Basketball games have been around for well over two decades now and we can safely that this sport has been represented extremely well in the world of gaming. 2K and EA Sports, the two companies in charge of modern day basketball games, have been battling it out for years now; both trying to take the throne and establish their name as the best franchise.
EA Sports gave us a number of legendary titles with their renowned NBA Live series, whereas 2K have been doing their own thing with their NBA 2K lineup. With so many games of the same sport being out on the market, selecting only one and calling it best is by no means an easy task, but we've narrowed it down to five titles that we think are very much worthy of all the praise surrounding them. So without any further ado, let's start with our list.
#5 NBA Live 2005
Who doesn't remember NBA Live 2005? The first basketball game to introduce a proper slam dunk contest with its All-Star Weekend mode. If you owned this game back in the day, you will likely remember the hilarious yet genius comments during the dunk contest provided by none other than Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
The presentation of this game was just fantastic and it managed to truly capture the atmosphere of a real life basketball match. Boasting impressive visuals for the time, NBA Live 2005's player models looked great. This was especially noticeable with superstar players like Allen Iverson and the cover star Carmelo Anthony who played for the Denver Nuggets at the time.
The gameplay itself was very fun and immersive with the iconic sound effects that best came to life when you performed a highlight dunk. Offering a decent number of different game modes - especially the brilliant Dynasty mode - NBA Live 2005 is a basketball title that's well deserving of the number five spot on our list of best basketball games of all time.
#4 NBA Street Vol. 2
When speaking about street basketball titles, NBA Street Vol. 2 is the one game that simply has to be brought up. This game was the very definition of pure, arcade basketball fun. With its amazingly fluid and blazing-fast gameplay, it managed to perfectly capture and convey the exciting side of the sport of basketball.
Featuring a number of legendary, old school players, a variety of signature moves that complement said legends and their abilities - although blown way out of proportion to keep it as flashy as can be - NBA Street Vol. 2 is one of the craziest basketball games ever made.
Released 15 years ago, the game is still unbeaten in terms of sheer fun, and though we have been getting some streetball titles lately as well - such as the NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 - there can only be one king of streetball. And thus far, NBA Street Vol. 2 is sitting high up on that throne.
#3 College Hoops 2K8
If you want to experience college basketball, then College Hoops 2K8 is the perfect game for you. With the inclusion of the so called sixth-man meter which essentially made the crowd go wild if you played well, the true feel of a college basketball game was ever present in Hoops 2K8.
This game introduced a bunch of new features that are considered essential in modern day basketball games, such as lock-on defense, play vision, range meter and so on. The game's visuals were pretty solid for the time, with the very impressive looking arenas standing out the most.
The gameplay was very smooth and it did require a fair bit of skill, even on the lowest CPU difficulty, but once you learned how to play defense and execute certain plays, you were in for some sweet, competitive basketball. College Hoops 2K8 is a basketball title that provided a unique rendition of the sport and we would love to see a remaster sometime in the future.
#2 NBA Live 2003
Arguably the best basketball game ever made by EA, NBA Live 2003 has a deep-seated place in the heart of every fan of the sport. This game managed to achieve the perfect balance between simulation and arcade style of play. It simply played like a dream, and with its vivid looking visuals, it looked the part too - especially when you consider the technology of the time.
The soundtrack of the game was absolutely phenomenal, and we still get nostalgic chills from just looking at the game's cover with Jason Kidd on it. The game featured all the standard modes from exhibition to franchise, but its one-on-one mode called Freestyle was where the flashy fun was at. This mode allowed players to perform advanced dribble moves with the right analogue stick, which laid the foundation for the way dribble moves are executed in today's basketball games.
NBA Live 2003 is an iconic basketball game, and although EA have been having hiccups with today's editions of NBA Live, we still believe that they can manage to put out a title that's at least close to their 2003 masterpiece.
#1 NBA 2K11
We dare say that NBA 2K11 managed to set the bar extremely high - not just for basketball games, but for sports games in general. The attention to detail was crazy in this game, from simple things like the awesome Michael Jordan intro that lets you know that you're in for one hell of an NBA ride, to the extremely immersive gameplay that still holds the number one spot in the eyes of almost every basketball fan.
The game offers an insane amount of different modes, each of which is absolutely packed with the ever exciting NBA style of action. Signature moves were so realistic that you could really tell who an actual fan of NBA was and who was just a casual, because playing the mid-range game with Kobe Bryant was pretty much a cheat code. That's how true to the sport this game was.
The sounds, the visuals, the mechanics - NBA 2K11 excelled at them all. There's not a shadow of a doubt that this game is the absolute king of basketball games. Its sheer greatness is simply unmatched to this day.