The lights are on
This console generation hasn’t been friendly to sports gamers. While many of the mainstay franchises are still releasing high-quality editions, the one-time sea of sports games has dried up into a wading pool. Fans only have one option for NHL, NBA, and NFL simulations, we lost NCAA basketball games altogether, and arcade-style experiences are becoming increasingly rare. To reverse this bad trend, we’d love to see some of these dormant sports franchises come off the bench to give the genre a spark.
10. College Hoops
The NCAA tourney is the most entertaining sports tournament this side of the World Cup, but ever since both 2K Sports and EA Sports pulled the plug on their NCAA basketball games fans haven’t had a proper simulation experience to enjoy. Given the studio’s massive success with its NBA 2K franchise, we nominate Visual Concepts to turn the lights back on in the virtual Cameron Indoor Stadium. The various lawsuits pertaining to player likenesses currently being litigated likely makes this a non-starter for the time being, but if today’s teams are off the table the studio could tap college basketball’s rich history to create a virtual 64-team tourney featuring best teams of all time.
9. NFL Head Coach
This EA Sports series for the Xbox 360 never found its footing, but that doesn’t mean the concept is worth trashing altogether. Given the fact that millions of fans obsess over fantasy stats, tune in to watch the scouting combine, and spend three days watching the NFL draft, there is no reason we shouldn’t have an NFL equivalent to the Football Manager simulations that are so popular in Europe. Give us a deep experience that has us juggling player personalities, managing injuries, outlining gameplans, and leading scouting efforts like the hard-working NFL coaches who sleep in their offices each week.
8. Baseball Stars
Somewhere along the way, developers lost their appetite for making off-kilter arcade sports games. If any of the beloved NES-era titles deserves resurrection, it’s Baseball Stars. Featuring customizable teams, player skill upgrades, stat tracking, and a team full of ninjas, this entertaining slugger was well ahead of its time. We would love to see a remake on a smaller scale that preserves the charm and accessibility of the original.
7. Blitz: The League
We don’t necessarily need another NFL Blitz game, but The League scratched the surface of a gold mine just waiting to be tapped in sports games: story-based role-playing. With the help of the former writers of ESPN’s short-lived but celebrated Playmakers show, The League used cutscenes to show us the seedy side of football the NFL never wants to see glamorized. We’d love to see a company pick up where Midway left off and create a true role-playing single-player experience that doesn’t just gloss over the locker-room drama. Give us the off-field distractions, positional rivalries, and coaching disputes no league would endorse appearing in an officially licensed game.
6. NBA Street
Fans were overjoyed when EA picked up the rights to NBA Jam and delivered an authentic arcade remake. Now the company should redirect its efforts to bring back this long-dormant streetball series. The NBA is freshly infused with new star talent that would be a perfect fit for the three-on-three arcade dunkfests. If EA made this an affordable downloadable game we bet more people would be willing to throw down some cash for throwing down windmill dunks.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.