The top XI Football Games


Love it or hate it, everyone knows the beautiful game of football. Everyone dreams of being the next Christian Ronaldo or Harry Kane lifting the World Cup for their country. Sadly, not everyone is cut out to be a footballer. So millions of gamers have been playing football games since video games ever came out. From the first proper football game released for the Intellivision all the way back in 1979 right up to the latest offerings from the FIFA & Pro Evolution series.

There have been hundreds if not thousands of games depicting the beautiful game on nearly every format ever created. So whittling down to Eleven (see what i did there) wasn’t an easy task. No doubt the comments will be flooding in saying you forgot this… that was rubbish this was better etc etc. Quick rules I believe is that the one game per franchise rules that most list commit to has been omitted as you’ll see. Also this list is in no particular order.

Article by Matt Naismith follow Matt on Twitter here:@NaismithMatt

1. Neo Geo Cup ’98: The Road to the victory: Neo geo - released 1998

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Ah, the Neo Geo, the infamous holy grail of video game console collecting advertised has having arcade realism, graphics and gameplay. It did, albeit with an astronomical price. The Neo geo was famous for it’s many fighting game but had an excellent library of sports games, particularly football. This game, from the super sidekicks series was to coincide with the FIFA world cup of 1998 held in France. although it was released after the tournament was finished it is held in high regard. featuring 73 international teams. 6 tournaments available from across the world based on real international tournaments from the 1997 - 1998 season. Although it doesn’t have any licensing agreements it is a fun, fast paced football game topping off with marvellous ott celebration cut scenes.

2. Actua soccer: Sony Playstation, PC / DOS & Sega Saturn

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EA Sports gave us FIFA, Konami gave is ISS and Pro Evolution Soccer, but the UK based studio gremlin games gave us actual soccer. the first 3d football game. Granted, it’s aged but considering it was ahead of it’s time. It is a fantastic first attempt. With the commentary done by legendary Barry Davies. Another trick up Gremlins sleeve was to use players from Premier League team Sheffield Wednesday which happened to be their local team. Then Wednesday players Chris Woods, Graham Hyde and Andy winton provided motion capture for the game.

3. Libero Grande: Arcade 1997 Sony Playstation 1998

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A no nonsense arcade football game, no simulated statistics, just 11 players running at top speed for the whole 90 mins. Pretty standard eh? no, it’s unique selling point was that you only control one player. The trick to the game is staying in your position and working the best time to go up, stay back or stay as a roy Keane esque enforcer and block any player in sight. One slight niggle with the game is the digital controls, no analogue stick so it does take a while to get used to.

4. The F.A Premier League Stars released 1999 Sony Playstation

The first of many EA Sports’ spin off football games, this one using the FIFA ’99 Graphics engine. While other spin offs was usually a tie in game for the european championships or FIFA World Cup. this had the honour of having exclusivity over England’s top flight football league the FA Premier League with all licences, sponsorships, stadiums and stats from the 1999/2000 season. The tv presentation was top notch. Using SKY Sports mainstays as Richard Keys introducing the match, and famous commentary double act Martin “Aguerrrrrrooooooooo” Tyler &… erm Andy gray. Admittedly the gameplay is old hat, and if anything has less content. However if you follow or followed the Premier League it’s a good title to play for that nostalgic feeling.

5. Tehkan World Cup arcade released in 1985 Japan, rest of the world in ’86

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The grand daddy of arcade football games, or even football games as a whole. Simple pick up and play. With an absolutely gorgeous Cocktail cabinet which has a unique for the time over the top birds eye view of the game, also both players face each other using a trackball to control the players and ball physics, it wasn’t uncommon to have games finish in a rugby score than a drab nil nil. From putting your money in the machine, picking a team, you’re playing in less than 10 seconds, even probably scoring. that’s how fast the gameplay is. Without this simple game, we wouldn’t have other legendary titles such as Dino Dini’s kick off and even Sensible Soccer *spoilers

6. Ultimate Soccer Manager ’98 release 1998

The first management game on our list. Having most major European leagues from the 1998 / 1999 season. There were two modes, coach mode when you concentrate solely on your team, tactics and contracts. Chairman mode is the same however you control all aspects of the team. Another funny feature is you can contact your opponents and offer them money to lose a match, not that i condone those action but it’s strangely hilarious to have this feature.

7. Championship Manager 01 - 02 released pc October 2001

You thought i forgot about this didn’t you? the precursor to the football manager series, Championship Manager was a must have for any budding Alex Ferguson. the game had a vast database for the time with leagues throughout Europe and the first to have Japanese and South Korean leagues. Yes, graphically it isn’t fantastic, it’s bland and looks like a colourful excel spreedsheet. However that’s all it needed, key information all on one screen. The game has gained quite a following, numerous let’s plays, walkthroughs and forum posts even today. Oh and don’t forget to buy To madeira, trust me. You can today play this game absolutely free, go to to play it as it was in 2001 or even download up to date databases.

8. International Superstar Soccer Deluxe released 1995 SNES

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With FIFA, you are guaranteed all the players names, correct team names and an up to date databases. however it has had a history of dubious gameplay. ISS you know you wont get correct names at all (west midland village… really)? but the gameplay has been consistent for over 20 years. ISS Deluxe is that, excellent gameplay, one two passes, brilliant atmospheric stadiums with crowd chants, drums banging. It also has pretty good soundbites from a commentary. This also had a PlayStation version. As well in Brazil where 16 bit games are still quite popular due to high taxes from newer consoles. There is a mod for brazilians based on Brazilian footballing legend Ronaldinho.

9. Kick Off released 1989 Amiga.

For me, think of this as the alpha version of Sensible Soccer. The ball isn’t glued to your feet, you need to master dribbling and ball control. The foundations are here that will shape football games throughout the 1990’s and today.

10. Sensible Soccer / Sensible World of Soccer released Amiga 1992

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Yep, I’m probably cheating but i cant pick either. If someone gave you any version of sensible soccer you wont be disappointed. It’s football personified, 11 players, a ball, two goals. That’s it, the controls at first takes some getting used to, the ball isn’t glued to your feet so passing and moving is key to success. You know it’s good when the history of science and technologies department of the Stanford University listed Sensible World of soccer as one of the most important video games of all time, not bad for it being in the same list as Super Mario and Civilization. Sensible soccer is still popular today with an annual SWOS tournamaent and even having an official governing body the international sensible soccer association or ISSA.

11. ISS Pro evolution 2: released 2000

During the 16 bit era and even today the two major franchises was FIFA and ISS later known globally as pro evolution soccer. FIFA obviously had the distinction of getting the players names and teams, but gamers felt it was clunky and very stiff. ISS didn’t have the names or the teams, but the gameplay felt solid. More importantly the controls were and are spot on, you feel every pass, shot and tackle. FIFA had the graphics, but it’s frame rate was so so, ISS isn’t particularly nice to look at, but it’s frame rate and lack of slow down makes it ideal for quick football.

Subs bench: see what I’ve done here, think of this as an honourable mention set in the dugouts.

1.Super Mario Strikers, that Mario is an all rounder eh? Doctor, plumber, princess rescuers, golfer and a tennis pro.

But seeing Mario and the guys having a rather wacky game of football is surprisingly good. It almost feels like a strategy game, using items such as banana peels and bullit bills to tackle your opponents. Quick, pick up and play and actually a good party game.

2. Red card Soccer: take mortal Kombat, NFL Blitz and an angry Roy Keane you’ve got red card soccer. Actually that’s not to far off as it was made by midway. You know it’s something when the front cover depicts the infamous moment Vinny Jones has Paul gasgoines Crown Jewels in his grasp.

3. World Cup ‘98: 1998 playstation Slightly biased choice, this game to coincide with France ‘98 was the first World Cup I remember watching as a kid, loved the tournament, I even had a cuddly footix.

Back to the game, similar to fa premier league stars, it exclusively covers the FIFA World Cup tournament in France, with all the stadiums that were used and the teams that were in the finals, with good commentary from John Motson and Chris waddle, it was a great accompaniment to what I believe was the best World Cup ever.

4. Virtua striker 2 arcade and SEGA dreamcast: quintessentially Sega, basic controls pass, long pass and shoot, just don’t jump when you score, the commentator sounds like he has remembered he left the gas on.

5. MLS Gamenight PlayStation exclusive for the US Market, this is ISS pro evolution 2 but with the exclusive rights for the MLS. What makes this title great is the gameplay is slightly faster, only slightly but trust me, play one game of MLS GameNight and one game of ISS Pro Evolution and you’ll see the difference.

Article by Matt Naismith follow Matt on Twitter here:@NaismithMatt

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