There’s a certain art involved in making a good soccer game. With a sport so beloved around the world, adapting it to video game standards can be extremely tricky. The finesse, the subtleties, and the technicalities of the sport have to be replicated down to a T. One mistake and it’s all over.
Sadly for the games on this list, they don’t just slip up in one area but a plethora of them. Whether it’s shameless product endorsements, abhorrent twists on the sport’s formula, or just downright horrible gameplay, these video game adaptations of soccer shock with their awful recreations of such a popular sport. Forget the referee blowing his whistle–you’ll be blowing it to put an end to these horrible gaming experiences.
These titles exemplify just how bad things can get when the beautiful game becomes ugly as sin. They don’t represent what makes soccer so enthralling, so stay clear if you’re approaching the pastime for the first time and you think they might present a good starting point. These are 15 absolutely terrible soccer games–some of which are so awful, that you’ll question your love for the real thing after playing them.
15 Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
There was only one true soccer game for the sport’s aficionados in the early ‘00s: the game-changing series Pro Evolution Soccer. What began in the late ‘90s as ISS, grew into a true genre juggernaut with PES. However, that legendary status almost got derailed on the game’s first outing on the last generation of consoles.
Yes, despite ruling the roost throughout its PS2 run, the prolific footy series clearly wasn’t ready to make the jump to next-gen. Graphically it’s atrocious, with ugly pitches, dated player models, and poorly rendered animations. But what really undermined it was how arcadey everything was, especially for a franchise that took so much pride in its technical prowess.
This one’s leagues below what most were anticipating from such a reliable gaming franchise. Konami reworked everything that made the game so fluid in the first place, ultimately leaving us with a title that is more devolved than evolved sadly.
14 Football Madness
Released in 2003 for the PS1 (first clue that all isn’t well), Football Madness takes place in an indoor environment with 5-a-side teams taking each other on for the ultimate prize of… winning? Yeah, there’s really not much incentive to play this title unless you want a maddening experience that will have you yearning for a game of Adidas Power Soccer before all’s said and done.
The game was only released in Europe, so the U.S. should count itself lucky for avoiding it. You choose from one of just 16 international teams (so don’t go thinking of a Man Utd v Real Madrid classic), which you can then enter into three different modes of play: single match, league, and cup. However, single match might be as far as you get once things get underway.
It tries to put a wacky spin on soccer by having no rules, no referee, no stoppages, and ultimately, no focus. Collecting power-ups in a game never felt as silly as it does in Football Madness. The only madness here lies with the developers who made this turgid footy title.
13 O’Leary Manager 2000
For many, the Game Boy Color was a much-loved gaming device. However, less well-received was the finicky soccer management title O’Leary Manager 2000. For those not in the know, David O’Leary was a soccer player and manager, thus O’Leary Manager was born.
Although, really he should have coached developers LiveMedia when they decided to give him his own manager game because it functions pretty poorly. PCs are the go-to place for deep manager games, particularly stunning titles like Football Manager. On the Game Boy Color? Think again. It’s glitchy, it’s buggy, and it’s nonsensical at times. There’s even a game-breaking bug that rewards players for getting their club into debt, which all but destroys the financial side of the game.
Some still look at this one through rose-tinted glasses, but don’t be one of them – this misguided attempt at the managerial side of soccer will leave you wanting to negotiate your way out of ever playing it again.
12 Puma Street Soccer
Endorsed by sports clothing brand Puma (oh dear), Puma Street Soccer has tacky written all over it. From the shoddily designed cover art, to the brute ugly graphics – Puma Street Soccer leaves a lot to be desired in many areas of its confused makeup.
Let’s start with its horrible gameplay. Trying to score is incredibly tedious thanks to goalkeepers that refuse to budge an inch. The field of play is incredibly small, meaning that doing tricks off the barriers is pointless. And the less said about the stuttering player animations the better. It may have tons of modes, but do they warrant being accessed? The answer is a resounding no.
Thought street soccer was fun? Sadly, you might change your mind after playing Puma Street Soccer. One go at this title and you’ll wish that a real puma mauled it before it got a chance to be released.
11 FIFA Soccer 64
FIFA always had the licenses for the biggest soccer leagues in the world, but it didn’t always deliver on the pitch. There’s a reason why games like PES dominated it for so long in the gameplay department, especially when analyzing FIFA’s sorry attempt on the N64.
Entitled FIFA Soccer 64, the 1997 title left a lot of soccer fans in the cold with its poorly executed mechanics. Whether it’s the slowdown that stems from different camera angles, or the unintuitive control scheme–this one runs dangerously close to being relegated with its very noticeable problems.
It took a long time for FIFA to win the hearts and minds of true lovers of the sport, and that’s because of games like FIFA Soccer 64. It’s got the presentation, the modes, and the style of a top tier Premier League team. Sadly, it forgets to supply the most important part of a soccer game–substance.
10 Red Card
Released in 2002, Red Card throws the rules and regulations of traditional soccer matches out the window in favor of two things–shin-shattering tackles and outrageous power moves. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
The premise is so silly, that gamers can even play matches in the South Pole in a bid to provide enough wackiness for the casual gamer. And really, that’s who this game is intended for, not soccer lovers. Oh, and forget about playing in stadiums like Old Trafford or the Nou Camp. What we have here are arenas like Coliseum Stadium and USAFB001 Stadium, putting the icing on top of this ludicrous cake.
There’s something very problematic about a game that turns a highly respected sport into nothing more than a violent natured beat-em up. It’s an incredibly confused game that attempts to be taken seriously at times, while undoing all of that by unjustifiably turning matches into a leg-breaking free-for-all.
9 Alex Ferguson’s Player Manager 2001
There was a mind-set in the early ‘00s that if you slapped a well-known soccer persona onto the front of a game, it was certain to sell well. Sadly, they usually did. However, just because they were successful, it doesn’t mean they were good. Case and point: Alex Ferguson’s Player Manager 2001.
Console gamers also had a choice of LMA Manager and Championship Manager at the time, and they would be smart to opt for either of those two instead. At a measly 20,000 players on the database (quite skimpy for a manager game), the title doesn’t have the depth of any of its competitors. Add to this a dreadful 3D camera option and way too short seasons, and you’ve got a management sim that could have been much more polished than the final product.
It might have the most successful soccer manager of all time on the cover, but Alex Ferguson’s Player Manager 2001 should have altered its own tactics to stand a chance.
8 Viva Soccer
Call me old fashioned, but I like my soccer games to have some authentic commentary to go along with the on-screen action. Well, meet Viva Soccer–a PS1 game that replaces commentary with a convoluted feature that sees the players’ speech dominate the audio portions of the title.
However, there’s more to hate than just that nonsensical option. Players choose from an admittedly insane number of soccer teams (1035 to be exact), all of which were around between the 1958 and 1998 World Cups. However, that dizzying statistic soon falls flat once matches commence. The graphics are pretty shoddy, the AI is way too difficult to compete against, and the controller wizardry that’s required to do the simplest of moves begins to grate by about half-time in a match.
Few games on this list feel as unfair as Viva Soccer does. We’re all for challenging games, but when they’re as stupidly tough as Viva Soccer, there comes a point when enough is enough. Caution: controller-breaking infuriation this way.
7 Backyard Soccer
It’s all well and good creating a cutesy representation of soccer, but you need to get the basics right first. Sadly, Backyard Soccer did anything but deliver the fundamentals of its gameplay, as PC users know all too well. For them, Backyard Soccer was an absolute nightmare when it came to the controls.
While Runecraft developed the PlayStation iteration solidly enough, Humongous Entertainment failed with the PC version. Surprisingly, it was released for PC first which begs the question, what were they thinking in the first place? Besides the controls, this is probably the poorest of the Backyard Sports titles when it comes to enjoyability.
Throw in some painstaking load times and shallow replay value, and you’ve got a title that should be avoided if you can help it. Go out to your own backyard and play because it’s miles better than this hollow experience.
6 FIFA Street 3
The first two FIFA Street games were fantastic. Slick animations, killer tricks, and a ‘one more game’ addictiveness that just oozed quality. So you’d think the third installment would follow suit, while expanding the brilliant core foundations that the previous two so effortlessly laid down.
That’s what makes it even more disappointing that FIFA Street 3 was the exact opposite in terms of gameplay, depth, and replayability. It’s a completely hollow affair that just feels like a cheap cash grab. The simplified controls and lack of game modes hurt this one in ways that make it impossible for it to find any form of redemption.
Sure, it’s got tons of players and improved graphics, but what’s the point when everything else is so shoddily slapped together?
5 Three Lions
Released as the official soccer game for the England international team, Three Lions didn’t roar, but rather whimpered out of the gates in 1998. Dropping for the PlayStation, PC, and Game Boy Color, the game managed to fail on all three platforms.
Why? Well, where do we begin? The graphics are atrocious, with player likeness all but non-existent. Try differentiating between David Beckham and Paul Scholes and you’ll see what we mean. Then there’s the much-touted targeting system, which cripples the whole shooting aspect of the game. You know, the most satisfying part of any soccer title.
It came out just before the World Cup in 1998 so I guess it’s not that surprising that it plays like a game that was rushed onto the shelves. Still, with the official licenses, as well as the FA’s backing, Three Lions should have been so much more than a silly novelty release.
4 Pure Football
While many of the titles on this list could maybe be forgiven for coming out at a time when graphical quality, ease of play, and gameplay mechanics weren’t as polished as they are these days, Pure Football can have no excuse. Released in 2010 for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360, Pure Football is anything but pure.
There’s a genuine lack of depth to be found, with just exhibition and campaign modes featured. But that’s not the worst of the problems, no, it’s the sheer repetition that permeates every match. It consists of simply whacking the ball as hard as you can and hoping for the best, which is even annoying too thanks to some serious button input lag.
Throw in the silly, cartoonish player models, non-existent defenses, and no commentary, and you’ve got an arcade soccer title that fails to keep interests up by about the third match in.
3 Mega Man Soccer
Following in a long line of Mega Man spin-off games, Mega Man Soccer was Capcom’s attempt at creating a fun arcade soccer title. However, somewhere along the development line the word “fun” got lost. Instead what we were left with was a slow and tacky game that doesn’t do soccer or the Mega Man franchise any favors.
Released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo, Mega Man Soccer is slow, sluggish, and quite lazy in all honesty. The controls are incredibly awkward to use, the slowdown is hair-pullingly frustrating, and the AI is infuriating. Sure, it has some decent special moves, but even they can’t resuscitate this one from its own crippling core. It has a bizarre premise but fails to pull off the zany style which it was clearly going for.
Normally I’d say to pick it up if you can get it for cheap, however, Mega Man Soccer doesn’t warrant your money–no matter how low priced it is. Try any of the other spin-offs because they at least play like a game should play.
2 Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer
You know things are bad when a game can’t even correctly identify cities (Prague is apparently in Norway, not Czech Republic), but there’s a whole host of other problems with the dreadful Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer.
For those of you lucky enough not to know who Chris Kamara is, he’s an ex-soccer player and current pundit who gets way too overexcited about the sport. Sadly, his enthusiasm didn’t brush off on his first foray into the video game sphere, because Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer simply sucks. It’s got a wealth of game modes but they can’t make up for the turgid gameplay, vomit-inducing visuals, and counter intuitive controls. A tagline graced the back cover, reading: “5-a-side soccer has never been this tough.” Add ‘to play’ onto it and that’s a pretty accurate description of this ill-conceived waste of time.
How this even got past any form of quality control at all is beyond us, but unfortunately, it did. This makes FIFA Street 3 seem like a titan in comparison. And that’s bad for us all…
1 Complete Onside Soccer
Is there a worse soccer game than Complete Onside Soccer? We’ve still yet to find it. Following a stream of never-ending soccer games in the late ‘90s, this sorry attempt at capitalizing on a trend fell flat on its muddy face with some of the most nonsensical mechanics ever inserted into a soccer title.
Released in 1996, this title boasted 3D match visuals (new at the time), but there’s not much else to boast about. It tries to blend traditional soccer play with the managerial side, and fails at both. The result? A horrible hybrid that is confused with what it wants to be. Matches are incredibly slow, controls repetitively use a two-button layout, and the ability to score from any situation completely negates the tactical approach that it promotes.
Complete Onside Soccer is so lacking in substance, fun, intelligence, speed, and basically every other attribute that make a soccer game great. This doesn’t even get close to being an acceptable representation of the sport, but rather, provides one of the most dull and vapid recreations of it. Forget onside, this one should be flagged offside before you even insert it into the console. Avoid!