Sport management games are big business. Several of the genre’s leading titles list among the most successful game franchises of all time.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to lead a soccer minnow to international glory, own the most famous motorsport team on the planet, or help your local baseball team win its first World Series — you’ll be able to find something to suit your preferences. Just about every sport is represented in some capacity.
1. Football Manager 2017
Football Manager is perhaps the most well-known of all sports management games. Originally called Championship Manager, the franchise’s first title hit the shelves in 1992. There has been an annual release ever since. It’s comfortably the best soccer-based game in the world.
The renaming happened in 2005 after a dispute between the publisher (Eidos Interactive) and the developer (Sports Interactive). The first title named Football Manager, which went on sale in the summer of 2005, remains the fifth fastest-selling PC game of all time.
In the 2017 edition, users can take charge of more than 2,500 soccer clubs and play in excess of 140 leagues across 50 nations. Realism is the name of the game. Everyone from the world’s greatest players to a small club’s sports scientist has their real name, real stats, and fullly fleshed-out personalities included.
The database has become so impressive that many professional soccer clubs — including several Premier League clubs — have signed access deals with Sports Interactive.
2. Out of the Park Baseball 18
Out of the Park is to baseball what Football Manager is to soccer. Like Football Manager, it also has its roots in the 1990s.
In its 20-year lifespan, it’s amassed many celebrity fans. They include Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry, writer Bill James, and sports journalist Roy Firestone.
Since the 2016 version of the game, the developers have held full licenses for Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, both past and present. You can build a modern-day dynasty with today’s stars or try and recreate the successes of yesteryear, depending on the mood you’re in.
The newest release includes the latest rule changes, new tournaments and fall leagues, complete rosters for MLB, MiLB, international leagues, and many independent leagues, and a re-imagined injury engine.
3. Franchise Hockey Manager 3
Franchise Hockey Manager is made by the same team as Out of the Park Baseball. It shares many of the same traits. In its short lifespan, it’s quickly grown to become the leading ice hockey management game.
It’s younger than its baseball-based brother. The 2017 edition, called Franchise Hockey Manager 3, is only the third installment of the game. For the first time, it has complete licensing from the NHL.
The game offers 22 playable leagues, including the NHL, minor North American leagues, the Canadian junior leagues, and several European leagues. All the leagues have up-to-date rosters and extensive player ratings. You can either assume a role in the front office as general manager or on the bench as a head coach.
In the 2017 edition, fans can look forward to a better tactical system, international teams, and improved player development.
Buy: Franchise Hockey Manager 3 on Steam (Windows, Mac; $20)
4. Motorsport Manager
Fans of 1996’s Grand Prix Manager 2 have been starved of any meaningful follow-up for two decades. The dearth of successors was a sign that the original game still has a hugely active modding community to this day. If you want to relive the olden days, Grand Prix Manager 2 is available for free as abandonware.
However, with the release of Motorsport Manager in late 2016, it seems petrol heads finally have a title they can rally behind.
You’re responsible for everything within the team. You hire drivers, manage in-race strategy, organize R&D, attract sponsors, control your staff, balance the budget, and perform every other task you can think of. There are even three different motorsport series for you to enjoy, each with their own rules and permutations.
Formula One fans might be slightly saddened to learn Motorsport Manager doesn’t have FIA licensing. All the drivers and car liveries are entirely fictional.
Buy: Motorsport Manager on Steam (Windows, Mac, Linux; $35)
5. Pro Cycling Manager 2017
You didn’t think sports management games only focused on the globally popular sports, did you? While cycling might not hold the same appeal as soccer and baseball, its leading management sim — Pro Cycling Manager 2017 — is as good as anything dedicated to its more illustrious cousins.
You play the role of a team owner. As you’d expect, you’re responsible for everything from rider recruitment to training and finding sponsors. During the races, you take complete control of strategy and performance.
The game features in excess of 200 races and more than 500 individual stages. The three Grand Tour races — the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España — are all present, as are the world’s leading riders.
Buy: Pro Cycling Manager 2017 on Steam (Windows; $40)
6. Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2017
Rather than making pro leagues the focus of the game, College Basketball 2017 lets you become the head coach of your favorite college basketball team.
This franchise has been around for a few years, but the 2017 release is the best yet. The user interface has been given an overhaul to make navigation easier, and there’s a new tournament creation feature. Further, the in-app news process sees a refresh, and the prestige and line-up trackers have been enhanced.
The game isn’t quite as feature-rich as some of the other games on this list, but for basketball fans, it’s the best there is.
7. MMA Tycoon
In the absence of any serious NFL management sim, I will leave you with something a bit different. MMA Tycoon is an MMORPG that focuses on the business side of the increasingly popular UFC.
To start a game, you create a stable of fighters and work your way up through the “Quick Fighting Championships.” Eventually, one of the user-created fighting organizations will offer you a contract, and your fighters will start their professional career.
Because MMA Tycoon is an MMORPG, you’re always fighting against other people. Your success will boil down to your own game planning ability.
Interestingly, you also have options to break out of the sport’s typical roles by becoming a business tycoon. You can open a gym, clothing company, nutrition company, bookmaker, and more.
Best of all? It’s the only game on this list that’s entirely free to play!
Play Now: MMA Tycoon (Free)
What Are Your Favorite Sports Management Games?
I’ve introduced you to seven of the best sports management sims you can play in 2017. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find something you can enjoy. And if you feel too limited by these realistic simulators, try instead some wacky sports games that introduce super powers!
Of course, there are lots of poor quality sims out there, but there are also lots of smaller niche titles which might not get the praise they deserve. I want to know about these hidden gems.
Which games deserve a mention? What makes them so good? As always, you can leave all your suggestions and opinions in the comments below. And don’t forget to share the article on social media to continue the discussion with your friends.
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