Looking back on the 2010s, it was tough to narrow down the best footy game of the decade. Games like PES 2011, PES 2013 and FIFA 14 stood out as prime contenders. However, if there’s one game that really stood out for me, it was 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. It seems like I was not alone here either as the community also voted for this game as the best soccer game of the decade.
While most of us will remember Spain tiki-taka-ing their way to their first World Cup trophy set against the soundtrack of South African vuvuzelas, it was 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa on the PS3/Xbox 360 that brought back the fondest of memories. So why was this game the best footy game of the 2010s? Let’s chat about it.
Full World Cup Qualifying
Yes, that’s right, full World Cup qualifying. This is something that has yet to be replicated in the two World Cup games since. At the time, 199 out of 204 nations that competed for qualification (special kudos to anyone who can name the five nations that competed but were not included in the game, NO CHEATING!) to the 2010 World Cup were included.
This means you could take the Faroe Islands to the top of international football if your heart so desired. In general, you had options. You could choose to start your campaign from the beginning of qualifying, at the group stages or even the knockout rounds.
While it might be something we take for granted in 2020, back in 2010 the inclusion of all 10 authentic South African stadiums was a big deal. Not only were these 10 stadiums included in the game, other authentic stadiums were included and could be used during qualifying — as well as a few generic stadiums. Authenticity is a huge part of sports games and how they immerse the user, and 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa was ahead its time in this regard.
For a game that dropped in-between two releases (FIFA 10 and FIFA 11), 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa‘s gameplay improvements were unexpected. On top of that, again this was something unique considering the 2014 and 2018 World Cup editions didn’t receive any major updates in terms of gameplay. Player fatigue, movement and teammate AI were all superior to FIFA 10, a good game in its own right. Keepers were also improved, and because there were so many countries included, a huge gap between the best and the rest was evident due to differences in player ratings.
It’s hard to replicate the passion of an event such as the World Cup, but EA did a pretty good with crowd cutscenes and stadium noise. Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend were excellent on commentary and the game even featured a pretty decent soundtrack at the time highlighted by K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” track.
Captain Your Country Mode
“Captain Your Country” mode, a special edition of Be a Pro, allowed you to control a single player and step-by-step help him gain achievements and trophies. The ultimate goal of the mode was to become the captain of your selected nation. Starting off in the reserves, you had to earn your place before even thinking about cracking the first squad.
Your progress was impacted by how you played. This meant things like goals, assists, teamwork and passing all played into your grades. Present in World Cup 2014 but absent in 2018, Captain Your Country mode was a great feature that allowed you to feel the emotions of qualifying for and playing in the world’s biggest tournament.
Footy games have a come a long way since 2010. Better graphics, more attention to presentation, and card-collecting modes have all advanced over the years. However, the sheer amount of fun in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa was on another level from its predecessors. While there are several footy games that rival this one-off, mid-cycle game, there are few that come close to matching its total offerings. What EA did with a short development cycle was impressive, and it’s one of many reasons 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is an honorable mention for the best sports game of the 2010s.
What was your favorite footy game from the last decade?