Sports video games typically have a large following of players that are addicted to the game. Furthermore, NBA video games arguably have the most devoted fans, followed closely by NHL and Madden. This is due to the fact that everyone strives to be the greatest when it comes to dominating the court, breaking ankles, and hitting game-winning shots. By doing this, you'll experience what it's like to play alongside the greats and enter the spotlight. And you can best feel that experience with the best basketball games of all time.
Every game on this list stands out either because it introduced something novel and defining to the basketball game genre. That, or the game simply stood out as a blast of action and slam dunking fun. After saying that you've probably already guessed what game we're hinting at. Whatever the case, these are the games that helped shape basketball video games to the point where they are now, and as a result, they rank among the top five basketball games of all time in our opinion.
5. NBA 2K14
Basketball video games are perhaps the most prominent example of how 2K Games has seemingly taken over the sports video game market. They've practically had a monopoly on the genre with their 2K series, publishing a new installment every year for the past 20 years. The hardest part of that is attempting to come up with a title that feels refined and new, somehow improving on the year's previous one. It's not always easily accomplished, but NBA 2K14 was one game that did it successfully.
The addition of MyPark is primarily credited for this. This made it possible for players to enter the virtual park using their MyPlayer and engage in online street basketball games. It also gave you more of a reason to grind your MyPlayer, as the real competition rested in the online street courts. Additionally, the ability to team up with friends greatly improved the experience. NBA 2K14 set MyPark into the spotlight, which, unsurprisingly, ended up being the game mode players were most excited to grind in the 2K games that followed.
4. NBA 2K2
It may come as a surprise that NBA 2K2 is making an appearance among the best basketball games of all time, but there is strong reasoning behind it. For its time, NBA 2K2 on the Sega Dreamcast was way ahead of its time. Additionally, NBA 2K2 included a number of additions that significantly helped to shape the games that came after it. Such as the option for Exhibition, Practice, and Tournament mode. On top of that, there was a Fantasy and Franchise mode, with adjustable season games.
The game also changed the series in terms of gameplay. On defense, you could now make set play calls, with a total of seven to choose from. It was also the first time that you could steal the ball in the game, making for a lot of exciting fast breaks. All of these factors made the game a more engaging and immersive experience, with players having to prove their skills full-court. These series-defining factors, undoubtedly rank NBA 2K2 among the best basketball games of all time, but the cherry on top is the inclusion of all-time greats like Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlin.
3. NBA Jam
One of the first to ever do an arcade-style basketball game ultimately ended up being the best. There's just something about throwing down comically large and explosive dunks with your favorite players that is tirelessly enjoyable. And we mean it, as NBA Jam is actually the highest-earning arcade sports game of all time, racking in more than $1 billion in revenue.
Evidently, players couldn't get enough of the high-flying, fast-paced basketball that came with NBA Jam. From dunking from the three-point line to shattering the backboard, every point in the game came with a blast of excitement. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition was recently taken out of the PlayStation and Xbox shops, which is unfortunate because we believe many fans would kill for another chance to enjoy the game's momentous fun.
2. NBA Street Vol. 2
If you remember NBA Jam, then you most likely also remember NBA Street Vol. 2. The game most strongly resembled a less exaggerated version of NBA Jam, but the enjoyment was nonetheless all there. There is an iconic soundtrack, which is pretty much essential when it comes to streetball. On top of that, there is a roster of 29 unlockable star players, that could be teamed up into a superteam trio. This made the game even more intense and exciting.
What added to this excitement was the list of “game-breaker” moves. The flashy ankle-breaking moves really were a highlight, on top of the heavy dunks you could throw down. All around NBA Street Vol. 2 was a fast and fun adaptation of basketball that really delivered in the simplest form, but that's all that players wanted. To easily boot up the game and get into a match with the superstars, they probably just watched on TV.
1. NBA 2K11
As we've already mentioned, it's really challenging to produce new and entertaining 2K basketball games consistently year after year. However, one game that succeeds its year with flying colors and is still remarked by most as the best basketball game of all time is NBA NK11. Most notably what made it stand out was the inclusion of Michael Jordan back in the game, which also featured the “Jordan Challenge”. This lets you relive his most iconic moments and with it brought some legendary teams back to the game.
Overall the game was packed full of nostalgia, and you could really feel the excitement it brought while playing. This, however, only advances the game so far because each element must function flawlessly for it to be the best. Well to no surprise, it did succeed in every aspect of graphics, performance, gameplay, and even soundtrack. Overall, the game had to be the best presentation of a basketball video game we have ever seen, in just about every aspect.