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The Most Popular NBA Video Games of All Time

The Most Popular NBA Video Games of All Time

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It’s that time of the year when the basketball calendar starts to get exciting. We are in the midst of March Madness, and just after that, there are the NBA playoffs to look forward to, with all eyes on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the current favorites in the NBA Finals odds.

There are only so many basketball articles you can read, podcasts you can listen to and highlights shows to watch. Sometimes the only way to truly satiate your non-stop need for basketball is to fire up your console and fully immerse yourself in the world of the virtual court.

While picking your favorite video game is often tricky, there can be no doubt as to the best basketball games of all time, can there? Read on to find out which games have made our top 3 and, if you somehow think we’ve gotten it wrong, let us know about it in the comments section below.

NBA Live 2005

First released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, the game was later available on the Nintendo GameCube (remember that?) and PC. The cover star that year was Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets and if you’re of a particular age, just looking at that game cover will take you back to ‘better times’.

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This game featured the introduction of the All-Star Weekend which was an absolute game changer for the franchise. The hugely popular Create a Player mode was enhanced as was Freestyle Air and to accompany it was an epic soundtrack featuring classics like Me Against You by Lloyd Banks and young Buck and Go! By Will.i.am.

Despite almost every single game reviewer that year rating the game poorly ahead of its release and criticising it for ‘not offering a notable change since last year’ (a critique EVERY sports game ever created receives), NBA Live 2005 was a huge commercial success.

NBA Jam

Going even further back in time we have the 1993 release of NBA Jam by Midway. NBA Jam wasn’t the first basketball game to be released by Midway. The gaming company had created TV Basketball in 1974 and Arch Rivals in 1989.

Whilst those two games had been commercially successful, the company needed more to prepare for just how insanely popular NBA Jam would become. Mark Turnell, the project leader behind this game set out to make it compelling and visually stunning and he succeeded on both fronts.

NBA Jam featured incredibly over-the-top movements such as the insanely high dunking arcs of players as well as what were at the time, some of the best graphics available on a sporting title. The game was received very well by critics and reviewers alike and, within a few months of release, had gone on to gain a cult following of fans.

Throughout the years, there have been a number of spin-offs of the game, with some more successful than others. That said, nothing can compare to the success of the original 1993 release, which still holds a special place in the heart of basketball fans.

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NBA Street Vol. 2

What? No mention of NBA 2K11 or NBA 2K16? You’re damn straight. Whilst there’s no arguing that those two games were absolute classics, we’ve already gone route one with NBA Live 2005 so our top game on the list had to be something that wasn’t just amazing to play but brought something different to the table as well.

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Can you think of a game that suits that criteria better than NBA Street Vol. 2? This game, which was the sequel to the original NBA Street was released in 2003 and is, undoubtedly, the best NBA video game ever created.

The graphics, gameplay and even soundtrack were all dramatically improved from the previous release and, the addition of NBA legends and fully licensed teams made it far more fun and immersive to play than its predecessor.

EA Sports, the developers behind the game released a similar title based on soccer around the same time called FIFA Street which was a huge commercial success too. Just like basketball fans, soccer fans have been scratching their heads every year since wondering why EA didn’t continue down the Street model.