10. Virtua Striker (1994, Arcade)
Sega’s legendary AM2 team (also responsible for Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter) developed this groundbreaking title – the first football video game in history to use 3D player models. Being available only in arcades, Virtua Striker was designed for fast and furious action over serious simulation, but for those of us who crammed countless coins into the cabinet, it was the most realistic digital appropriation of the beautiful game we’d ever seen.
9. Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988, C64)
A spiritual successor to Andrew Spencer’s International Soccer, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer was the last great side-on football game of the 1980s. Brimming with options, advanced players could utilise techniques such as ‘5-direction’ passing, sliding tackles and backheels, all from a joystick with only a single fire button. The result was the first truly fluid football game, where you could string together some genuinely breathtaking moves. The goalies were still rubbish, though, natch.
More after the break...
8. Football Manager 2011 (2010, PC)
In its divorce with Eidos, Sports Interactive lost the Championship Manager name but carried on creating the only management games worth playing – and this edition is one of the greatest, adding a full 3D engine that, if you were so inclined, allowed you to watch every single pass, shot, tackle and horrendous goalkeeping error in a match.
Among the other innovations were press conferences – a small detail that served to add colour to an already frighteningly real football universe that featured no fewer than 117 playable leagues.
7. Kick Off 2 (1990, Amiga)
Kick Off 2 looked an awful lot like its predecessor, and it was really a combination of Kick Off and a couple of expansion disks, all carefully refined. But that attention to detail transformed an enjoyable but occasionally uncontrollable knockabout title into a product that demanded a lot more skill.
Along with tournaments, refs with varying moods and - crucially - fewer bugs, this Amiga sequel dropped the pace and boosted the controls, copious use of ‘aftertouch’ enabling you to fashion the kind of dazzlingly audacious shots of which even Matt Le Tissier would have been proud.
6. Sensible Soccer (1992, Amiga)
Sensible Software were fans of Kick Off 2 and football, but were irritated by the former’s shortcomings that didn’t - as they saw it - do justice to the latter. Sensible Soccer was their attempt to bring to gaming the feeling of how you imagined playing professional football would be, coupled with the kind of attention to detail only a true football geek possesses (including correct hair and skin colour for each of the players).
The game zoomed the viewpoint out, showing more of the pitch and enabling it to dispense with a Kick Off-style radar; passing and shooting was simplified and streamlined and everything was done on the frame, making the game extremely responsive. Until sequel SWOS arrived, this was the pinnacle of the genre.
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