Top 5 NBA Video Games of All-Time
  • Jonathan Ebrahimi

Top 5 NBA Video Games of All-Time


In 1980, the world's very first NBA-titled video game was developed by Mattel, aptly named 'NBA Basketball'. Although the company paid licensing fees to use the NBA's name and logo, the game did not use a single official team or player name. The game was released for only one platform - a gaming relic called the Intellivision, which back then cost a cool $299 (equal to roughly $650 today, with inflation).

Although many video games with NBA licensing were released thereafter, it wasn't until 1993 with the release of NBA Jam before we would get a game that would even moderately resemble the titles that we enjoy today.

These days, NBA video games are some of the most popular on the market. In fact, thus far in 2017 NBA 2K17 is the 8th best-selling video game in the United States - pretty good considering the buyers know they'll be shelling out another $60 in twelve months time. With that being said, it did take a long time for sports video games to get to where they are now.

From NBA Jam on the SEGA Genesis, to NBA Live 97 on the PlayStation, all the way to today's NBA 2K17 available on countless platforms, let's take a look at the 5 greatest NBA video games of all-time:

Honourable Mention: NBA Live 06

NBA Live 06 was well ahead of its time. Coming ten years after NBA Live's initial release in 1997, the 06 edition packed so much more into the game play. Including features like a brand new dynasty mode and the inclusion of the NBA All-star weekend events, NBA Live was the first video game to include player archetypes with what they called Freestyle Superstars. This gave certain players an edge over others depending on their Superstar-type. For example, Dwyane Wade was a 'High-flyer', Steve Nash was a 'Playmaker' and Shaquille O'Neal was a 'Power Dunker'. Players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were equipped with multiple freestyle types, but unfortunately only one could be equipped at a time.

Overall, Live 06 was a great game, that had been given a heavy level of detail - unfortunately, after Live 06, EA Sports would produce let down after let down, when it came to basketball video games.

5. NBA Jam

NBA Jam was an absolute blockbuster in arcades across North America. With it's release coinciding with Michael Jordan's third NBA championship in 1993, the NBA was as popular as it had ever been. The game featured a new style of game play, featuring 2-on-2 action using real NBA teams and real NBA players (with one notable exception which we will get to later). There were no fouls, and outside of the shot clock and goal-tending, there were no rules either.

The exaggerated game play had players flying around dunking from all over the court, complete with animated explosions and ridiculous commentary. The result was fast-paced, action-packed and a lot of fun. An updated version of the game would eventually make its way to home consoles in 1994

NBA Jam captured the attention of gamers and NBA fans alike, grossing over $1 billion dollars for arcades across America, one quarter at a time.

4. NBA Live 2004

At the time of its release, NBA Live 2004 was a revolution. EA Sports decided to completely revamped the the entire game, including more life-like graphics, more intelligent A.I., and a far more sophisticated game play. The game played out more like a real NBA game than anything that had come before it, with the inclusion of play-calling, defensive sets and useful button commands like the pro hop feature. EA even added the ability to play as one of the off-ball offensive players, allowing you to create your own plays on the fly by reading the defense.

The franchise mode in Live 2004 also received a big upgrade. Taking the role of general manager, the player could now draft rookies, sign free agents, pull the trigger on trades, and even import draft classes from EA's NCAA games.

Live 2004 will mostly be mostly fly under the radar when we recount influential sports games, but it was the first basketball game to really provide players with an authentic NBA front office experience. The game was revolutionary for its time and is still fun to play, even today.

3. NBA 2K11

NBA 2K11 marked the return of Michael Jordan to the virtual world of video games. Since Jordan had exclusive rights over his likliness, he rarley appeared in video games throughout his career. That all ended when His Airness signed an exclsuive contract with 2K sports to include him in their games.

2K made the absolute most of this opportunity and put together one of the greatest sports video games ever. Players could play as Mike and relive the crowning moments of his career, or they could even play as Michael Jordan in the modern NBA, being drafted to a team of their choice.

2K11 didn't stop there - they made sure to improve on the already great MyGM and My Player modes. It was, however, the inclusion of Jordan and the exciting game modes that went with it, that put this game over the top.

2. NBA Street Vol. 2

Due to the meteoric rise of Allen Iverson in the early 2000s, hip-hop culture and basketball had become very closely intertwined. This led to a boom in popularity for street-ball and programs like the And-1 circuit really started to gain traction. Enter, NBA Street and the vastly more popular NBA Street Vol. 2.

The game had a 3-on-3 format with exaggerated game play that included wild ball-handing, ridiculous passing, and dunks from the 3-point line - but most importantly, it was just pure fun. Players could create their own 3-man team from a cast that included modern NBA stars like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, as well as some NBA Legends, Michael Jordan included. In fact, you could even create an all-MJ team with the '85 Jordan, '96 Jordan, and teh beloved '03 Washington Wizards Jordan all playing together.

NBA Street Vol. 2 is by far the most unique NBA title that was ever released. Unfortunately, its successor was unable to recapture the magic.

1. NBA 2K13

What's better than the inclusion of Michael Jordan and all of his classic Bulls teams? Well, 2K12 showed us exactly that by introducing some of the greatest NBA players and teams of all time. What's better than that you ask? How about the basketball showdown to end all showdowns?

In NBA 2K13, for the first time ever, players were able to take the 1993 US Olympic Dream Team and put them up against the 2008 US Olympic Redeem Team. The idea alone sparked tons of debate all over the sports world, and television stations like ESPN and Fox Sports began discussing the topic endlessly.

2K13 didn't stop there. It also marked the return of player archetypes to help distinguish player types, giving players like Tony Allen and Kyle Korver more value during game play. The MyPlayer game mode took on more of a storyline/RPG style of play. Both the shooting and dribbling mechanics were overhauled which gave the player so much more control over who they were controlling. Oh, and did we mention that the game was musically prodcued by Jay Z.

You can even play as Justin Bieber... so there's a little something for everyone, I guess...

Tell me your favorite NBA video games on Twitter at @awrashoo

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