The 23 best football video games ever made: Sensi, FIFA, Virtua, PES and more

Championship Manager 01/02
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8. New Star Soccer (2012)

Blending elements of Sensible Soccer (overhead perspective), Football Manager (club negotiations) and numerous RPGs (the ability to level up your player and participate in extra-curricular activities), NSS is an essential buy for any tablet owner. Little-known fact: released for iOS in 2012, it’s actually been kicking around on various formats for 12 years, making it a true Jamie Vardy-like late bloomer.

7. Rocket League (2015)

Swap players for cars and turf for boost-pod-covered arenas and you have a recipe for the sort of addiction that sends D-list celebs to rehab. PS4’s near-flawless sports/driver hybrid is the ultimate game of risk vs reward, where one unlucky bounce or jammy deflection can torpedo the oversized ball into your own net – turning deserved victory into pad-slinging defeat. (But when the opposite happens: ooooooh yes.)

6. International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (1996)

Not, as many assume, the direct precursor to ISS Pro and PES – those games were made by Konami Tokyo, this Super Nintendo effort by Konami Osaka. Even so it marks the mid-‘90s’ cyber-footy peak, with recognisable sprites (Valderrama! Ravanelli!), speedy side-scrolling action and memorably hammy commentary. “Down the wing! It’s a biiiig kick! England win the shootout!” Alright, we made that last one up.

5. Football Manager 2014 (2013)

While the complex user interface can baffle to begin with, what’s underneath is a staggeringly detailed and supremely authentic management sim. Sports Interactive's fabled series improves year upon year – but this is where things all went a bit Minority Report. 

Improved AI in this edition meant opposing managers were far better switched on to your tactics, forcing you to switch up and think faster in every game. Then there were the managerial interviews you could sweet-talk your way through, setting out your aims and ambitions in a more refined way and sometimes allowing you to land bigger jobs than your CV deserved (that, or just pissing off your chairman-to-be). 

4. FIFA 98: Road to World Cup (1997)

Sure, the newest version is as flash as football games can get – but this list is about more than pure perfection. Many remember EA’s series most fondly on Sega’s Mega Drive; in retrospect, though, its isometric viewpoint looked flashy, but limited passing options and goal variety.

Instead, let's fondly remember the absolutely belting production that was FIFA 98: the intro music of Blur's Song 2, Des Lynam's "Yes, hello" opening gambit to every single match, 3D graphics that took things to a new level, and yes – oh yes – indoor five-a-side football. If you wanted to slide tackle the goalkeeper, you could (well prepared for the automatic red card); if you wanted to play as Malawai, you could; and if you wanted to edit players, teams or kits? No problem. Did we mention indoor football already?