Sports games of the '90s took a new direction by trying to make games as realistic as possible. Lesser and lesser was 8-bit getting in the way of video game production. With three-dimensional textures for many sports games of the '90s, there was much potential for vast improvements. Unnerving at first, there is huge potential to have fun with these games. The best sports games are recognizable for their gameplay variation (different game modes matter) and shock appeal.
You may have played them or have been thinking of purchasing a retro console to do so. Whether it is the original copy or not, these games are highly enjoyable, which is why they dominated the '90s era of video games. These are 10 unbelievable sports games of the '90s ranked.
10 Tecmo Super Bowl
Back in the day where Electronic Arts and Madden didn't own the exclusive rights to NFL games, there was Tecmo Super Bowl, a unique football game that had advanced gameplay mechanics for a '90s football game.
Tecmo Super Bowl was enjoyable to play for avid fans of American football. You could choose from a variety of plays and more. It was arguably the first time that a football game showed realism. Tecmo Super Bowl is a Super Nintendo exclusive and one of the greatest sports games of the '90s.
9 1080° Snowboarding
Before there were games like Steep and SSX, 1080° Snowboarding commandeered the snowboarding video game market. Like any video game, 1080° Snowboarding has its flaws. The textures in the game appeared choppy, which made turning and moving through tunnels arduous. That didn't stop many people from looking at the game for its positives and seeing its faulty textures as a challenge waiting to be accomplished. Because of the success of 1080° Snowboarding, a sequel titled 1080° Avalanche was released for the Nintendo GameCube.
8 Madden NFL '95
Many appreciate Madden NFL '95 because it was a significant improvement over Madden NFL '94. Madden NFL '95 stands out in a wide selection of '90s football games.
Madden NFL '95 was the most realistic football game when it released, and with John Madden on the cover, there are too many reasons to love Madden NFL '95. Madden NFL '95 released for video game platforms such as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and Game Gear.
7 NHL '94
Removing fighting from NHL '94 was a questionable move by Electronic Arts, but it seemed to make the gameplay more focused without interruptions. This game released during an era where enforcers were more common in hockey. Goons would constantly fight players on the opposing team to increase a team's ante and to protect star players. Somehow NHL '94 surpassed all expectations without the inclusion of fighting.
Putting aside its flaws, NHL '94 was a significant leap in gameplay compared to its predecessor, NHLPA '93, which was licensed by NHLPA and not the NHL. With the integration of one-timers and for being a more polished game among other reasons, NHL '94 worked on so many levels.
6 NBA Jam
NBA Jam is like basketball fiction that never ceases to amaze. The combination of fast-paced movement and high-flying dunks seemed to work well in NBA Jam. Unfortunately, players only had the option to play 2v2 games. Had NBA Jam included five players a side basketball games, it may have been the best game on this list.
5 NFL Blitz
NFL Blitz released for most major platforms in 1998. Being able to choose from a selection of plays in the playbook made NFL Blitz have realism where it mattered. NFL Blitz is commendable for being one of the greatest football games of all time. Each team has seven players on the gridiron instead of the eleven on a typical NFL team. After the whistle is blown, one can continue tackling opposing players. NFL Blitz focuses less on realism and more on brutal tackles. This is one retro football game that is a must-play.
4 Virtua Tennis
Created by game development company Sega-AM3, Virtua Tennis stands out in this list for having exceptional graphics and top-tier tennis gameplay. It was initially an arcade game, but for being such an outstanding tennis game, it was ported to the Sega Dreamcast with a release date in the year 2000. For the first time, tennis was shaping into a realistic experience. With 3D graphics and intuitive gameplay, there are too many reasons to go back and play this classic tennis game.
3 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the first skateboarding game to be prominent in the gaming industry. Skateboarding games are now less common, but the sport was highly popular in the '90s. Featuring Tony Hawk, a skateboarder who was the first to land a 900° spin, THPS inspired several sequels across various platforms.
Its trick variety and intuitive grinding is what separated THPS from previous skateboarding games. To this day, THPS is remembered for its excellence. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is one of the greatest skateboarding games of all time and is a top contender for '90s sports games.
2 WWF WrestleMania 2000
Although it has the name WWF WrestleMania 2000, it was actually an electrifying wrestling game that released in 1999. This '90s wrestling title included most of the greatest wrestlers of WWF's Attitude Era. The Attitude Era is remembered for greatly increasing the popularity of WWF and for emphasizing brutal takedowns, blood, and TLC (tables, ladders, and chairs) matches.
The Attitude Era saw the rise of WWF superstars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Eddie Guerrero. We will forever remember WWF WrestleMania 2000 because of its stellar wrestling mechanics which are considered to be in close competition with wrestling games today.
1 NHL '98
When most people think of '90s sports games, one name, in particular, comes to mind. Of course, NHL '94 was a huge leap over its predecessors. Despite NHL 94's commendable leap in gameplay, NHL '98 remains to be the best sports game of the '90s period.
Notably, gamespot.com gave NHL '98 a 9.2 rating complimenting its improved control scheme and advanced AI. It set the standard for sports games of the era. Without a doubt, NHL '98 is the best hockey game and sports game of the '90s.