It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, sports games are always in season. They can take the edge off a painful loss; keep hope alive during a lengthy lockout, or provide a few moments of joy during the offseason. And, of course, they’re a lot of fun to play with other people. We’ve compiled a list of the 5 best sports game on the market today. Our list covers pretty much every major sport in North America (sorry, no Rugby or Cricket), and highlights the franchises that have truly captured the look and feel of their game. Read on to see which games you should be playing when watching the real thing is just not enough. 1 | FIFA 12 | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Even non-soccer fans are aware of how much the FIFA series has dominated sports games. EA Sports’ footy sim has remained a worldwide hit for years thanks to its yearly technical innovations that have made the game more realistic and more fun at the same time. The newest iteration, FIFA Soccer 12, employs a number of revolutionary improvements, but the most impressive is easily the Impact Engine, which breaks new ground in realistically recreating the way players come into contact with each other. It may sound like a little thing, but the result is a virtual recreation, happening in real-time, that’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
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2 | NBA 2K12 | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC The basketball series developed by Visual Concepts and 2K Games is another one of those sports games series that has established a firm beachhead in the war for positive critical response. So much so that they scared EA Sports off from even releasing a competing basketball game in 2011. The superlative simulation is rounded out by a ridiculous host of modes, one of which stands up as something other video-game sports makers should be trying to emulate. NBA’s Greatest mode lets you play classic players against each other in historical matchups. The care and attention that went in to the mode’s development shows a love and respect for their sport that more sports games need. 3 | MLB 11: The Show | PlayStation 3 The best-looking sports franchise on the market today, bar none. MLB 11: The Show features incredibly realistic animation, great highlight reels, and realistic looking fans who will wave from the stands after a home run and try to snag foul balls. It’s the sort of game that can hold even non-sports games transfixed. MLB 11 revamps the controls in a way that utilizes the analog thumbsticks, making pitching and hitting much more intuitive than before. And the offline franchise mode continues to be deep and fun to use. All that’s really holding it back is its online play, where the lag plays havoc with the precise nature of the hitting. 4 | Skate 3 | Xbox 360, PS3 There was a time when it didn’t seem like any game could unseat Tony Hawk as the de facto skateboard game, but that’s exactly what Skate did. Trading in the more arcadey style of that series for a nuanced, realistic approach, the Skate series now sits as the best of the best for skate sims. Further refining the formula that made the previous games so good, Skate 3 adds even more venues, new difficulty modes (to make the game harder or easier, your choice), and a more expansive tutorial than ever before. If you ever wanted to thrash like those kids you see in the parking lot, but you don’t want to suffer the major head trauma you get from wiping out, Skate 3 is the game to play. 5 | NHL 12 | Xbox 360, PS3 NHL holds the distinction of being GamePro’s favorite office sports game for a reason: it’s the best and most consistent EA Sports title this side of FIFA 12. And NHL 12 is particularly strong, sporting big improvements to the physics and the presentation. Finally, it’s possible to achieve your dream of getting into a fight with a goalie. Thanks to the physics engine, the puck ricochets around the rink more realistically than ever before, with little touches including the ability to knock the net off its moorings. It’s an exceptionally smooth and entertaining sports game with one of the best franchise modes in the genre, and certainly deserving of your attention.