When it comes to lucrative industries, few are worth as much as basketball.
On average, each NBA franchise is worth around $2.6bn, with the New York Knicks thought to be worth around $6.12bn. In terms of sports, only the NFL is worth more, with each franchise averaging $3.5bn.
It’s therefore no surprise to see basketball video games doing so well. The US video game market is worth an eye-watering $86bn, so bringing on-court action to digital platforms is a no-brainer. The franchises are well known, millions love the game across the states, and video games are in almost every home.
The main franchise is EA Sports NBA 2K, which dominates the landscape, but basketball can be found in all manner of titles. Some of the catchiest basketball references and games are often not even standalone titles or on home consoles. Hoop League Tactics features management and strategy elements on iOS and Android without putting a ball in your hand. The same can be said for the All Sports title featured among the Gala Bingo online slot games; it features basketball imagery on the reels, but at no point will you be shooting a three-pointer. Shooting hoops wasn’t the core principle in the 2004 release Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but the minigame, hidden away amongst all the controversy, was a solid simulation. In fact, Nashville Chatter explains it is still popular and has a dedicated online following eighteen years after its release.
Throughout gaming history, basketball has been used in other genres, from online slots to open-world roamers, and even a brawler in the case of Fighting Basketball from 1984. Those oddities and mobile games might keep a casual fan happy, but what of dedicated basketball games? Other than the NBA 2K franchise, which are worth playing and which are best left on the bench? We’ve selected a handful here that should keep every baller amused.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (2010)
NBA Jam was arcade basketball at its best, with its trademark ‘he’s on fire’ commentary. Spanning three decades, it epitomized multiplayer joy in the days before online gaming, and many gamers of a certain vintage will recall having fun with the title. It was over-the-top, exaggerated and most of all, utterly enjoyable.
NBA Street (2001)
NBA Street is more than 20 years old, but it still feels remarkably fresh despite coming out on the PlayStation 2. It’s a three-on-three game played on a typical street court and features an array of trick shots and power-ups. It was very much an arcade game instead of a simulation, but that only meant maximum fun without stats and tactics to consider.
NBA Live 95 (1994)
NBA Live is the sister franchise to NBA 2K, and it has been a staple of the basketball scene for many years. The 1995 edition played like EA Sports’ other popular franchise, FIFA, with an isometric on-court perspective. It featured a roster of players from the 1993-94 season and was a key factor in EA Sports breaking into the US market with their other franchises, Madden NFL ’95 and Triple Play Baseball.
NCAA Basketball 10 (2009)
The Best Basketball Video Games Ever
The first non-NBA title in our pick is another EA Sports title, featuring the college leagues and authentic broadcasting presentations of ESPN and CBS Sports. It developed on the previous year’s release, with more than 100 improvements, but most importantly, it packaged basketball at a more local level, featuring 325 of the 353 schools in NCAA Division I. Sadly, it was the last in the series, leaving college basketball under-represented in the modern market.