While sports fans love to watch their favorite athletes on game day fight and work hard towards victory, they also yearn for the ability to be those athletes, control their movements and be in their shoes come game time.

Well, sports video games are about as close as us average Joes can get to being under the big lights on game day. These videogames let fans simulate their hopes and dreams on the field and are very popular as a result. There have been some fantastic sports video games, and here are our picks for the 10 best of all time.

17. Pong (1972)

Released in 1972, Pong is not only credited as one of the earliest arcade video games, but it is the very first sports video game ever made. And for being the first sports video game, Pong deserves a spot on this list. Which sport is Pong? Why it’s table tennis, of course. And while the two dimensional graphics in this game may seem antiquated today, this game was the bomb when released in 1972. In fact, Pong was the first commercially successful video game ever and paved the way for the entire video game industry as we know it today. No Pong, maybe no PlayStation or Xbox or Nintendo. And while some people may find Pong overly simple, it is featured in a number of museums around the world and in various art institutes. Every other sports video game on this list owes a debt to Pong.

16. NBA Jam (1993)

Remember the Sega Genesis? Who can forget, right? One of the premier sports video games for the Genesis (and also the Super Nintendo) was 1993’s NBA Jam, which gets honors for being the first truly great basketball video game. Adapted for home console use from the super popular arcade game of the same name, NBA Jam had incredibly easy and fun gameplay that allowed players to engage in helicopter slam dunks and incredible three point shots. This was also one of the very first NBA approved and licensed game, which means you got all the stars of the day (except Michael Jordan, regrettably). Gamers could take their real life basketball heroes and make them jump high, flip dunk, and drain three pointers from half court. A remake for the Xbox 360 and PS3, with updated graphics, teams and rosters, was also an incredible arcade basketball experience. And who can forget the expression “He’s on fire!”

15. Baseball Stars (1989)

Another classic Nintendo sports game from the 1990s, Baseball Stars was an addictive game largely because it enabled players to create and build their own baseball team, and kids spent hours building every team imaginable. Baseball Stars was also, lest we forget, the first sports game with a battery backup, enabling players to create and save to memory a team of Hall of Famers. And, the more a person played the game, the more money they earned and that money allowed them to upgrade players and build stronger teams. This was a novelty concept in video games back in the late 1980s, but upgrading your character or player is a staple of almost every game today. Another pioneering innovation in this game was that players could use a pre-set team of all-time great baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaronm and Cy Young, to name only a few. Add in the ability to keep accurate stats for every player, including batting averages and home run totals, and you’ve got the making of a super fun and highly influential video game. One could argue that Baseball Stars set the bar for every sports video game that came after it.

14. FIFA Soccer 10 (2009)

EA has released a lot of great soccer games over the years. But none have been more groundbreaking than FIFA Soccer 10 released in 2009. With this game, developers introduced a new engine that resulted in unmatched artificial intelligence and mind blowing animation. FIFA 10 also featured innovative new modes such as Online Team Play and Ultimate Team, that continue to influence literally every sports game released over the past decade. The combination of connectivity, computing power, and graphics worked seamlessly in this game and made it really special for gamers. The 360 degree dribbling in this game alone was huge compared to previous versions. But when taken with the other elements, it made FIFA 10 a more realistic soccer video game than any other FIFA. Gamers have praised FIFA 10 as being a giant step forward in the series, which continues to sell millions of copies every year.

13. WWF No Mercy (2000)

Wrestling video games have been largely hit and miss. However, there’s no topping 2000’s WWF No Mercy. Jumping off ladders, body slamming opponents through the announcers table, and backstage brawls were just a few of this game’s high points. No Mercy is also considered the greatest multiplayer wrestling game ever created. Hailed by critics for its depth, No Mercy appealed not only to wrestling fans, but also to gamers who had no interest in professional wrestling. Most people just loved the game play and violence. Plus it featured more
match types and more wrestlers than any similar game that came before it. Players were able to grab weapons from the ringside barricade and could call on an incredible number of wrestling moves and combinations to subdue opponents. Gamers could spend owners in the create-a-wrestler mode alone, refining their perfect custom grappler. Still considered the definitive wrestling game, No Mercy is the video game that designers and engineers study before embarking on their own wrestling game creations.

12. SSX (2012)

Probably the best snowboarding game there is, SSX features mountains that were literally built from NASA topographical data, with more than 150 death defying drops for virtual snowboarders to explore within the game. There is also the threat of avalanches to keep gamers on their toes. Players literally find themselves racing for their life in this game. Plus you can accidentally miss a jump and fall to your death. Reviewers gushed over SSX when it was released in 2012, calling it the most ambitious ski or snowboarding video game ever made. And everyone loved that you could customize a music playlist for the game, and have the music remixed on the fly based on how you were riding. Plus, how can you not love a video game that used NASA satellite data to reconstruct the crater summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. So awesome.

11. NHL ‘94 (1993)

Coming in just outsode of the top ten is NHL ’94, which was the third installment of the yearly released video game starring your favorite NHL players. The reason NHL ’94 appears on this list over each and every other NHL game since is because of how revolutionary and well received it was from fans and critics alike. First of all, the game introduced a number of ground-breaking features such as the ability to shoot one timers, save your records, and an overall revamping of the controls which made for a much smoother and better-playing game. The game was also the first to introduce team specific organ songs, which was huge for 1993, when the game was released. Overall, it was loved by both fans and critics and is called not only one of the best sports games of all time, but one of the best games period.

10. Madden NFL 06 (2005)

Now this choice may surprise some people, but it was a truly revolutionary game in a series that is known for having very little innovation from year to year. Madden NFL 06 introduced a number of new features such as Superstar Mode, QB Vision Control and Precision Passing. Superstar Mode was a huge addition, as it allowed the player to create and take control of an NFL player from his rookie season all the way until retirement. Though the addition wasn’t universally loved, it was, without a doubt, one of the biggest additions to Madden in years and was a welcomed change to a game that is normally nothing more than a roster update.

9. NBA Live 2005 (2004)

This is still perhaps the best NBA Live game to date, even 10 years later. NBA Live 2005, which featured Carmelo Anthony on the cover, had perhaps the best gameplay with the new EA Sports Freestyle Air, which allowed for much more creativity and variety in the players dunks and tip-ins. But far and away the biggest feature that was added in this game was the addition of NBA All-Star Weekend. This mode allowed players to play in the Rookie vs. Sophomores Game, the All-Star Game, the Dunk Contest and the 3-Point Shootout. It was a great feature and has been a consistent feature in NBA games from then on.

8. NFL Blitz (1997)

NFL Blitz is probably the most fun you can ever have in an NFL video game. The series of games ran from the late 90s to the mid-2000s before it lost the NFL license. This game differs from any other football video game because of the speed and intensity of the game. Late hits, excessive celebrations, and showboating are not only allowed, but encouraged. The animations in this game were also hilarious and added some excitement that traditional games lack. This game was essentially the NFL equivalent of NBA Jam, with a more updated and modern feel.

7. NBA Street Volume 2 (2003)

This is far and away the most fun you can ever have with an NBA game. On top of being an extremely fun arcade game to play with great gameplay additions and a fast-paced street style, the game provides a number of different modes you can play. Perhaps the best of these modes is “Be a Legend,” where the player creates a baller and tries to go from a nobody to a superstar. These various features and game modes, along with an updated soundtrack and other sounds realistic to a street basketball game such as traffic, the crowd, sirens and more! The game also includes some humor, which is refreshing, as most sports games have none.

6. Wii Sports (2006)

This one, without a doubt, deserved a spot on this list due to the way it revolutionized sports video games forever. Wii Sports was the first title available for the Nintendo Wii system and is actually the second bestselling video game of all-time. The game uses the Wii’s revolutionary motion sensor capacity to make players feel like they are really in the game and playing in the sport. The game features five sports that the players can choose from: Boxing, Baseball, Golf, Tennis and Bowling. All of the games are extremely fun and even hold up in the modern day, even though the game is a decade old.

5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)

In another perhaps surprising addition, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 comes in at the number five spot. Building off the first game, this game took things to an entirely different level and had immense success through and through. In fact, this game still remains one of the highest rated video games of all time. The combination of updated trick sets, improved graphics/gameplay and various new features such as Create-a-Skater and the Park Editor made this a huge leap from the first game, and fans were LOVING it. The soundtrack in this game was also absolutely top notch and fit the style and setting of the game perfectly. You would be hard pressed to find a game that made so many solid improvements as a sequel of an already praised game.

4. Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Bo knows, baby! Released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo, Tecmo Super Bowl has attained legendary video game status that continues to resonate today. Tecmo Bowl was a great game from the very first time you played it. The simplistic game play combined with real players such as Bo Jackson, Christian Okoye, Derrick Thomas, Lawrence Taylor, and Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham made for a truly brilliant sports video game. Not surprising that Bo Jackson continues to do advertisements to this day about Tecmo Bowl, where his pixelated character was virtually unbeatable. But the key to this games success wasn’t just Bo Jackson’s invincibility. It was the strategy of offensive and defensive formations and play calling, and the ease with which the player could run various football plays. It is the simplicity of Tecmo Bowl that has made it a classic game. The fact that Bo Jackson is unstoppable in the game didn’t hurt either.

3. ESPN NFL 2K5 (2004)

This game, despite being a decade old, is probably still the most talked about NFL game today. This game was the last NFL game that was released by 2K because EA signed an exclusive deal with the NFL, thus forcing 2K to stop producing football games. While the gameplay and features of this game were top notch, there was one distinct factor that made this a historically great sports games: NFL 2K5 started out at a price of $19.99, which was less than half the price of Madden that same year, which caused Madden sales to plummet and made 2K poised to take over the spot of the top football game. However, soon after this is when EA reached an exclusive deal with NFL that basically eliminated 2K as competition. Either way, it says something about the greatness of this game when it is still talked about today, despite not putting out a sequel or next installment in a decade.

2. MVP Baseball 2005 (2004)

This is, without any doubt, the best baseball game ever put out in history, and is seen by many as the one of the best games of all time. MVP Baseball 2005 was released by EA and was simply amazing and way ahead of its time. It introduced the meter pitching system and zone hitting option. It also featured smooth animations, a ton of options, sliders and game modes. Graphically it looked a little cartoony, but the textures were great and the fluidity of the players was awesome, as was the control of the players during base running and fielding. The game was so good that it was actually included in the IGN reader’s choice top 100 games of all time.

1. Punch-Out!! (1987)

And coming in as the best sports video game is Punch-Out!!, which came out for the NES in 1987. Punch-Out!! features a boxer known as Little Mac working his way up the professional boxing ladder, facing a series of colorful, fictional boxers, leading to a final fight with real-life boxer, World Champion Mike Tyson. It is praised by many for its arcade-style fun over realism. It is seen as a true classic, and no other game in the fighting game genre will likely ever be as beloved as this. The game has sold millions of copies and finds itself a number of different lists such as the Gamespot reader poll, where it was voted the sixth best NES game of all time.