NBA 2K24 is the go-to basketball game since it’s the only licensed NBA simulation. Not everyone is a fan of the current 2K’s though, especially with all of the microtransactions. But whether you like or dislike NBA 2K currently, it’s always nice to snoop around and look for alternatives.
Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of amazing ones but there are a few that are quite fun and that’s what we’re talking about today. Keep in mind that these games most likely won’t replace your NBA 2K experience and are not new games.
NBA Live 19
See, I told you these games were old. Now, NBA Live 19 is definitely not an ancient game at all but six years or so can feel like a long time in the gaming world. That said, Live 19 is still a lot of fun to play and the servers are still online too so you can hoop it up with other players online and it actually doesn’t take long to get into games either as the online is still more active than you think (probably for those wanting to take a break from 2K).
The career mode is solid and straight to the point as you come in as a hyped up prospect known as “The One” who is looking to leave his mark. Completing in-game goals and responding to different text messages will reward you with currency, loot boxes and more.
There’s a also a nice customizable court called “One Court” where you can shoot around and work on your game or use it to take part in Court Battles, an online mode. One thing that NBA Live 19 does lack unfortunately are downloadable custom rosters. So if you want Victor Wembanyama on the Spurs or Anthony Edwards on the T-Wolves, you’ll have to create them yourself.
Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and Tyrese Haliburton are a few of the other notable young stars who are obviously absent in the game. But other young bucks like Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are already in the game so you don’t need to worry about them, just update their attributes.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2
You cannot simply escape NBA 2K. It’ll find you, one way or another. All jokes aside, NBA Playgrounds in an underrated arcade-style basketball game that blends NBA Jam and NBA Street into one essentially. Both of these games are really good although I do have a big soft spot for the first game because of the absence of microtransactions. That was before it had 2K in its name.
You’ll collect cards and play games of two-on-two basketball on a variety of beautiful looking courts around the world. The cards feature both current NBA players and legends. Most players have no label but some of the greats have labels on their cards that say Epic or Legend. Legends in particular have their signature moves. For example, Dirk Nowitzki has his iconic fadeaway while Magic Johnson has his world-famous no-look passes. You’ll see an aura of stars around the player and ball when a special move is performed.
There were many legends in the OG game but more were added in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 including Michael Jordan and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar among others. There are also other activities in the sequel including a three-point contest and a tournament mode. Heads up that it seems that the first NBA Playgrounds is no longer available on the stores for PS5 for Xbox Series X|S but might be still available if you have a PS4 or Xbox One. However, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is still available on the new consoles of course.
Ahh yes, 3on3 Freestyle. If you don’t have it in your game library already, you may have spotted it somewhere. This is another arcade-ish style offering but is free to play. It’s also another old game but it does receive updates. For the most part, it plays like your usual arcade streetball kind of game. However, you definitely need to get used to the speed because players move slow. This basically allows you to focus more on making the best plays you can instead of relying solely on speed and explosion.
You have several bold characters you can get, each with their own unique backstories. Joey is the face of the game as he dons his own version of the legendary New York Nets jerseys. Helena, a skater girl, is another face of the game and one of the first characters players are introduced to.
Each character also has their own abilities. For example, there are characters like Lulu, an old school southern belle, who can dunk the ball at will. Then there’s Kim, another very popular character who has the ability to do fadeaways. So really, characters are important for strategy and it’s good to choose one who you feel best suits your play style.
The gameplay for 3on3 Freestyle may not match that of NBA 2K or NBA Live, but it is a solid game considering the fact that it’s free. And on top of that, it has a fairly active online community so you should have no problem getting into games while the updates help keep this older game fresh. There’s also a sequel as well but it’s currently only on Steam.
Honorable Mention: Metaball
The only game mentioned that is made for both new-gen consoles, Metaball is a very quirky hoops game as you ride on a hoverboard and try to throw a Rocket League style ball into a giant basket. Metaball is also free and is currently still in beta. It can seem confusing at first but is pretty fun once you figure it out. One reason why it’s not ahead of 3on3 is because it’s not as established yet and you may find yourself playing against bots more times than not but it has a solid foundation.