Despite the mammoth success of NBA 2K, the NBA video game market is lacking, which frankly is a bit unusual due to the continued growth of the league. And 2K isn’t holding exclusive rights to the league so you’d think developers would be making a play. But perhaps there is worry that their game wouldn’t clear the bar that NBA 2K has over the years. I’m no developer or publisher, but honestly, all you can do is just make the best basketball experience possible. I really think you’d see a lot of gamers appreciate a fresh new NBA option.
If not a totally new option, then how about rebooting classics? We are in the age of remakes after all so it’s only fair to see basketball games jump into the mix considering the sport’s rich history of games. We’ve seen some incredible NBA games in the past, whether it was simulation or arcade style there was always a little something for everyone. So, what are a few games from the past that would be awesome to see make a comeback? Here are a few that come to mind.
One thing I’ve seen 2K players demand pretty heavily on social media is to have permanent 1-on-1 matchmaking on the new-generation versions of the game (old gen currently has this). Well, NBA Ballers would be the absolute dream for players who are passionate about a little one-on-one basketball action as this was the essence of this game made by Midway.
Ballers mixed authentic hoops gameplay with an arcade flair while oozing with affluent aesthetics throughout the entire game. Players rocking cool clothes and jewelry while playing on courts located at mansions and on yachts really helped showcase the lifestyle of an NBA player.
One of the cool things was that each NBA player had their own unique special abilities. Some players had special hot zones where, when shooting from them, gave them a higher chance of going in. And some players had the ability to go into Fire Mode where your player was basically unconscious offensively for a few possessions. Oh, both NBA Ballers and NBA Ballers Phenom had awesome music to complement these Fire moments.
And then you have one of the funnier abilities, which allowed you to pass the ball to a fan in the crowd for a little give and go action (who said you can’t pass in a one on one game?). And finally, there was the HOUSE meter, which let you throw down a thunderous dunk that destroyed the hoop to automatically end the game and give you the win. Honestly, one of the coolest ways to finish a game/match in any sports game. Swagger? One-on-one games? Duos (I forgot to mention that)? Dope courts? Yeah, Ballers was awesome.
Although not necessarily a critical success, the game simply known as NBA was a lot of fun to play. From the original game to NBA 06 Featuring The Life to NBA 09: The Inside, these were smooth playing hoops games. They also were a pioneer of sorts for the modern “Green Release” shots that are popular in the NBA 2K games. These games had a similar system where a green light around the ball meant your shot release was perfect and getting those swishes were quite satisfying.
The NBA games were also known to feature fun mini-games, especially on the superb PSP versions. Dodgeball in particular was the funniest and was very addictive. I know seeing the opportunity to play dodgeball in a modern NBA simulation game might not be everyone’s cup of coffee but those were some cool experiences to have when taking a break from hoops without ruining the game
With the games releasing around the same time as the then new-gen consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360), NBA 2K and NBA Live were putting out their offerings, leaving the NBA games by San Diego Studio to fly under the radar. Yes, that same San Diego Studio that created the sports juggernaut known as MLB The Show. And at that time, The Show flew under the radar as well, being overshadowed by more heavily marketed baseball games like MLB 2K and MVP Baseball. And it was the same way with the NBA games. It would be awesome to see these make a return, especially with the amount of knowledge San Diego Studio has built up over years with MLB The Show.
It’s was only a matter of time before we got to NBA Street (and there’s a lot to say here). I just didn’t want to kick things off with the obvious. I think it’s fair to say that not only sports gamers but gamers in general would absolutely love to see the return of this legendary basketball game. All four games were pure arcade basketball fun while featuring authentic streetball courts. These courts included iconic places like Rucker Park in New York and Venice Beach in Los Angeles, and breathtaking courts like Foster Beach in Chicago.
All of the tricks, NBA players, legends, ferocious dunks, and epic gamebreakers helped turn the NBA Street franchise into an iconic one in the world of gaming, no matter the genre. NBA Street Vol.2 in particular is widely regarded as the pinnacle for the franchise and that says a ton as all four games are terrific. Every time you hear T.R.O.Y by Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth come on when you first fire up the game, you know you’re playing a special game. It’s also one of the rare games to feature rookie Michael Jordan — prime MJ and Wizards MJ in the same game. And those level 2 gamebreakers? Perfection.
NBA Street V3 was also an amazing game as it featured not only a strong roster of NBA players and legends, it also featured the Dunk Contest and a court creator that was always fun to go in and mess around with. The gamebreakers were great here as you had full control over your high flying dunks. Once you landed, you were greeted with a dazzling writing display of the player’s name or nickname in the sky (or in the case of some players and our created players, we got a crown). And if you had the Gamecube version, you were greeted with the treat of the Mario all-star team featuring Mario, Luigi, and Peach and they had their own court as well. Honestly, one of the cooler things I’ve seen in a professional licensed sports game.
And then there’s NBA Street Homecourt, which remains the last game in the series. Homecourt definitely delivered a totally different vibe from the other games, focusing on the roots of NBA players and their home courts. Playing on the courts where players like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Rip Hamilton worked on their game as youngsters was truly awesome. My only gripe was that they showed videos of other players’ home courts like Steve Nash, Mike Bibby, and Mike James but they weren’t available in the game. Otherwise, it was very cool seeing where the players got their starts and the beautifully smooth soundtrack fit perfectly with what the theme of the game was all about.
I also have always said that Homecourt was ahead of its time graphically as it looked great during the early days of the PS3 and featured some impressive lighting that set the tone very well. It’s also the first NBA Street to feature the greatness that are double dunks, and the gamebreaker is an absolute show of ball handling excellence as Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” plays in the background. It’s also one of the only games to include WNBA stars such as Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi (PS3 version only, Xbox got the classic street legends like Stretch and Bonafide). Overall, there are so many great things that can be said about NBA Street. If the franchise ever made a return, it very well could send gaming into a frenzy of sorts.
Honorable: NBA Live
I honestly left Live off the main list because it felt too obvious of a choice. Yes, NBA Street was obvious as well but it’s too elite of a game to leave off — not to mention that we haven’t had a Street game in 16 years. Live at least came out a bit more recently. With that said, it would be incredible to see another option aside from NBA 2K, and Live definitely could offer that second option.