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What are the best sports games? The biggest names in sports gaming deliver new titles every year, but the best sports games options available to players also include some ongoing live service games, smaller franchises, and remastered classics that can’t be ignored. Whether you’re looking for a top sports game to tackle on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, or even PC, it can be overwhelming deciding where to turn your attention with so many on the market.
The genre itself has also continued to expand through the years. Different franchises can offer contrasting experiences even when simulating the same real-world sport, and innovation has even brought out games that invent an entirely novel virtual sport all of their own. Fortunately, a fair chunk of the best sports games available today are also accessible through subscription services. Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus can offer a variety of options to players, and those libraries include a few of the gold standards in sports gaming.
The best sports games are:
- MLB The Show 23
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
- NBA 2K23
- WWE 2K23
- Rocket League
- Out of the Park Baseball 2023
- FIFA 23
- AEW Fight Forever
- Madden 23
- NHL 23
1. MLB The Show 23
Kicking things off with arguably the best-crafted and most reliable massive sports gaming franchise around, MLB The Show 23 took the innovations of recent years and leveled them up with some of the cleanest gameplay around. As baseball simulations go, none are more visually stunning or more true to the full baseball game experience than what you’ll find in the game, as we mention in our MLB The Show 23 review.
While longstanding modes like Road to the Show, Diamond Dynasty, and Franchise delivered as they usually do, the biggest star of MLB The Show 23 is the new Storylines mode diving into the history of the Negro Leagues. This immersive documentary-style mode is littered with interviews, archival footage, and stories about eight of the most prolific players from the Negro Leagues era. No other sports game delivers on every level quite like MLB The Show 23. MLB The Show 23 is included in the Xbox Game Pass library for subscribers, and PlayStation Plus Premium members can take advantage of a free trial to test things out before buying.
2. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, a remaster of the critically acclaimed and widely adored originals, quickly outpaced two decades of games with the fastest first million units sold in franchise history just ten days after it launched. For players who remember the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles brought together for this game, they feel like a time capsule got a high-definition upgrade.
If you’ve never played the original releases, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is far and away the best option to relive a cultural phenomenon for the modern age. The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is still one of the highest-rated games of all time on Metacritic with a near-perfect 98 out of 100, and the development team at Vicarious Visions stuck with what worked while polishing and cleaning things up even more. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is not currently on Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, but discounts are common if you want to keep watch for them.
3. NBA 2K23
There’s no cleaner basketball sim game on the market than NBA 2K23, but the biggest asset of the latest release came in a massive Franchise Mode step forward. For the first time in franchise history, NBA 2K23 introduces NBA 2K23 MyNBA eras to allow players to jump back in time several decades with era-accurate drafts, rules, teams, and players as an option. Customization settings allow for significant control, so you can set up just about any dream NBA scenario in Franchise Mode.
NBA 2K23 also brought back The Jordan Challenge, and this documentary-infused mode allows players to relive the biggest moments in Michael Jordan’s historic career. While the MyTEAM card collecting mode and online-focused MyCAREER have gotten polarizing reactions from some players, the gameplay, graphics, and quality of the franchise alone make NBA 2K23 hands down one of the best sports games available today. While not included with Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, PS Plus Premium subscribers do have access to a special NBA 2K23 trial.
4. WWE 2K23
Another offering by 2K in a very different realm, WWE 2K23 is only the second release by Visual Concepts since the debacle that was WWE 2K20. While the franchise struggled in the past, WWE 2K22 and now WWE 2K23 have completely flipped the script with a reworked game engine and higher quality on all fronts. The single-player MyRISE career mode offers branching storylines and different paths for male or female superstars.
MyGM, a resurrection of the long-beloved Franchise Mode challenge once seen in SmackDown vs. Raw as GM Mode, has truly come into its own, as we mentioned in our WWE 2K23 review and the game feels like it’s finally brimming with the features 2K has wanted to deliver for some time. The creation suite remains one of the most versatile around, and a massive Community Creations feature means that just about any wrestler, fictional character or historical figure you can think of has probably been created by someone else and is easily downloadable for you to use.
5. Rocket League
A bit of an outlier in the sports gaming realm, Rocket League doesn’t just simulate a real-world sport but adapts a few of them into its own rocket-car-soccer concept that has only continued to accelerate in popularity through the last several years. Initially released back in 2015 and seeing a major spike in popularity when it went free-to-play, Rocket League has continued to grow and evolve with additional game modes and an extensive amount of customization options for the cars you play with.
While some titles can feel like a major timesink to jump into, Rocket League offers the benefit of relatively short games as standard matches are usually just five minutes long. Casual players can get tons of enjoyment out of even just playing against the computer, but those who dive in online will find their skills constantly pushed to improve as they learn more and more complex strategies. Unlike the other games on this list, Rocket League is completely free to play on all platforms, so there’s no reason not to dive in and give it a chance.
6. Out of the Park Baseball 24
The only other baseball game on our list of 2023’s best sports games is a bit of an outlier, but this PC exclusive has been setting the standard for strategic baseball simulation for over two decades. The slogan for Out of the Park Baseball 24 is “play what the pros play,” but that’s literally the case as the developers have even created custom builds of the title that real-world MLB organizations utilize as part of their research and planning ahead of professional games.
The toughest thing about Out of the Park Baseball 24 is that new players may feel overwhelmed by the variety of options and aspects to keep in mind, but improved tutorials in the last few years help bridge that gap. If you’re looking for an immersive and massively customizable franchise experience that can factor in basically every level and detail of a baseball organization in historic or modern eras, there’s no better choice than OOTP 24.
7. FIFA 23
While the franchise is set to see an overhaul with the release of EA Sports FC 24 in September, FIFA 23 made sure that it ended the FIFA era with a bang. Like some other big sports games, FIFA 23 still suffers from a few of the larger EA Sports headaches like a heavy focus on Ultimate Team that can be frustrating for players not interested in the grind or the microtransaction push it provides.
However, Pro Clubs offers an intriguing co-op spin to online play, and Career Mode lets you take one of the hundreds of real soccer teams to glory. The gameplay is also some of the best we’ve had from recent FIFA games. While past installments seemed to rely too heavily on speed attributes, the new AcceleRATE mechanic in FIFA 23 helps balance the playing field to keep things both fun and challenging at the same time. FIFA 23 is currently on Game Pass and a part of the EA Play library, but PlayStation users can get an individual EA Play subscription if they don’t want to buy the full game.
8. AEW Fight Forever
For years there was really only one major name in the wrestling game market, but AEW Fight Forever burst onto the scene earlier this year with nostalgic gameplay and a refreshing approach that sets it apart as one of the best sports games around. This is especially true if you’re looking for something to play with friends, as AEW Fight Forever tacked on over a dozen Mario Party-style minigames that can be enjoyed by up to four players, and more minigames are due in upcoming DLC releases.
AEW Fight Forever harkens back to the gameplay of WWF No Mercy or WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain, and a blast of a career mode dubbed Road to Elite allows you to play as either a custom wrestler or someone already on the in-game roster. Additional content and DLC releases look to only make AEW Fight Forever better and more polished post-launch, but players looking for a different take on wrestling gaming in the modern age can get hours and hours of fun out of this release.
9. Madden 23
After years of gameplay being a bit too reliant on animations, Madden 23 pushed things to a new level with the FieldSENSE Gameplay System to significantly upgrade the physics for gameplay and overall control players have throughout the game. With cornerstones like the new Skill-Based Passing and 360-degree cuts features, Madden 23 is easily the most fun the franchise has been to play in years.
Some modes still need work, with Franchise Mode in need of feature upgrades for several years and Ultimate Team still sluggish and heavily focused on pushing microtransactions, but the core gameplay shines. Face of the Franchise: The League changes up the rookie-centric Career Mode standard of previous years by dropping you into year five, and players can dive in as a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, or cornerback for very different experiences. Madden 23 is on Game Pass, EA Play, or on PlayStation to anyone who has an individual EA Play subscription.
10. NHL 23
Last but certainly not least, we have the gold standard of hockey games as NHL 23 continued years of franchise success with another strong arrival. With a smaller development team, the graphics have been a bit behind in recent years, but new lighting and reflection upgrades made NHL 23 the prettiest release in franchise history. Franchise Mode also saw a major improvement with Custom League allowing players to massively alter that experience for ultimate replayability.
The longstanding Career Mode dubbed Be A Pro was strong again this year, but those who played NHL 22 will be disappointed that basically nothing has changed. For new players, Be A Pro is still a great experience as you push through the pre-NHL days all the way to a Hall of Fame-caliber career. The gameplay is as fun as ever, and you can crank up the chaos by playing as NHL mascots in the Threes game mode. NHL 23 is on Game Pass or on EA Play for subscribers.
So if you’re looking to score last-minute screamers or smack some home runs without leaving your front room, these are the best sports games for you. It’s rare that sports games get a look-in when discussing the best games of all time, however, the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Rocket League show that there are true contenders out there.