The Top 7… Things we hate about sports games

Where are the flying cars? For years, our science fiction promised us that in the 21st century, we’d all be zipping around the country with speed and style in shiny hovering vehicles. Sadly, we all know how that turned out.

It sure seems like we were made the same kinds of promises about our “next generation” of sports games, too. We remember all sorts of breathless presentations at the start of the 360/PS3 hardware cycle, hyping up how the newest gaming technologies would transform our virtual sports experience into something resembling sensory overload. Photorealistic visual presentation! Unprecedented realism! Atmosphere so real it’ll be just like being there! Even worse, we kind of believed what we were being fed.


Truth be told, lots of today’s sports games are pretty darned good. Great, even. The problem is that the same could be said for the last generation, too. With a notable exception or two, there’s been no amazing leap forward – and certainly nothing like we were promised. Games look a little better, there’s a bit more to do, and online options are more plentiful. But that’s about it.

Yes, we know that most developers pour their hearts and souls into their games and spend countless hours trying to please their audience, all of which happens with limited budgets and resources. We get that - but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find plenty of legitimate complaints about this current generation of sports titles that grind our gears.

And we’re still waiting for the damn flying cars.

7. History? What’s that?

Nothing is more important to sports than their history. After all, most of us wouldn’t give two flits about our beloved teams if it weren’t for the euphoric victories, painful losses and memorable individuals that mark our lifetime journey together.

Paradoxically, our sports games treat history almost as if it doesn’t exist. Sure, there are some occasional real teams from the past, but most lack the real player names. Nobody gets jacked up to say “Did you see that goal by 1985 Edmonton Oiler #11?!?” or “Wow, what a great run by 1975 Ohio State RB #34!” What’s more, there’s often little to no context for these clubs from yesteryear, which is why we often find ourselves wondering just why we’d be interested in playing as the 1984 Portland Trailblazers.

What we want: The time has come to inject every sports game with a massive amount of teams from days gone by – along with the real players, names, jerseys, and stadiums. And we don’t mean a smattering of them – we’re talking loads of ‘em. We want every team, every year, every roster, every scheduled game of that sport’s modern era. Give us the ability to replay Maris and Mantle’s magical 1961 baseball season; let us relive and repeat the 1973 Dolphins’ undefeated campaign; we want to hoop it up again with Bird and Magic and Barkley and Dominique. The data is all there; put it together once, and it’s a snap to update every season. As we all know, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

6. Championship, shmampionship

It takes a lot of work to make it through a complete season and win a championship. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, hockey or football, sports fans put gobs of time and virtual sweat into leading their squad to the top of the mountain – and there’s nothing more insulting than being “rewarded” with a measly Congratulations screen and (sometimes) an Achievement or Trophy. We’re tired of this dispiriting practice, and demand changes - now.

What we want: Real, heartfelt celebrations that make us proud of all those hours we happily wasted. Give us a 10-minute highlight reel set to great music; show us the winning locker rooms with champagne and beer spraying to and fro; let’s watch the fans celebrating in the stands. We want championship parades, banner-raising ceremonies, and ring presentations. In other words, exactly what happens when real teams get to the Promised Land. Make us shed a tear or two of joy as we see the results of our long, hard slog to the top.


Top 7


  • Cyberninja - November 2, 2009 12:08 p.m.

    the only sports game i ever liked was backyard football
  • yamen21 - November 2, 2009 12:51 p.m.

    those are some reasons why sports games suck.
  • adatron771 - November 2, 2009 2:12 p.m.

    love the fact that you have the picture of the Sens... go Ottawa!
  • rxb - November 2, 2009 2:27 p.m.

    Im not really into sports games any more but agree with nearly everything here. Sticking old teams in along some sort of explanation to why that season/team were soo good would be amazing. A better championship celebration could be done using clips of replays from your own games. Competition defiantly helps, just look at FIFA and PES[ perfect eleven] football games.
  • jwolf182 - November 2, 2009 3:50 p.m.

    @Cyberninja Lol i was thinking the same thing. Backyard baseball was fun also. It's kind of sad that the backyard series is my favorite of sports games lol
  • Jacob816 - November 2, 2009 4:14 p.m.

    I have my own list about what I hate about sports games, and it only has one entry: sports games.
  • garnsr - November 2, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    I haven't played any sports games in a few generations, and it seems to me that you needed to get in early, and keep playing, for the current ones to be playable for you.
  • Bossco - November 2, 2009 5:34 p.m.

    Sports games are shite! That's all I have to say on the subject.
  • Xplosive59 - November 2, 2009 5:37 p.m.

    why did most of this have to revolve around american sports
  • conchking - November 2, 2009 8:42 p.m.

    madden ten seriously disappointed, I can't believe I payed for it. They completely destroyed NFL superstar and franchise. I seriously couldn't believe it. And reviewers said nothing to warn me. The worst part is that pick up and play now means pick up, wait for load times, watch a cutscene, play, watch a cutscene and repeat. Also online sucks. Me and my dad couldn't even get through a 3 minute quarters match within 30 minutes. I guess it is because of what you mentioned about not buying games every so often. I hadn't bought madden since 07 and now they destroy the best parts. Don't even get me started on madden IQ
  • conchking - November 2, 2009 8:43 p.m.

    Controls suck too.
  • elchetos - November 2, 2009 8:47 p.m.

    Weird... People still like sports games...
  • popnfresh7000 - November 2, 2009 9:05 p.m.

    Disappointing article. The opportunity to try and shed light on some of these negatives through light research was completely missed in favor of just writing a whinefest. If you still think major sports games have money plays that aren't fixed in bug patches, then you either don't know how to play defense in those games, or don't know what the definition of a money play is (or are using some warped definition that simply means "anything where someone quickly gets points, even though that happens all the time in real life"). Two of the issues - Online Jerks and Historic players on historic teams - aren't even possible due to legal reasons. Sony and Microsoft won't let EA/2K/whoever ban people with regularity based on their personal standards. And there are huge legal ramifications down to the player involved with getting either historic players or teams; and you will never be allowed to have both. Just as the NHL will flat out not allow a detailed fighting engine in a game they license, major sporting organizations will not allow tons of the same team from different eras, each with easily identifiable players respective to those eras. Because that takes away from the potential exposure of their current product. It's just like how the NCAA will flat out not allow names or likenesses to be used; you can't blame the games or the developers for rules set by corporations that have nothing to do with gaming. I worked in sports game development for five years and there are pleeeeenty of valid complaints that could be levied. To see an article miss the opportunity to actually get some answers out there, in favor of "they should just make a console that plays PS3 *and* 360 games!"-esque pie in the sky whining is disheartening. I miss the days of publications having standards beyond glorified forum posting.
  • ChainsawHero - November 2, 2009 9:36 p.m.

    The original NFL Blitz, BEST SPORTS GAME EVER! also NHL Hitz Pro
  • Apotheosis415 - November 2, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    I agree with the contract comment as the most annoying thing in gaming. I for one stopped playing football games after the EA monopoly. I don't like madden. Compared to nfl 2k(anything) ITS TERRIBLE! finally a year or so back the running game got brought up to nfl 2k par. but lets face it, Madden is for fanboys. Guys who have perfected the madden method. QB's at 99 rating runign bootlegs for 12 yards a play. kick offs that make your guy roll out of bounds at the 1, every kick. If or one want 2k games back making NFL games and call for community to stand up to EA and not buy madden. NFL will loose money and have to open it back up.
  • DarkSideOfTheMoon - November 2, 2009 10:04 p.m.

    Wow Popnfresh is a real jerkoff
  • Ded - November 2, 2009 10:46 p.m.

    Sports. Games. I wish the two would never mix.
  • retrofish18 - November 2, 2009 10:46 p.m.

    wonder why ea wont make another mutant league game. I would be up for mutant league hockey or football and maybe some other sports
  • Cwf2008 - November 3, 2009 12:35 a.m.

    @popnfresh: You really think anyone is gonna read that behemoth of a comment you posted? Anyway i never noticed the crowd part of the games but ya. In postseason there is a definite difference, but in these games you couldnt tell the difference between a post season game and an empty stadium
  • Ninja-KiLLR - November 3, 2009 12:59 a.m.

    the only sports game i every really played was madden on the genisis. and nfl 2k4 once with a friend while we were waiting for the super bowel with the steelers and someone.

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