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Sports games can be great fun, whether you like the actual sport or not. This was especially true for games in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. As hardware got more powerful, the games got more complex, more closely resembling the sports they were based on. This is great for hardcore sports fans but not for more casual players.
Fortunately not every game is quite so daunting. We’ve gathered together a few games that are fun whether you’re a fan of the sport they’re based on or not. In some cases, even the sport itself doesn’t actually exist!
1. Rocket League
Rocket League was released in 2015 but is still immensely popular. This is largely due to the nature of the game: it’s incredibly easy to learn, but mastering it is another thing entirely. Think of it as soccer but with cars, and also the cars are rocket powered, hence the name. As you master the controls, you can pull off increasingly tricky maneuvers, making the game as fun to watch as it is to play.
2. What the Golf?
One of the first major hits on Apple Arcade, What the Golf? is ostensibly a golf game, but it doesn’t stay just a golf game for too long. To describe the twists and turns this relatively short game takes would make them less fun to discover as you play the game, so I’ll just say that this is much more than a golf game, and it can also be hilarious at times.
3. Mario Tennis Aces
If you want to liven a sports game up, put Mario in it. It’s a proven formula that works for kart racing, golf, and tennis. There have been multiple entries in this series, and they’re all worth playing (aside from the Virtual Boy game) but Mario Tennis Aces is the latest installment. This game is best played with friends in the same room, but there is online multiplayer as well.
4. Mutant Football League
Released in 1993 for the Sega Genesis, Mutant League Football was a gory, campy take on football, and it happened to be a lot of fun. Mutant Football League (note the different order of words in the name) is a spiritual successor to that game that also takes cues from the arcade classic NFL Blitz. While NFL fans will get a kick out of some of the player name references, you don’t need to know a thing about the actual sport in order to have a blast playing this game with friends.
5. Golf Story
If you ever played the Camelot-developed Mario Golf games like Mario Golf: Advance Tour on the Game Boy Advance, you have an idea of what to expect here. Golf Story is largely an RPG that uses golf instead of the standard turn-based combat. A sequel, Sports Story was recently announced for the Nintendo Switch, so this is a great time to start with the first game in the series.
Windjammers isn’t based on an actual sport, but I kind of wish it was. This game was originally released in arcades in 1994, but recent ports have made it available on modern systems, complete with online multiplayer. The game is essentially Pong with special moves, but the fast-paced fun of tossing the disc back and forth doesn’t seem to get old, no many how many rounds of the game you play.
7. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020
Games that try to capture the spirit of the Olympics rarely do, and they’re rarely good games. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020 doesn’t do a great job of being a sports game, but as a collection of mini games to play with friends, it’s not bad. If you’re looking for a game to play with friends or family that don’t play many games, this is probably your best bet.