Videogames based on the sweet science of boxing aren’t and shouldn’t be the same as a straight forward fighting game like the Tekken or Street Fighter series. Boxing games should be as much about strategy and tactics as it is about having brutal fun in the squared circle. Some boxing games successfully manage to find a perfect balance between a boxing simulation and arcade fun like Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing on the Genesis. Fans also have fun pure arcade boxing games through the years like the Ready 2 Rumble, the Punch-Out series, and, more recently, the virtual reality series Knockout League.
However, these titles were never intended to be technical boxing games that required thought and technique in the same way as Real Deal Boxing or a Fight Night title. So, this list is focusing on the more realistic boxing games that are rated both highly and badly on Metacritic.
10 Best: Rocky (Metascore 74)
Rocky was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and the GameCube in 2002 and was developed by the now-defunct Rage Newcastle. The game was based on the first five Rocky movies and took players through his career fighting every boxer mentioned in the films. These included the small-timers that Rocky defeated like Spider Rico and Mac Lee Green to main eventers from the movies like Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago.
Rocky successfully combined arcade fighting with boxing sim mechanics. What made the game special was, just like the films, the punches had an impact and felt like they had weight, unlike Knockout Kings, which felt light and floaty by comparison.
9 Worst: Don King Presents: Prizefighter (Metascore 56)
Don King Presents: Prizefighter was released on the Xbox 360 in 2008 and was developed by 2K Sports. The game was meant to be 2K’s answer to EA’s Fight Night series, and, while the control system was praised, the game fell short in other areas.
Perhaps the biggest offense for Prizefighter is that the actual fights are incredibly dull compared to its competitors. Unlike the Rocky games, and, of course, Fight Night, the punches in this game feel weak and have no weight behind them. This is made worse by the fact that the collision detection is so bad that punches look like they are passing through their opponent's head and still missing.
8 Best: Knockout Kings 2001 (Metascore 84)
Knockout Kings was developed by Black Ops Entertainment for EA Sports and was released on the PlayStation in 2000 and the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game featured legendary boxers like Muhammed Ali, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lennox Lewis, and many more.
Knockout Kings 2001 was the first time the series appeared on the PlayStation 2 and, unfortunately, looked like an upscaled PS1 game. However, the gameplay was solid and landing combination punches especially when using a character as fast as Ali is very satisfying.
7 Worst: Mike Tyson Boxing (Metascore 44)
Mike Tyson Boxing was released on the PlayStation in 2000 and developed by Codemasters. The game tried to strike a balance between arcade fighting and boxing simulation and failed terribly at both. With games like Knockout Kings and the Victory Boxing series already on the system two years prior, boxing fans had no reason to look at this game.
The boxing mechanics in this game were just so terrible, players were forced into a top-down viewpoint, and they needed to wind up their punches to throw heavy hits. It just looks silly, the animation was awful, and targeting was way off.
6 Best: Creed: Rise To Glory (Metascore 84)
Creed: Rise to Glory is a virtual reality boxing game based on the character Adonis Creed from the Creed films. The game was released on the PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and the Oculus Quest in 2018. Players take on the role of Adonis Creed as he rises through the ranks under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa.
As a VR boxing experience, it’s one of the best boxing experiences on the format; the characters look great, and the combat is satisfying. It is, however, exhausting, as much as it is thrilling and very easy to get a little too carried away when trying to throw hard punches when there's nothing but air to meet their fists.
5 Worst: Showtime Championship Boxing (Metascore 35)
Showtime Championship Boxing was developed by Nikitova Games released exclusively on the Nintendo Wii in 2007. There was always great potential for a boxing game using the Wii controls, Showtime Boxing had some of the most unresponsive waggle mechanics on the system.
Furthermore, despite featuring the Showtime Boxing license, there aren’t any real-life boxers in the game at all. It was the action in the ring where the game suffered the most, though, and the staple for any boxing game is the fight mechanics. The punches will frequently miss and there’s no skill involved at all and players will find themselves flailing their arms around erratically in hopes of landing a shot.
4 Best: Fight Night: Champion (Metascore 86)
Fight Night: Champion was released in 2011 by EA Sports. It was the fifth game in the series but a continuation of the boxing titles under the EA banner that began with the Knockout Kings series in 1999.
The game featured one of the best stories ever seen in a boxing game and implemented several key moments during the gameplay in a similar manner to the WWE 2K series Showcase modes. Fight Night: Champion remains a favorite of combat sports fans, and, despite being released on last-gen consoles, it still looks incredible especially on Xbox One X through backward compatibility.
3 Worst: Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing(Metacritic 33)
Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing was released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2002. Developed by Codemasters, it was a follow up to the awful Mike Tyson Boxing on the PS1. Unfortunately, it was another boxing game using Tyson's name post-Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out that was awful in every aspect.
The game’s fighting mechanics were developed to try and appeal to fighting game fans instead of its core boxing audience. Landing combinations required Tekken-like button presses to produce a preset combination move. This system was horrible and didn’t flow like a boxing game should and is made worse by the stuttering framerate.
2 Best: Fight Night Round 4 (Metascore 88)
Fight Night Round 4 was released in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As reflected in the Metacritic score rankings, it is often debated between Fight Night Champion and Fight Night Round 4 as to which is the better game.
May purists feel that Round 4 is more enjoyable because of the stamina system. The fighters in Champion seem to tire far too quickly when compared to the artificial intelligence which leads to frustration. However, the story mode in Champion is far better than Legacy mode from its predecessor and the visuals are a big step up too.
1 Worst: HBO Boxing (Metascore 26)
HBO Boxing was released on the PlayStation in 2000 as was developed by Acclaim the same studio responsible for WWF Attitude. Unfortunately, just like Acclaim’s terrible wrestling games, the now-defunct studio showed a complete lack of understanding of the sport of boxing.
The control system is one of the worst ever seen in a boxing game and forced the player to first hit the L1 button to use the left hand and hit the R1 button before using the right hand. It was a ridiculous and clunky mechanic that broke any kind of flow that the game may have had. HBO Boxing is the worst-rated boxing game on Metacritic, and most fans would agree that it is the worst boxing game ever developed.