Throwback: 10 Best Soccer Video Games of All Time

ten best games

In celebration of David Villa's brand new video game, we're throwing it back—way back—to some of the games that pioneered the (digital) world's game.

So after you hit that download button and get in a few rounds of goal-scoring in Barcelona, Madrid, and New York City, come along with us on a journey through time and space. 

Championship Manager '93 (1993)

Before there was Football Manager, there was Championship Manager. Actually, despite the different names, they're part of the same series. After developer Sports Interactive split with their publisher in 2003, they signed a new deal and adopted a new name, to boot.

While neither the name nor the graphics were quite the same in 1993 as they are in 2017, Championship Manager '93 was a breakthrough title in football management simulations.

For the first time in the series, it featured the use of real player names, the Premier League, the ability to buy players from other leagues, and update disks that reflected players' real-world performance throughout the season. 

Sensible World of Soccer (1994)

Perhaps THE watershed release in soccer video game history, SWOS was—for its time—a behemoth. The title featured more than 1,500 clubs and 27,000 players and a comprehensive career mode in which a player could guide a club through 20 seasons, complete with a transfer market and maybe even national team glory, if you proved your worth. 

Combined with its simple, arcade-style gameplay, SWOS brought both stunning depth and addictive accessibility to soccer video gaming. 

Virtua Striker (1994)

Sega's footballing masterpiece was only available at your local Arcade, but it was the first soccer video game to implement 3D graphics and player models. Even though the game is 23 years old, we really have to admit that it looks pretty darn good. It was smooth, detailed, and—by mid-90s standards—gorgeous.

Even though Virtua Striker didn't feature the sweeping depth of SWOS, it's not hard to see why gamers were in love with it. 

Football Manager (1982)

The OG Football Manager, which is not related to today's titles, found its niche on the mighty ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 computer systems. It featured real players and clubs from the top four divisions of English football, and your goal as a manager was to bring a team from the bottom all the way up to Division One (there was no Premier League back in 1982). 

Even though teams and players were real, the club you chose would be randomly populated with players due to the way the game's database worked. That means you could end up with a Fourth Division squad filled with world-beaters right from the start. Not a bad deal!

Actua Soccer (1995)

A year after Sega released Virtua Striker, Gremlin Interactive took their 3D prowess and fluid gameplay and made Actua Soccer: the first-ever soccer video game to bring full 3D graphics to a home console. The first edition of the game featured only national teams, with each of the 44 countries holding 22-player squads. 

Now, gamers who needed their footballing fix didn't need to fork out their quarters to play matches out on the town; they could do it from the comfort of their couch. 

On the Ball: World Cup Edition (1993)

Equal parts RPG and football management simulator, OTB: WCE brought the drama, controversy, and even the flat-out absurdity of the world's game to your living room. 

Sure, you could choose your lineups and check on your team's chemistry, but you could also read newspapers that ran stories about fortune tellers who prophesize that you're the wrong man for the job... or you could spend the day with models at the hotel pool. 

Be careful though, because those newspapers might link you with the mafia, next. ¯\(ツ)

Intellivision NASL Soccer (1980)

Oh man. Here's the one that started it all.

This game is older than David Villa. It has aged nowhere near as well. 

Super Mario Strikers (2005)

Oh heck yeah, gang. 

This isn't going to stand up to EA SPORTS FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer in terms of realism, but it's easily just as fun. 

In fact, it's totally insane. It's cartoonishly brutal, violent, and filled with environmental disasters that make CONCACAFvenues look like The Etihad. 

Take a look, y'all:

International Soccer (1983)

This one is not quite as, uh, lush as Super Mario Strikers by any stretch of the imagination, but believe it or not, International Soccer is an interesting technological nugget from 34 years ago. Sure, there's no offside rule or fouls, but what's the harm in that? It's a video game!

Despite those little missing parts, game developer Andrew Spencer (who did the whole darn thing by himself) managed to fit quite a bit into the feeble memory of a Commodore 64 cartridge, including throw-ins, goal kicks, and some pretty fluid 2-player gameplay mechanics, all things considered.

EA SPORTS FIFA 18 (2017)

It's the most realistic game in the most realistic soccer video game series of all time. It is the opposite of arcade style, but it has the most comprehensive football database of any game outside Football Manager, and about one thousand times the action and satisfaction. 

Stunning graphics, meticulously detailed real-life players and stadiums, narrative-driven career modes, and the most lifelike gameplay on earth make the FIFA series essential to any soccer gamer's arsenal. FIFA 18 just happens to be the most essential one yet. 

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