Basketball is probably the easiest sport to watch. With scoring at such a rapid pace, there's always something happening for any viewer to enjoy. And as much fun as the game is to consume, it is even better to get out there and actually play. If that's not a possibility, there are always video games.
For as long as we can remember, basketball video games have been the next best thing to getting out and stepping on the court yourself. With that in mind, this is a great chance to look back at the best old school basketball games ever released. From realistic simulations to fun arcade-style games, these are the cream of the crop.
10 Tecmo NBA Basketball
Everyone remembers Tecmo Bowl as the gold standard of early football games. Its lesser-known cousin is Tecmo NBA Basketball. This November 1992 release was one of the earliest games to feel like a real league. It kept track of stats and injuries in ways that weren't seen before.
Tecmo NBA Basketball was also one of the first to include cinematic cutscenes, giving it a realistic feel. To be fair, the gameplay left something to be desired but it got a boost from being the first game to feature both the NBA and NBPA licenses. That meant you could play as real NBA teams with real NBA players.
9 NBA Ballers
This was a different kind of basketball game. Released on April 6, 2004, NBA Ballers combined two of the most popular brands of the sport. It took the pro stars of the NBA and put them in the AND 1 streetball environment where they could face each other 1-on-1.
The main story mode allowed players to take an unknown rookie from rags to riches against the best stars in the world. As they progressed through the story they could upgrade and purchase flashy clothes and jewelry. That concept was used in later franchises. Plus, it was a ton of fun.
8 Jordan vs. Bird: One On One
We're back with another 1-on-1 style entry. Arriving way back in 1988, this came before official licenses were given. To get around that, Electronic Arts opted to focus on two of the biggest stars in the league, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. You could put them in endless games against each other.
But this was far from a limited game. Jordan vs. Bird: One on One also allowed you to utilize Jordan in a dunk contest and pick Bird in a three-point shootout. At the time, this was kind of revolutionary. The spectacle of two greats going at it was something to behold.
7 Bulls vs. Blazers And The NBA Playoffs
Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs was a game-changer. As noted, Tecmo NBA Basketball gave us something new in terms of stat-keeping. But this was the one to provide us with something completely new in terms of gameplay. And isn't that always the most important thing?
Arriving in 1992, this game was named after the teams who competed in the NBA Finals. It felt more like the NBA you watch on TV than other games from the era. That included giving players their "marquee shots" including Jordan's free throw line dunk. This game also has the distinction of being the first to include the EA Sports logo.
6 Double Dribble
This is the oldest entry on the list. Double Dribble was released for the arcade in 1986 and the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. The idea that your players could dunk was something unheard of at this point. People were blown away by it at the arcade.
If you played often enough, you could figure out the perfect spot to shoot from so that you never missed a shot. It was great to try and overcome that. The graphics and gameplay were on a different level and wouldn't be touched for several years. This ushered in a new era.
5 NCAA March Madness 2003
Who doesn't miss college sports video games? They always provided us with something unique and often gave us a quality experience without the use of professional players. EA Sports' NCAA March Madness 2003 was probably the best installment of that franchise.
Released on November 26, 2002, it featured former Kansas Jayhawk Drew Gooden on the cover. The game played similar to the successful NBA Live entries from the era but kept just enough different. It is especially fun to look back on this game when you consider the talented roster that was available.
4 NBA 2K
The only series included on this list that is still active today. The original NBA 2K hit shelves on November 10, 1999, and was only available for the Sega Dreamcast. It gave gamers something new to try and marked strong competition for NBA Live, which was the standard at the time.
It was meant to be the most realistic simulation of the NBA available. Reviews were fantastic, with it scoring a 9.2 on IGN and a 9/10 from Game Informer. Most importantly, it set the stage for what the future of basketball games would look like. The NBA 2K franchise has dominated that landscape since. Although you can use this to make a decision yourself.
3 NBA Live 95
For a lot of folks, this was the pinnacle of basketball video games. Released for both the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo in 1994, NBA Live 95 introduced a ton of elements to this world. For example, the isometric camera was something we had never seen before.
There was also the "T" shaped meter used to shoot free throws, the turbo button, and the ability to create your own teams or players. Many reviews claimed this was the best basketball game ever made at that point. It was so popular that a new version was included with the release of NBA Live 06.
2 NBA Street Vol. 2
EA Sports BIG dropped this sequel to NBA Street on April 29, 2003, and it improved on every aspect. The game not only featured every NBA team but a bunch of legends. You could mix-and-match to form your own trios for games of 3-on-3. You could play with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan, which is an insane thought.
The gameplay was incredible. It allowed for endless fun and was highlighted by the spectacular "game breaker" moves. There were multiple modes to keep things fresh and one of the catchiest soundtracks in gaming history. NBA Street Vol. 2 was met with widespread acclaim and remains one of the best basketball games ever made.
1 NBA Jam
Though this was remade in 2010, you can't top the original. 1993's NBA Jam was everything you could ask for in terms of arcade gaming. It featured every NBA team and allowed for 2-on-2 games. This is an iconic game. Phrases like "Boomshackalaka" and "He's on fire" were popularized because of NBA Jam.
This title set the tone for any sports game packed with action and featuring exaggeration. It became the staple of how Midway did their sports entries. There are still arcades out there with this as a focal point. NBA Jam became immensely popular, surpassing $1 billion in revenue over the years, making it the highest-earning arcade game of all-time.