Boxing and mixed martial arts games aren’t like typical fighting games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Tekken they are very much their own sub-genre. Fights can’t usually be won by inputting complicated button combinations to land a 50-hit combo.
Save for flash knockout scenarios seen in the UFC and Fight Night games, fights are usually in the for the long haul lasting several rounds at a time. Even with the timer speed increased sports, combat games are a lengthy battle of wills whether it is against the computer’s artificial intelligence or a second player.
Even in the combat sports games that include some arcade-like mechanics, as seen in the Rocky titles, players need to work to find their opponent's weaknesses. Of course, this is exactly what fans of the fight want in a game, so here are ten of the best combat sports games ever made - we aren't including comedy boxing or fighting games like Nintendo Wii Boxing or the Punch-Out series.
10 Toughman Contest
Toughman Contest was a boxing game released on the Sega 32X and the Sega Genesis/Megadrive in 1995. The game was based on the controversial real-life amateur boxing contests of the same name. The game featured heavyweight boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch as the final boss.
Toughman Contest shares some similarities with Nintendo’s Punch-Out series but the fights are more realistic as the opponents don’t telegraph their punches before throwing them. Fights are fast-paced and require strategy, dodging and combinations to win the fights.
9 Victorious Boxers: Ippo’s Road To Glory
Victorious Boxers: Ippo’s Raod to Glory was released on the PlayStation 2. It is a boxing game based on the Hajime no Ippo series also known as Fighting Spirit in the west. As a result, the player rises through featherweight boxing ranks as the main character Ippo.
The game combined arcade-style fighting with surprisingly accurate boxing simulation mechanics. Dodging, weaving, and smooth movements were executed through the use of the analog stick. The characters also featured realistic facial damage in the long drawn out fights with bruising and swelling developing as the match progresses.
8 Creed: Rising to Glory
Creed: Rising to Glory is a 2018 virtual reality boxing game released on the PlayStation VR and the Oculus Quest, and HTC Vive. The player takes on the role of Adonis Creed as he rises through the ranks to fight characters from the films like “Pretty” Ricky Conlan and Victor Drago.
The game also added characters from the Rocky franchise like Rocky, Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago. Creed offers boxing fans the closest many gamers will get to ever stepping inside the squared circle and live out their own Balboa fantasies in this fun but physically exhausting VR game.
7 Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing
Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing was released on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis and Game Gear in 1992. It was one of the first serious boxing sims to make to console and realistically showed body, face, and cut damage.
In addition, players are able to move around the ring in 360 degrees despite being a 2D game. The visuals were some of the best seen on consoles at the time and it also implemented a 10-8 scoring system and the three knockdown rules.
6 EA Sport’s UFC 3
EA Sport’s UFC 3 was released in 2018 for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. The game was initially criticized by fans lacking some of the core features of its predecessor. However, the game received several mechanical improvements through patch updates.
The game not only added several new fighters for free but they added new moves like the driving takedown, the spear takedown, more feints, grappling transitions, statistics updates and more. Similar to Fight Night, the animations and combat are smooth and satisfying when connecting with some of the more brutal hits in the game.
Released in 2002, developed by Rage and published by Ubisoft, Rocky was released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The game follows Rocky from his early beginnings fighting small-time fighters in clubs like Spider Rico to the big leagues against Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago and more.
There are over 30 fighters featured from the films and all of the brutal hard-hitting action has made it into the game. Facial damage is incredible and should satisfy the most bloodthirsty boxing fans out there especially as it stains the mat. The scoring system isn’t very accurate so fights that go distance may go in the opponent’s favor if they’ve landed more jabs no matter how ineffective they were.
4 Greatest Heavyweights
Greatest Heavyweights was released in 1994 and it was the sequel to Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing. It was released on Sega Megadrive/Genesis and ran on the exact same engine as the Evander Holyfield game.
However, the game featured several improvements like an expanded roster featuring some of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time such as Evander Holyfield, Rocky Marciano, Joe Lewis, Jack Dempsey, and more.
3 Rocky Legends
Rocky Legends was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. It was a follow up the first Rocky game two years prior. This time, the game offers more arenas and fighters to choose from and players can even play through the careers of Rocky’s antagonists like Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, and Apollo Creed.
Rocky and Clubber’s southpaw stance has been corrected since the last game and now both fighters are fighting like they’re supposed to. The fighting feels even more brutal and weighty than its predecessor and it implements the correct 10-7 point scoring system.
2 UFC: Undisputed 3
UFC Undisputed 3 was released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012. It was the last game in the series to be published by THQ and was developed by Yuke’s, the same team that worked on the Smackdown! and the WWE 2K series.
This features a better submission system than the EA Sports series and features two control systems that are suited to both new and experienced players. In addition to the UFC career, the game features a second mode called Pride Mode which was based on the former Japanese MMA organization.
1 Fight Night: Champion
Fight Night: Champion was released in 2012 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and is backward compatible with the Xbox One. The game features a full story mode with fictional characters and is arguably the best seen in a combat sports game.
The game features the Full-Spectrum Punch Control system as well as the shoulder and face buttons giving the player more control over their fighters. In addition to the story mode, the game features a bare-knuckle boxing mode which is as brutal and as entertaining as it sounds. Despite being over six years old and built for last-gen systems, Fight Night: Champion is still an incredible looking game.