Sports video games are one of the most popular genres on the market today. The yearly Madden roster update masquerading as a new game tops the best-seller list year after year. For sports fans, the appeal is obvious - you can take control of your favorite team and take them to the Championship. In later years, as consoles got more sophisticated, players would be able to create themselves in the game to be the QB, point guard or center fielder for their favorite teams.
However, that's all the good. There's plenty of bad. In the early days of Atari and NES, the older game systems couldn't really reproduce anything that looked or felt like a real sports experience. Also, in the early days, before the professional leagues and player unions realized how much money was in video games, there were plenty of games with full rosters of generic players with fake names. There was also a glut of terrible games "made" or "endorsed" by a sports star. Madden is one of the few holdovers from that era.
These misfires cover a broad spectrum though. Sports games didn't suddenly become perfect once they became corporate, as there are still bad sports games made today. The increase in technology and the death of generic teams/players hasn't stopped game developers from making some terrible lapses in judgment. Also, this list features entries from the world of Pro Wrestling, baseball, football, soccer, NASCAR, and even cricket, just to name a few.
20 Gaelic Games: Football
How did a game about a niche Irish version of Football (soccer) make the list? Just like any other game - by being outstandingly awful. Anticipation was very high in Ireland for this game, with some saying it was outselling the latest Call of Duty in Christmas 2005 pre-sales. Despite it being released on the Playstation 2, this game played more like an Atari demo. Gameplay didn't work, it looked horrible, and sound effects were at best repetitive, and at worst, several seconds late. The players didn't even have their names. How hard was it to negotiate with the Gaelic Players Association?
19 NFL Head Coach
When Madden added the "Franchise Mode," it gave fans the ability to control their teams for multiple seasons. Why win a championship when you can build a dynasty? There was free agency, the draft, trades, the whole shebang. It was almost a game within a game.
Until NFL Head Coach. It took the actual football part out and let you just run the team. You could call plays, but not watch the players actually perform them. It was the perfect game for someone that loves the simulate season button. Unfortunately, that's the worst button for people that like to have fun.
18 Royal Rumble
This game was a little notable for its boast about having nine wrestlers on screen at the same time - most games to this point maxed out at a tag match. But that was the only good point in its favor. The "Royal Rumble" mode inexplicably had a time limit and really worked more like a gauntlet/survival mode. Adding well, insult to insult, the roster was also so thin that there weren't even 30 wrestlers in the game to fill the normal Rumble length. The other big minus? If you didn't like the "Royal Rumble," the only other game mode was just a long line of random singles matches.
17 James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing
Raise your hand if you knew Buster Douglas' first name was actually James. Everyone with their hand raised is lying. Anyway, he rode his stunning knockout of Mike Tyson to a really bad video game with his name slapped on it. Sega essentially renamed a Japanese boxing game and branded it with Douglas to try and make a quick buck. Despite his real-life knockout, Nintendo's Mike Tyson Punch-Out! series would destroy this one in quality and sales, giving Sega the huge black eye instead.
16 Michael Phelps Push The Limit
When the XBox 360's Kinect came out, video game fans pictured the great uses down the line for motion capture in video games. There were even more great uses for sports games, from throwing punches and dodging in a boxing ring to trying to hit a curveball. Unfortunately, no one was dreaming of how it would translate to Olympic Swimming.
That didn't stop Michael Phelps though! This bomb was barely playable and encouraged players to flail around in ways that in no way resembled anything related to swimming. It didn't kill the Kinect, but we likely won't see any further Olympic Swimming video games in the near future.
Sacrilege? Maybe. But Pong is the most boring tennis video game of all time. There's really no reason why anyone is playing. There's only really one game mode too, and no real options or menu to speak of. It would have been nice to have tie-breaks and standard sets, but instead the game flatly goes up to 11. It's black and white with no colors at all, leading to a very bland visual design. This game is absolutely an influential game, but in terms of sports and sports video games, it falls well short.
14 Football Manager 2013
This series is very similar to NFL Head Coach, but just swapping in World Football for American Football. The concept isn't the worst, as the world of European Soccer has lots of tactical decisions, ins and outs, and whatnot. Lots of fans liked the series as a whole.
However, this instance, released on the PC, came out completely buggy and unplayable. It features a 3D engine where you can watch the game and give instructions, a big difference from the Head Coach series. However, this year's model was glitched to the point of being unplayable unless you turned the 3D engine completely off.
13 Beavis and Butthead: Bunghole in One
One could argue that just reading the title of this game would tell you everything you needed to know already, but this game was so much more worse than the title could promise.
Beavis and Butthead can be funny in small doses, but this game wears out its welcome quickly. The gameplay is also awful with unclear hole locations and one ridiculously impossible course.
12 White Men Can't Jump
There's no denying that it was a great movie, but the video game left a lot to be desired. This stinker has a unique claim - to be on lists for the worst sports game AND the worst movie game of all time. It also was bizarrely released three years after the movie came out, very different than today when games come out simultaneously, or even before, their movies.
The movie was based on street basketball, which is a widely popular setting for sports video games. Part of the game mechanics were managing money and betting on games to get entry into tournaments, which seems decent enough. Sadly, the actual basketball game play was dire, with it being nearly impossible to make shots or move your player where you wanted to go. It also goes without saying that Wesley Snipes or Woody Harrelson are nowhere to be seen.
11 WWE Crush Hour
Any time a game manages to be awful in two different sports at once has to be recognized. WWE Crush Hour did just that, being a horrible wrestling AND racing game at the same time. The idea of gaudy WWE wrestler themed vehicles isn't the worst in the world. Demolition derby type games can be really great, but this was a disaster. Wrestling fans didn't exactly line up for a game with the worst gameplay elements of Mario Kart and Twisted Metal rolled into one awful package.
10 Mega Man Soccer
Before you ask, there was no indication of soccer fans having any interest in the Mega Man series before this game came out. No doubt one of the weirder sports games ever released, it didn't have to be so bad. The Super Mario Strikers games have proven that it can work.
Mega Man Soccer was borderline unplayable however, having sluggish controls whenever too many characters were on screen. And those characters included the bizarre twist of having each team be multiple copies of each character at every position.
9 Madden Football 64
It's possible for even a storied franchise like Madden to make one of the biggest missteps of all time. This game wasn't made in 1964 or even in the future to 2064 - it was the first entry for the Nintendo 64 game system. The transition was a little rough. The hit detection was awful, even for the old Super Nintendo entries, so that didn't change much. Also, the NFL wasn't on board with this entry - so there are no team names, stadiums or even the Super Bowl. Madden would get back on top to stay, but this was part of the time in the late 90s when the 2K Sports games got closest to taking over.
8 NASCAR Rumble
Another misstep in the crossover genre, this game took the NASCAR license with the stock car history and famous names and slapped it on a bad Twisted Metal/Mario Kart hybrid. The second "extreme racing" type game on the list, NASCAR Rumble is more notorious for having actual racers in the jokey arcade and power-up heavy game.
There have been many bad NASCAR games, but this stands out as the worst. Like other hybrid games, Rumble fails to be much fun as a legitimate racing game nor as a cartoony Mario Kart clone.
7 Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball
Getting past the weird choice of Bill Laimbeer to be the name on a basketball game, this game had a chance based on its odd premise. In the year 2030, Bill Laimbeer starts a basketball league where all violence is legal. This leads to weapons, powerups and everything shy of murder. Unfortunately, the gameplay shows everything from an odd overhead camera and the impossible controls snuff out any chance of this being a hit.
6 Kurt Warner's Arena Football Unleashed
Back in 2000, the sporting world was caught up in Kurt Warner's rags to riches story, with him going from Arena Football player to Super Bowl MVP. After such a dramatic story, this cash-grab game was sure to follow. It never quite addresses what Arena Football needs to be unleashed from however. The game was a basic NFL Blitz clone, putting Warner's name on the same engine. The stink would be so bad, no Arena Football game would come out for six years following this one.
5 Michael Jordan - Chaos in the Windy City
This was a mess all around. Michael Jordan was the greatest player alive and well on his way to mogul status, and somehow decides to put his name on a clone of one of Shaq's bad ideas? This had little to do with basketball other than the characters and fighting elements. What it had a lot to do with was making money, as the controls and graphics were very obviously cheap. We're a little more cynical and used to product placement now, but this game was very obnoxious and blatant with it, sticking out like a sore thumb among other games from the same era.
4 Slam City with Scottie Pippen
Mark it down, as this is a rare time you'll see Scottie Pippen top Michael Jordan on a list, since this game went above and beyond Jordan's embarrassment. While Slam City is at least based in basketball games, its weird FMV concept was more watching a grainy movie of basketball footage than controlling. He also went for the Sega CD system that never really caught on. Fortunately for Pippen, this game would largely die away with SEGA in general and no one would be able to hear his performance of the game's theme song.
3 Outlaw Tennis
If you ever thought that the one thing missing from tennis was a Jewish ninja or an alcoholic punk girl, Outlaw Tennis is the game for you. A cast of extreme, hardcore, and trying way too hard to be offensive characters fills out a pretty standard tennis game. It's also disheartening to hear the great Stephen Colbert, before the Colbert Report, as the announcer, repeating the same stale and unfunny lines over and over. If you need more extreme characters like "Ice Trey, king of the wigger" in your life, you could also check out Outlaw Golf and Volleyball.
2 Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona
It isn't enough for this game to be a soccer game where you only control the goalie, making 3-6 saves per game. That would be bad enough, but the entire game is a childish whine about one of the most famous plays in Soccer history.
Peter Shilton was the English goalie during the "Hand of God" World Cup goal by Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. This game was already in production as "Peter Shilton's Football," but after the game, he got the release title changed to "Handball Maradona" on all of the promotional materials. It was so last minute that it doesn't appear in the game at all, showing just how cheap of a cheap shot it was.
1 Ashes Cricket 2013
This bomb would get a spot on a general list for the worst video games ever. It's even more jarring to see a game so recent make this list. Ashes Cricket 2013 came out online ahead of a planned release for consoles later. It was quickly obvious that the game was half-broken, with outdated graphics and other bugs making the game unplayable.
It only lasted four days online before being pulled from release. Everyone that had tried to play it got a refund and all further versions and releases were cancelled. It was a major black eye for the studio and a waste of the cricket license that's hugely popular throughout the world.