Although Atari released the first NBA game called Basketball way back in 1978, it was the 90s that revolutionized the industry. Advanced graphics made it possible to step into the shoes of your favorite players and hit the virtual court.
Plus, with 2K Sports and EA Sports battling it out to become the best of the best, fans were gifted with exceptional gaming experiences they never thought were possible.
For this reason, it is time to look back at the best retro basketball video games of all time.
NBA Jam was released 26 years ago as an arcade game, and was initially launched as a coin-op. While it might have been a fun game to play, it was the opposite of realistic, with players flying across the arena to perform impress stunts, such as dunking from the three-point line.
It is, however, a prime reflection of 90s video games, as it’s crazy, colorful and undoubtedly fun. While it might not be as innovative as many of its successors, it would cause you to spend many an hour attempting to best your friends at an arcade.
NBA Live 98
While modern gamers might turn their noses up to NBA Live 98’s graphics, it was a turning point for the series. It was the first time they created faces based on real players’ photographs, which made the game more realistic for fans. Plus, it also featured commentary from Ernie Johnson, which enhanced the gaming experience. While his commentary was basic, it undoubtedly inspired a similar tactic in future video games.
What’s more, it was the first time the series introduced the general manager mode, which enabled gamers to draft players and participate in up to ten basketball seasons.
NBA Street Vol. 2
Released in the early 2000s, NBA Street Vol. 2 brought everyone’s favorite basketball players to the streets and away from the professional court. Thanks to the arcade gameplay, players were allowed to dunk basketballs from the free throw line, which was similar in style to NBA Jam. It also featured various well-known street parks for basketball games, such as New York’s Rucker Park.
If this wasn’t good enough for basketball fans, it also offered a pretty impressive soundtrack, as it featured songs from the likes of Nate Dogg, Nelly, and MC Lyte, to name only a few. Plus, you had the option of playing as three versions of Michael Jordan at different points in his career.
NBA Live 2000
NBA Live 2000 proved popular with gamers following its release, as it offered much smoother gameplay in comparison to earlier installments. It was also the first Live game that enabled players to play as Michael Jordan and was his first appearance in the popular franchise.
Gamers could also play against legendary superstars from the game, and you could also run the NBA draft in a franchise mode. Plus, it featured a fantastic soundtrack, with songs from the likes of Naughty by Nature, Rahzel, and Run-DMC. There is, however, much debate regarding whether NBA Live 2000 was better than NBA 2K, and your opinion will more than likely be determined by the PC or console you played the game on.
While NBA Live 2000 offered a silky-smooth gameplay at the time of its launch, NBA 2K was unquestionably must faster and more attractive to play. Utilizing Sega Dreamcast’s technological abilities at the time, the players were not as solid and generic as the players in NBA Live.
In fact, it was much easier to recognize both the players and coaches during the game, so it was a better option for those looking for a more realistic basketball video game.
NBA Live 2005
While it might have been released fourteen years ago, NBA Live 2005 never disappoints. Not only can you play as the Golden State Warriors before they became Oddschecker’s favorites to win the NBA final, but you can also enjoy a three-point shootout and a slam dunk contest.
Much to fans’ delight, the Dynasty Mode was rebuilt, which allowed players to complete whole games and quarters. Plus, it was the first time players received notifications regarding the occurrences in the virtual league, which made the GM experience more realistic for basketball fans.
NCAA Basketball 09
The NCAA Basketball series might have proved popular with gamers, but it definitely wasn’t without controversy. After former NCAA players filed a lawsuit due to the developers having used their likenesses without their permission, the games were discontinued in 2010.
This was, however, a crying shame to fans, as NCAA Basketball 09 was a superb game that successfully captured the infectious atmosphere of a college basketball game. Unlike the NBA, the NCAA’s spectators were passionate and loud, and the game allowed you to turn a high school senior into a college basketball star.
NBA 2K11 was almost a combination of NBA Jam and NBA Street Vol. 2 (which were discussed above). However, it also featured modern sims, which allowed gamers to become arguably the best basketball player in history: Michael Jordan. While it pales in comparison to modern basketball video games, it allowed players to recreate iconic moments from Michael Jordan’s career.
Released in 2011, NBA 2K12 moved away from heavily featuring the legendary Michael Jordan, who was the sole focus in NBA 2K11, and featured other world-respected players, such as Dominque Wilkins, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Not only did the game offer a greater variety of famous basketball stars, but it was also the first game to offer more realistic players and smooth gameplay.
While NBA 2K17 is relatively recent, it deserves to stand alongside the finest basketball video games to date, due to its realistic graphics and exceptional features. In fact, it is hard to believe you are not watching a real game, as it lives up to expectations by blurring the lines between video gaming and reality.