With EA Sports planning to bring back NBA Live this year (unless they don’t) to go head-to-head with NBA 2K14, we’re going to take a look at some personal favorite NBA games throughout the years. The only stipulation: the games have to be (more or less) sims, so no NBA Jam or Arch Rivals. Let’s run down our Top 5. Remember, these aren’t the necessarily best ever or most popular ever, just our opinion.
# 5: Tecmo NBA Basketball
This is the oldest title on this list, having come out in 1992 for the NES. It’s a typically Nintendo-era barebones title but the flow of the game is fun. The dunks are particularly fun as you have to release the shot has you complete the dunk animation, lest you commit a traveling violation. Some people might complain about placing this on the list instead of Double Dribble but I much prefer the control and gameplay here.
#4: NBA Live 2004
NBA Live 2003 introduced the Freestyle dribbling system that the Live series eventually became synonymous with but I preferred Live 2004. The graphics weren’t greatly improved but the introduction of the (actually so overpowered it was nearly broken) pro-hop made slashing to the rim more fun than ever. Defense has never been Live’s strong suit so it comes down to how much fun the offense is to play, and Live 2004 was my favorite, edging out Live 07 of the PlayStation 2-era NBA Lives.
#3: NBA Give ‘n Go
I can’t say enough about how impressed I was when I started my first game of NBA Give ‘n Go on the Super NES. You zoom in on the city you’re playing in on a map, and then the court zips into view, eventually panning to an end-court view. For an SNES basketball game this was amazing. I also loved the epic music. The gameplay is fast and furious with a button dedicated to throwing alley-oops. Unlike similar games (Slam ‘n Jam on 3D0, Run ‘n Gun on the arcade), Give ‘n Go features both the NBA and NBA Players Association licenses, giving you all of the pro teams and players.
The first NBA game to do retro right, NBA Live 2000 featured historical decade teams, including 50s/60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, highlighted by the first NBA game appearance by Michael Jordan in almost 10 years. It also introduced the one on one street court matches to the series and Jordan’s usage was unique on various system he appeared on. On the PlayStation and PC, you could trade him and the rest of the legends right off of their team’s rosters and back into the league but on the N64, Jordan was the only legendary player and you had to beat him one on one to unlock him for the rest of the game. I preferred the gameplay of Live 99 but the introduction of the legend teams put NBA Live 2000 on this list instead
#1: NBA 2K13
I debated the inclusion of NBA 2K12 or 2K13 on this list, but ultimately the right-stick dribbling of 2K13 wins the day. Both were excellent games but the Freestyle stick spin-off 2K implemented changes the feel of the game enough to put it over the top. With the very fun MyCAREER mode carried over from 2K12 plus the addition of MyTEAM (on consoles, at least), 2K13 is my favorite NBA game to date.
Now, to see if NBA Live 14 or NBA 2K14 can crack this list come October.