The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 1999

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater gameplay

The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 1999

With the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 entering the latter part of each console’s life cycle and the arrival of the Dreamcast in the West, 1999 would end up being a banner year for games. Accordingly, the sports genre would get a slew of new titles, from yearly iterations of annual professional league franchises to new experiments in licensed games and the first major new development in extreme sports games. And, with developers finally tapping into the power of the consoles they were creating games for, 3D gaming was beginning to truly come into its own. Sports and racing games are typically some of the more graphically impressive titles on consoles, and the top sports games from 1999 illustrate just how far developers were pushing the limits of 5th and 6th-generation hardware.

Several of the top sports games from 1999 would debut on the Sega Dreamcast, with Sega understanding that sports games were a cornerstone of the company’s Western presence in the market. Just like how the Genesis had made a name for itself as the de facto home of sports games in the 16-bit era, the Dreamcast’s arrival as the first 6th-generation console would coincide with several of its best launch titles being sports games. Some of these titles are still going strong in the modern era despite the eventual downfall of the Dreamcast and Sega’s transition out of hardware manufacturing and into third-party publishing.

10. ISS Pro Evolution

ISS Pro Evolution gameplay

©ISS Pro Evolution gameplay screenshot – Original

Historically, Konami’s International Superstar Soccer is a far superior soccer simulation game in comparison to EA’s FIFA. Perhaps no other title in the ISS series makes that superiority more apparent than ISS Pro Evolution on the PS1. Many soccer fans still refer to ISS Pro Evolution as one of the best soccer games ever, with the title striking a careful balance between accurate simulation and entertaining gameplay. The ISS series would see a major improvement in its transition to 3D and would stand out as the definitive soccer franchise of the 5th generation. As a result, ISS Pro Evolution is still fun to play more than 25 years after its release.

9. WWF WrestleMania 2000

WWF WrestleMania 2000 gameplay

©WWF WrestleMania 2000 gameplay screenshot – Original

Despite being one of the weaker wrestling games on the Nintendo 64, WWF WrestleMania 2000 is still an excellent professional wrestling simulation and is built using developer AKI Corporation’s legendary engine. With a roster including more than 50 professional wrestlers of the era and beyond, as well as an impressive character creator tool for the “Road to WrestleMania” mode, WWF WrestleMania 2000 is one of the more feature-rich wrestling games on the Nintendo 64. One of the only true drawbacks of the game is its similarity to WCW/nWo Revenge, but more of the excellent single and multiplayer action of that game featuring the WWF roster is far from a bad thing.

8. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing gameplay

©Ready 2 Rumble Boxing gameplay screenshot – Original

Despite their relative absence from modern gaming, boxing simulation games and arcade boxing games were fairly popular in early console generations. Classics like Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! series would carve their own niche thanks to pattern-based gameplay, but simulation boxing games striving for realism would somehow fail to reach the level of fun inherent in Punch-Out!!‘s arcade-type feel. The first game to come close to hitting the balance between arcade accessibility and accurate simulation is Ready 2 Rumble Boxing on Dreamcast, and it still stands as one of the best sports games of the era. The sequel would introduce some new fighters and mechanics, but the original Ready 2 Rumble is a reminder of how fun a simple boxing game can be.

7. Madden NFL 2000

Madden NFL 2000 gameplay

©Madden NFL 2000 gameplay screenshot – Original

Like the rest of the games in the Madden NFL series, Madden NFL 2000 strikes a careful balance between realism and accessibility to become one of the more fun and entertaining football games on the PS1. This iteration of Madden includes an era-accurate roster of teams and players, with the Green Bay Packers achieving the honor of being the highest-ranked team thanks to hall-of-fame quarterback Brett Favre and a slew of defensive and offensive legends on the 2000 roster. Though it does err more on the side of football simulation in comparison to contemporary football games like NFL Blitz, Madden NFL 2000 is still an excellent entry in the long-running franchise and a reminder of how engaging a sports game can be in either single or multiplayer.

6. NBA 2K

NBA 2K gameplay

©NBA 2K gameplay screenshot – Original

The arrival of the Dreamcast in the West would bring with it the release of two of the most important sports games — NFL 2K and NBA 2K. Though the NFL 2K series would eventually dissolve thanks to Madden and Electronic Arts’ exclusive hold on the NFL license, NBA 2K continues to thrive to this day as the definitive professional basketball simulation. Like future entries in the series, NBA 2K features a single-player career and franchise modes along with some truly excellent multiplayer. Even in the face of the modern NBA 2K games, the original is still worth playing for a reminder of how solid its mechanical foundation is.

5. NFL Blitz 2000

NFL Blitz 2000 gameplay

©NFL Blitz 2000 gameplay screenshot – Original

For the complete opposite of football realism and the counter to EA’s Madden franchise, no better option exists than the legendary NFL Blitz. NFL Blitz 2000 is perhaps the best version of Midway’s over-the-top football arcade game, which essentially amounts to the NFL version of classic arcade coin-op NBA Jam. Plays are rapid-fire and usually don’t last more than a few seconds, with hilariously violent tackles and absurdly long passing drives being the rule of the day. What NFL Blitz sacrifices in realism it more than makes up in fun, and it’s still a blast to sit down with 3 friends and play through rounds of games in competitive multiplayer.

4. Virtua Tennis

Virtua Tennis gameplay

©Virtua Tennis gameplay screenshot – Original

Another classic game arriving courtesy of the Dreamcast, Virtua Tennis is arguably still the greatest tennis game of all time. The series continues to this day, with the most recent entry being Virtua Tennis 4, but the original is every bit as entertaining and accurate to the sport as it can be. What makes Virtua Tennis stand out in comparison to other tennis games of the era is its amazing AI, which steadily sees the single-player arcade experience transition from easy to incredibly challenging over a natural curve. And, like all the greatest sports games, competing against a friend in Virtua Tennis‘ versus mode is a surefire way to test that friendship.

3. Gran Turismo 2

Gran Turismo 2 gameplay

©Gran Turismo 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

The sports genre is fairly wide-ranging in terms of what it can technically include, and simulation racing games absolutely belong in the conversation. Under that pretense, Gran Turismo 2 is undoubtedly one of the top sports games of 1999 and perhaps the most important simulation racing game ever made. Unlike its predecessor, Gran Turismo 2 splits up proceedings into 2 discs, one for its impressive simulation mode and one for a more accessible arcade mode, and in the process, it provides a little bit of something for all types of racing fans. Of course, it almost goes without saying that Polyphony Digital would prove its mastery over the PlayStation hardware by making Gran Turismo 2 one of the best-looking 32-bit games of all time.

2. Mario Golf

Mario Golf gameplay

©Mario Golf gameplay screenshot – Original

It would be a mistake to discredit the Mario sports games as little more than tie-ins with the license, as several of them end up being as essential as the mainline games featuring Nintendo’s mascot. Case in point: Mario Golf. Both Mario Golf and Mario Tennis are unmissable titles on the Nintendo 64. But Mario Golf‘s release in 1999 makes it perhaps one of the best sports games of the year and, potentially, one of the greatest golf games ever. Certainly the greatest golf game on the Nintendo 64, at least. Like its PlayStation counterpart Hot Shots Golf, Mario Golf strikes a careful balance between simulation and arcade gameplay to present a golf game that puts fun front and center, and the ability to hit the links with Mario and his regular cast of hangers-on is always a good time.

1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater gameplay

©Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater gameplay – Original

The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would end up being a dream come true for an entire generation of players who grew up playing primitive attempts at digitizing the sport in games like 720, Skate or Die, and T&C Surf Designs. For the first time in the history of the medium, here was a game that (for the most part) accurately represented the sport of skateboarding. Further, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater brought skateboarding and extreme sports to the masses with its fun “pick-up-and-play” mechanics and infectious soundtrack, ushering in a mainstream revival of the sport and popularizing events like the X Games and Vans Warped Tour. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wasn’t just one of 1999’s best sports games, it was practically a cultural event.

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