Hockey is the perfect sport for video games. The exciting fast gameplay can be faithfully reproduced onscreen and there are enough hits and drama to keep even non-sports fans interested.
There have been so many good hockey games over the years that many of you will have your own favorites. But, seeing as the NHL Stanley Cup betting will be going into overdrive due to its typically exciting climax this year, we thought we would remind you of five that we thought stand out as the very best.
This might not just be the greatest hockey game of all time – but the greatest sports game ever made. For today’s gamers and hockey fans, the graphics might look very dated – but for kids playing in 1994, it looked incredible. We would actually say that NHL 94 is still very playable today.
At the time of its release, the added gameplay modes took sports titles to a whole new level. NHL 94 was so smooth to play and excelled with its multiplayer options. The game is so good that it even featured in the cult 90s classic movie Swingers. How’s that for a seal of approval?
Blades of Steel
This Konami title was released in 1987 and instantly became a favorite for gamers and sports fans alike. There was no NHL licensing, so you couldn’t play as your favorite pro league stars. But that didn’t seem to matter for the millions of fans who jumped at the chance to activate the fight feature.
It seems as though a lot of real-life hockey fans like to see the players really going up against each and the fights in Blades of Steel replicated that beautifully. The graphics were not the best – even for the late 1980s – but the game has gone down as one of the early classics.
The long-running annual EA Sports NHL series picks up a lot of credit when it comes to the best hockey games ever. But the 2014 edition stands out from the pack, for a number of reasons. Features like the dynamic ratings made players more realistic somehow, increasing and decreasing performance as you played.
Online seasons for the HUT and EA SHL modes predicted the esports culture we know today – and you could also play as a hockey professional, experiencing the trappings of fame off the ice as well. NHL 2014 was just a great, rounded game that goes down as one of the best of the series.
If NHL 2014 faithfully recreated the sport like no other title had done before, the next title on our list was more like the best arcade game you ever played. NHL Hitz took the action – and violence – of the sport and packed them into an utterly addictive game that could be played for hours on end.
Out went the NHL hockey rules and in came 3-on-3, no penalty, high-octane hockey. Fighting was actively encouraged and the big hits would see the punch-ups continue in the stands. This may not have been a game for the purists, but for all-around good fun, it was hard to beat.
There must be something about years with a ‘4’ in. Because the EA Sports 2004 version of the NHL series was another favorite. Many of the reasons why NHL 2004 is regarded as one of the best were the extras that enhanced the general gameplay. The graphics and actual hockey games improved as usual – but it was the overall package that really hit home. The music used to soundtrack the game was incredible, creating an atmosphere that made the action of the game even better. The Dynasty mode was improved as well, allowing you to live the life of a GM leading your team to the Stanley Cup finals. If you love hockey, you loved this game.