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Top 5 Launch Sports Games of All Time - What's Your List?

top 5 launch sports games

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Top 5 Launch Sports Games of All Time - What's Your List?

When discussing the best console launch sports game of all time, it’s actually quite hard to drill down to just five because sports games truly dominate console launches through history. They are not usually the top games people are waiting for at launch (except maybe with our audience), but they usually show off the new tech and are always there in force at launch. With that in mind, Matt came up with his top 5 launch sports games of all time.

We will be publishing some of our own takes on some of the best launch sports games of all time as well during the next week of next-gen madness, and we felt Matt’s list was the best way to kick that off.

What would be your top 5 list of best launch sports games?

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  1. I've bought a sports game with nearly every console launch going back as far as the 16 bit PlayStation era, so I'll do my best to list the ones I not only enjoyed the most, but which had a substantial impact on the console it was based on. I will only include games that were available on or before launch day.
    (If all goes well, hopefully NBA 2K21 on PS5/Xbox Series will be added to this list one day...)
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    5. NBA 2K6 (Xbox 360): More evolutionary than revolutionary. In spite of this, it was clear 2K made the right decision to build upon its last-gen version instead of tearing everything up and starting from scratch. While its graphics and menus were slightly worse than NBA Live 06, everything else was head and shoulders above its competition and a major improvement over ESPN NBA 2K5. The arena atmosphere, presentation and overall realism set the tone for an amazingly successful generation of 2K Basketball.
    4. NBA Jam TE (PlayStation): It didn't push the PS1 anywhere close to the limit. And with the exception of Ridge Racer, that wasn't the case for any PlayStation launch title. But in 1995, you would have been hard pressed to find anything more authentic to its arcade presentation than the PlayStation port of Jam TE. To this day, TE on PS1 is still the best port of an original NBA Jam game on console. Furthermore, according to YouTube's Classic Gaming Quarterly, it was the only PS1 launch title to include Multitap support for up to four players. The PlayStation received praise for its handling of arcade titles in its launch window. Since arcades were still very relevant in 1995, the excellent ports of Midway's NBA Jam TE and Mortal Kombat 3 undoubtedly helped Sony move a ton of consoles near launch.
    3. SSX (PlayStation 2): I debated including SSX on this list, but, hey, snowboarding's still a sport! This was a very pleasant surprise on launch day in 2000. The original SSX was a pleasant surprise, a new Electronic Arts IP that set the tone for a very successful generation. The gameplay was fast, responsive, stylish and showed off everything the PS2 was capable of. It also included a pretty revolutionary musical system that changed depending on how your character was performing. It was innovative, fun and still holds up today...and includes a cameo from the one and only "Mean" Gene Okerlund. One of the best launch titles in video gaming history, no matter the genre.
    2. NFL 2K (Dreamcast): It looked like no other football game before it. The graphics, camera angles, commentary...all combined to create something that screamed "next gen". And on a small CRT television on a Dreamcast demo unit at my local Electronics Boutique in 1999, it was hard to tell NFL 2K apart from the real thing. This was in an era where NFL Gameday and Madden were only in year 3 and 2 (respectively) of fully 3D football. Sega Sports and Visual Concepts blew both away with what was undoubtedly a system seller for late 90's football fans. It doesn't hold up nearly as well as its sequels (or the #1 game on the list) but in 1999, NFL 2K was absolutely revolutionary. It was full of uncapped potential and featured small hints of everything football gaming could be.
    1. Madden NFL 2001 (PlayStation 2): The single most revolutionary leap from one console generation to another in sports gaming history. Madden's PS1 debut was cancelled. 97 was mediocre at best. 98 was overshadowed by Sony's Gameday, and both games would duke it out until the end of the PS1 generation, with Madden adopting Franchise Mode and 3D graphics for the first time in Madden 99. NFL 2K's debut only one year later set a new watermark in the genre. But with EA's refusal to develop for the Dreamcast, it was imperative that Madden needed to produce on PlayStation 2. Not only did Madden 2001 improve, it absolutely blew away everything it once did on PS1. Madden 01 included responsive, clean menus that put its awesome player models front and center. Its amazingly smooth 60-fps gameplay served as the foundation for its entire run on PS2. Furthermore, it debuted with some excellent TV broadcast-styled presentation and camera angles that EA abandoned mid-generation. It was an entirely different game from its PS1 version in every way, and stands as one of --- if not THE ---- greatest Madden game(s) ever made.
    Honorable Mentions: FIFA 14 (PS4), NFL Fever 2002 (Xbox), NHL Hitz 20-02 (Xbox), NHL 2K6 (360), NHL 2001 (PS2), NHL All Star Hockey (Saturn), Daytona USA (Saturn), Tommy Lasorda Baseball (Genesis), NHL 2K7 (PS3), Wii Sports (Wii), Ready 2 Rumble Boxing (Dreamcast)

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