. It has even been said by many buyers that the best part of this game is its graphics and, seeing as how it came out about 14 years ago, I do not think this game is going to make the cut if you are looking for a classic.
2 TV Sports Hockey
When it comes to terrible hockey games, this is just one of those titles that seems to get worse and worse the longer you play it. TV Sports Hockey was released way back in 1991, and proved that hockey video games could truly be an all out roller coaster of disappointment. While graphics are important, that by no means make up a game's overall foundation. However, with this title, it seems like each player is a copy-and-pasted clone of one another. There is nothing that makes this game unique and the gameplay is interrupted so often with little breaks of black screens that it feels as though you are watching some poorly animated movie rather than playing a video game. While skating on the ice, the sound effects remind the player of someone gargling food in their throat, just to cap off the generally poor experience this game provides.
1 Street Hockey '95
This game does not make you wonder why there aren’t more street hockey games on the marketplace. Street Hockey ‘95 was a poor man’s attempt at showing off the “wild side” of hockey as a sport, released for the SNES in 1994. If you ever find yourself loading in a copy of this game, you will only need to see the title screen to see that this is the Limp Bizkit of hockey games.
The game was labeled infamous for its janky and unresponsive controls; no matter what they do the, the player finds themselves losing the puck for what feels like no reason. Gameplay aside, the visuals look like melted paintings and the music is about as tacky and cringeworthy as it gets. If you are looking for an embarrassing representation of the 1990s, then check this title out. If you are looking for anything else, then stay far away from it.