Each fall in preparation of the NBA season, basketball games begin to hit the market and users line up for the latest NBA 2K title. With 2K’s recent domination of the basketball video game world, it’s difficult especially for younger gamers to remember that there were once a number of competitive basketball video games available on the market dating back as far as memorable titles like Double Dribble, Arch Rivals, Coach K basketball and more.
This list is a top ten list of what I feel were the best Basketball Video Games of all time. While the most recent iterations of 2K are fun to play, let’s examine some of the original great basketball games who’s game play and presentation’s elements are still present in 2K titles today. Here’s our list of the best top ten basketball video games of all time.
10. NBA Jam Tournament Edition – NBA Jam Tournament Edition improved on the original NBA Jam by adding a turbo mode and hot spots. After beating NBA Jam Tournament Edition, gamers were able to unlock expanded rosters which game users access to expanded rosters including NBA rookies. Playing with classic ballers like Grant Hill and Shawn Kemp in over the top arcade style basketball games was fun and NBA Jam tournament Edition quickly became a fan favorite.
9. NBA Live 2003 – Introducing freestyle control into basketball video games, NBA Live 2003 was released at a time in which NBA 2K2, NBA Shootout, and NBA Inside Drive were gaining popularity so the game had to shake up the game play to usher in a new style of basketball simulation. The introduction of freestyle control made playing with guards extremely fun and hitting opponents with a crossover or spin move was very fulfilling. Though this game had extremely dry play-by-play commentary, the classic uniforms and other features in the game helped to revive NBA Live after the series hit it’s first slump.
8. Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside – Originally released for the Nintendo 64, Kobe Bryant’s NBA Courtside made Kobe Bryant the youngest NBA player to have a game to his namesake. The graphics and animations of the game were a bit stiff but better than other games on the market at the time. The codes that users were able to utilize in this game were fun as they changed the game’s gameplay similar to the codes utilized in NBA JAM.
7. NBA Live 95 – The original NBA Live played very similarly to NBA Showdown and Playoff while improving on the game play. The advancements in basketball games for the time were substantial. The turbo boost was a nice addition that helped players get the advantage on their opponent.
6. NBA 2K11 – Paying to homage to Michael Jordan, NBA 2K11 allowed gamers to play as arguably the best player of all time through many of His Airnesses signature moments. After many years of not being included in video games it was amazing for Player 99 to finally be Michael Jordan and beating current NBA teams with MJ is always fun. When looking at the best basketball video games of all time, it’s hard not to include NBA 2K11 for it’s historic value and the joys of playing as MJ alone.
5. NBA Inside Drive 2002 – One of the first games to really push the Xbox to it’s full capabilities providing gamers with extremely smooth game play. With play by play commentary being handled by Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson, the play-by-play announcers for the Seattle Supersonics in the 90s, NBA Inside Drive 2002 had amazing commentary. Though this title had it’s limitations, the game was fun to play with friends.
4. NBA Jam – Originally released by Midway in 1993, NBA Jam was the ultimate Arcade basketball game. It’s hard to list the best basketball video games of all time without NBA Jam being in the mix. Beginning it’s life as a coin operated arcade machine, NBA Jam was known for it’s over the top gameplay that allowed players to dunk from the free throw line while performing various moves in the air. The game’s hot and cold system which effected a players scoring abilities was a fun addition to the game and NBA Jam essentially represents the 90’s with it’s colorful, yet serious game play. NBA Jam is a blast to play with a friend and even more fun to play with 3 friends at your local Arcade.
3. NBA Street Volume 2 – Remember when And 1 moves were popular and streetball was just becoming mainstream? NBA Street Volume 2 capitalized on this trend by allowing gamers to play as their favorite NBA Stars as they took to a street basketball game. NBA Street Volume 2 especially won me over with their multiple iterations of Michael Jordan (1985, 1996, and 2003) as well as the inclusion of legendary street parks like the Rucker. NBA Street Volume 2 plays in an over the top manor similar to NBA Jam and is still extremely fun to play with friends even today. One of the best basketball video games of all time, NBA Street Volume 2 is still enjoyed by gamers across the globe today.
2. NBA Live 2005 – Introducing the Live franchise to the All Star Weekend events, NBA Live 2005 was an extremely well executed game. Dynasty Mode was fun to play and allowed players to simulate games and quarters and control the destiny of their team as they saw fit. The Dynasty Mode in NBA Live 2005 contained scouting of prospects, updates on league happenings and more, making it not as feature rich as today’s 2K titles but definitely a worthy title.
1. NBA 2K9 – The 10th title in the NBA 2K franchise, NBA 2k9 was one of the most realistic basketball simulation games ever. With great graphics that pushed the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360, NBA 2k9’s presentation was great. The player ratings system in the game worked extremely well as players were able to take over with scoring outbursts from players like Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade while going on a scoring spree with a player who doesn’t have a great offensive game was difficult. Great defensive temas play great defense while poor defensive teams don’t play defense at all. The addition of 2K’s Living Rosters was great as it matched the way that EA had created a feature that updated the skills of players daily in the NBA Live series. The additional features including the Slam Dunk Contest, 2K Reel Maker, Association Mode, and more, helped the 2K franchise stake it’s claim as the best basketball series and finally take the reigns once and for all from NBA Live. Easily one of the best basketball video games of all time, NBA 2K9 is still a joy to play today.