Kick Off (1989)
‘Kick Off’ is the definitive football game by legendary game developer Dino Dini. He is a father figure for video-game football, having created many precedents for modern-day footy games. ‘Kick Off’ is an arcade masterpiece—the ball, unlike many other football games, does not stick to the player’s feet—requiring deft skill to control and manoeuvre. ‘Kick Off’ commands a cult following to this day, and is playable through emulators available online. Dini followed ‘Kick Off’ with a sequel in 1990 that added leagues and player customization. Rumours of a new ‘Kick Off’ game have persisted since 2001, but Dini himself has been tight-lipped about this.
Championship Manager (1992)
Developed by brothers Paul and Olver Collyer from their bedroom in the town of Shropshire, England, ‘Championship Manager’ is now among the biggest football management games available. Known for its exhaustive love of statistics, deeply addictive “one-more-match” gameplay and rudimentary graphics, it spawned four main titles before an intellectual property dispute in 2004 split the series into two rival games.
Sensible World of Soccer (1994)
The adorable ‘Sensible World of Soccer’ games (called ‘Sensi’ by fans) are considered among the greatest video games of all time. In the early 1990s, the ‘Sensi’ games were a revelation—combining arcade football action with a “manager” mode, and including around 1,500 real-world teams and 27,000 players. ‘Sensi’ favoured a zoomed-out view of the field as opposed to the “up-close” camera angles preferred by ‘Kick Off’ or the ‘FIFA’ games. The tiny player sprites have become an endearing visual hallmark of the series and, like ‘Kick Off’, the game commands a vociferous cult following. It was re-released on the Xbox 360 in 2007.
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (1998)
The game that announced the arrival and impending dominance of ‘FIFA’ over the football game market. It had all the familiar elements of a glitzy ‘FIFA’ title—hip licensed soundtrack (led by Blur’s ‘Song 2’), fully licensed teams, and an intentional effort to simulate the live telecast of a football match rather than the sport. Video-game football would never be the same again.
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (2004)
The ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’ series almost had it all—beautiful, fluid animations, immense replayability and the unshakeable sense that somehow this felt more like football than any other video game out there. What it lacked was presentation. The graphics were often inferior, the menus impossible to navigate and official licences non-existent.
All that changed with ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 4’. With sporting stars Thierry Henry, Francesco Totti and legendary referee Pierluigi Collina on the cover, it featured many fully licensed leagues and players, and refined gameplay that knocked ‘FIFA’ out of the stadium.
It would be the start of a slow creep into the limelight for ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’, until ‘FIFA 09’ wrested the throne five years later.
FIFA Online (2010)
‘FIFA Online’ wishes to be the future of football on the Internet. It’s free to play, global, downloadable from the
Electronic Arts website, and is attempting to create a massive, virtual league of players and tournaments financed by microtransactions. The game is currently in open beta—a stage of development where the game is still being tested for bugs, but anyone can sign up, play and offer feedback. Start playing at http://fifa-online.easports.com