Special editions of video games have been a common thing in the industry for a while now. While gaming has always been an expensive hobby, companies have never been shy to offer bonus reasons for players to throw money at them. Sometimes, these so-called bonuses are no more than cheap promotional trinkets that aren’t worth the extra money. If you’re willing to wait, you can often find these items on sites like eBay much cheaper a few weeks after release.
However, there are plenty of Special Editions of games that were more than worth the money. This has become quite common in recent years, especially with AAA releases. It’s smart for companies to put out one of these packages as it helps build hype for the game leading up to release. These packages are also usually produced in limited quantities, which encourages players to pre-order, which of course companies always want.
These special editions often include DLC, steel cases, and maybe an art book or soundtrack. Some titles have more creative collectibles. When Elden Ring launched earlier this year, the Premium Collector’s Edition included a steel case, soundtrack, artbook, mini figurine, and a replica helmet that was featured in the game. God of War Ragnarök, which releases later this year, has a collector’s edition that comes with freaking Mjolnir!
Sadly, when a sports video game comes out with a special edition lately, it doesn’t seem to have nearly as many cool collectibles. Most of the time it’s just some Ultimate Team packs, in-game currency, and maybe a couple of days of early access.
Seeing all these cool special editions of other games coming out made me wonder if there were any cool special editions of sports games. So today, we’re going to look and see if any of them hold up to what we see today. These are the top 10 special edition sports games of all time!
10. NBA 2K13 Dynasty Edition
This was a much more recent title than I was expecting to find when I started my research for this article. This special edition retailed for $99.99 and was only available in limited numbers at Amazon, GameStop, and Best Buy. This version came with a DLC code that was also included as a pre-order bonus. This code allowed players to download four All-Star Game-related modes: the slam dunk contest, three-point contest, Rising Stars Challenge, and All-Star Game. It’s weird today to see these modes included only as pre-order DLC, considering today they are included within MyNBA in more recent iterations of the series.
Along with this DLC code, the Dynasty Edition included a pair of NBA 2k13 Skullcandy INK’D earbuds, a 2k13 controller skin, and a full-sized 2k13 basketball. I love it when these games come with some of the actual equipment from the sport they represent. I mean, if Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag can do it, these sports games can do it too.
9. WWE 2K13 Austin 3:16 Edition
Now I’ve probably watched less than two hours of professional wrestling in my entire life. But even I have to admit this special edition is awesome. This was part of a string of special editions 2k did for their WWE series featuring some of the most famous wrestlers in history. 2k12 was The Rock, 2k14 was The Undertaker, and 2k15 featured Hulk Hogan. This Stone-Cold Steve Austin version though, to me, is the best out of all of them.
This version of the game was exclusive to shopTHQ, and you had to pre-order to secure a copy. The version featured in-game items like Stone Cold’s Red Skull T-shirt and his ATV Ring Entrance. Players would also unlock Mike Tyson as a playable character in the game. Perhaps the best part of this package was the physical items. On top of a sweet variant cover for the game, you got a DVD featuring some of Stone Cold’s best moments from his time in WWE, as well as a WWE 2k13 art card signed by Steve Austin himself!
8. Madden NFL 07 Hall of Fame Edition
This special edition of Madden NFL 07 was created to celebrate coach John Madden being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The cover of this edition features John Madden himself for the first time since Madden 2000.
This version of the game came with a bonus DVD with some nice extra content. The DVD featured Season 1 of Madden Nation, a reality TV show that tried to seek out the best Madden players from across the country. It would be like the Madden Championship Series (MCS) having an Ultimate Fighter-type show. There was also a Music of Madden video with interviews from the artists featured on the game’s soundtrack. ESPN’s Trey Wingo hosted a making of Madden feature where the developers gave a behind-the-scenes look at how the game is made. Lastly, the DVD featured a look back at the career of coach Madden both as a Hall of Fame coach and a legendary broadcaster.
Now you may be thinking this special edition doesn’t come with as much extra content as the previous two. That is true, but I put this one higher on the list because of the price. The Hall of Fame edition only cost $10 more compared to the base game. I think for the amount of content on the bonus DVD, that is well worth the price.
7. MLB The Show 17 Hall of Fame Edition
MLB The Show 17 was a big step forward for the series, as it was the first iteration to release only on the PS4. San Diego Studios swung for the fences with this special edition, and I would say they knocked it out of the park.
This Hall of Fame Edition of the game retailed for $99.99 in the US and featured a host of digital goods. This included Diamond Dynasty packs, 11,000 stubs, and a PS4 theme for each MLB squad. The main draw for this version of the game, however, was the physical goods.
The game came in a steel case designed like the jersey of cover athlete Ken Griffey Jr. from his time in Seattle. Players also got a limited-edition New Era baseball cap with an MLB logo using The Kid as the silhouette wearing his famous backwards hat. Like WWE 2k, SDS would use similar packages for later games, with the steel case and special hat being the main draws. This version is the best of these since Ken Griffey Jr. is easily one of the most beloved players in all of baseball. The fact that he was on the cover alone got players to buy this game, let alone the collector’s edition.
6. Mario Kart Double Dash Special Edition
The fourth iteration in the Mario Kart series has an interesting special edition that also doubles as a pre-order bonus. Players who pre-ordered the game got a bonus disk that included tons of extra content. This disk included playable demos for F-Zero GX, Mario Party 5, Sonic Heroes, Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The disk also had trailers for tons of games like NBA Live 2004, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.
Now you may be wondering why a simple demo disk gets this special edition this high in the list. Well first off, the price. This special edition did not cost any more than the regular version, you just had to pre-order the game. Other special editions on this list cost almost double that of the standard edition.
You also have to consider when this game came out. Mario Kart Double Dash was released on GameCube in late 2003. Back then, you didn’t have several services that offered you free downloads for game demos. Back then game demos were often used as marketing items to sell products. They were also randomly set up to keep kids busy while their parents shopped. This demo disk came with the game you were already getting for the same price, and the games on this disk were ones GameCube owners would probably be interested in. This special edition helped Mario Kart Double Dash end up being the second-best selling game in the console’s life span. This special edition is still a cool find for fans and collectors alike.
5. Madden NFL 12 Hall of Fame Edition
This special edition of EA Sports’ NFL series was released to celebrate Marshall Faulk becoming the first former Madden cover athlete to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This special edition features Faulk on the cover and comes with some cool bonuses.
All 125,000 copies of this special edition included a special autographed Marshall Faulk card. With this version of the game costing $89.99, it isn’t that much more for a guaranteed autographed card, especially for Faulk fans and collectors. Two lucky fans got even more of a deal with their purchase. One 18k gold autographed Marshall Faulk card was inserted into a PS3 and Xbox 360 version of the game. While it is likely that these cards were found, it is funny to think about the chance that somewhere there is a sealed version of Madden NFL 12 with an extremely valuable card sitting inside it.
Along with the real cards, players would also get cards in Madden Ultimate Team. Players who bought this version of the game would get a special pack featuring 99 OVR versions of former Madden cover athletes such as Faulk, Michael Vick, Troy Polamalu, Eddie George, and others.
4. WWE 2K20 SmackDown 20th Anniversary Edition
Let me explain. I know that WWE 2k20 didn’t receive the best reception upon its release. As of the writing of this, the game currently sits at 43 on Metacritic with a 1.7 user score. This game was so poorly received that after its 2019 release, another mainline game wouldn’t be released in the series for almost three years.
So why is this $129.99 version of such a poorly reviewed game ranked this high? On top of tons of digital in-game content, this collector’s edition featured two amazing items for WWE fans. The first is an acrylic piece autographed by one of Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, or Edge.
On top of this, fans who could afford this version would get an official piece of a WWE SmackDown Ring Skirt. This piece was from a skirt used during a SmackDown event between 2002 and 2008. In all my research, I couldn’t find any other sports game special edition that had anything like this included. Imagine Madden giving away a piece of NFL turf or NBA 2k including a piece of wood from an NBA court! The uniqueness of this offering has earned this special edition a high spot on this list.
3. Madden NFL 05 Collector’s Edition
Just like Madden NFL 07, Madden NFL 05 offered a special edition of the game for only $10 more. Unlike Madden NFL 07, this special edition offers a lot more than a few bonus videos. To celebrate 15 years of the Madden NFL series, this Collector’s Edition goes above and beyond in delivering extra value to players.
The biggest bonus over the base game is the addition of previous Madden games. This edition allows players to take the rosters of Madden NFL 05 and play with the presentation and gameplay of 3 previous Madden games. The games included are Madden 93, Madden 98, and Madden 2000. So, for just $10 more, players get an extra 3 games they can play. I wasn’t even alive when two of those three games came out, so I never got to experience them. After doing research for this article, I went out and picked up a copy for only $4. I had an absolute blast playing this old style of Madden that I had never been able to experience before.
Madden NFL 05 Collector’s Edition doesn’t stop at just including 3 whole other games. This version features an NFL trivia game with over 1,000 questions. There is also a Madden Moments mode that lets players recreate or change the biggest moments in NFL history.
Along with these extra ways to play the game are several videos about the history and making of the Madden NFL series. The founder of EA and Coach Madden himself talk about how the series came to be. Artists talk about how the music and art of the games are created. Finally, members of the production crew for Madden NFL 05 commentate on the game. It feels very similar to the director’s commentaries for movies. These bonus videos alone warrant picking up this version for hardcore fans of both football and Madden.
2. NBA 2K10 Tenth Anniversary Edition
I would guess just about every long-time fan of the NBA 2k series has heard about this special edition. Along with the game, this 10th Anniversary Edition comes with a poster and figurine of cover athlete Kobe Bryant.
The thing everyone recognizes from this version though is the locker. The 30,000 units of this version came with uniquely numbered lockers. These lockers came with a combination lock and were capable of holding up to 25 standard DVD or Blu-Ray cases.
Though this edition was on the higher-priced side at $99.99, it has managed to hold its value through the years. The uniquely numbered lockers are often listed on sites like eBay for around $100. Having the special number has helped these items remain prized and coveted by 2k fans around the world.
Honorable Mention: MLB The Show 21 & 22
Before we look at the best special edition in sports gaming history, let’s take a look at an honorable mention. Now, as SGO’s resident MLB The Show guy, I had to find a way to put MLB The Show on the list again. But this is a very well-deserved honorable mention.
MLB The Show 21 released three versions that came with steel cases featuring Jackie Robinson, along with in-game goodies and the usual New Era cap for the most expensive version. MLB The Show 22 doubled down on the in-game items and steel case, but sadly did away with the cool hats.
The reason these games are mentioned here is what SDS decided to do with some of the money players spent for these special editions. For every special edition sold of these two games, SDS donated $1 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation MLB The Show scholarship program. This program established opportunities for students interested in careers in video game development. Participants in this scholarship program will be able to receive funding for school along with a paid internship at SDS. This program is an incredible opportunity for students to start their careers in video game development!
In July 2022, SDS presented a check to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for more than $875,000. This money was raised from the sales of these special editions, along with a special pack that was sold in MLB The Show 22. This is a great example of how video game companies can offer players the chance to make a real difference in the lives of fellow video game fans.
1. Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
There is little debate that this is the right choice for #1 on our list. The 20th Anniversary Edition of Madden NFL 09 retailed for $89.99. This price falls near the middle of the price scale for this list. For this price, players would get extra games besides just the newest Madden, similar to the Madden NFL 05 Collector’s Edition.
Along with Madden NFL 09, players would receive NFL Head Coach 09, another brand-new game put out that year by EA Sports. NFL Head Coach 09 is one of the deepest simulation and team-building football games ever made, and players were able to get it for only $20 more. These two games had integrated features, similar to how Madden had integration with the NCAA Football series. For example, players could use the play creator in NFL Head Coach 09 to make whatever plays they want, and then port those plays over to use in Madden NFL 09.
This package includes a bonus disk with hours of extra content. Madden 93 is included to give players a blast from the past to play. The Moment of Impact featurette highlights the biggest hits in NFL history. More NFL highlight reels include looks at the 2008 NFC Championship Game, Super Bowl XLII, and cover athlete Brett Favre.
The fact that three full-fledged football (try saying that three times fast) games are included makes the value of this Collector’s Edition incredible. Couple that with hours of NFL highlights and features and an increased price of only $20, and you have yourself the greatest special edition of a sports game in history!
So there is the list. Did you pick up any of these special editions when they were first released? Are you a collector trying to track some of these down for yourself? Are there any games that you felt deserved to be on the list that we missed? Let us know in the comments.
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