The best sports games on PC

Sports games come in many shapes and sizes. Football Manager and Rocket League have almost nothing in common, but they’re both undeniably sports games. Meanwhile Fifa has added a story driven campaign, and Pyre is a fantasy RPG that plays like a sport.

To try and help, I’ve broken this list down into four broad categories. Sports Simulations, which attempt to realistically depict a sport, Sports Management games (self explanatory), Arcade Sports, which depict a stylised version of a real sport, and Fantasy Sports, which are wholly invented.

There’s obviously a lot of crossover, since even Rocket League is loosely based on football, but hopefully this will help you tell your QWOPs from your Fifas. 

SPORTS SIMS

Fifa 2018

Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: Sep 2017
Link: Official site

EA's annual football series is on a high right now, with the addition of a surprisingly compelling single player story mode. Unlike PES, Fifa's strength is in a Xavi-esque short, quick passing game. If you’re looking to play online, Fifa will be your football sim of choice, as a strong and healthy online community ensures it's always easy to find a game. 

PES 2018

Developer: Konami
Release Date: Sep 2017
Link: Official site   

While Fifa will draw in those interested in the single player story or online multiplayer, PES is my preference for local multiplayer, or when I want to sink into the signature Master League. The two games also play slightly differently, with PES leaning more towards long passes and lofted through balls for a faster paced, more frenetic game.

MANAGEMENT GAMES

Football Manager 2018

Developer: Sports Interactive
Release Date: Nov 2017
Link: Official site

It’s hard to overrstate the enormity of Football Manager. It is consistently one of the most popular games on Steam, its scouting network rivals real life clubs and once a player received an international call up from the wrong country because of it. It's also incredibly absorbing and fun, even more so since they added the streamlined variant Football Manager Touch. Play it with care: it is all-consuming.

Out of the Park Baseball 18 

Developer: Out of the Park Developments
Release Date: Mar 2017
Link: Official site 

It's strange how few other sports have a Football Manager equivalent, but understandable that the highly stat-driven baseball is one of those that does. Out of the Park Baseball doesn't seem to change that much from year to year, but the underlying game remains an engrossing way to live out your Moneyball fantasies.

Motorsport Manager

Developer: Playsport Games
Release Date: Nov 2016
Link: Official site

Another sensible sport to adapt into a management game, Motorsport Manager is half about the strategy, half about the cars. Between races you’ll spend time improving and upgrading your vehicle, then make strategic calls like what tires to use and when to make a pit stop, but all without having to bother getting your hands dirty actually steering the thing. 

ARCADE SPORTS

Sensible World of Soccer

Developer: Sensible Software
Release Date: Jan 1996
Link: GOG

"I don’t like football but I did enjoy Sensible Soccer" is a thing I’ve been told by more 40-year-old game journalists than I care to count. By stripping the sport down to its essentials, SWOS finds a purity in the tick tock of precision passes. GOG only stocks Sensible World of Soccer 96/97, so expect to be stuck in the days of David Seaman and Ian Wright. 

Super Arcade Football

Developer: Out of the Bit
Release Date: Early Access
Link: Official site

Super Arcade Football is built on the classic top down approach of Sensible Soccer but with some more modern touches, the most impressive being a physics defying slow motion aftertouch shot. Unlike SWOS it also works online, making it much easier to get a game against a human. 

QWOP

Developer: Bennett Foddy
Release Date: Nov 2008
Link: Official site

QWOP is, in many ways, the anti-sports game. Most sports games are about using easy, accessible controls to allow anyone to simulate being a peak athlete. QWOP on the other hand uses an overly complicated control scheme to make the relatively simple act of running a 110m hurdles (yes there are hurdles, most people don’t make it far enough to realise that) astonishingly difficult and hilarious. It’s the Eddie the Eagle of sports games.

Fire Pro Wrestler

Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: Early Access
Link: Steam

Is wrestling a sport? According to Vince McMahon it’s 'sports entertainment', which is close enough for this list. Unlike the awful official WWE games, Fire Pro Wrestling World leans into the fact that wrestling is a performance, subtly pushing players to put on an entertaining match, rather than just trying to win. That, coupled with its astonishing Steam Workshop-supported character creation makes it unique among wrestling games. 

OlliOlli

Developer: Roll7
Release Date: Jul 2014
Link: Steam

OlliOlli's great success is in taking all the fun of older skating games like Tony Hawk and distilling them down to two dimensions. The simplicity of OlliOlli's side on approach makes it easier to learn a track while constantly embellishing your performance with tricks and flourishes.

Desert Golfing

Developer: Captain Games
Release Date: Dec 2017
Link: Official site 

Weird zen minimalist golf game Desert Golfing was a cult hit on mobile and it's just gotten a Steam release. It's a testament to achieving a little with a lot, creating challenging holes with simple geometric shapes. Crucially, there is no going back, so every wasted stroke is there forever. Previously, the game was only available on the Windows Store.

Tennes

Developer: Jan Willem Nijman
Release Date: Nov 2012
Link: Official site

Originally a bonus game for people who backed the SportsFriends Kickstarter, Tennnes is a simplified tennis game with a flexible approach to rules. The game does not mind if, for example, you jump over the net and play on the other side of the court. If you liked SportsFriends, you'll like this.

FANTASY SPORTS

Rocket League

Developer: Psyonix
Release Date: Jul 2015
Link: Official site

I've had Rocket League installed on my PC for nearly two years now, and I still find myself jumping in for a quick 15 minute game every couple of weeks. The premise is simple: it’s football with rocket powered cars. What makes it work is the strange physics: the ball seems to be moving almost in slow motion, resulting in great slapstick comedy and much rage on the part of PC Gamer editor Sam Roberts. 

SportsFriends

Developer: De Gute Fabrik
Release Date: Dec 2014
Link: Official site

SportsFriends is a bundle of local multiplayer indie games loosely themed around sports. Hokra is a very fast, minimalist ice hockey game, BariBariBall is a blend of Super Smash Bros and volleyball, Super Pole Riders is a strange pole vaulter jousting game and Johan Sebastian Joust is a kind of full contact musical chairs played with motion controllers. What they have in common is that they’re all a amazing fun with a group of friends.

Bloodbowl 2

Developer: Cyanide Release
Date: Sep 2015
Link: Official site

The Blood Bowl board game is as old as I am, which is testament to its enduring appeal. It is simultaneously one of the most frustrating and entertaining games I've ever played. Dice rolls are required for everything, meaning sometimes players fall over and die because they ran too fast. The digital port is solid enough, but the real charm lies in the time tested rules.

Frozen Cortex

Developer: Mode7
Release Date: Feb 2015
Link: Official site

Frozen Synapse's trademark interpretation of turn-based combat, where both sides plan their moves and execute them simultaneously, turns out to translate really well into sports. A paired down version of American Football featuring big stompy robots on a small pitch, Frozen Cortex excels at replicating the execution of a single play, but lacks the back and forth of larger, more fluid sports. 

Pyre

Developer: Supergiant Games
Release Date: Jul 2017
Link: Official site

Pyre is essentially an RPG with a sport instead of random battles. The story and atmosphere are the kind of strong stuff you'd expect from SuperGiant (who also made Bastion and Transistor). The sport itself can end up a little one dimensional, as attacking players can’t move without the ball, there's little point in the passing game. Still, the way in which the fiction and the sport combine is a unique delight.