In a year of transition, the small batch of sports games still standing took diverse approaches to their annual titles. Some stayed in the current-gen space, making small but meaningful improvements (MLB 13: The Show) or largely treading water (NHL 14). Others like FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, and NBA 2K14, had the daunting task of straddling the line between current and next-gen. The pool of sports games also shrunk with the cancellation of the MLB 2K and NCAA football franchises. In this tumultuous year, which games rose to the top of the sports rankings? Read on to find out.

Best Gameplay: MLB 13: The Show

Like a five tool player, MLB 13 achieves greatness on the baseball diamond by honing its fundamentals. The refined timing window makes it easier to make contact with the ball, the fielding continues to be excellent, and the pitching system is easy to learn without sacrificing the depth it needs to be realistic or challenging. All of this adds up to create an authentic baseball simulation.

Best Franchise Mode: FIFA 14

EA's flagship sports game has room for improvement with its franchise mode. Creating more robust reserver and youth systems, tuning the player morale system so it's more attune to playing time and roster composition, and creating competition between teams for players in the transfer window would all go a long way toward improving the experience. But even with these areas of deficiency, FIFA 14 is our choice for best franchise mode thanks to the way it reacts to your actions. Whether you're sniffing around a player on the transfer market, squabbling with a disgruntled second teamer on your roster, or putting together an impressive run in the league tables, the in-game media is there to cover it, making you feel like a true manager in the spotlight. 

Best Career Mode: NBA 2K14

Taking a page out of Sony's NBA 06: The Life game, Visual Concepts raised the stakes for career modes with the next-gen version of NBA 2K14. The mode has plenty of rough spots (especially the acting), but the thrill of living the life of an NBA player both on and off the court more than makes up for the deficiencies. Managing relationships with your coach, general manager, teammates, agents, and rivals on your way to NBA stardom is a riveting experience we hope Visual Concepts doubles down on in 2014.

Click the next page to find out which sports games we thought offered the best multiplayer, best presentation, and biggest disappointment.