Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with millions of people in hundreds of countries playing it, and many more watching it in person and on TV. Many soccer fans are obsessive about their favorite sport, following a team through thick and thin, and supporting the 11 players wearing the team shirts with a fervor normally reserved for followers of a religion.
When they’re not watching soccer at a stadium or on television, these people can usually be found playing soccer video games, of which there are plenty to choose from. All platforms have played host to a soccer game or two, and many have been well worth playing.
What follows is a list of five soccer games all armchair professionals would be well advised to take off the substitutes bench and give a run out as the lone striker at the tip of a diamond formation. And if that sentence made no sense then you may want to give the following a miss.
FIFA Soccer (Various)
It’s hard to believe, but the FIFA Soccer series has been around for 20 years now, with the first release, FIFA International Soccer, having been released in July 1993. That title came out on multiple platforms, including PC, Amiga, the SNES, and the Genesis. And its isometric (faux 3D) was hugely innovative at the time.
Since then there has been a new FIFA game every year, and it’s often difficult to see any great improvements made from one year to the next. Still, the recent FIFA games have been hugely entertaining and possess a long-lasting appeal. With a high level of control over the players and a huge range of button combinations, FIFA Soccer should be fun for soccer fans of all ages.
Pro Evolution Soccer (Various)
The first Pro Evolution Soccer game was released in 2001, and it had a distinctly Japanese flavor to it. Later iterations evolved considerably so that the Pro Evo titles released more recently are less distinguishable from FIFA in terms of both style and presentation.
Like FIFA, a new Pro Evolution Soccer game is released every year, and this is the game considered more suited to purists. Konami does not own the rights to team names and player names, but what Pro Evo lacks on this score is made up for in terms of pure gameplay. Pro Evolution Soccer is a highly entertaining series that should keep all serious soccer fans playing throughout the summer months and beyond.
Football Manager (PC & Mac)
Now we’re getting serious, with the Football Manager series on PC and Mac. This series started life as Championship Manager, but changed to Football Manager in 2005 due to a loss in naming rights. Still, Sports Interactive continued to develop the games, and the series hasn’t faltered since.
Rather than being placed in the thick of the action, Football Manager puts you in charge of the team. You buy and sell players, decide tactics and training regimes, and ultimately try to take your team to the top. It’s a truly engrossing experience that can be as addictive as any class-A drug, so soccer fans shouldn’t start playing this without first warning their friends and families.
The Football Manager games aren’t exactly pretty, with just enough visual gloss to keep your eyes happy. The advantage of this is that you don’t need a souped-up system to play the games on, which suits lapsed PC gamers such as myself.
Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)
Serious soccer fans who like their games to be realistic and based on the beautiful game in every way should look away now, because Mario Strikers Charged seriously bends the rules. However, it’s the only soccer game on the Wii worth playing, and as there are millions of people with the ubiquitous Nintendo console sitting idly under their TV, the game is worth featuring on this list.
This game presents soccer as Nintendo imagines it to be, with short five-a-side matches played by the likes of Mario, Luigi, and Donkey Kong. There are power-ups and special abilities galore, and this all adds up to make Mario Strikers Charged a fun foray into the world of soccer.
Sensible Soccer (Retro)
No line-up of video games for soccer fans would be complete without Sensible Soccer, which graced computers and consoles throughout the 1990s. Without playing the Sensi games it must be hard to see the appeal, but these classics of the genre shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
The Sensible Soccer games were played from a 2D top-down perspective, which kids would balk at these days. However, this allowed for awesome runs at the goal and the ability to put massive spin on the ball. Both of which helped make the early Sensi games more fun than they had any right to be.
Those who don’t want to pick up a retro console or walk the fine line of legality by using an emulator, can still play Sensible World Of Soccer on Xbox Live Arcade. However, the 2006 remake should be avoided at all costs.
These video games, when taken as a whole, represent a collection any soccer fan should be proud to own. Of course, you may not have the capacity to play all of them, but each one stands on its own as a game worth at least 90 minutes of your time, barring injury, of course. Most of them — Football Manager in particular — will suck away considerably more of your life than that… you have been warned.
Are you a fan of soccer (or football, depending on your nationality)? If so, do you ever play video games dedicated to the sport? Which is your favorite? Is it the arcade action of Pro Evo or FIFA, or do you prefer the cerebral, strategic approach needed to succeed at Football Manager? Do you have fond memories of the 2D action of Sensible Soccer, or do you like the fast-paced fun provided by Mario Strikers Charged?
Perhaps you’re not keen on any of the football games on this list. In which case you should tell us which you play to keep you entertained during the off-season. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.