The 10 best tennis games ever

Tennis games have been around for as long as consoles have. As Wimbledon 2017 kicks off, here’s our list of the best of them

If you’re reading this after Wimbledon’s already started, there’s a good chance all the Brits are already out bar Andy Murray, who as defending champ will be under a wee bit of pressure.

Thanks to videogames, however, you can today take out your frustrations on anything from a rectangular white racket through to an uncanny valley representation of a famous tennis superstar.

Having trawled through the entire history of tennis videogames, here are Stuff’s 10 superstars that would make any true tennis fan grunt with delight.

 

 

1. Tennis for Two (1958, Donner Model 30 analog computer)

Proving videogames will show up wherever they possibly can, American physicist William Higinbotham subverted a machine designed for calculating ballistic missile trajectories, using its oscilloscope to display the path of a ball and a side-on tennis court (i.e. two lines). A pair of controllers enabled players to time hits and adjust return angles. 

At a lab visitor’s day, the game wowed, leaving other exhibits languishing in their inability to provide a basic abstraction of sport. A year later, Higinbotham upgraded the display (from five to 17 inches!), and added varying serve strengths and gravity effects, foreshadowing the games industry’s penchant for incremental upgrades and sequels.

2. Pong (1972, arcade)

If anything, Pong seemed like a step back from Tennis For Two, in that its abstraction of tennis was even less realistic, boasting a square ball and a court that had the ball bounce off of its edges. However, Pong ushered in the era of home gaming when it leapt from the arcades to cheap TV devices. And the game itself still holds up surprisingly well, due to its intuitive nature and varying deflection angles, and the ball getting faster the longer a rally goes on. 

3. Match Point (1984, ZX Spectrum)

By the time of the home micro, programmers were ambitiously attempting to recreate sports in a somewhat realistic manner (given the limitations of the machines), but most of the tennis games were woeful.

Match Point bucked the trend, with a fairly decent representation of a court and some surprisingly fast gameplay. Although it only had a single ‘swing racket’ control, it did enable you to change the nature of your shots depending on when you hit the ball, and you could provide extra power through striking it while moving forwards. You could say it was an 8-bit smash! (If you were into rubbish jokes.)

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