Top 10 Most Underrated Sports Video Games

Not all sports games are destined to become classics. While established series like MLB The Show, Madden, and NBA 2K have released so many editions at this point that they’ve become entrenched in th

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e public consciousness, many sports titles come and go with little fanfare. With these considerations in mind, here’s a list of 10 of the most underrated sports video games that haven’t quite been given their due.

As with any list, this one is heavily influenced by my own experience and, in a lot of instances, by the inevitable dose of nostalgia that these games inspire because of the time I spent playing them when I was younger.


An offshoot of EA’s Road Rash series that made a name for itself by combining motorcycles and violence, 1994’s Skitchin’ separated itself by making the inspired decision to substitute the motorcycles for rollerblades. The game has you competing in a series of road races on those rollerblades where the best way to get to the finish line is to skitch, which is done by grabbing onto the bumpers of passing cars in order to gain speed. Once you’re cruising behind an automobile, you’ll want to eventually slingshot yourself off that car to get a boost to your ‘blading.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of skitchin’ a car that another competitor (perhaps even a friend you’re playing against via split-screen) is already behind and the two of you are forced to use your fists or weapons to make the other take a tumble and eat some asphalt. Between races, you’re able to purchase new equipment (from the back of a van naturally) to improve your chances of taking home a victory.

World Series Baseball

Prior to MLB The Show becoming the premier baseball simulation on consoles, there were a number of titles vying for that title. Tony La Russa Baseball and Sports Talk Baseball were admirable entries, but there was perhaps no game that served as more of a precursor to MLB The Show than World Series Baseball on Sega Genesis back in 1994.

The first baseball video game to have licensing of both teams and players, World Series Baseball raised the stakes as far as immersion goes for fans of the sport. The catcher’s-eye view of the action while batting and the ability to move a reticle to square up a ball was a new innovation that laid the foundation for what hitting is now in MLB The Show. As I remember, the only drawback to the game was that only a handful of batters were capable of hitting home runs, so the statistics over the course of a season were disappointing.

Everybody’s Golf VR/2MD Football

Because VR sports games are so often overlooked due to their niche market, it’s worth highlighting a couple of the better ones to have been released on the PSVR. Everybody’s Golf VR might seem a little cartoonish at first glance, mostly due to its giggly caddies, but playing a round can be a nice substitute (especially in winter) for getting out on a real course. In particular, the putting is realistic enough to make you question the need for any putting green at home.

2MD Football gives you the opportunity to test your skills as a quarterback by leading a team of tackling dummies on a 2-minute touchdown drive. Though it would be even better to throw the football to real players (see NFL Pro Era II for this luxury), the challenge and thrill of stringing together touchdowns to best your high score (and others in the community) can be surprisingly addictive and a decent workout for your throwing arm.

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey

Clearly attempting to do for hockey what NBA Jam did for basketball, Wayne Gretzkzy’s 3D Hockey on the N64 (and in arcades) left the simulations to other games and leaned into its arcade style for an impressive breakneck pace (and even snagging Tim Kitzrow to do the VO as well). With the ability to glide across the entirety of the ice surface in what felt like only a few strides, the scoring chances would be generated at a furious clip.

The defense could combat the offense with a fury of its own though, as an important aspect of the game was delivering bone-crunching hits to knock a player off the puck. If that didn’t get the job done, there was naturally the option to throw down the gloves and deliver a message with your fists in a fight.

Super Spike V’Ball

Among its many contributions to the history of sports video games, Super Spike V’Ball on the NES made volleyball seem so much cooler simply by virtue of the insertion of a carefully placed apostrophe. The game itself transported you to the beach, where you engaged in a 2-on-2 match that was typically determined by who was able to slam powerful spikes over the net after a set by a teammate, and who could dig the ball out of the sand on the other end of those.

Points became awfully intense when players had the skill to keep rallies going for a long time with great timing on those digs. To make the whole thing even more enticing, it also came packaged back in the day with a separate soccer game in Nintendo World Cup.

MicroLeague Baseball

From the time I first played a baseball video game, there was the desire for realism that most of the primitive games that usually leaned towards an arcade style couldn’t satisfy. There was one game though that pre-dated consoles when I discovered it on Commodore 64 that managed to live up to the simulation label.

MicroLeague Baseball put you in charge of managing a baseball team that was stocked with real MLB players who performed just as they did in real life. The graphics were rudimentary in portraying the outcomes of at-bats, but those took a backseat to strategizing against other players and the CPU with tactics like positional shifts and sacrifice bunts. You could even play out entire seasons and import the rosters from legendary teams.

NFL Quarterback Club 99

There have been plenty of other football games to compete with Madden since the first game in that series was released. I can remember all the way back to when Joe Montana Football learned the hard way that a broadcast angle of football makes passing the ball nearly impossible when you can’t see where you’re throwing. Aside from NFL 2K, which can hardly be considered underrated at this point, one of best series to give Madden a run for its money was NFL Quarterback Club.

Dating all the way back to 1993, the consensus is that the best game of the series is likely NFL Quarterback Club 99, featuring Brett Favre on the cover. With the ability to replay Super Bowls from the past and create players, coaches, and playbooks, it boasted some impressive features that still can’t e found in Madden to this day.

Greatest Heavyweights

Boxing video games have shown the ability to be popular since Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out became a phenomenon on the original NES. Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing brought some of that same excitement to Sega Genesis in 1992, but it was just a year later when Sega Sports improved upon that formula with Greatest Heavyweights.

Refining the gameplay to make fights a little faster than in the predecessor, there was a new polish to the animations that led to a more dynamic feel between the ropes. There was the inclusion of a plethora of fighters that you would expect from the title, including Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, and they each had their own personalized taunts. As if that weren’t enough, the game even had Michael Buffer yelling his ubiquitous pre-fight catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

Super Tennis/Pete Sampras Tennis

Video game history is littered with plenty of worthwhile tennis titles, from Mario Tennis to Virtua Tennis, so it’s only fitting that we highlight a couple of them and declare a tie (or a deuce perhaps?). One of the first titles to be released for the SNES, Super Tennis got a lot of play in my house growing up and was naturally the source of a lot of heated competition between my two brothers and myself. It was critically acclaimed upon its release, but the release of countless other tennis games over the years have probably made some forget about its merits.

Just a few years later in 1994, Pete Sampras Tennis for Sega Genesis ventured onto the court as another formidable contender. Sampras was the only real tennis player within the game, however the game’s fictional characters were all nicely balanced and the inclusion of a Crazy Tennis mode with unique scoring helped differentiate the game from the rest of the pack.

Wii Sports

If you were around for the release of the Nintendo Wii, then chances are you remember going over to a friend’s place or hosting friends at your own place to enjoy an evening of Wii Sports. The game required you to move your body, tracking those movements and translating them to the screen in a series of sports, the best of which were probably tennis, bowling, and golf.

Aside from providing a little bit of exercise, it typically made for a fun night of playful trash-talking as you discovered who was particularly good at knocking down pins, and who just couldn’t seem to stay out of the gutter. Even the game’s follow-up, Wii Sports Resort, had a few activities that could easily pass a few hours, especially basketball and disc golf.

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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.