What is your favorite sports video game

The 19 best sports games from the 80s and 90s

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"He's on fire!" “NBA Jam” was one of the most popular sports games in the early 1990s.
image: screenshot youtube

«Boom Shakalaka!» - We played these 19 sports games from the 80s and 90s endlessly

"Summer Games" (1984 - C64)

The opening ceremony is already a cult: an athlete runs with a torch to the Olympic flame, which then flickers towards the sky. Doves of peace rise, the audience applauds. Ready to go!

In 1984, Summer Games was the first multi-event sports game from Epyx. It is being developed with the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in mind. The following ten competitions must be contested: pole vault, high diving, 4 × 400 m run, 100 m sprint, horse jump, swimming relay 4 × 100 m, 100 m freestyle swimming and clay pigeon shooting. Who can break the world record without destroying the joystick?

The game is so successful that one year later, Epyx launched “Summer Games II” with eight other disciplines.

"Winter Games" (1985 - C64)

The “Summer Games” are followed by “Winter Games” - keyword: Calgary 1988 - the third game in the Epyx series. The game concept remains the same: skill and precision are required in eight disciplines. The most fun are hot dogs (ski acrobatics), ski jumping and biathlon, but figure skating could have been left out.

"World Games" (1986 - C64)

The next spin-off in the Epyx series. Here too, today's motto of the Olympic Games applies: faster, higher, stronger. The disciplines are much more exotic and take place in eight different countries around the world: cliff jumping in Mexico, barrel jumping in Germany, weightlifting in Russia, slalom in France, tree trunk rolling in Canada, rodeo in the USA and tree trunk throwing in Scotland. The favorites? Clearly «barrel jumping» and «cliff diving».

"California Games" (1987 - C64)

The last prank from Epyx is based in California and was my absolute favorite game at the time. From Hollywood (skateboard) the journey goes via beaches (surfing, roller skating) through the desert (BMX) and mountains (Frisbee) to San Francisco (footbag). For the first time as a player you are not representing a nation, but an actually existing label (Casio, Santa Cruz etc.). No scandal back then. The favorites? Clearly «footbag», surfing and BMX.

"Caveman Ugh-Lympics" (1988 - C64)

The Stone Age game skilfully pokes fun at the Epyx series. As one of the six caveman athletes Glunk, Thag, Ugha, Gronk, Vincent and Crudla, you compete in humorous Stone Age games in six "contemporary" disciplines: partner throwing, saber-toothed tiger races, making fire, club fighting, dinosaur races and dinosaurs - Pole vault. So funny!

"Test Drive" (1987 - C64)

Although Accolade's driving simulation is not exactly varied, the game was still a lot of fun. In an illegal street race, you have to get your racing car - there are five well-known racing cars from the 80s to choose from - as quickly and accident-free as possible to your destination, the nearest petrol station. It's not that easy at all, because on the right is a rock face, on the left the abyss and then other vehicles and the police are involved. With "Test Drive II" the game concept was further developed and refined two years later.

"Grand Prix Circuit" (1988 - C64)

The Formula 1 simulator comes out between “Test Drive” and “Test Drive II” and impresses above all with its authenticity. On eight original Formula 1 tracks, you steer your racing car - Ferrari, McLaren or Williams - through the laps as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, only the names of the opponents, for example Nigel Levins, are fictitious. If you crash too much or drive off the track, you will push the damage bar on the steering wheel upwards. If it is full, the car is scrap and you are eliminated.

After the C64 era, game consoles took over, especially Nintendo with the NES, SNES and the Game Boy.

"Ice Hockey" (1988 - NES)

Originally an Atari game, the ice hockey game convinces with its realism despite the modest graphics. You have the choice between six nations and there are three types of field players who have different strengths in the four skills of speed, shot strength, checks and face-off:

You also have to control the goalkeeper yourself, which is quite tricky. Choosing the line-up, playing exact passes, making checks, choosing between Slapshot or Schlenzer - if you can do everything, you can make great moves.

"Blades of Steel" (1988 - NES)

Half a year after “Ice Hockey”, the next hockey game, “Blades of Steel”, appears, this time from the Konami workshop. There are only uniform types of players here, but you are compensated with fights (!), Penalty shoot-outs and fast, straightforward moves. There are eight NHL clubs to choose from: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota. There's no offside, but icing.

"Nintendo World Cup" (1990 - NES, Game Boy)

Although the programmers interpreted football very idiosyncratically, the game is great fun. For the time being, it's about riveting the opponent and seizing the gate with untenable mega shots (five per half). There are no rules or referees. Anyone who has to take too much remains lying on the ground with their face contorted with pain. Replacement impossible. When a goal falls, however, the great resurrection follows.

The game is played with five against five field players, but you can only control one. 13 national teams compete against each other in knockout mode, the game is not only played on grass, but also on ash, concrete, sand or ice.

"NBA Jam" (1993 - SNES, Sega consoles)

Actually an arcade game, the basketball simulation will soon be ported to the consoles and, above all, a huge success on the SNES. Also because “NBA Jam” is one of the first sports games to receive an official license from the association. In the 1992/93 NBA season, teams of two are played. The most famous duos back then: Malone / Stockton Kemp / Schrempf or Pippen / Grant. Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is not eligible because of his separate marketing.

The game concept is simple: there are no fouls and almost anything is possible with the dunks - spectacular flights, burning baskets and smashed windows. The commentators' phrases "He's on fire!" and “Boom Shakalaka” quickly became a cult.

"Tennis" (1989 - Game Boy)

"Tennis" was the first sports game in Europe to be released for the Game Boy. The game principle is extremely simple: in four levels of difficulty you measure yourself - with Mario as referee - against your opponent. The goal of sweeping the computer off the field in Level 4 with 6-0, 6-0 is not that easy and takes a few hours of practice. In two-player mode, you can play against each other in doubles or against each other.

"Track & Field" (1992 - Game Boy, NES)

The athletics arcade game was released for the NES in 1988, but it wasn't really fun until the Game Boy. There are eleven disciplines to choose from and nimble fingers are required for almost all of them. Usually the A and B key must be pressed alternately. It works best - tip from the sports director - if you mill back and forth with a spoon.

At the beginning of the 1990s, more and more games were played not only on consoles, but also on personal computers.

«Budokan» (1989 - Amiga / PC)

The Asian martial arts game impresses with the graphics and the atmosphere that it creates. You really feel like you're in the middle of an academy on a mystical mountain. But the gameplay also leaves nothing to be desired. In the four disciplines of karate, kendo, nunchaku and bo you first train your skills and then compete in the arena against an opponent of any strength.

"The Games: Winter Challenge" (1991 - PC)

The game principle is well-known and yet «Winter Challenge» is special. The sound is great, the graphics great, but the game becomes a classic mainly because of the ski jumping discipline. No V-style and no inrun, but the landing was so difficult when jumping over the 95-meter mark that you regularly hit the keyboard wildly and annoyed yourself green and blue.

Those who finally made the leap had truly earned the respect of their colleagues and could watch the feat again in replay mode. The seven other disciplines tobogganing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, bobsleigh, giant slalom, speed skating and biathlon also had their appeal, but took a little too long.

"Bundesliga Manager Professional" (1991 - PC)

Undoubtedly the mother of all manager games and the perfect combination of sports and business simulation. As a coach you try to lead a club of your choice from the former German amateur league into the 1st Bundesliga and to the championship title. The game was played with the original squads from the 1991/92 season, including Stéphane Chapuisat.

The field of activity was demanding: training and game planning as well as the financial and infrastructural development of the club were in your hands. So contracts were extended, training camps were selected, access to the transfer market, jersey advertising contracts were signed and the necessary capital was obtained from the bank - legally or illegally - for the stadium expansion. All in all: still highly recommended today.

PS: In 1993, Software 2000 also released the almost equally popular “Ice Hockey Manager”.

"Sensible Soccer European Champions" (1992 - Amiga / PC)

You either love this game or you hate it. Even then, the graphics were more bad than right, the bird's eye view took getting used to. But the gameplay surpasses everything else there is in football simulations. The game is not very realistic because it is far too bustling, but it is fast and straightforward.

With just one (fire) button, you can enter all the necessary commands, from a pass to a shot to a blood stick. Everything is accompanied by a great backdrop: the spectators hoot, cheer and sing constantly and everything reacts to what is happening on the pitch. There are 64 clubs and 34 national teams to choose from. If you want, you can put together your own league or cup.

"FIFA International Soccer" (1993 - Sega consoles, PC, SNES)

“FIFA International Soccer” is the first game in the “FIFA” series by EA Sports, which is still published today. At first glance, the many individual settings are particularly great. Offside, fouls, fatigue, game length, weather conditions, line-up, strategy and much more can be set as desired.

But the graphics are really revolutionary: Instead of the usual side or bird's eye view, the diagonal view is used for the first time. In principle, you always follow the action from the top left corner, whereby the camera zooms forward if necessary when the ball is in the front penalty area.

«Virtua Striker» (1994 - Sega)

The next game that will set new standards in terms of graphics is “Virtua Striker”. For the first time, a game is shown in 3D. Actually an arcade game, it appears for the Sega Mega Drive. In contrast to the «FIFA» game, realism is not the top priority here, spectacular tricks and artful shots are more important to the developers. The series died out in 2004 with “Virtua Striker 4”.