It’s coming back, it’s coming back, it’s coming, Football’s coming back.

The football season has finally started again this week. With all the major European leagues having already played their first fixtures I thought it best to have a look at some of the best football games ever made to rediscover some hidden sporting talent.

I will focus on the titles that put a unique spin on the genre and try to do something different and so, will avoid the mainstay titles as these are releasing yearly with very little changing between games; no FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer here.

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So, whether you love football or couldn’t care less about it, there’ll be something for you.

Let’s kick things off!

Mario Strikers Charged

Platform: Wii      Publisher: Nintendo        Release: 2007

Mario Strikers Charged has an incredible amount to offer with online and offline game modes. It’s a perfect addition for those who love the classic Nintendo sports games. If you like Mario Kart or Smash Bros, then you’ll love this.

The single player mode, “Road to the Striker Cup”, has you playing in a whole host of colorful stadia alongside all the usual Mushroom Kingdom suspects. As is the case with any Mario game, items play a key role in the games’ mechanics, helping you win the ball back and nullifying the competition. The team captain also has access to a crazy cool special move called a “Mega Strike”; a timed powered up shot that grants the ability to strike up to 6 balls at once, the better the shot the more difficult it is for the goalkeeper to pull off a “Mega Strike Block”. This helps matches to stay competitive and fast paced at all times, regardless of the gulf in ability of players or teams.

Mario Strikers Charged also has one of the best online modes Nintendo has ever made. You’re allowed to play ranked matches against players of similar ability in a bid to be the best player in your region. That only amplifies this game further as one of the greats.

I hope Nintendo have plans to bring the series back for the Switch, just like they did with Mario Tennis Aces as I find myself going back to this game on a regular basis. What Mario Kart is for racing games, is exactly what Mario Strikers Charged is for football games, taking all the fun parts of the sport and amplifying them further in a way only Nintendo know how to.

FIFA Street

Platform: PS2, Xbox, GameCube        Publisher: EA Sports BIG        Release: 2005

fifa street

FIFA Street is a spinoff game of the yearly FIFA series, taking 4 a side football to the streets in venues around the world where you’ll find winning with style, flair and trickery and humiliating the opponent is more important than anything else. This is football without the restriction of the rules — or the referee. Your traditional way of passing around and shooting won’t really get you anywhere, but using perfectly timed button combos to perform all sorts of neat skills will.

The “Rule The Street” story mode allows you to create your own player and build a team of real world footballers, improving your skills, look and team throughout the journey of becoming the best freestyling football team. I absolutely adore this game mode as it has an unbelievably awesome soundtrack. The ridiculously funny commentary from MC Harvey, with one liners such as “That is one wicked move … shamone … hee hee” (ala Michael Jackson style) isn’t bad either. All this fits the urban aesthetic of the game like a glove. It’s perfect for anyone who wants a change from the simulation-heavy FIFA series.

There is a lack of online, but that is more than made up for with the 4-player local multiplayer option. This is exactly where the game truly shines, I mean where better to embarrass your mates than in the comfort of your own home in a winner stays on type of competition.

EA have taken a lot of inspiration from FIFA Street for their infamous Ultimate Team game mode. They still could bring the series back or even add it as a game mode for future FIFA titles.

Rocket League

Platform: PC, PS4, XBox1, Nintendo Switch        Publisher: Psyonix        Release: 2015

Rocket League is arguably the most revolutionary online sports game out there. It offers an insane online experience unlike any other before. The game is all about controlling rocket powered cars — think Twisted Metal the football mode.

The brilliance of Rocket league all stems from the fact that you are in control of one car. Online play makes it very easy to hop in and out of matches with an emphasis on teamwork and communication. With this comes the need for variation. If I ever want to switch things up, the basketball or ice hockey modes changes the style of gameplay without messing with the core gameplay. On top of this, stadia can also affect the way you play. There’s also a mode that introduces special items such as ball freezing and ball magnetizing.

In my experience, the game does have a steep learning curve, especially when you’re trying to be competitive online. However, once you’ve created your own training regime in the Training mode, becoming familiar with the mechanics will be a breeze, so you can “git gud” in no time.

With the incredibly unique cross platform play, Rocket League has developed a large active user base. The game is constantly being supported with new vehicles, modes and items added regularly. This has helped to generate a huge growing presence in the E-sports scene. The game also has a presence in Electronic Sports League and Major League Gaming as well as their own Rocket League Championship Series, solidifying Rocket League as a sport in its own right.

Football Manager 2018

Platform: PC        Publisher: SEGA        Release: 2017

Football Manager is a management simulation game where you get to work with real world players, managers and staff. You’re given the opportunity to oversee over 2,500 clubs in 147 leagues across 52 countries. It’s an ideal game for the footballing nerd that wants to flex their footballing knowledge.

The game offers a lot in terms of flexibility. You get control of all aspects of football such as match tactics, training regimes and transfers. All of this hard works comes to life in the 3D game engine. All the information within the game is incredibly accurate and even bleeds over into the transfer plans of clubs in real life. Statistics are compiled by approximately 1,300 active scouts watching weekly games to keep tabs on players. There is also strong community support with intricate tutorials perfect for learning the ins and outs of football.

I have easily spent countless hours — if not days — playing this game and exploring all types of tactical plays. I try teams that haven’t done as well in real life to see if I can do a better job. You can’t express the feeling the euphoria of taking the unlikeliest of teams to silverware.  You can even take the game so far into the future that the players database is updated with randomly regenerated players. It just goes to show how easily engrossed you can get into what is, essentially, a database simulation game.

What are some your favorite football or sports games? Let us know below and keep the football game conversation going.

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