The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 2000

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 gameplay

The Top 10 Sports Games You Should Be Playing From 2000

A good sports game is one of the safest bets possible in gaming. Not only are the greatest sports games versatile titles, with plenty of potential replay value across both single and multiplayer modes but they’re also proven to stand the test of time. Even relatively primitive 8-bit classics like RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! still hold up today in comparison to more modern counterparts. As the 90s came to a close and players ushered in the 21st century with two brand new consoles (the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 and PlayStation 2 in 2000), sports games were one of the first genres to receive a major upgrade on newer, more advanced hardware. The 5th and 6th console generations were a great time for gaming, and the top sports games from 2000 are a “who’s who” of classic games that are still plenty of fun to play.

Interestingly, the early 2000s would be a time in which extreme sports were becoming more and more popular. Thanks to the success of the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its place as a “must-have” title on the PlayStation, a sequel was all but a guarantee. However, alongside newer types of sports games are plenty of classic approximations of more common athletic pursuits like baseball, football, basketball, and of course, racing. The racing genre has almost as deep a history in video games as sports games in general, and the technological leap between the 5th and 6th generations would see racing games take on a whole new life as graphical showpieces for new console hardware.

10. Backyard Baseball 2001

Backyard Baseball 2001 gameplay

©Backyard Baseball 2001 gameplay screenshot – Original

Kicking off the list of the top sports games from 2000 is the cult-classic baseball simulator Backyard Baseball 2001. Although the title would only be released on PC and Macintosh, it quickly gained a reputation among players for being one of the best casual baseball games available. Each team in Backyard Baseball 2001 features one real-world professional MLB player as its representative, rendered in the same childlike “chibi” art style as the rest of the players on every team, and the gameplay is surprisingly deep for a kid-friendly baseball game despite its accessible nature. Ultimately, Backyard Baseball 2001 is a reminder that games are primarily meant to be fun, and it’s something that the title delivers in spades.

9. Ridge Racer V

Ridge Racer V gameplay

©Ridge Racer V gameplay screenshot – Original

Similar to how Ridge Racer would end up being one of the best launch titles for the original PlayStation, Ridge Racer V follows suit for the launch of the PlayStation 2. Like the series’ original game in arcades and on PS1, Ridge Racer V is a fast and enjoyable arcade racer with some excellent graphics. The game is a great showpiece for the technical leap between the PS1 and PS2, and it would end up remaining one of the best arcade racers on the platform until the release of the Burnout games in the latter part of the system’s lifespan. Namco has a long history of crafting some incredible arcade titles, and the PlayStation 2 would end up being home to some of the best arcade ports yet. Ridge Racer V is both an excellent port of the arcade original and a great entry in a legendary franchise.

8. WWF SmackDown!

WWF Smackdown! gameplay

©WWF Smackdown! gameplay screenshot – Original

Although the Nintendo 64 gets most of the credit for having some of the best wrestling games in history, no one should count out the PlayStation when it comes to the genre. Case in point, WWF SmackDown! from 2000. Coming from developer Yukes (the very same studio behind the excellent run of professional wrestling games on the Nintendo 64), SmackDown! is both the best wrestling game on the PlayStation and stands toe-to-toe with the likes of WCW/nWo Revenge or WWF No Mercy. As a bonus, SmackDown! uses the same engine as some of the most popular Japanese wrestling games. Accordingly, the title strikes a perfect balance between simulation and arcade, ending up as an accessible game that’s great with friends.

7. Madden NFL 2001

Madden NFL 2000 gameplay

©Madden NFL 2000 gameplay screenshot – Original

The jump between the 4th and 5th console generations would see the legendary Madden NFL series make the transition to 3D. Subsequently, the leap between the PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 would represent a quantum leap in how a 3D Madden game could look. Madden NFL 2001 on PlayStation 2 is an incredible iteration of the long-running Madden football series, retaining the core gameplay that the series had established up to that point and introducing plenty of new features that would soon become standard across the franchise. Interestingly, Madden NFL 2001 is the first game in the series to feature an actual NFL player on the cover instead of the visage of John Madden, starting a long-running tradition of cover athletes gracing each new iteration of Madden NFL.

6. Colin McRae Rally 2.0

Colin McRae Rally 2.0 gameplay

©Colin McRae Rally 2.0 gameplay screenshot – Original

There was a time when rally racing games were just as popular as simulation and arcade racing titles, and Colin McRae Rally 2.0 stands as one of the best of them all. Many of the features that would go on to appear in every racer from developer Codemasters make their debut in Colin McRae Rally 2.0, and the game’s impressive physics and enjoyable handling make it one of the more accessible rally driving games from the era (or since). Each of the game’s tracks is a real-world location of actual professional rally races, and the roster of available vehicles is a veritable hall of fame for the rally racing circuit. Though some racing game fans prefer to take to the pavement in supercars, Colin McRae Rally 2.0 proves that tearing through nature in a Subaru Impreza is just as (if not more) fun.

5. Hot Shots Golf 2

Hot Shots Golf 2 gameplay

©Hot Shots Golf 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Like Backyard Baseball, Hot Shots Golf 2 proves that sports games can mix realism and silliness to great effect. Going by the name Everybody’s Golf in Japan, Hot Shots Golf is a series known for taking the game of golf and injecting a bit of levity into it, refusing to take itself or the sport too seriously. As a result, the Hot Shots Golf games stand as some of the most enjoyable golf titles on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, with the PS1’s Hot Shots Golf 2 representing a massive leap in quality and fun over the original. But don’t let Hot Shots Golf 2‘s cartoonish appearance and out-of-proportion characters fool you. Underneath the accessible appearance and gameplay lies a mechanically deep golf game that stands toe-to-toe with the best PGA titles preceding it.

4. WWF No Mercy

WWF No Mercy gameplay

©WWF No Mercy gameplay screenshot – Original

There are more than 6 officially licensed professional wrestling games on the Nintendo 64, but one stands tall above the rest. 2000’s WWF No Mercy would end up being both the last and the best wrestling game on the Nintendo 64, representing the culmination of years of iteration and evolution from developer Asmik Ace to craft the perfect arcade-style multiplayer wrestling game. And, No Mercy ends up serving as a bit of a time capsule for professional wrestling’s resurgence in popularity in the late 1990s, with a roster that includes some of the best athletes of the era such as The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple H. For a moment in time, it was almost impossible to have a Nintendo 64 and not have at least one wrestling game for some frantic multiplayer mayhem, and WWF No Mercy is undoubtedly the best of the bunch.

3. Mario Tennis

Mario Tennis gameplay

©Mario Tennis gameplay screenshot – Original

One fact remains true whether talking about the Game Boy Color or the Nintendo 64 versions of Mario Tennis. Mario Tennis is surprisingly one of the deepest and most rewarding tennis games out there, even though it includes the fictional cast of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Like both Hot Shots Golf and Backyard Baseball, Mario Tennis‘ use of cartoonish characters belies the game housing one of the more mechanically rich and accurate tennis simulations available. Also similar to both of those classic titles, Mario Tennis‘ brilliance shines through in how accessible it is, providing players a very low barrier to entry but then quickly scaling up to have a high skill ceiling for those that devote plenty of time to the game. Mario’s sports game tie-ins have a long legacy at this point, but the original Mario Tennis might still be his best appearance on the green.

2. NFL 2K1

NFL 2K1 gameplay

©NFL 2K1 gameplay screenshot – Original

Though football games are ubiquitous with the Madden franchise now, that wasn’t always the case. One of the only franchises to ever offer direct competition with EA’s massive NFL franchise is the phenomenal NFL 2K series, with NFL 2K1 arguably being one of the best (if not the best) football games of all time. So beloved is the NFL 2K series that fans put in the work to restore the online functionality of the games long after Sega shut down its SegaNet servers, resulting in NFL 2K1 still having online multiplayer 24 years after its release and two decades after the end of the Dreamcast’s online services. And it’s NFL 2K1‘s multiplayer that ends up making it shine as one of the best football games all these years later, exhibiting a dedication to balance and enjoyability that sometimes escapes the Madden games.

1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 gameplay

©Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater ended up being something of a revolution on the PS1, and its sequel outdoes it in every metric. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 takes the format of the original and improves upon it in only the most important ways. The roster of professional skaters is larger, and players get to craft their own custom character for the first time. The soundtrack is somehow even better than the first, with some truly standout tracks that prove how important music is to the Tony Hawk series. The stages are more varied and feature an astounding number of secrets to uncover. And, of course, the addition of the Manual allows for greater combo stacking and trick chaining than ever before. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is one of the most essential games from the year 2000.

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