What are Sports Games?

edited August 2023 in Gaming

Millions of people enjoy playing sports video games every day. People love playing these games because they offer an immersive and genuine experience of the world of sports that gamers of all ages can enjoy. They are some of the most played video games in the world and with the rise of esports, their popularity is only growing. 

What are sports games? 

Sports games are a video game genre that simulates sports. They are usually based on real-world sports, but can also be fictional or exaggerated. These games usually let the player control one or more athletes during competition. Players must follow the rules of the sport, and either play against computer-controlled opponents or other players.  

There are sports video games for almost every sport, including baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, racing, and more. Many sports video games are based on real-world sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Others are based on Olympic or amateur sports. 

Sporting video games have become increasingly authentic, with lifelike graphics and gameplay. Some sports video games even let players create teams and personalized athletes. This, along with the options to change certain rules and gameplay options, allows players to completely customize their game experience and adds to the overall appeal of a game. 

History of sports games 

The first sports game was Tennis For Two, which was released in 1958. Throughout the 1960s, sports games such as Grand Prix were released in arcades to mild fanfare. It wasn’t until Pong was released in 1972 that the genre started showing signs of taking off. Some of these early games were popular at the time but did not have the realism or depth that we see today. 

In the 1980s, the advances in video game technology allowed sports games to become more representational of how games are actually played. They were also increasingly found in arcades, which allowed developers to customize consoles and use props, such as driving wheels and sports equipment.  

These early sports games and their 2D graphics laid the foundation for the modern sports games that we know today. In the 1990s, 3D graphics became standard in most video games, and sports games were no exception. This allowed for better visuals and gameplay, which attracted more players. 

Since the 1990s, games have continued to evolve. Newer technologies, such as motion controls and online play, have been integrated into sports games. More recently, 4D environments using VR technology have allowed gamers to step into the shoes of their favorite athletes, creating an even more realistic experience.  

How have sports games affected esports? 

As these types of video games usually simulate real-world sports, allowing players to control athletes in a virtual environment, they are perfect for fans of esports. Watching athletes compete in sporting games is similar to watching your favorite team on television. These games have brought in new viewers and players, helping the transition from niche to the mainstream. 

Many top players have started playing sports games competitively in recent years. These athletes bring excitement and skill to the games that many viewers find captivating. Just like cheering for their favorite basketball or football stars, fans gravitate to professional gamers. Some teams even represent cities or countries, creating even more passionate local fan bases. 

EA Sports and 2K Sports have been key players in the video game industry for many years. The release of titles such as Madden NFL, FIFA, NBA 2K, and NHL have coincided with the rise of esports. These games are well known in sports and gaming communities alike. Even professional athletes from major sports leagues have been known to promote and stream themselves playing these games.  

Most commonly played games and tournaments 

There are many sports games out there for video game fans to choose from. While some dominate certain sports, others are split between competing games. Some of the most common and popular game franchises and tournaments include: 


  • FIFA 
  • Madden NFL 
  • NBA 2K 
  • MLB The Show 
  • WWE 2K 
  • NHL 
  • F1 
  • UFC 
  • PGA Tour 2K 
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 
  • eFootball PES 
  • Super Mega Baseball 
  • Mario Golf 
  • Mario Tennis Aces 
  • Forza 
  • Rocket League 

Esports tournaments 

  • Madden NFL Championship Series 
  • NBA 2K League 
  • NHL Gaming World Championship 
  • Rocket League Championship Series 
  • EA Sports FIFA Global Series 
  • eFootball Championship 
  • MLB The Show Circuit 
  • Formula 1 Esports Series 

Common terms and play styles 

As sports games are video-based replicas of traditional sports, each game type has its unique terms and play styles. For example, soccer and football games allow players to customize formations, while other games allow users to control sporting equipment such as a hockey stick or a baseball bat. There are some commonalities between different sports, but because of the nature of the genre, there’s no one size fits all list. 


  • Announcers: A group of people who provide commentary and insights during gameplay. 
  • Blowout: When one player outscores or defeats the other by a wide margin.  
  • Defense: A player or team that is defending against an attack from the other team. 
  • Offense: A player or team that is attempting to score points or gain an advantage by attacking the other team. 
  • Shutout: When a player or team does not score any points. 
  • Wide-open: A term that is used when both teams are scoring frequently or the match is extremely fast and competitive. Fans usually enjoy this type of game as there is a lot of action and points scored. 

Play styles 

  • Counterattack: An immediate attack from the team who was previously defending. This is generally used to surprise or catch the other team out of position. Many players use this style while facing a stronger opponent.  
  • Defensive/Passive: When a player or team sits back and defends against an attacking team. This style involves good strategy and disciple, as a mistake could lead to giving up points. Teams using this style often rely on making the most of their limited chances or by using a counterattack to surprise the other team. 
  • Offensive/Aggressive: A strategy in which a player or team is constantly building up pressure by attacking the opposing team. The goal of this strategy is to either tire out the opponent or cause them to make a critical mistake. This is generally thought of as an aggressive way to play the game and may lead to dysfunction on the defensive end. 

The future of sports games 

The explosion in the popularity of sporting games shows no sign of slowing down. Likely, future video games based on real sports will only become more convincing and immersive. Thanks to advances in 4D technology, players will be able to feel like they're really on the field or court, while VR will transport them into the thick of the action. The rise of esports and competitive gaming as a whole has also pushed sports games into the spotlight. With realistic graphics and gameplay, it's not hard to imagine a future where video games based on sports are just as popular as the real thing.

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.



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