When we can’t play sport due to lockdown or watch actual sport on TV, there’s just one thing to do: switch on your favourite sports video game and live out the dream in your most comfortable chair.
Whether you wish to take control of your favourite football team; embark on a journey from the NCAA to the NFL, or grind handrails and shoot videos on your way to becoming a professional skateboarder, savvy sports video game developers have you covered.
In honor of all the countless hours we’ve spent button-bashing our way through lockdown, let’s cast an eye over the 10 best-selling sports video game franchises of all time.
10. Football Manager – 18.1 million
My only memory of being a 10-year-old boy is how good Robbie Keane (then of Wolves) was on Football Manager.
I played him in CAM role, and from that position, the Irishman would generally bang in about 35 goals a season for my Premier League-winning Plymouth Argyle team. What a time to be alive.
Why do I remember this?
Well, it’s because Football Manager is the most immersive sports simulation on the market, and it has been since 1992 when it first appeared on our bulky PCs under the title of Championship Manager.
The game is incredibly in-depth and notoriously addictive (I once spent three months of a waking year playing the thing!)
It’s no wonder it makes the list at number 10, but do be careful if you’re planning on giving it a go. FM will eat your life!
Tiger Woods PGA Tour – 25 million
EA Sports produced an endless string of golfing sims from 1990 right the way up to 2013.
The games were originally titled PGA Tour Series but became more popularized once they cashed in on the success of global golfing phenomenon Tiger Woods. St
icking Tiger on the front cover and switching the title to Tiger Woods PGA Tour boosted sales and kept the game relevant for many years.
With Tiger’s status as an elite golfer diminishing back in the early 2010s, EA attempted to switch branding, and thus Rory McIlroy PGA Tour was born in 2013.
Unfortunately, the game was less enjoyable to play than its predecessors and ended up being pulled from digital outlets altogether. We haven’t had another installment of the franchise since.
Tony Hawk’s – 30 million
Tony Hawk’s skateboarding was without a doubt one of the best games (of any genre) available on PS1 and PS2.
Developer, Activision just got everything about the game right and captured what was an incredible period of skateboarding forever in the digital medium.
For skateboarders and non-skateboarders alike, Tony Hawk’s gave us all a chance to grind that killer-handrail, throw up a Christ-air over a gap, and just live out our childhood fantasy of becoming a professional skateboarder living in California.
The most recent remastered version of Tony Hawk’s 1 & 2, which was released in September 2020, has already sold over a million units, all but guaranteeing future titles.
NBA Live – 35 million
EA Sports’ NBA Live achieved over 30 million sales between 1994 and 2009 but, in recent years, has struggled to keep pace with sales of SEGA’s NBA 2K.
the 2020 edition of the game was actually halted before it went into post-production and it doesn’t look as if EA will be serving up a 2021 edition either.
It’s unusual for EA not to dominate the sports video game market – especially when the sport is as globally profitable as basketball is – so I’d expect to see the developer return with a new, improved version of NBA Live in time for 2022.
WWE 2K – 60 million
Though the reviews for the latest installment of the WWE franchise video game (2K20) were absolutely horrendous, this is a title that has enjoyed a long history on gamers’ PlayStations and X-boxes.
First appearing on our screens as WWE Smackdown in 2000, the game has given children (and some adults) from all over the world a chance to smash tables over each other’s heads, Tombstone one another through JR’s announcement desk, and basically live out their aspirations of being a professional wrestler in the WWE.
WWE2K has been released every year since its inception but, due to the terrible performance of the Yuke’s edition of 2K20 on all consoles, the WWE has announced that there will not be a 2021 edition.
Gran Turismo – 80 million
First released on Playstation in 1997, Gran Turismo has gone on to become the biggest selling sports franchise game that Sony Interactive Entertainment has ever produced.
Motor-racing fans from across the globe love it for its sense of realism. In truth, Gran Turismo is not an easy game to play for beginners, but it’s very rewarding once you get to grips with its nuances.
The game also delivers tons of fun customizations that driving fans can make to their cars: new engines, tires, etc. It’s a very immersive experience.
Such is the success of GT that it actually appears on a fair number of lists as being one of the greatest games of all time (of any genre).
NBA 2K – 90 million
NBA 2K has come under fire in recent years for containing too many microtransactions, but it is still the elite basketball simulation on the market; much better than the EA competitor NBA Live, in my humble opinion. It’s just a lot more fun to play.
The first edition of NBA 2K was released on November 10, 1999, developed by Visual Concepts Entertainment and published by Sega Sports.
The game’s popularity has generally risen year-on-year, and fans can expect to see another installment of the franchise later in the year.
Pro Evolution Soccer – 107 million
Despite not having the financial clout of EA’s FIFA, nor any (well, hardly any) licensing for Europe’s top football teams and players, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer continues to compete with its EA counterpart for shelf space and is often reviewed higher than FIFA, too.
$107 million sales figures do not lie. People actually play this game!
Madden NFL – 130 million
Despite fans of the game turning their backs on the EA franchise in recent years due to the developers’ continued reluctance to make significant alterations to the game engine, Madden is still the best (and only) football simulation on the market.
Madden NFL 2021 came in for some heavy criticism, and it’s unlikely EA will be able to get away with re-releasing the same game in a different box each year for much longer, but it is still fun to play and the sales figures back that up.
FIFA – 260 million
By far the biggest selling sports game in the history of sports games is FIFA.
The football simulation first hit our consoles back in 1994 under the title FIFA International Soccer.
To give you a vague idea of its popularity, my mother bought me that first edition of the game and in the subsequent 27 years, I have only missed two titles.
Football is the most popular sport in the world and EA has all the rights to all the teams and players, meaning they can put the likes of Ronaldo and Messi on the box.
Unless something happens, which leads to Konami attaining the licensing rights to the game’s most popular stars, EA’s marquee title FIFA will continue to dominate the market.