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The 10 Best Sports Videogames of 2013

December 21, 2013  |  2:00pm
The 10 Best Sports Videogames of 2013

You’re allowed to not like sports. Don’t sweat it. But also don’t shoot any guff towards those of us who do. “Sportsball” jokes just make you look petty. And although sports videogames are regularly some of the best-selling and most popular games of the year, they rarely get the respect afforded to games that daringly ask you to kill every last resident of floating, turn-of-the-century sundown towns. Our list might play a little fast and loose with the concept of sports, and maybe even with the calendar our society has agreed upon, but it’s important to acknowledge the fine work and tremendous effort that goes into this much maligned corner of the industry. (One last caveat: the latest Football Manager would probably be on here, had I but world enough and time.)

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10. Powerstar Golf
I’ve had a deep, abiding love for the Hot Shots Golf franchise since the halcyon days of the summer of 1998, where the nightly routine went from bar to swimming pool to late-night golf tournaments on the PlayStation. Powerstar Golf is no Hot Shots, but it tries hard, and despite its cartoony aesthetic and breezy, simple-to-play nature, there’s enough depth to its mechanics to satiate more discerning digital linksmen.—Garrett Martin

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9. 9 Innings 2013
It’s weird that there are no team logos anywhere in this game. That’s off-putting. So are the many in-app transactions (although that’s unavoidable in 2013.) And technically it came out in 2012, although updates throughout 2013 kept rosters and stats current. Otherwise one of the best mobile baseball games continued its hitting streak with 9 Innings 2013, which is basically that weird half-formed game you’d play with baseball cards where you’d flick a small ball of paper, but combined with a baseball sim and slapped onto that tiny computer screen you keep in your pocket.—Garrett Martin

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8. NHL 14
The biggest problem with sports games is that their iterative design makes annualized sequels feel unnecessary. NHL 14 skates close to that trap. It isn’t that different from NHL 13, although a greater emphasis on the harder-hitting physics introduced in 13 leads to a game that’s more violent than expected at this late date. There may not be much grace to NHL 14’s take on hockey, but the speed and brutality of the real deal is on display. The special tribute mode to NHL ‘94 might miss what made that game so special, but it’s a fine diversion on its own.—Garrett Martin

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7. Baseball Superstars 2013
You don’t play Baseball Superstars simply for the baseball. 2013 even minimizes defense to the point where every player is basically the same on the field. This is a game for those who like to pitch and hit the ball. It doesn’t just focus on hitting and pitching, though—it’s also a relationship RPG where romancing different characters boosts different stats. The anime bad girl art is almost as eye-rolling as Dragon’s Crown, but the blend of dating and baseball is an irresistible team on a mobile platform. And bonus points for its relatively restrained approach to microtransactions.—Garrett Martin

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6. WWE 2K14
With its focus on the history of WrestleMania, WWE 2K14 is a nostalgia simulator, letting you step into Randy Savage’s boots when he wins his first WWF World Championship at WrestleMania 4, or guide John Cena to victory over Batista at WrestleMania XXVI. The core game might be too similar to the last few WWE titles, but at least the grappling engine is the smoothest and best since the classic AKI wrestling games for the Nintendo 64. WWE 2K14 sticks squarely to what it knows how to do, pulling in a few beloved legends for cheap but exciting heat.—Garrett Martin

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5. Gran Turismo 6
Racing games are almost obnoxiously deep. There are 1200 cars in this game. That’s just ridiculous. But it’s that absurd commitment to detail and variety, combined with a realistic approach to handling, that makes Gran Turismo 6 a favorite of race fans. And although it isn’t as visually stunning as the Xbox One’s Forza Motorsport 5, it also doesn’t have any of the microtransactions.—Garrett Martin

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4. FIFA 14
What’s really broken through in FIFA 14 is the depth of the Career Mode play. While not as OCD as the Football Manager franchise (the absolute gold standard for futbol hipster shut-ins) the robust front office elements between matches frustrate and surprise the way a great narrative game should. Painstakingly scouted transfers turn out to be junk, clutch squad members go through mood swings and dips in form, the board denies your fund requests, freak training injuries force total tactical rethinks, you can say stupid things that piss off your players, and it all makes the actual matches feel more important. The “Seasons” mode introduced a while back keeps the long-game promotion/relegation drama they added to the twitchy addictiveness of the online venue alive and well too. The franchise has never felt more physical or more immersive.—Martin Pavlinic

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3. MLB 13 The Show
Calling a sports game an RPG isn’t that novel or insightful of an observation these days. Almost every major sports game has an in-depth career mode, and many of them are quite good. MLB The Show’s “Road to the Show” is the best of the bunch, though. Guiding my player from the draft, through the minors and hopefully into the majors over the course of several seasons is more exciting than rescuing any kingdom, and introduces a deeply personal hook into the already enjoyable world of videogame baseball. Even better, I could pick up my season on the Vita and knock out a few games in bed at the end of the night or while I’m in transit. And on top of that, the latest MLB The Show remains the most realistic and in-depth videogame recreation of America’s pastime.—Garrett Martin

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2. NBA 2K14
There is a certain amount of kinetic joy in playing NBA 2K14, and it stems from the controls. Each relatively lifelike player has a unique speed rating, and when you have a fast one, you feel it. You feel how gigantic and lumbering the bigger players are. Nothing is floaty—except a floater, if you choose to shoot one—and having the ball in your hand, weaving through the lane and making the split-second decision between shooting or passing to the open man is consistently, bafflingly thrilling. You will, for lack of a better term, whoop and holler when you slam dunk the ball or block your opponent’s shot.—Adam Harshberger

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1. Ridiculous Fishing
As the title indicates, Ridiculous Fishing isn’t anything like real-life angling. The goal is to not catch fish for as long as possible—as soon as you catch one, your lure immediately returns to the surface. At which point every fish on your line is propelled into the air, where you have to shoot them down with a variety of guns. So it’s part fishing, part target shooting, and, as Joe Bernardi wrote in his review for Paste, also an infinite runner with a Metroid-style structure. Bernardi sums up why Ridiculous Fishing is our favorite sports game of the year: “Catching the most fish possible means evading fish on the way down, and evading non-fish space on the way back up, and the psychological stickiness of the process makes Ridiculous Fishing one of the more addicting iOS titles in recent memory.”—Garrett Martin and Joe Bernardi

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