As we close out this console generation, most sequels are humming comfortably along by making minor adjustments to their base gameplay. Not sports games. While some of the best performing games got by with minor improvements, both Madden and NHL made wholesale changes to their franchise modes to varying results. Who rose to the top of our list this year? Read on to find out.


Best Career Mode: NBA 2K13

Bottom line: This is the best single-player experience available to sports fans. By allowing users to gain Virtual Currency in any game mode, Visual Concepts made it much easier to create an impactful player out of the gate. Whether you set up in the post to dominate down low or hang around the three point line looking for an opportunity to strike from afar, the AI is finally smart enough to use you properly when you’re off the ball. Off the court, however, is where this mode rises head and shoulders above the competition. Whether you are boosting your ego in a post-game press conference, sitting down with the GM to air your gripes about teammates, managing endorsement deals, or tracking your followers on Twitter, MyCareer gives you a taste of what it feels like to be a franchise player.


Best Franchise Mode: FIFA 13

To be the best, you have to beat the best. FIFA 13 achieved this by going the extra mile, creating immersive storylines that make you feel like your franchise is a living breathing entity. Unhappy players gripe publicly when they don’t get the playing time they think they deserve and even demand transfers. The press notices when you make inquiries on the waiver wire, which can upset your current player in that particular position. Broadcasters are finally aware of the magnitude of big games and comment when you add new players to your roster. Best of all, FIFA 13 allows you to couple your professional managerial duties with an international assignment, which gives you two rosters to tinker with. 


Best Multiplayer: FIFA 13

Many sports games took strides forward in multiplayer in 2012, but FIFA maintained its position at the top with subtle improvements. This year’s installment brings the popular Seasons format to Ultimate Team and Pro Clubs. Per fan requests, the Pro Clubs are split into Online Pro and Career Pro to prevent boosting, and the new accomplishments give you more ways to improve your player stats. Best of all, the network is stable.


Best Presentation: NBA 2K13

Though FIFA is catching up to Visual Concepts by adopting the contextual commentary that takes into account when in the season the game is taking place, player performance trends, and roster shake-ups, NBA 2K13 is still the best in the business. The broadcast team of Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr has a fantastic rapport, and Visual Concepts designs the running commentary so the trio can begin a discussion about a player, interrupt it when something notable happens on the court, and return to the subject. The broadcast-quality stat infographics and replay camera angles are also unrivaled.