The best editions of PES and FIFA: The games that shaped football’s greatest (virtual) rivalry

It’s PlayStation and Xbox's equivalent of United-City, Arsenal-Spurs and Liverpool-Everton. Sports games guru Ben Wilson picks out the key virtual kickabouts that have dominated our social lives over the last two decades... 

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of gaming’s greatest sporting rivalry. In a realm where we were once spoilt for choice – Sensi, Actua, FIFA, PES and more – now only two football games enter the conversation regarding which to buy at the outset of any given season.

Here, then, we revisit the nine key games – four FIFA, five PES – which saw all rivals eliminated, and sparked a fiery feud that shows few signs of being extinguished.

FIFA International Soccer (1993)

Electronic Arts’ debut footballing foray, after previously focusing solely on American team sports. Before this the only credible football games on console had been viewed from an overhead perspective, such as Super Kick Off. EA’s fresh spin on the sport delivered an isometric vantage point, fully animated player sprites and thunderous 30-yard rocket shots – although one shortcoming was the ease with which you could score from distance. Curiously, despite the company forking out for the official FIFA license, all 48 teams featured fake kits and player names. That oversight wouldn’t last.

Goal Storm (1996)

Many incorrectly assume International Superstar Soccer is Pro Evo’s grandaddy. In fact, the former was always developed by Konami’s Osaka studio, whereas PES is a Konami Tokyo game. PS1’s Goal Storm was the latter studio’s first football effort, featuring only international teams and fairly crude ball-stuck-to-feet action. Yet such failings were a blessing in disguise. They inspired Konami to place a bright young talent named Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka in charge of follow-up ISS Pro – and he would single-handedly remould the entire footballing genre over the ensuing decade.

FIFA 97 (1996)

By now EA’s finances had stretched to licences for real teams, leagues and player names – and John Motson on commentary – setting the tone for the next two decades. This was its first outing on PlayStation (in addition to last-gen machines such as SNES and Mega Drive), and remains notable for its fabulous-on-every-format indoor football mode. It would subsequently, and sadly, disappear, with FIFA Street the closest thing to a comeback for this much-loved feature. With that spin-off series now on indefinite hiatus, we’d love to see six-on-six make a 20th anniversary comeback in FIFA 17.

ISS Pro Evolution (1999)

The PS1 game which saw critics deserting FIFA and signing over their futures to Seabass’ virtual revolution. On the pitch it played phenomenally, with every footballing fundamental now possible using a few almost-effortless controller presses, and all from a side-on, TV-style perspective. Off it, it introduced Master League – a sixteen-team competition in which you managed a side made up of fictional players, but could buy real ones with currency earned from victories. If you ever fell in love with the likes of Espinas, Valery, Castello and Ximenes, you owe a significant debt of thanks to this beauty.