Video games used to primarily be a way for people to spend their leisure time. Gradually, though, they have morphed into an entirely different beast.
Sitting in front of whatever screen you prefer to use is no longer purely a form of entertainment. For many, it’s a business. People make money streaming their performances online. Others train to make an esports pro circuit, many of which have become quite lucrative.
Sports franchise games are a driving force behind this shift. Professional teams have founded and purchased their own esports squads. These organizations operate like other pro franchises. There are drafts, free agency, player contracts, playoffs, championships, and all that. Even the best betting sites will carry odds for Esports right alongside those for live sports. Video games really have become a way of life—and for some, their livelihood.
This uptick in a competition specifically has left an imprint on more casual gamers. They want to play the games that the pros are using. This holds doubly true in the professional sports section. Some kids still want to hit the gym and emulate LeBron James. Others, though, just want to indulge their love of basketball via video games.
It is with those people in mind we present this list of the best XBOX games for all the major sports. This way, if one of these is the experience you crave, you can be sure you’re playing the right game with the best features.
Best Football Game: Madden NFL 21
Sure, there are other football games out there—like, you know, Blood Bowl. But nothing comes close to Madden.
EA Sports continues to be the standard-bearer for football games. They include real-life playbooks in the interface and continue to expand upon their My Franchise mode, which allows you to operate an NFL franchise for as long as you see fit while going through every step actually associated with running a team.
Best Basketball Game: NBA 2K21
NBA 2K’s My Player mode really makes the game. It allows you to create your own player, and for those who wish to choose themselves, they can do a facial scan that will be applied to their video game avatar. How’s that for thorough?
But they don’t stop there. My Player mode takes you through every nook and cranny of a basketball player’s career, from the draft to training camps to practices to free agency and contract negotiations to conversations with the front office to—well, you get the picture.
Best Hockey Game: NHL 19
The good thing about newer-age video games is that you’re never technically out of date. Online connectivity allows you to update rosters based upon what’s happening in real life. So, while you may have a game that’s two years old, you’re not dealing with completely outmoded features.
This explains why NHL 19 has withstood the test of time. Updated versions are available, but the experience on this edition has been deemed beyond comparison. Many have even called it the Madden of hockey video games, given its attention to details when it comes to X’s and Os.
Best Baseball Game: Super Mega Baseball 2
Ever since the MLB 2K series died out in 2013, there has been a power vacuum in XBOX’s baseball sphere. MLB The Show has become the prime example of a great baseball experience, but it is only available for PlayStation consoles. That’s left XBOX to host mainly games that aren’t actually licensed by MLB.
In many cases, this is a problem. In the instance of Super Mega Baseball 2, it’s not really an issue. The players are obviously fake, but the extra features—including player creations and ballpark builds—are incredibly detailed, so much, so you almost forget you’re dealing with made-up rosters and players in the first place.
Best Soccer Game: FIFA 21
Much like the Madden and NBA 2K series games, FIFA continues to outdo itself with every version that gets released. The latest is no exception.
A quick search around the internet reveals rave reviews galore. Most say something along the same lines: that this is potentially the closest thing to a real soccer simulation the FIFA series has rolled out.
Make no mistake; this is high praise. Not only are the FIFA graphics nearly indiscernible from real life, but you’ve never been able to have more granular control over a player’s mid-game actions. Soccer fans shouldn’t even waste their time trying out other options. They won’t live up to FIFA 21.