If you don’t own a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One to play the latest NBA 2K18 release, don’t panic. If you’re still wedded to your old-school PlayStation or even a retro NES or Sega Genesis, you can still get your NBA fix thanks to the raft of classic NBA video game titles that have hit the shelves over the last three decades.
The early 1990s brought about a shift in the way basketball video games are played, introducing highly engaging simulation-style action where players could control teams and play through entire seasons.
Also, aiding the growing demand for NBA video games was the release of an NBA Jam title at arcades. Casual gamers around the world were entranced by the over-sized players and out-of-this-world slam dunks achieved at the hammering of a button and the wiggle of a joystick. If you’re feeling nostalgic, let us help you take a step back in time to review some of the classic NBA titles of a bygone video gaming era.
NBA Jam: The First Real Playable Basketball Video Game
The first NBA Jam was one of the most special. Developed by Midway, it was the inaugural arcade-style basketball video game that was playable. It was also one of the first to receive a license to incorporate NBA teams and players, along with their physical and aesthetic likenesses. So popular was this in the arcades that it raked in more than $1 billion, becoming the highest-earning arcade game of all time in 1994. It was unsurprising that it would become a hit on the SNES and Sega Genesis, too, with fast-paced, exaggerated gameplay the order of the day.
NBA Showdown: EA Sports’ First Official Offering
NBA Showdown was released before NBA Jam reached our games consoles, making an appearance in October 1993. It was the first NBA video game to be developed and published by the EA Sports arm of Electronic Arts. Unlike previous NBA games, you could play an entire 82-game season and scroll through tons of data on every NBA team and their rosters. You could also oversee the calls for elementary offensive and defensive plays, making you feel part of the success of your team.
NBA Live 2000: A Game-Changer for Basketball Video Games
The turn of the millennium was a real watershed moment for NBA video games. The simulated elements of basketball gaming had become somewhat tired, with gamers demanding more engagement and interaction with the players. Fortunately, NBA Live 2000 provided that in spades. You got to play and control Michael Jordon — providing you could defeat him in a bonus one-on-one battle — and even get involved in the NBA draft when playing in the franchise mode.
NBA Street Vol. 2: Team Up for Some Streetball with Michael Jordan
NBA Street proved to be a tremendous hit, with the rising popularity of “streetball” encouraging EA Sports to design a way of fusing the genre with all 29 fully playable NBA teams. Although the original was a hit, we preferred Vol. 2 due to the fact that:
1) It features an excellent soundtrack featuring hip-hop legends such as Nate Dogg, Nelly and MC Lyte
2) You can play three-on-three alongside an AI-controlled Michael Jordan at three different stages of his basketball career
NBA 2K11: Relieve Jordan’s Career in the Most Realistic Sim
The absolute sweet spot of basketball video gaming was found with NBA 2K11. It was a beautiful blend of fun arcade-style gaming, inspired by NBA Jam and NBA Street, along with more contemporary realistic sims such as NBA 2K16 that boasts cinematic visuals like something out of a movie. The game was centered on Michael Jordan, with the “Jordan Challenge” mode giving players the chance to recreate 10 of his most impressive achievements in the game.
It’s not only video game consoles that have had their imagination captured by the thrills and spills of NBA and college basketball. A host of the newest mobile iGaming apps in 2018 are beginning to offer basketball-themed slot action as well, with iGaming software pioneers Microgaming the brains behind the Basketball Star slot. You’ll take to the court and witness lots of NBA-themed symbols on the reels, ranging from gold medals and water bottles to shoes and players in action. Video slots such as these are also made in high-definition visuals and audio, providing a game console-esque gaming experience, even though you are playing for real money.
Where can the video gaming industry go next with NBA basketball? There’s no doubt that augmented and virtual reality will be heavily involved. The chance to transport gamers onto the court and step into the shoes of their favorite heroes will be one that’s difficult to pass up and is sure to keep the NBA brand alive and kicking in the next decade for gamers.