Finally, it’s back! The fixture lists are out, the replica shirts are on sale, the transfer window has slammed shut, and we can all stop pretending we like cricket, rugby, and netball. The new season is upon us! The next ten months are guaranteed to be a roller coaster of emotions for every single one of us that love the beautiful game. There will be moments of exquisite bliss and moments of abject despair, but every fan knows that it’s all part of the process. This is the life we’ve chosen, after all.
With all that in mind, its time for us to take a look at football games themselves as ask the question that’s on everybody’s lips. No, not how quickly Steve Bruce is going to get Newcastle relegated but just what games are the best football experiences of all time. From old classics to new juggernauts, this list attempts to answer that question. Don’t worry guys and girls; there’ll be no expensive bench warmers here.
The Best Football Games Of All Time
There’s an argument to be made that if it weren’t for the first Kick Off, then we wouldn’t have the football games that we do today. It’s a good argument as well as Kick Off was revolutionary at the time. Even though it had a top-down view, it had the little sprites kicking the ball ahead of them, which was pretty realistic to how footballers play then as well as now. It also contained action replays, tactics, and ref’s who were all different in their approach to running the rule over the match. This was later expanded on with the many various sequels but let’s all forget about Kick Off Revival now, shall we?
There’s no need to adjust your sets, the proceeding picture may look precisely like Kick Off, but it is, in fact, Sensible Soccer. If Kick Off revolutionized the game, then Sensible Soccer took the ball, dribbled the length of the pitch with it, turning defenders inside out in its wake, and banged a screamer into the top corner that Messi would be proud of. First appearing in 1992 the series has gone on to become so beloved by gamers worldwide that there are a total 15 different versions in its catalog and so there should be. It still plays brilliantly even today, and a lot of the reason behind that is its pace, simple control system, and the fact it gives you the ability to bend shots in a way that would make Roberto Carlos blush.
I wasn’t sure if I should include Rocket League on this list, after all, it is a football game that involves cars, so it’s about as realistic as Andy Carroll managing to go five minutes without breaking down like a second hand Fiat, but the facts don’t lie. Rocket League was a huge phenomenon when it was first released and still maintains a considerable fanbase and, surprisingly, it plays well and is a lot of fun. So, if you fancy something that’s a little out of the left field, then you could do a lot worse than trying this out.
Championship Manager 01/02
It may seem strange to include a management game that’s 18 years old here, so allow me to explain. Championship Manager was the prequel to Football Manager so that alone should be enough reason for its inclusion, but the real reason I love this game so much is because of the fan base. You can still play Championship Manager 01/02 as it’s freeware and if you do grab a copy then get over to the Championship Manager 01/02 database and download all the updates that you want. That’s right, you can have every single team, player, and competition from this season as well as seasons past which means that you can play Championship Manager 01/02 with up to date rosters of everything.
Before my self imposed a ban on all things EA, “It’s In The Pay Check,” I loved FIFA Street with a passion. It was a breath of fresh air that took the beautiful game and had some serious fun with it. Watching the likes of Rooney and Not Fake Ronaldo pull off some incredibly sick moves, while leaving defenders on their butts, gave me a sense of utter joy. Another highlight was winning other footballers in Rule The Street, which was akin to opening an old Panini sticker packet and getting that one badge you needed for your collection. Ah, good times, good times.
It may look pixelated to all hell and was backed by the most expensive advertising campaign ever mounted for a console game at the time, but Actua Soccer gave us something no other football game had up to that point. It gave us a 3-D engine. That might not seem like such a big deal in this day and age, what with the likes of Red Dead Online handing out a world that is so lifelike it’s blinding, but back then it was a massive deal. Hey, it was the 90s, grunge was still in fashion. It was part of the Actua Sports series and did well enough that we got a sequel in Actua Soccer: Club Edition with all the 20 Premier League teams from the 1996/1997 season and who didn’t want to play as Nottingham Forest? Oh, just me then.
In the early 2000s, fans of the sport were quite into their football games being as ultra-realistic as possible, which is why, I think, that Red Card went under the radar. Which is a shame as if it was released now it would be a smash hit. The whole premise of Red Card is to win at all costs, which means that you can kick the crap out of your opponent and have no fear of retribution from the ref. You can play as a host of National Teams and go up against actual Dolphins, amongst other fantasy sides. It is as bat-shit as it sounds and you owe it to yourself to at least give it go once in your life.
Putting my personal feelings towards EA aside for one moment, there is no denying that the FIFA series is the biggest footballing franchise in the industry today. It is a juggernaut that shifts millions of copies each year, whether or not it has had any significant improvements, and makes EA the same amount in money thanks to Ultimate Team. Its fanbase is one of the most loyal in the business as well, and even though I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon than play any EA game, I’ve got to take my hat off to them when it comes to FIFA. Great, now I feel dirty.
How has the mighty fallen, huh? There was a time if you can believe it or not, where FIFA couldn’t hold a candle to Pro Evo. It played better, played quicker, and looked so good that people didn’t care that they hade to change over team names and update strips manually. It was all about the game, and Pro Evo had it in spades. Then, Konami just seemed to stop caring and just released reskins each year, and before you knew it, Pro Evo was a lame dog waiting for the vet. The past few editions have seen it claw back some of the ground it lost, but it’s going to be a long time of the treatment table before this player is ready to reclaim its throne.
There’s an old joke between Football Manager aficionados that this game has caused more divorces than affairs ever have, but there may be a bit of truth in there. It’s so addictive and so hard not just to play one more time that it has been known to cause the occasional argument in the Gray household, after all, that Liverpool team won’t win the quadruple by itself. It’s such an in-depth experience that you can lose hours just poring over the stats for your next opponent. It’s also got such a comprehensive database that professional football teams have been known to use it to scout new players. And if that isn’t a ringing endorsement for Sports Interactive’s monster, then I don’t know what is.