Operation Sports 2022 Awards: Best Career Mode Goes to NBA 2K23

When comparing specific aspects of sports video games, one game’s superiority can sometimes have more to do with how little the other games are doing rather than how much the best of the bunch is really innovating. This bears some truth when considering the crop of contenders for the top career mode of 2022. NBA 2K has been the alpha dog in this department for years now, overcoming its reliance on microtransactions by continuing to tweak the storyline of becoming an NBA player and competing online with others. Headed into this year, the familiar question was which of MLB The Show 22, NHL 23, FIFA 23, or Madden 23 were going to be able to shorten the distance and possibly contend with NBA 2K. Well, in our eyes none of those games were able to pull it off, and thus the Operation Sports 2022 Award for Best Career Mode goes to NBA 2K23 MyCareer.

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Best Career Mode In 2022: NBA 2K23 MyCareer

NBA 2K23 MyCareer Storylines

Perhaps the best way then to frame the continued dominance of NBA 2K23 in this category is by first looking at where career modes in other games are still coming up short. Though the framework of guiding someone through the pitfalls of becoming a professional athlete is inevitably similar from game to game, each takes its own slightly different approach. Depending on what your own priorities are from a career mode, enjoyment is bound to vary from person to person. It’s only the premier career mode that can manage to find a way to offer a little something for everyone.

Because career modes are expected to no longer be confined to the single-player realm, MLB The Show 22 remains at something of a competitive disadvantage. The developers may have provided the chance to create more ballplayers this year and improved the archetype system, but there’s still no way to take any of those players online. Even if you do prefer playing offline anyway, there’s a lack of meaningful interactions inside the clubhouse for your player (very few cutscenes exist) or dynamic outcomes that invite replaying the mode with a new ballplayer.

As for the trio of EA entries, there’s a lingering stale stench to all of them and only a huge helping of new features could help remove the smell. Madden is the worst of the bunch in terms of an overall experience, but NHL 23‘s career mode is probably the worst offender as far as a lack of innovation is concerned because so much of the narrative and framework has been carried over from the last game or two. Luckily, the online World of Chel mode where you can use your created player against others helps to redeem the career shortcomings with a variety of ways to test both your individual skills and how well you play with others.

nhl 23 world of chel

Like so many other components of Madden 23, the Face of the Franchise career mode was a mess of bugs and glitches at launch (you could not make it through more than one season for a long period of time). Even when things worked as intended, the gameplay was marred by bad camera angles and a training system that got boring fast. The Yard at least allowed you to team up with friends for some loose backyard fun, but there’s a lack of online modes holding it back.

With FIFA 23, the consensus within the community appears to be that it lacks depth and an absorbing story.

NBA 2K23 MyPlayer Builder

Meanwhile, NBA 2K23 didn’t exactly rest on its laurels with the MyCareer mode. For one thing, the developers clearly listened to community feedback by making The City smaller and easier to navigate with the use of subway stops. There are now more buildings that you can enter, including the addition of The Theater, which overhauls last year’s Old Gym by offering a few new wrinkles each week to go alongside the standby playlist of No Squads 3-vs-3 that all solo players need. It’s also noteworthy how the game has improved its online experience to make it harder to drain threes consistently, forcing people to lean more on the strengths of the archetype they create. It makes for a more balanced and realistic game of basketball in the online parks and gyms where sound fundamentals are often rewarded.

If you aren’t comfortable taking your talents online, a single-player career still gives you an overwhelming number of quests to complete. Aside from the drama surrounding your play on the court, there’s also plenty to do within the worlds of music and fashion that you have at your fingertips. Yes, it’s true that the main storylines don’t really change that much from one 2K game to the next. Rival player? Check. Trade rumors? Check. Team of close advisors? Check. But the developers at least deserve some credit for updating the details and the extensive cutscenes to mold all of the games you play into a cohesive arc.

It must be mentioned that the constant enticement to purchase virtual currency continues to be a problem that does not go unnoticed within NBA 2K23‘s MyCareer. The game’s diabolical intention is to put you between a rock and a hard place by forcing you to either purchase VC or devote a huge amount of time to earn that same VC. It’s an ingenious scheme to ensure that if you aren’t able to get that VC one way or another, you won’t be able to keep up with others who have already used VC to improve their players’ abilities.

Still, in spite of that massive issue (or maybe because other developers are just not taking career modes seriously enough), NBA 2K23 MyCareer wins the Operation Sports 2022 Award for Best Career Mode.

Community Vote – NBA 2K23 And MLB The Show 22 (Tie)

MLB The Show 22 road to the show

In what I have to believe is a first, the same number of people voted for Road to the Show and MyCareer. We even kept the poll open and asked for more votes, and we still got a tie. So MLB The Show 22 and NBA 2K23 get to split the community award. The staff really did not consider the decision a hard one this year, but I think there is a level of comfort that comes with playing Road to the Show. It’s very relaxed, and while we don’t find it very interesting when not playing the games, it’s easy to just play a chunk of games and have a good time on the diamond.

I do think that matters in this community. While many community members do not like the overall direction of the mode the last couple years, it’s still easy enough to boot up and play at least a couple seasons before you get bored.

With NBA 2K23, there was more discussion surrounding the Jordan Challenge than MyCareer this year — at least at the start of the season — but MyCareer has more of a tail because of the competitive online components. There is always talk about the meta, or what to do about certain dribble moves, and so on. That element of things does end up mattering when people start realizing just how many hours they have poured into MyCareer.

So in an OS first, the 2022 Community Award for Best Career Mode will be split between Road to the Show and MyCareer.

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Author
Kevin Scott
Kevin Scott is a writer and video producer who's been contributing to Operation Sports since 2016. He's primarily been focused during this time on any and all video games related to football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. He lives in Toronto and still believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that someday the Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup again.