The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 1990

The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 1990

Sports games have been important to the gaming industry since its inception. The first video game hit was Pong back in 1972. Ever since Pong‘s release, sports games have been integral, and as time continues to move forward the sports games of the past get better and better. 1990 was the beginning of the most influential decade in gaming. The decade started with a bang giving gamers not only some of the best games of all time but some of the most influential sports titles. Here are the top 10 sports games you should be playing from 1990.

Nintendo World Cup

©the box art of Nintendo World Cup – Original / License

  • Release Date: May 18, 1990
  • Release Platforms: Family Computer/NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Sega Mega Drive, PC Engine, X68000

No better way to kick off this list than with a soccer video game developed by Technos Japan. Nintendo World Cup is a localization of Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club: Soccer, the fourth game in a series released for the Famicom. This game is known for its regional differences where it feels like each port of this title is a different title. Nintendo World Cup follows the rules of soccer but with a few key changes:

  • Each team has only six players (a goalkeeper, two defenders, a midfielder, and two forwards).
  • You control only one of them, but you can give commands (Pass/Shoot) to the others.
  • Offsides are non-existent and fouls are not punished.

This is a title for fans of soccer in its purest form who just want to play a retro game with simple rules.

Joe Montana Football

©box art of Joe Montana Football for the Sega Mega Drive. – Original / License

  • Release Date: 1990 (MS-DOS Port)
  • Release Platforms: Sega Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, MS-DOS

This game and Madden are two sides of the same coin. John Madden Football and Joe Montana Football were both developed by Park Place Productions but the two had very different design philosophies. Madden prioritized realism with its plays and team roster, whereas Montana embraced a more arcade feel. The game was simplified and appealed to a very specific niche of football fans. Even though this game wasn’t as successful as Madden this title helped build the Genesis’ reputation as one of the best platforms for sports games. This also was the title that proved to Sega that sports games could be worthwhile investments. Without this title, the sports game genre would be very different.


©An arcade flyer for the video games RollerGames. – Original / License

  • Release Date: September 1990 (NES Port)
  • Release Platforms: NES, ARCADE

Rollergames is a game based on the television show of the same name. The NES version of the game that was released in 1990 is very different from the subsequent arcade release. This version uses the likeness of the people used in the television show but moves away from the sport of rollerskating entirely. The fact that this game used a sports show as the setting for something entirely different is what makes it stand out as a title. Although not everyone appreciated this departure from the source material, it subverted expectations.

Ninja Golf

©Screenshot showing typical gameplay of the game Ninja Golf for the Atari 7800. – Original / License

  • Release Date: 1990
  • Release Platforms: Atari 7800

Another game that subverts expectations, Ninja Golf is a beat ’em up/golf video game developed by Blue Sky Software and published by Atari Corporation for the Atari 7800. The gameplay follows a ninja who has to complete nine holes of golf as the final test in their training. The game is similar to other side-scrollers of the time as the player fights other ninjas and animals along the way. The game’s critical reception was mixed but honestly, it was due to its unusual concept. This game was way ahead of its time with the 2019 mobile remake being a bit more appreciated.

Captain Tsubasa Vol. II: Super Striker

© This is the cover art for Captain Tsubasa Vol. II: Super Striker. – Original / License

  • Release Date: July 20, 1990
  • Release Platforms: Family Computer

This title is another soccer simulation but takes the sport even further with its game design. The game is also very similar to its predecessor with most of its improvements in the graphic department. The player can choose to use the moves you’d expect to find in a soccer game but where this game shines is in the special moves. These special moves consume a resource called “guts” and this mechanic gives this title a more fighting game-like feel. It’s even balanced like most early fighting games since for players, this super move resource is limited but the CPU can spam their special moves indefinitely. This series is still popular today so it might be worth it to go back to its roots.

GP Rider

©This is the flyer for the arcade game GP Rider. – Original / License

  • Release Date: August 7, 1990
  • Release Platforms: Arcade, SMS, Game Gear

GP Rider is one of the most successful arcade units of all time. The arcade game is the definitive way to play. Even though this specific arcade cabinet is no longer produced, its legacy persists in other games. GP Rider is praised for its graphics and realistic simulation of motorcycles. This game was also the first motorcycle game that let you race against another player. Today realistic racing games are everywhere but this game still holds up.

HAL Wrestling

©Screenshot of the Wrestler Select in Hal Wrestling – Original / License

  • Release Date: December 1990
  • Release Platforms: Game Boy

With the resurgence of Gameboy classics through Nintendo Switch Online, there is no better time to go check out some other titles from the time. HAL Wrestling‘s gameplay consists of either one-on-one matches or four-on-four elimination matches. The solo matches have a 10-minute time limit and are in a first-to-two format. On the other hand, the four-on-four elimination matches continue until time runs out or all players on a team are eliminated. Wrestling games have evolved in the last few decades but it’s fun taking a trip down memory lane and seeing a genre’s origins.

Heavy Shreddin’

©Cover art for Heavy Shreddin’ – Original / License

  • Release Date: June 1990
  • Release Platforms: NES

There needs to be more modern snowboarding titles but until we get them, the classics of the past will suffice. Heavy Shreddin’ is a snowboarding video game that was released for the NES in 1990. It was released in Europe with the title Snowboard Challenge. Everything you would expect from a retro snowboarding title is present in this game. It knows what it is and proceeds to supply the player with retro arcadey goodness. The player starts with four lives and is tasked with completing five different snowboarding events over 18 levels of play.  If the player falls or runs out of time a life is taken away.

Ultimate Basketball

© This is an in-game screenshot from the classic NES video game Ultimate Basketball. – Original / License

  • Release Date: September 1990
  • Release Platforms: NES

Completely unrelated to the Amiga title, Ultimate Basketball is an NES basketball title released by American Sammy. The game is considered slightly above average by those who have played it but it’s another humble sports title that paved the way for the gamers that came after it. What sets this game apart from others is the fact this title has a completely fictional roster. This game is purely for those who love the game of basketball without allegiance to a specific era or team.

WWF WrestleMania Challenge

©Video game cover of WWF WrestleMania Challenge for NES. – Original / License

  • Release Date: November 1990
  • Release Platforms: NES

This is a title perfect for those nostalgic for this era of wrestling. The game features nine wrestlers: Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, “Macho King” Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Big Boss Man, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Ravishing Rick Rude, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and “Yourself” a generic character for the player to project on to. The game is praised for its fluid gameplay however the movesets for each wrestler leave a bit to be desired. A lot of the DNA behind the WWE 2K series can be found in this title and it truly goes to show just how influential this decade was.

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