The Best Basketball Video Games of All Time That Changed the Game

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When it comes to hoops video games, you can’t really go far wrong with the latest in the 2K series. This is the official franchise of the NBA and therefore has all the players, teams, and personalities that you see on your TV screens during the season. A new version of the game is released every year so that it stays completely up-to-date – and they rarely disappoint.

But that does mean that if we were to list the best basketball games, they might look very same-y. That’s why we have decided to profile some of the best hoops games of all time that don’t fall under the 2K banner.

As the season gets going and fans across the world look for the best NBA betting websites to make their own predictions, here are some of the finest basketball games to play between the actual real-live games.


If your biggest gripe with the 2K series and modern basketball games is that they are too realistic, then we have something special for you. This is one of the highest-earning arcade games of all time and the arcade element is exactly what made it so popular for gamers in the early 1990s.

Released in 1993, NBA Jam allowed players to slam comically monstrous dunks and enjoy fire graphics during two-on-two sessions with players from all the teams in the NBA. With no fouls or free throws, gamers could concentrate on the fun elements of the game and not have to worry about those pesky rules.

NBA Street Vol. 2

It is not surprising that another of the most popular basketball video games of all time is one that dispenses with the official rules of the NBA and concentrates on its close cousin – street ball. Add to the mix an incredible soundtrack that brought the whole hoops from the streets vibe to life, and you have a sure-fire winner.

Players were allowed to opt for a more manageable three-on-three format and, with less exaggerated moves than the aforementioned NBA Jam, there was some skill in controlling the team. Just like real street ball, tricks and moves were as highly rated as points-scoring abilities and this title proved that there is nothing more important than the respect of the streets when it comes to hoops.

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NBA Showtime

This title has gone under the radar a little but NBA Showtime, tied in with the late 1990s NBC pre-game show was great on the N64 especially and gave gamers 3D graphics for the first time ever in a basketball context. It was the mixture of reality and sheer lunacy that players really enjoyed.

There were real teams and players to choose from, but it was the extras that really made this game stand out. Hot players were announced to be “on fire” and allowed for unlimited, incredible shooting skills, while a wide range of non-hoops characters could also be chosen for your team to help with the arcade feel.

NCAA March Madness 2003

Much like the NBA series we enjoy today, the NCAA March Madness games were all good, no matter what year you purchased. We’ve gone for the 2003 version here but any of the 11 in the franchise will have you wondering why the decision was made to stop producing them.

If you are in any way a basketball fan, you will know that as good as the NBA is, nothing really compares with March Madness. It’s called “madness” for a reason, you know? Playing these titles now also gives you the added satisfaction of choosing players who eventually made it big as pro stars in the NBA.

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Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

We used to love games like this. Forget about picking a team and trying to take it to the NBA Finals. Just give me one-on-one gameplay that pits two of the best basketball players of all time against each other in a series of different tasks and game types.

Released back in 1988, this game – as the name suggests – allowed players to choose either Celtics legend Larry Bird or His Airness himself, Michael Jordan. With apparently no need for official licenses in those days, Jordan vs. Bird was almost like a mini All-Star Weekend and gave players the chance to prove which player was best. Only a Magic Johnson vs. Bird would have excited us more.

NBA Live 95

Before the 2K series became the go-to basketball title, EA Sports’ NBA Live was where it was at. This was the first one to be released under the “Live” banner, as opposed to the earlier incarnations with “Playoffs” and “Showdown” in the title. In the pre-PlayStation world, this was just about the most realistic hoops on the market and featured everyone’s favorite teams and players.

Gamers could even create their own teams and players and the gameplay was enhanced because of the turbo element to shots and movement. Depending on your age, this NBA game also represents a golden era for the league, when there were some real characters in the game and players that didn’t always toe the line.

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It is a shame that NBA Live is no longer with us as an annual event but if you do fancy the chance of transporting yourself back to the mid-1990s, then this game is ideal.


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