With 2024 just around the corner, gamers wait eagerly to see what games the new year will bring us. One game currently slated to release in 2024 is EA Sports College Football. This game makes its return after a decade in hiatus. With this series making its long-awaited return, let’s take a look at some other sports video game franchises that have waited in the dark too long for their time to shine.
Of course this appears first on this list. There isn’t much to say about this series that hasn’t already been said. Many enjoyed NFL 2K during its time, even those who were also enjoying the golden age of Madden NFL. Countless retrospectives have been produced over the years looking at how the series pushed the genre forward. This affinity for the series only grew as fans grew frustrated with the recent state of some Madden NFL entries. NFL 2K featured ESPN licensing, which included score bugs, theme music, and personalities like Chris Berman.
The final entry in this series, ESPN NFL 2K5, is looked back upon as one of the greatest sports video games of all time. The game sold incredibly well and looked like a real competitor to Madden NFL. However, EA Sports signed an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL which they continue to hold to this day. 2K released only one other football game after this, All-Pro Football 2K8. This game featured retired NFL legends, along with similar gameplay to the NFL 2K series.
While it seems unlikely that 2K will ever dip their toes back into making NFL games again, fans continue to hold out hope. If the series ever did make a comeback, it would be one of the most anticipated releases in gaming history.
Much like their NFL series, fans would love to see the MLB 2K series make a comeback. The roots of the series can be traced back to 1994’s World Series Baseball on the Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear. However, the first game in the series as we know it developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K came in 2005 with MLB 2K5. This was the first game Visual Concepts released after Sega sold the developer to Take-Two Interactive, as well as the only game in the series to feature ESPN branding.
Following EA Sports’ exclusive licensing deal with the NFL, 2K signed a deal with MLB to be the only third-party developer to make MLB games. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo could all still make MLB games for their respective consoles, but 2K now stood alone as the only third-party MLB developer.
This deal ran from 2006 to 2012. During this time, MLB 2K games received average to mixed reviews, usually around the 7/10 mark. It looked like MLB 2K12 would be the final entry in the series after the exclusivity deal initially expired in 2012. But 2K and MLB reached an agreement to release an additional game in 2013. MLB 2K13 sadly received pretty negative reviews, and in December 2013 2K said they would only be focusing on their NBA and WWE franchises moving forward.
While this series wasn’t an overwhelming juggernaut like NFL 2K was, it would still be nice to see some competition return to the baseball video game community. While some games have come along to try and challenge MLB The Show’s dominance, it might take a sports gaming Goliath like 2K to give them a run for their money.
This series is a personal favorite of mine. All-Star Baseball started on the PS1 and Sega Saturn in 1997 with All-Star Baseball ‘97 featuring Frank Thomas. This game succeeded the SNES and Sega Genesis title Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball.
The last few entries in the series showed how great these games were. Starting in All-Star Baseball 2003, players could create their expansion team and do a full expansion draft, something no other baseball game since has featured. All-Star Baseball 2004 and All-Star Baseball 2005 had several baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Buck O’Neil playable in the game. These games also had stadium tours of all current and historic stadiums in the game, as well as future versions of a few stadiums.
MLB revoked its license from Acclaim in 2004 due to an alleged failure to pay royalties that were due. In September of that year, Acclaim filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In 2006, many of Acclaim’s IPs were sold to Throwback Entertainment, including the All-Star Baseball IP. This same IP, along with NBA Jam and NFL Quarterback Club, sold to Liquid Media Group. This company seems to still own these brands today. If they were able to somehow acquire the MLB license, it would be amazing to see All-Star Baseball return and provide the level of love and passion for the game of baseball that the series did in the early 2000s.
EA Sports MVP Baseball
Speaking of incredible baseball games that need to come back, the MVP Baseball series from EA Sports should have already returned. The series started in 2003 with MVP Baseball 2003. This game, as well as the next year’s game, received overall positive reviews.
However, MVP Baseball 2005 went a step beyond. Fans now hold it in the same regard as NFL 2K5. The game introduced the hitter’s eye system, as well as improving the already deep Dynasty and Owner modes, and also received phenomenal reviews across the board. In 2013, ESPN ranked the game as the fourth greatest sports video game of all time.
Ironically, in the same way, EA Sports’ exclusive deal with the NFL killed the NFL 2K series, 2K’s exclusive deal with MLB killed the MVP Baseball series.
EA Sports did what they could to keep the series going. In 2006 and 2007, the team released college baseball games with similar gameplay. However, EA Sports put the series on ice permanently in 2007. Over the years, some EA executives have hinted at the possibility of a return to MLB games for EA Sports. The acquisition of Super Mega Baseball could be a stepping stone for the studio to reenter the MLB space, especially now that 2K’s exclusive deal has expired for over a decade.
NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street
While this list so far has featured only simulation titles, the 6th generation of consoles also had some great arcade-style sports games that could use a reboot. None of those remain more prevalent than EA Sports Big’s NBA, NFL, and FIFA Street series. These games focused on rough, physical, arcade gameplay featuring some of your favorite professional athletes. You could also perform tricks in the games to earn powerful game breakers that helped you pull away from your opponent.
The first game in this series released back in 2001 with NBA Street on the PS2 and GameCube. A year later, NBA Street Vol. 2 released. This game took it up a notch and fans often consider it one of the best of the series. The game added 25 NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Maravich, and Julius Erving. The game also added new trick moves, new game modes, and a more powerful Gamebreaker 2.
The NFL Street series got underway, as both NFL Street and NFL Street 2 released in North America in 2004. A few months later in February 2005, the third NBA Street game released. This game is famous for having Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach available as playable characters in the GameCube version. That same month, the first FIFA Street game released, with the second one following a year later. NFL Street 3 released holiday of 2006, however it only released on the PS2 and PSP.
The series made its way to 8th generation consoles in 2007 with NBA Street Homecourt on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The final Street game released in February 2008 with FIFA Street 3. A reboot released in 2012 called FIFA Street. However, this game didn’t feature the EA Sports BIG branding. It also didn’t utilize the same stylized graphics as the previous games.
In today’s sports video game landscape, there aren’t many arcade-style sports games that have been able to stick around. EA Sports has the resources and brand recognition to bring back the Street series. With modern graphics and mechanics, these games would fly off the shelves as gamers look to rekindle their childhood memories.
Speaking of arcade-style games, the Burnout series remains one of the most beloved arcade racing series. The series started in 2001 with the original Burnout on the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. This game and its 2002 sequel were developed by Criterion Games and published by Acclaim Entertainment. After Acclaim filed for bankruptcy in 2004, Electronic Arts acquired Criterion and the rights to the Burnout series.
That same year, EA released their first entry in the series, Burnout 3: Takedown. This game is considered one of the best games to release on 6th generation consoles, as well as one of the best arcade racing games of all time. The game also saw incredible commercial success. So much so that EA released two Burnout games the following year: Burnout Revenge on the PS2 and Xbox and Burnout Legends on the PSP and Nintendo DS. Revenge would eventually get ported over to the Xbox 360 in March 2006. Both of these games received very positive reviews. This continued in 2008 with Burnout Paradise, which took the successful Burnout gameplay and put it in an open-world environment for the first time. This made it 7 Burnout games released in 8 years.
However, since Paradise released in 2008, we’ve only gotten one new Burnout game. This was 2011’s Burnout Crash! After this release, much of Criterion’s staff transitioned to working on the Need for Speed franchise. They also assisted on other EA titles like Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront. While Burnout Paradise got a remaster for 8th generation consoles in 2018, racing fans have been eagerly waiting for EA to announce an official return of the Burnout series. Some may see it as a potential competitor to EA’s Need for Speed series. Despite this, the two franchises contain distinct enough gameplay and style. This warrants both having a place in the vast racing game market.
EA Sports and 2K NCAA Basketball
With EA Sports bringing back college football video games, fans have started to ask if college basketball games might also make a return. The EA Sports series began in 1998 with NCAA March Madness 98 on the PS1. The series continued annually until 2009 when NCAA Basketball 10 released for PS3 and Xbox 360.
2K’s College Hoops series began in 2003 with NCAA Basketball 2K3 for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. The series continued until College Hoops 2K8 released on PS2, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2007. Following the release of this game, 2K Sports decided against continuing to pursue collegiate licensing. A few years later, EA Sports would make the same decision, due to the increasing complexity around using player likenesses without providing compensation.
Despite their discontinuation, both series have remained popular among college basketball fans. The final entries in both series have developed an impressive community, including mods for the games that help keep them fresh and up to date. With such an avid fanbase, it would seem easy for a new college basketball game by either studio to sell incredibly well. EA Sports is already putting in the legwork in securing collegiate licensing for their college football video game, while 2K players have been adding college teams into NBA 2K using customization options for years now. No matter which studio was to bring back college basketball games, fans would be there day one ready to play it.
NBA Live once dominated all other basketball games on the market. The first game using the name NBA Live was NBA Live 95 on the SNES and Sega Genesis. The series released regularly and sold well until 2009. By this point, the NBA 2K series had become the leader in the market. In 2010, EA Sports attempted to rebrand the series with NBA Elite 11. The game was eventually canceled, despite some copies already being sent to stores and being sold.
EA Sports would not release another NBA game until 2013. The series would continue for the next couple of years, until taking another year off in 2016. NBA Live made another comeback in 2017 with NBA Live 18. This was the first time since the original pause that a game in the series had received generally favorable responses. EA Sports followed up this success with NBA Live 19 the next year. Again the game garnered positive sentiment.
It looked like the series was slowly but surely making its way back to competing with NBA 2K. Despite this, in October 2019, the NBA Live Twitter account announced that there would not be a game released that year. The announcement said that EA Sports, along with the NBA and NBPA, were focused on “creating something fresh for the next generation of players and platforms.” This remains the most recent post from this Twitter account. In the years since, no new information about the return of the series has emerged since. With how often the series has come back and gone away again recently, it is hard to tell if EA Sports will be willing to devote the resources necessary to continue the series.