Some of the best sports titles ever made are football games, providing us with hours upon hours of fun and memories that’ll last a lifetime. And while many remember great games like NFL Blitz and NFL 2K5, there are other memorable games that don’t involve the Sheild…
No, not that shield. This shield…
I’m Mike Straw from Sports Gamers Online and these are the Top 10 Non-NFL Football Games of All-Time.
For this list, we look back at the games that we remember being enjoyable for one reason or another without having to rely on the NFL though some did manage to get NFL players. If you want the best NFL games, you can check out that list by following the link in the description below.
For the best NFL games, you can check that out in a previous article.
Oh, and we decided to limit it to one game per series in order to avoid seeing four EA Sports NCAA Football games.
Playmaker Football (PC, 1989)
We’re starting things off with one of the earlier management football games released. Playmaker Football allowed you to take on the role of a coach that’s tasked with building a team and finding success on the field.
The gameplay was from a top-down perspective and didn’t actually allow you to control the players on the field. Instead, you would select your plays and watch things playout on the field. The only real on-field control you had was deciding to run with your QB on a pass play if no one was open.
One of the coolest features of the game was the Chalkboard Editor that allowed you to create and test your own plays as well as create AI settings for each play to help determine the play call during a game.
Cyberball 2072 (Arcade 1989)
An arcade sequel to the original Cyberball 2022 from Atari Games, Cyberball 2072 took what was fun about the first installment and improved in almost every way.
It was an imagining of what football would be nearly 100 years into the future, and the result was pretty damn fun. Replacing things like down and distance with an exploding ball that gets closer to blowing up the more it’s used and having robots on the field instead of humans made for an interesting dynamic. As the games progressed your units on the field could wear down and ultimately catch on fire or explode when hit leading to more strategy than one would expect for a sports game from the late 80s.
Cyberball 2072 featured new modes, introduced over 100 new plays, and saw nice visual improvements that still hold up today where we still see tournaments and leagues across the world.
Joe Montana Football II: Sports Talk Football (Genesis 1991)
What made this game so special wasn’t the gameplay or even the modes. No, it was the fact it was the first football game to feature full play-by-play commentary. It didn’t sound the best, but it was incredible for 1991.
The game featured a league mode that saw you take one of the 28 teams on a path to championship glory. It was a pretty straightforward experience overall with some other differences to the other EA developed football game at the time, John Madden Football. Instead of the usual vertical camera, Joe Montana Football was played horizontally. There were also options to let players zoom the camera in to give a more up-close gameplay experience.r
NCAA Football 2K3 (PS2/Xbox/GC 2002)
The last college football game developed by Visual Concepts, NCAA 2K3 featured deep modes and gameplay that was as good as it got for football games in 2002.
Cornerbacks covered receivers almost exactly how you’d see on Saturdays; quarterbacks were finally given different types of passes to attempt such as bullet and lob passes; running the ball forces you to learn how to follow blockers and look for the whole. In a way, this was one of the first introductions to true sim football that made you learn to read the field in order to find success.
The ESPN branding and broadcast presentation added a nice sense of authenticity to the game as well. It was also one of the more natural-sounding broadcasts which was huge during a time where audio splicing was still something many studios struggled with.
Bill Walsh College Football 95 (1994 Genesis)
The game looked and felt like Madden 95 — one of the most enjoyable Madden games ever released — but it was so much more than that. We finally got a fun college football game for those of us that preferred the collegiate game over the pros.
The biggest selling point of this game was the fact it featured the very first college football season mode in a video game. Rather than taking a single team through the year, though, players were able to play as many games in a single season as they’d want. See three matchups you want to play in Week 4? Go play them!
The game even featured the option to utilize a 16-team playoff system or a bowl system. Talk about flexibility!
Mutant Football League (PC/Xbox/PS4/Switch)
A cult classic back in the early 90s, Mutant League Football garnered a following for being a fun, arcade alternative to the sim-like Madden titles. Fast forward over 20 years later, and the series was brought back thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign for modern consoles.
Featuring teams that parodied NFL teams, gameplay that was over-the-top and fun, and a dynasty mode that was as deep as you’d like for an arcade football game, Mutant Football League became the best arcade football game since the days of NFL Street. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that the legendary Tim Kitzrow of NBA Jam fame was the voice of the MFL.
All-Pro Football 2K8 (360/PS3)
You knew it was only a matter of time before the last 2K football game made an appearance. All-Pro Football 2K8 didn’t have an NFL license, but it did feature some of the greatest to ever play the game.
From John Elway to Barry Sanders, APF 2K8 was full of recognizable names. The gameplay was identical to that of the legendary NFL 2K5 just more finely tuned. Things like QB motion in the pocket, screen pass development, and defensive back controls were all improved from the last installment in the NFL 2K series. There have even been elements of gameplay that worked so well in All-Pro Football 2K8 that football games today still can’t master such as differences between different player types.
The biggest gripe with the game was the lack of a multi-year franchise mode, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a revered title. And 13 years after its release, the game still lives on thanks to the Simulation Football League and a dedicated community.
10-Yard Fight (1983 Arcade/1985 NES)
Anyone who was a child in the 80s remembers playing 10-yard fight. In fact, it was probably the first sports game many people ever played.
A simple concept, 10-Yard Fight is in a top-down perspective with vertical scrolling. Players were able to take control of either offense or defense with the goals being to either score a touchdown or stop your opponent from reaching the endzone. On offense, you didn’t pick any plays rather you just had the option to either run the ball with your QB, toss it to the RB or take a deep shot to your receiver. The game also featured a progression system, of sorts, where the better you did the harder the difficulty became.
It’s often been referred to as the “patriarch of football games”, and it’s hard to argue that 10-Yard Fight set the foundation for what football games could be in the future. It may not have played like “real football” but it was damn fun, and that’s all that mattered to us.
NCAA 14 (360/PS3 2013)
From the incredible depth that was Dynasty rr Mode to the online team builder that gave you the deepest customization suite in an EA Sports game ever, NCAA Football 14 had pretty much everything going for it.
It wasn’t too different from NCAA Football 13, but it improved in enough ways off the field that made it the best of the best for the EA Sports series. Recruiting players for your school felt rewarding when a player you had long been courting decided to come to your program over a conference rival. That same joy quickly turned to anger when that five-star QB you threw everything at decided to go to Florida State instead of coming to Florida.
What made Dynasty Mode even better is that you didn’t have to start as a head coach. If you preferred one side of the ball over the other and wanted to work your way up, you could choose to become a coordinator and start your path to legendary coach that way. The choice truly was yours.
Unfortunately, it became the last installment in the franchise after lawsuits brought the series to a halt due to licensing concerns and the NCAAs archaic restrictions against players being compensated for their likenesses. NCAA 14 marked the end of an era that we hopefully see returned in the near future.
TECMO Bowl (NES 1989)
The godfather of all football games, TECMO Bowl was the game that put football video games truly on the map. Though it didn’t have NFL teams, it did feature an NFLPA license allowing a mix of players from the 1987 and 1988 seasons to be featured on their 12 teams.
The NES version of the game only had nine players on each side and featured just four plays per side of the ball, but none of that mattered to players because of how enjoyable the gameplay was. It was easy for kids and adults alike to pick up and dive right into which solidified itself as one of the best of all-time. The only thing that wasn’t great is that one jackass that thought it was ok to play as the Raiders with Bo Jackson…
So sports gamers, do you agree with our list? Let us know what you think were the best Non-NFL Football games ever, and be sure to subscribe to Sports Gamers Online and hit that bell to be notified whenever a new video goes live.
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