When it comes to “alternative” sports games, we basically treat this category as anything that would be considered indie or simply off the beaten “sim” path to a major degree. Perhaps you could even call them “arcade” games in some contexts, but it’s become harder to really define this category one specific way, so we basically treat it as the way to talk about any games that might get missed elsewhere. In 2022, it was a relatively strong showing for some of these smaller games, and this has been a trend the last couple years as more developers get their games to Steam or early access in some fashion. Sunday Rivals certainly goes in that bucket since we had followed it for multiple years before it finally got a true release date in 2022.
It’s also another football game winning this award, which has become a bit of a trend since Legend Bowl also won the award in 2021. Developers probably sense the Madden fatigue out there, and consumers have been more active searching out ways to get a football fix any way they can. Both those factors have helped lead to some really fun football experiences, and we hope to keep seeing them in the years ahead.
Best Alternative Sports Game In 2022: Sunday Rivals
To be clear, Sunday Rivals earned this award. We didn’t simply give it to developer 26K because we as a staff were frustrated with Madden this year. It’s a game we followed for multiple years, and it’s still getting plenty of updates after launch. It has a unique block-like look, some impressive day-night transitions, and more presentation flourishes than you might expect. On top of that, it finds a nice balance between arcade and simulation by being easy enough to pick up and play while giving you enough leeway to bend the rules throughout the game. The controls make sense, and there’s still plenty of depth in the playbooks and how you can approach offense and defense.
In short, it draws you in with its style, then makes you feel right at home in short order, and then you still have plenty of actual football strategy to unpack. It’s a perfect formula for a football game that will never have the budget or licensing to compete on the grandest stage, and it shows (much like Legend Bowl) that it doesn’t mean football can’t still be incredibly fun.
Community Vote – Sunday Rivals
Sunday Rivals also won the community vote, edging out Retro Goal by 5 percent. Trailing a little further back was the group of Turbo Golf Racing/Windjammers 2/OlliOlli World/Shredders. I’m a little surprised Sunday Rivals won because it does not currently have a franchise mode, and I know some OS folks are still hoping that gets added before they take the plunge. While the Season Mode does have a nice amount of depth, a franchise mode is the top ask in this community.
Beyond that, the other factor I thought might work against it is it’s only on PC for now. I believe Legend Bowl was only on PC at the time it won our 2021 award, so maybe I should not have been as surprised by that factor. Still, the vote overall was close like our staff vote. For our staff vote, we were split between Turbo Golf Racing and OlliOlli World as the other two competitors, and I do want to give some notice to those games for different reasons. Car golf rules and everyone should scope out Turbo Golf Racing with friends one night if you can. OlliOlli World is a great sequel with tons of style and is a really hard game if you’re trying to nail perfect lines.
With Retro Goal, New Star Games is good at what they do. Its cousin Retro Bowl is also a very good game, and more people get to play these games because they end up on at least some consoles much more quickly than some of these other PC games. There really was not a wrong choice here, it’s more what style of game you wanted to play than anything else. Football won out in our community and that is why it takes home the prize.