Boxing games are definitely a niche genre. Like most sports and sport games, being a fan of the sport is certainly not a prerequisite to enjoying a game based on that sport. Many gamers back in the day were not fans of football, but that didn’t stop the Tecmo Bowl franchise from being a huge success.
This list will focus on the most recently released boxing titles. However, the lack of titles overall in the genre will necessitate delving into boxing games from the past. These are not ranked, but the better (and worst) of the boxing games in this list will be toward the bottom of the page.
10 Best – Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch
This quirky boxing game was released for the GameBoy Advance in 2004 by Inferno Games. The plot revolves around Wade Hixton, whose car has just quit on him. Wade makes his way to the nearby town of Big Piney, where he is constantly challenged by the town’s inhabitants to boxing matches. Counter Punch has great controls, graphics, sound, and infuses a little light-hearted humor into the boxing action.
The only bad thing about this game is that it is a fairly short game. Counter Punch was a budget game when first released, but its price has been steadily climbing over the years; fortunately, there is always emulation.
9 Worst – HBO Boxing
With the resources and wealth HBO has, and figuring in that for the longest time it was the premier channel for boxing, one would think this would have been a better game. Sadly it is one of the worst sports titles ever made. The controls are clunky, and the graphics are average at best – even for a PS1 game.
The punches are very unsatisfying when they connect and are horribly animated. One of the worst aspects of this game is that the combo system is completely broken. This forces the player to try and defeat the opponent with single punches.
8 Best – Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
The Ready to Rumble series of games have more of an arcade style, as opposed to being more of a boxing simulator. The first game in the series was released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, but later saw releases for other home consoles.
The sequel, Round 2, improved on an already great game and even featured several famous real-life characters; like the late Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal. This was one of the first boxing games to actually show the damage done to the boxers with visible cuts and bruises. Those wanting to give this game a try should play the superior PS2 version.
7 Worst – Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing
Years after Mike Tyson had his name attached to the classic Punch-out game for the NES he would unfortunately be associated with this poorly made game for the PS2. For starters, the movement of the boxers is so stiff and awkward that most players will be hard-pressed to refrain from laughing at them when first playing.
When fighting the players also move very slowly; it's like they’re fighting underwater. The controls are equally stiff, and very unresponsive – which is inexcusable for a boxing game. The graphics were okay for the time, but they look quite dated when compared to modern boxing games.
6 Best – The Punch-out Games
This series of games from Nintendo began in the arcade, and were notable for using two screens. The bottom screen is where the fight took place, and the top screen was used to display information about the match. The series is most famous for Mike Tyson’s Punch-out for the NES.
Super Punch-out was a great follow-up title for the SNES that had vastly improved graphics, sound, and many new boxers to fight. The series has appeared on nearly every Nintendo console, the N64 and Wii U being the exceptions, and manages to get better with each new title. There is a rumor that a new Punch-out for the Switch is in development. No doubt it will also be well worth buying.
5 Worst – Showtime Championship Boxing
This game, released for the Nintendo Wii and DS, is an example of how bad a boxing game can be. The game’s graphics are so bad that it looks like a poorly made Gamecube game. Since it is for the Wii the game uses motion controls.
To say that the motion controls were not implemented competently is an understatement. Lastly, the boxers are not real-life boxers; which would be okay if this game didn’t have a license for Showtime Boxing. The version for the DS somehow has worse graphics, but is at least playable since it doesn’t rely on motion controls.
4 Best – Wii Sports Boxing
Here is an example of motion controls in a boxing game done properly. The graphics are a very cartoonish, but this style was chosen to make the game suitable for younger players. The motion-controls for Wii Sports are responsive and intuitive.
Playing this game (locally) one-on-one against a friend is a very fun and intense experience. This game can also be played against other people via online multiplay. This game could have been improved upon and released as a stand-alone title; it is a bit minimalistic. Wii Sports is one of the most beloved games of all time, and the boxing component is a big reason why.
3 Worst – Don King Boxing
Don King Boxing was released for the Wii, and although it is more visually appealing than Showtime Championship Boxing, it suffers from the same problem. That problem is the poorly implemented motion-controls. Had the motion-controls been just a bit more accurate and responsive, this game would still not be that fun to play.
The fights are slow, boring, and repetitive. What’s worse is the frustration factor with this game; struggling to get the motion-controls to respond while watching the computer opponent dance around the ring and throw combination punches is beyond annoying.
2 Best – The Fight Night Series
Say what you will about EA, but they make an extremely fun boxing game. The earlier titles in the series were fun, but Fight Night: Round 4 and Fight Night Champion are probably the best boxing games available. The controls are super responsive, and use an innovative control scheme.
The two analog sticks each operate an arm of the boxer. This makes performing combos a breeze. These games also feature many real-life boxers to fight against and allow the player to make their own boxer. Everything about the player created boxer, from appearance to entrance music, can be customized.
1 Worst – Mike Tyson Boxing
Once again Mike Tyson has his name associated with an awful boxing game. This PS1 game has some of the ugliest 3D characters in gaming. The controls are cumbersome, unresponsive, and suffer from significant lag.
The boxers’ movements are at least humorous to watch – their upper bodies remain motionless as they move around the ring. The speed of the boxers is another major problem – the game moves way too slow. The only positive aspect of this game is the somewhat decent sound effects. This game is so boring, and has such long load-times, that staying awake is the most difficult part about it.