7 Best Basketball Video Games

Basketball video games have been around for decades, with people competing against their friends locally and others online in more recent times. The early releases did not exactly fully resemble the game, but technology and overall improvements have come a long way.

The best, most in-depth games are all going to be recent releases, but that does not make them the greatest basketball video games of all time necessarily. The ones that make this list all live on today for what they brought to the table at the time. In fact, some people even enjoy playing these games now as a bit of nostalgia.

1. NBA 2K21

The latest release of the NBA 2K series must make this list for a variety of reasons. For starters, this is the ultimate simulation NBA basketball game at this time. Every year, small improvements are made to keep an edge. Many are surprised with what 2K brings the table every year, and this was an especially impressive year with the release of the new consoles.

Players have their pick of fun game modes that they want to participate in. Some like to do a simulation where they are playing very much like actual basketball. Others want to play a fantasy type of game where players are overpowered, and they can collect cards to get better and better players. They will go up against others in what is called MyTeam, and compete for prizes if they want. Finally, there is MyCareer mode, which allows people to take their own individual player and team up with others to compete casually or in leagues.

NBA 2K21 is the first game to be released on the newest consoles. Many people are very excited to see what this console brings to the table this year, and in the future. There is certainly a lot of opportunities for the franchise to grow now that they have new technology to work with. It is one of the best sellers in sports video games right now, so 2K sports has the money to continually make enhancements.

2. NBA 2K11

Most people pointed NBA 2K11 as the true turning point of basketball franchises. Up until this point, EA Sports had a very sizable following with their NBA Live series. More and more people began converting to NBA 2K, but it went to another level with NBA 2K11. This was an opportunity to relive a lot of the career of Michael Jordan in a special mode, and getting his rights alone became a huge deal.

Since that point in time, NBA 2K has done whatever possible to make sure that they hold onto the rights of Michael Jordan. They have also built out their game to make them the clear number one favorite as of right now. They have gained such a sizable lead that people wonder if NBA Live will ever truly come back the way people expected it to. 

It has noow been a decade since NBA 2K11 released, and some people play it to this day. No, it is not going to have the latest updated rosters, but there is enough content for a fan of the sports history to stick with it occasionally.

3. NBA Jam

Known as the ultimate arcade basketball game, NBA Jam is a fun and exciting alternative to actual basketball. It is a two-on-two game that consists of two players with oversized heads, sprinting around the court and pulling off crazy moves.

One of the great things about NBA Jam is that the games move quickly, and having just two players on a team put a stronger emphasis on individual moves. There were also several catchphrases from the announcer of the game, which has helped it stay part of video game culture to this day.

There were many releases beyond the original version, but there is something to be said for that first release. To this day, NBA Jam is available on newer platforms, as well as mobile devices. The rosters get updated occasionally and the graphics are a bit better, but the simplistic playing style is what gravitates a lot of people to the game. It is easy enough to learn for people who barely play video games to get into it and stay competitive.

4. Double Dribble

This old-school video game certainly does not live up to the high standards of today’s world, but that does not mean that people thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of the first games where a person could play 5-on-5 basketball, and it became a hot seller almost right away.

For nostalgia purposes, some people will go back to this game and try it out every once in a while. It is certainly filled with a lot of nostalgia, especially when looking at the rosters. For a simple game of 5-on-5 that is not going to impress anyone with graphics, it is worth tracking down a system and give it a try once again.

5. NBA Street

Like NBA Jam, NBA Street made basketball into an extreme sport. Some people fell in love with the game and believed that this was an advanced version of NBA Jam in many cases. The moves were a little bit more ridiculous, there were chances to power up more frequently, and they boasted enhanced graphics.

The last NBA Street to come out was a while ago now, which is a little bit of a disappointment for casual basketball video game players. Everything is geared more towards simulation these days for the most part, but some people just like to enjoy a simpler game like what is offered with NBA Street.

6. NBA Live 95

This was not the first game of 5-on-5 video game basketball, but it was the one that made the most advances in the mid-90s. For that reason, it deserves mention on this list, as NBA Live 95 showed the world what the possibilities were.

Players started looking like actual players, and there was a good amount of customization available on NBA Live 95 as well. It is one of the games that really helped kickstart the growth of sports video games in general. There was enough depth to the game beyond just playing a single game as well.

To this day, many look back very fondly at NBA Live 95. It helps that the release was at the height of 1990s basketball, right in-between the two three-peats of the Chicago Bulls. For kids of that era, NBA Live 95 lives on to this day.

7. College Hoops 2K8

The final game to make this list is the only one that highlights the college basketball game. For a long time, college basketball video games released every single year for fans of that level. Only when they were complaints about using amateur athletes to profit off a game did companies stop production. Both 2K Sports and EA Sports put out college games up until the legal battles started to get out of hand.

There are a few newer versions out there from EA Sports and their NCAA basketball game, but College Hoops 2K8 is the most well-rounded option out there. Created by 2K Sports, it has a very in-depth career mode where players get the opportunity to recruit and persuade people to join their team. It’s one of the most in-depth gaming opportunities out there, and there is much more to it than just that.

All of the Division 1 schools at the time were represented in the game, which also adds some realism to the set up overall. There is even a solid representation of March Madness, which is what brings casual fans into college basketball. Finding a copy is a little difficult and fairly expensive, but it is worth it for those who want to have a taste of college basketball.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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