Retro video games of all varieties are back in vogue at the moment as people go in search of gaming trips down memory lane. Some of the most beloved games are those that were inspired by sports and their stars. In this article we look at five retro sports video games that have stood the test of time. Video games can be competitive at the best of times, but sports games can sometimes add that little bit extra adrenalin.

Many NBA related video games have come and gone since the heady days of the early 90s, but it is quite easy to argue that none have come close to matching the raw nostalgia of NBA Jam for the SNES. The original NBA Jam captured the imagination of millions of NBA fans.

Sure, there are modern day heroes of the parquet such as Lebron James and James Harden, but would you really back those two in a 2-on-2 game against prime Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen? Possibly not.

NBA Jam was all about putting you in the Nike Air Maxes of those legends of the game, all cut to an excellent retro soundtrack.

The great news for NBA Jam fans in 2020 is that there is a fresh new version of the game that can be played for free online, allowing you to create those dream matchups of past-versus-present, with each game getting you more hyped as you ponder which team to back with a pre-season free bet. Will Lebron get another championship ring or will the Bucks come back stronger this season?

Tecmo Bowl
What started out as an arcade hit, Tecmo Bowl quickly became a gaming sensation when it was later released on the Nintendo Gameboy and NES. It was the first American football game where people felt they were properly playing a representation of the sport. Plus it had an insanely fast Bo Jackson character. To this day it is still celebrated as the father of all NFL video games, which is perhaps surprising seeing as it was developed by a Japanese firm.

The Madden series is obviously a behemoth of the NFL video game world today, but many people will say that nothing beats the standards originally set by Tecmo Bowl.

Blades of Steel
Too many contemporary NHL video games attempt to recreate lifelike conditions rather than homing in on optimixing entertaining gameplay.

The developers of such games should go and check out NES ice hockey classic Blades of Steel, which as well as having one of the best titles in video game history was also one of the most compelling sports games ever coded. Although you couldn’t make Wayne Gretsky’s head bleed like NHL ’93 on the Sega Genesis in Swingers.

Virtua Tennis
This game squeezes into the retro bracket for us, but only just. When Virtua Tennis came on the scene in 1999 in the arcade and on the Sega Dreamcast it felt like a massive step forward in sports games. This game was the bridge to the incredibly realistic sports games we have today. The gameplay was great. The controls were extremely intuitive but also allowing for a good level of skill. And the graphics were fantastic, particularly with the ability to play on different surfaces. It was the sort of game that got everybody playing it. Not just gamers and not just tennis fans. That’s the sign of a great game.

Track & Field
How can we not end on possibly the daddy of them all. For me this is one of the best sports games of all time. A mainstay of the arcade. This is one of the games that has sounds that you would recognise as soon as you walked into the arcade. Along with other games such as Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Street Fighter 2, Out Run and a few others, this game’s sound effects, and particularly speech, became iconic. The sprites themselves are great too and the gameplay is simple yet totally evokes the feeling of sport competition. And I think this game is good for actual physical exercise too as you really can break a sweat while playing it! When you’re hitting this buttons as fast you can for the 100m sprint, I’ve seen people even injure themselves. And when you play this as a 2 player, or even 4 player game, then the competition stakes get even higher. With events such as 100m, Long Jump, Javelin, 110m Hurdles, Hammer Throw and High Jump, you really do get a proper taste of an athletics competition. There’s no greater feeling than pipping your opponent to the line in the 110m hurdles. Watching some of the experts online play the game is like watching a true athlete, almost. Certainly hugely impressive.