The 25 best football games ever

20. International Soccer (1983, C64)

This C64 classic was the first truly great soccer game. Inspired by the earlier Intellivision Soccer, it utilised a side-on viewpoint, and had two seven-a-side teams battling it out for a chunky, pixelated cup. Despite creator Andrew Spencer not being a fan of football, he captured the feel of the sport, and squeezed throw-ins, corners and goal-kicks into the cartridge’s tiny memory. It’s also the one football game where you can sometimes head a ball half the length of the field - a bug Spencer noticed but left in because he thought it was funny.

19. Match Day 2 (1987, ZX Spectrum)

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Jon Ritman and Ocean teamed up for a sequel to Ritman’s original Spectrum smash hit. This time, the players looked a lot like bodybuilders, and the underlying mechanics had been suitably beefed up: along with a far superior deflection system, there was a league format, volleys, flicks and jumping. Shot strength was determined by a slightly awkward oscillating ‘kickometer’ and the pace was again slow, but this merely made for more strategic play. 

More after the break...

18. Actua Soccer (1995, PS1)

Its name and tagline may have been a shot across Sega’s bows (“There’s nothing virtual about Actua”), but Gremlin Interactive’s title was noteworthy for more than just a bit of snide trollery: it was the very first console football game to offer fully 3D players. These were motion-capped from Sheffield Wednesday stalwarts Chris Woods, Andy Sinton and Graham Hyde, providing a level of clogger realism never before witnessed on consoles. 

17. Kick Off (1989, Amiga)

Dino Dini’s 16-bit classic added an ingredient that hadn’t really been seen before in football games: speed. The little players darted about the pitch like they were dosed-up on something decidedly not allowed under FIFA’s code, and the ball was initially impossible to control, given that it didn’t remain glued to your feet.

But once mastered, Kick Off made every other football game suddenly seem dull and dated by comparison, even if it was at times the football game equivalent of juggling bars of soap while riding a unicycle down a hill. 

16. World Cup 98 (1997, PS1)

EA's FIFA series might now rule the football gaming world like some kind of digital Sepp Blatter, but it wasn't always thus. Back in 1998 it was merely one of several games vying for the hearts and minds of floppy fringed teens, and it was far from being the best.

The previous edition, 1997's Road To World Cup 98 had marked a big improvement though - while FIFA had always had the official licences, it finally had the gameplay to go with them too. World Cup 98 built on that in some style, keeping the free-flowing football of the previous title and adding in-game tactical changes.

It was all wrapped up in a slick World Cup skin that no other game at the time came close to, complete with commentary and unlockable classic games. Shame we had to put up with Chumbawamba's execrable Tubthumping every time it loaded though.

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