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Play Ball! The 10 Greatest Sports Games for the Original Nintendo

Many modern sports games focus on realistic play and pristine graphics. However, the focus of many NES games was challenging experiences and tight controls. For a sport-related video game, that’s all you need!

Here are our 10 favorite sports games for the NES that we can’t stop playing… even 25+ years later!

10. Super Dodge Ball

Super Dodge Ball
Technos Japan

Super Dodge Ball is a 1989 game for NES loosely based on the 1987 arcade game. It features single and 2-player modes, as well as a free-for-all “bean ball” mode. Players battle other nations by controling a six-player Team USA with three active and three support players. Inexplicably, the first and easiest competitor is an All-Star team.

9. Tag Team Wrestling

Tag Team Wrestling
Technos Japan

In the 1984 US NES version of Tag Team Wrestling, two professional wrestling tag teams, the Strong Bads and the Ricky Fighters, battle one another. Each of the four characters has a unique move that can only be used against a single rival wrestler. This may be the oldest wrestling game and its simplicity makes for its fun and appeal.

8. Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo’s Super Bowl stands out for being the first game officially licensed by the NFL and its Players Association (NFLPA) in 1991. It was the first to have an up-to-date NFL roster for every team. Simple to play, it’s revered by gamers who say it’s one of the best sports games and best NES games of all time.

7. NES Open Tournament Golf

Open Tournament Golf

Several things make 1991’s NES Open Tournament Golf a classic. First is its replay value. Second, it features Mario and Luigi. Princess Toadstool (Peach) and Princess Daisy are caddies. Donkey Kong is a non-playable accountant. It only features three courses. It’s simple yet challenging and filled with humor and fun.

6. Ice Hockey

NES Ice Hockey

Despite the serious photo on the old box, 1988’s Ice Hockey is geared toward humor. Don’t expect precise play. You build a team of four players using three types: Skinny, medium, and fat. Fat players use their weight for powerful shots and winning skirmishes. Mediums are balanced, and skinny dudes have speed. The game is about cartoonish fun which it delivers in bucketfuls.

5. Skate or Die!

Skate or Die

Skate or Die! was ported to NES in 1988. The game features five events: pipe freestyle, vertical height challenge, inner city obstacle dodging/enemy kicking, downhill skating, and pool joust. It’s extreme sports meets American Gladiators. It’s one of the most unique sports games ever and a must for board freaks.

4. Baseball Simulator 1000

Baseball Simulator 1000
Culture Brain

Released in North America in 1990, Baseball Simulator 1000 features four leagues. Two with normal teams, one with ultra teams, and one allowing the player to create their own league. What makes it great is the ability to tweak standard baseball play and offer dozens of super moves and a different and superior way to play.

3. Rad Racer

Rad Racer

With straightforward play, controls, and graphics, the gameplay is what makes 1987’s Rad Racer special. Players drive a Ferrari 328 or a generic Formula One racing machine. The player races against a ticking clock meeting to reach checkpoints. There are 8 exotic locales featuring obstacles and other motorists, and increasingly twisty roads.

2. Excitebike


One of the best-selling games on the NES console, 1984’s Excitebike was an instant classic. It’s based on motocross, with a bit of X-Games before there was such a thing. Players can race alone or against computer-controlled riders. It definitely takes skill. Too much speed overheats the engine. Challenging and fun, it still holds up today.

1. Punch Out!!

Punch Out!!

Ported to NES from arcades in 1987, Punch Out!! (Originally Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!) puts the player in the shoes of an underdog boxer named Little Mac. It’s an immersive experience as you work your way through colorful opponents and three circuits. After winning the championship in each, you take on the top boxer. Punch Out!! Is considered one of the greatest video games of all time.

Read More: The 10 Best Nintendo Multiplayer Games from the 1980s