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What Was the Best Sports Gaming Year Ever? (Roundtable)

Sports Gaming

What Was the Best Sports Gaming Year Ever? (Roundtable)

The team debates which year was the best sports gaming year ever. Read on after the break to see the responses and add your own in the comments!

Fraser Lorriman

Tough choice, but I’d have to go with 2009. We were finally shaking free from the old school standard-definition TVs and getting the graphical fidelity, commentary variety, and presentation values that could fool a friend or family member walking by. I started really getting into sports games that year, going full throttle on NHL 09 with my roommate and getting introduced to MLB The Show for the first time.

There was also a lot more competition back then, meaning the consumer had a lot more choice. We also got this fantastic commercial:

Elliott Jenkins

2004 gave us ESPN NFL 2K5, ESPN NBA 2K5, NFL Street, MVP Baseball 2004, and Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. 2005, which comes in a close second, gave us MVP Baseball 2005, NBA Street V3, Blitz: The League, and Fight Night Round 2. That’s just a collection of the now-defunct franchises, let alone the hyper competitive perennial releases from the pre-monopoly era. As much as I love the SNES’ Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball and a handful of 1999-2000 titles, 2004 wins by a landslide in my eyes.

Smirkin Dirk

2007 is the year. We moved away from the PS2 era and got to experience proper 3-D before Xbox 360 owners went rummaging for their receipts as their machines became overheated bricks. NBA 2K7 set the standard for player authenticity by giving players signature shooting animations — and the shift towards replicating real life appearances and tendencies was on. NHL 07 gave us the series-altering change of moving shooting and puck handling to the right stick. It’s hard to believe we now have over a decade of memories of mistiming one timers from the blue line with it. I maintain the nine times you whiff is worth the one you nail into the corner of the net. Oh, and at the same time, AFL 07‘s most redeeming feature was its intro set to a Fallout Boy song. For those who don’t know, AFL is the Australian Football League, and Fallout Boy was a pop band who were not punk.

TJ Henderson

2006 seemed to be the culmination of a healthy sports gaming market saying “look at all of this!” and dumping a treasure trove of options that look flat out mythological today. This was the age of competition, the age of choice. NHL 2K7 and NHL 07 competed on the ice, Formula One 06, Sega Rally 2006, and Gran Turismo HD Concept raced it out on the tracks, and a little pack-in called Wii Sports got the nursing home folks out of their chairs.

As a die-hard college sports guy, NCAA Football 07 came into its own, featuring a surprisingly enjoyable Campus Legend mode where watching your GPA was as important as whether you were going to go out that night. College Hoops 2K7 reached PS3 and maturity on 360. Even college baseball got some love amidst the absence of EA’s fabled MLB series with MVP 06: NCAA Baseball.

Torino 2006 was a surprisingly solid winter Olympics title, and companies decided things were so solid that they could dabble more into back-office games like NFL Head Coach, PES Management, NHL Eastside Hockey Manager and Football Manager 07. Rockstar, the GTA and Red Dead guys, made a table tennis game. Tyson vs. Ali was possible for the first time in Fight Night Round 3. Even a past-his-digital-prime Tony Hawk made two appearances in Project 8 and Downhill Jam. We also had WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2007, Motorstorm, NASCAR 07, Tiger Woods 07, FIFA 06, World Cup 2006, PES 6, two rugby games, Arena Football, NFL Street 3 — the list is absurd. This made for the most entertaining, and diverse, sports gaming year on record.

Brian O’Neil

2013: The PS3 life cycle was coming to an end, and I was contemplating hanging up my controller and giving up video games. Then this (super creepy) video turned all that around and I pre-ordered a PS4 immediately:

What was your favorite year of sports gaming ever? Sound off in the comments!


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  1. 2007/2008
    CH2k8, NHL2k, APF2k8,  that EA sports package on PC with Madden, NHL, NBA LIVE,  PES and FIFA were also solid.  MLB THe Show 08 was great
    I think in terms off "most influential" year, 2004 is it. 
    ESPN NFL 2K5 destroyed NFL gaming. It was $20, and was a great game that everyone owned. And it caused EA to get the exclusive license to the NFL, which I think has reverberated in sports gaming to this day. 
    For me 2003 was a solid year. Dynasty mode was added in NHL 04 and for the first time added European leagues, Madden 04 added owner mode, which I feel was better then what EA offers now. Countless hours were spent on Ncaa 04. MVP baseball 04 gave us Minor league teams for the first time and NASCAR Thunder 04 for racing fans is still one of the best console nascar games ever made. 2003 introduced the foundations that sports game still use today. Unfortunately Ea did owner mode/dynasty better in the Ps2 Xbox era then what we have been given on the next gen consoles.
    Any year before the 'trading card' craze went into full swing. Ever since Ultimate Team and the like became a big money maker, a minimal amount of resources have been put into the most important aspect of a video game: making it fun to actually play...*
    It would be hard for me to actually pick a year. from 2003 to 2009 I pretty much bought each and every sports game to come out. 2004 was a great year for hockey and of course NFL 2k. Besides NFL 2k, Madden '08 would have to be my favorite football game by far. Spent hours playing it and almost everything about it down to the soundtrack was awesome.
    I would  say 2004 probably, since that gave us NFL 2k5, and multiple choices in every major sport.  Which is why, to me, these are the dark days of gaming.  One football game.  One baseball game (if you have a PS4).  One hockey game.  No college football.  Yeah, makes me long for the past.  Graphics are better today.  Other than that, things are pretty much worse across the board.
    2004 hands down. 
    That being said said I was actually contemplated no this a couple weeks ago that this year is up there for me. It’s been awhile since I have  had more games than time to play them. 
    Both nba games are great. Both soccer games are great. NHL is the best it’s been in a long time. MLB the show is the best it’s been. We got an arcade basketball game agaiin. Mutant league football is pretty good.  F1 is unbelievable. Forza  horizon is great. UFC And wwe I really enjoy. Oddly enough the only game I really couldn’t get that into was madden.
    I agree w/ Elliott and TJ ... definitely right around 2005 was the best sports video game year(s).  March Madness 2004, ESPN College Hoops 2K5 and MVP Baseball 2005 to name a few.  Madden was very good around then, too.
    I go back to Mattel LED games, and for me the peak of video games was 2003-2004. As others have mentioned, there were so many options for each sport!!
    But it was also before the online modes became the primary focus of development. I understand the widespread appeal, but as someone who always enjoyed video games as a way to get away from people, the online centric world of video games today has left me a bit disenfranchised....I still haven't upgraded from my 360 lol.
    I would* say 2004 probably, since that gave us NFL 2k5, and multiple choices in every major sport.* Which is why, to me, these are the dark days of gaming.* One football game.* One baseball game (if you have a PS4).* One hockey game.* No college football.* Yeah, makes me long for the past.* Graphics are better today.* Other than that, things are pretty much worse across the board.

    No doubt - and literal 100% agreement with everything you said here. The graphics were plenty fine in 2004. We had choices, companies pushing each other to make better games, and the only avenue to riches at the time was still to make the best game possible. The insidious tentacles of monetization of every aspect of the game (continuing revenue streams, aka DLC, aka the worst thing ever to happen to gaming) have completely subverted the gaming paradigm from "make the best game possible" to "design the game around the maximum extraction of revenue from the player base".
    2004 = the last great year of sports gaming. It's been a slow, steady decline ever since, and will never be at that level ever again.
    2004 to 2005 was pretty amazing and consider it's the last time we had 2 NFL Games to choose from. When we had Live as basketball game too and 2 great nba games back then when Live was at least competitive and fun as heck. Don't forget we had NFL Blitz too!
    2004 to 2005 was pretty amazing. When we had Live as basketball game too and 2 football games to choose from. Don't forget we had NFL Blitz too!

    Fever too!
    2008 is the answer, at the very least the end of the peak.
    APF 2k8
    College Hoops 2k8
    Madden 08
    NBA 2k8
    MLB The Show 08
    Arguments can be made all are best in particular genre or series.
    I was 7 years old in 2004 and just beginning to fully immerse myself in video games.
    I remember that 2K5 commercial with Terrell Owens:
    and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I wound up getting that game for my birthday and then getting Madden 05 shortly thereafter. Y'all already know how I feel about the 2K vs. Madden debate, but having both games to play was great.
    There was also MVP Baseball 2004 which had arguably one of the best soundtracks in sports gaming that year. Then there was ESPN NHL Hockey with Jeremy Roenick on the cover.
    Man, I had fun as a kid. I miss the competition/diversity in the market.

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